There is a lot of talk about going green, saving energy and being environmentally friendly and such, but what really works? Really - what energy saving tips or ideas for going green work? Which energy conservation ideas work fast and are virtually guaranteed to save money while also being affordable for most people to do?
Here's my list of what I call the Top 10 Energy Saving Guarantees that have been proven to save energy and save money while also being affordable enough for almost anyone to handle. I provide these guarantees because I know that many people want to be green, but have a hard time finding a place that is affordable to get started.
1. HOME LIGHTING
Recent increases in electric utility costs have us either cutting back or changing how and what we light. To get the most from your lighting:
a. Replace all incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient CFL's ( Compact Fluorescent Lights )
b. Reduce outdoor lighting loads by using solar powered path lighting and super bright solar lamps
c. Install solar skylights to allow natural light into normally darkened areas of the home.
Changing your lighting to use CFL's and allowing more natural light to enter the home is guaranteed to save energy.
2. DOORS AND WINDOWS
To improve the efficiency of the doors and windows in your home or apartment, the following suggestions are affordable enough to consider, whether you own or rent:
a. For drafts blowing under an exterior door:
- on modern doors, adjust the threshold to reduce the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold.
- on older doors, install weather stripping that seals the crack at the bottom of the door when the door is shut.
b. Install weather stripping around the sides and top of all exterior doors.
c. To improve the efficiency of windows:
1. Install any available storm windows.
- If storm windows are not available, but removable screens are installed, remove the screens and then wrap them with plastic and replace the screens.
2. Caulk all exterior cracks around the window frame and home siding.
3. Install heat shrinkable plastic on the inside of the window.
If you follow the guidelines provided for better sealing your doors and windows, you are guaranteed to save energy.
3. ELECTRIC CLOTHES DRYERS
As much as a clothes dryer is essential, it is also one of the primary sources of wasted energy. The energy fix for the dryer includes:
a. Install a dryer vent seal. This eliminates any back drafts from entering the home when the dryer is not in use and could easily reduce your homes heating and cooling costs by up to 10%.
b. Don't run the dryer on frigid winter nights or on hot summer afternoons because whenever you run the dryer and exhaust the air outdoors, the same amount of air is being sucked into your home.
By installing the dryer vent seal and by not running the dryer when outdoor temperatures are at extreme odds with your indoor temperature, your energy savings are guaranteed.
4. BATHROOM EXHAUST FANS
Exhaust fans are very helpful in removing moisture and foul odors from your home, but they are also a primary source of energy waste. To improve their performance:
a. Install an Intermatic, thirty to sixty minute timer for each exhaust fan switch. This will guarantee an exhaust fan is not running longer than necessary.
Exhaust fans are pulling in unconditioned outside air into your home while also exhausting air you paid to heat or cool. This process is necessary, but the focus is to reduce the amount of time to only what is necessary.
By performing these simple steps, you are guaranteed to save energy.
5. COMPUTERS AND PERIPHERAL DEVICES
Computer may be able to shut down or hibernate when it detects it has not been used for a while, but your printer, sound system, backup drives, etc, keep chugging away at your homes energy, 24 hours a day, forever. To resolve these issues or to at least reduce their impact:
a. Install an energy saving smart strip for your computer and supporting devices. The smart strip device senses when you have shut down your computer and then shuts down all your other peripheral devices automatically.
b. If you have the habit of leaving your computer on when it is not being used, you could work on improving your awareness of your habit and turn your computer off more often or set your computer to hibernate or sleep after two hours or so.
Tests I ran have shown that the simple habit of turning off the computer more often while also using a smart strip, will reduce yearly energy costs by at least $25.00. Install a smart strip for your computer and you are guaranteed to save energy.
6. REFRIGERATORS AND FREEZERS
Your refrigerator and freezer runs twenty-four hours a day, forever, so even a little improvement makes a difference due to how often these items run. The energy saving fix for these items is two-fold:
a. Remove the vent cover at the bottom of the unit and clean out all the dust and dirt from the refrigerator coils.
b. Keep the refrigerator and freezer as full as possible. Using a combination of zip-lock bags or Tupperware bowls, store extra ice, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, bread, pitchers of water, etc, so that there is less empty air space.
By cleaning the coils, the unit will run slightly less, and by filling empty air space with solid objects, the unit will run even less. When these two ideas are used together, the unit runs less, emits less heat into your kitchen and even lowers your air conditioning load on the house. The energy savings are guaranteed.
7. HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEMS
To reduce the amount of energy being wasted by your heating and cooling systems:
a. Seal the Leaks
- 1. Forced Air Systems - while the system is running, follow the main duct line and use either the back of your hand or a smoke stick to locate areas where air is escaping from the duct system and seal those leaks with foil duct tape...not that sticky gray tape.
- 2. Hot Water or Steam Systems - Insulate the pipes with foam insulation, being especially diligent where piping crosses near basement window and door areas.
b. Perform yearly cleanings.
- 1. Oil and coal heating systems have the capacity to create a lot of soot. It is vital that your boiler be cleaned yearly and the chimney cleaned every other year. By removing the soot from the boiler, you improve the boilers capacity to absorb the heat and by keeping the chimney clean, you improve air flow which allows the fuel to burn hotter and cleaner.
- 2. Air conditioning systems, as well as air source heat pumps require yearly maintenance. Coils need to be cleaned, refrigerant charges need to be adjusted and routine maintenance needs to be performed.
Being diligent about performing preventive maintenance on your heating and air conditioning systems will not only lengthen the systems life time, but your energy savings will be guaranteed.
Your savings can really grow by learning how to better conserve your water. All the energy saving benefits of reducing water usage are even greater for those who have wells and use a pump to extract their water in the first place.
a. Replace your shower head with an energy saving shower head that uses less than the standard 2. 5 to 3. 5 gallons of water per minute. Many models are available that use 1. 5 to 1. 75 gallons per minute while still providing full body coverage and pressure while showering.
By reducing the amount of water used while showing, the energy you use to heat your water can be dramatically reduced, plus it will help eliminate your water heater or furnace from running out of enough heated water so that another person could shower right after you.
b. Locate the sink closest to your water heating source and use that sink whenever you need to wash your hands. You'll have hot water quicker and will leave less heated water standing in the pipes.
By becoming more aware of how you may have been wasting your heated water by using too much during showering or by leaving much of it to just cool down in your pipes, you can easily change a few habits that are guaranteed to help you save energy.
9. CEILING FANS
Fans are often only associated with cooling things, but they can better be defined as devices that help move air from one place to another. This works for both cool or hot air.
a. During the winter, set your fan reversing switch in the upwards position and keep the speed setting on low. What this will do is to gently push any heated air off the ceiling and force it back down along the walls to the floor where you want it. Since the fan is pushing the air around the perimeter of the room, you wont feel any breeze or draft during this process.
b. During the summer, set your fan reversing switch in the downwards position and use the low or medium speed setting. This will help keep the room from becoming stagnant and will prevent hot air from building up near the ceiling and will allow the air to mix better and cool more naturally. Meanwhile, since the fan is blowing air down directly, you will feel this breeze and you will feel cooler as the wind from the fan helps your perspiration evaporate from your skin.
When we take advantage of using ceiling fans to better distribute our heated or cooled air, our overall comfort level increases while the amount of energy we use decreases. This more comfortable situation is guaranteed to save energy.
10. CLOTHING AND ATTIRE
By learning how to better dress ourselves, we could learn to live more comfortably in our homes while using less energy to condition the air within our homes.
a. During colder weather conditions, be sure to wear socks, full length pants and long sleeve shirts in your home. It's not necessary to add multiple layers (unless you want to), but by simply ensuring you are protecting your exposed skin from "drafts", you will feel more comfortable at a lower temperature setting. Then, by lowering your thermostat by 5 to 10 degrees, you can save from 10% to 20% more energy.
b. During hotter weather conditions, and especially at night, remove your socks, wear shorts and short sleeve shirts. If you exercise in the home or come home hot and sweaty, give yourself a few minutes to cool down a little and then change your shirt or pants with something fresh and lighter. Doing so will allow you to maintain a warmer temperature in the home and reduce your air conditioning costs.
There is often too great a tendency to up the thermostat during winter months instead of dressing more efficiently. If you are walking around your home in the winter in your shorts, you are going to be cooler and you will either raise the thermostat setting or put on more clothing. One choice will waste energy and the other is guaranteed to save energy.
The overall message is no different than what our grandparents used to say in that 'a penny saved is a penny earned'. As we learn to stop wasting, we are effectively giving ourselves a raise in salary. That's great motivation, so whether you agree with the reports on global warming or believe we should keep drilling or not, most of us already agree that we'd like to have more money, so by reducing what we waste, we will all have more money left to enjoy on things that matter to us.