What do you imagine when you think of making your home more energy-efficient? Does your mind go straight to the big moves, like replacing your major appliances, re-insulating all your walls, or altering your lifestyle to use less energy?
Each of those things will go a long way if you’re ready to take them on, but the truth is you don’t need to remodel your home to make it more energy-efficient. In fact, taking simple steps like the ones below can save you over $400 a year!
These five steps to energy efficiency will help you save from the get-go, and in some cases, they’ll save you time, too.
#5: Procrastinate On Laundry and Dishes
What could be more exciting than getting permission to procrastinate on time-consuming daily tasks? Well, it’s happening: we’re giving you permission, because it can actually make you more efficient.
Your washer uses as much energy as your fridge, and your dryer uses even more. Your dishwasher uses about 1/3 as much as your washer, but if you’re using it every night, all that energy might add up to even more than your laundry.
Waiting until you’ve got a full load of laundry or dishes means you can use these appliances less often and make the most of your water. Just don’t wait too long…
Extra tips: most of the energy your laundry machine and dishwasher use goes toward heating water. Using cold water for your laundry can easily save you over $100 a year by itself. And for you truly dedicated folks: hand washing your dishes without hot water and air drying your clothing will slash your bill even further.
#4: Give Up the Ghost of “Phantom Electricity”
Few people think to unplug their devices, but it’s a simple step that can save the typical household $100 a year. Why? Because even when you aren’t using them, and even if they’re turned off, devices still suck up electricity as long as they’re plugged in. This is called “phantom load” or “vampire power.” Those are some ominous names–and for good reason.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that phantom power accounts for about 10% of your home energy use, which is over $100 a year for the typical home in New York. Common culprits include TVs, chargers, and coffeemakers.
Turning off your devices and unplugging them when you’re done will bring down your phantom energy use. To make unplugging simpler, try plugging multiple devices into a power strip that can be turned on or off with a single switch. A simple switch before work and bed will make a big difference!
3. Light Your Home with LED
LED light bulbs use 75-90% less energy to light your home than traditional incandescent bulbs. That’s a staggering drop–one that can easily save the typical home about $100 a year on electricity costs. And LED bulbs don’t just last one year. They typically last for about 25,000 hours–or 23 years, if you leave the light on for 3 hours a day, 365 days a year.
LED bulbs cost a little more up front, but you can get one for less than $10. That means they beat out incandescent bulbs not only on energy efficiency, but also on upfront cost per year of life ($1 for incandescents compared to about $0.33 for LEDs).
Some people worry that LED bulbs will give off an industrial type of light in their home. Have no fear! Manufacturers have created all sorts of options, from soft white to warm white to bright white, to make your home feel nice and cozy.
2. Get Smart With Your Thermostat
Many homes’ thermostats are programmable, meaning you can set it to warm or cool your house during particular times of the day so that you don’t waste energy when no one is home.
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can get one cheaply and easily (and it will probably pay for itself within the year). If you don’t want to snag one, you can still achieve a similar outcome by manually turning down your heating or cooling system when you leave the house and adjusting it when you get back. Just make sure to follow best practices–-letting your home get too hot or cold while you’re away can actually increase the amount of energy used just to get it back to comfortable levels.
If you want to take your efficiency to the next level and can afford a smart thermostat like a Nest, you’ll be able to turn your home energy system into a well-oiled machine. Smart thermostats learn your tendencies and figure out when they should work hardest to heat or cool your house. They can even pick up on whether someone is home at a given time. Many also let you control your energy from your phone or computer, so if your schedule changes, you can adjust on the fly.
1. Join a Free Local Community Solar Farm
We rank this option #1 for three main reasons. One: it’s guaranteed to save you money. Two: signing up is simple, takes just a few minutes, and involves no ongoing daily effort on your end. Three: community solar is totally free to join, so you can start anytime.
You’ve probably seen solar farms in the area, but you might not have known you can subscribe to them at no cost. This community-shared model lets customers go solar without putting panels on their own home.
Solstice, a local community solar organization that partners with NYSERDA to make solar more accessible for New Yorkers, is connecting Orange and Rockland County residents to two new solar farms right now. They give you the choice to lock in one low, stable energy rate or to earn a 10% discount on your monthly energy costs.
If you’re interested, you can visit solstice.us/rct or call (866) 826-1997 to learn more.