GUEST POST: 10 Free Ways to Save Energy and Money

April 24, 2012
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Today’s guest post on no-cost ways to save money by saving energy comes from Tim Snyder, a journalist specializing in sustainability, energy efficiency, and home-building topics. Tim is a frequent contributor to Dr. Energy Saver, a nationwide network of energy improvement contractors.

Energy costs are taking a bigger chunk out of everyone’s operating expenses. That’s why many homeowners are making an effort to conserve energy in different ways. While it’s usually a good investment to improve home energy efficiency by sealing air leaks, improving insulation levels and replacing inefficient HVAC equipment, you don’t need to spend money to cut your energy expenses. Here are 10 ways to put the Suddenly Frugal ethic to work in your house. These energy-saving practices won’t cost you anything, and you’ll definitely see a difference in your monthly energy expenses.

1. List more, drive less. With the price of gas climbing to unprecedented levels, the luxury of making quick trips down the street to pick up a few items can mean more trips to the gas station as well. A simple way to cut your driving expenses is to improve your list-making abilities. Whether you’re using a small memo pad or an iphone, write down the items you need to pick up the next time you’re at the supermarket. It’s also good to get in the habit of doing a quick scan (refrigerator, bathroom, cleaning supplies) before you leave home so that you don’t have to make an extra trip later.

2. Wash clothes in cold water. Producing hot water can account for 15% of your total household energy use –the third largest energy expense after heating and cooling. Using the cold water wash & rinse setting on your washing machine will save you at least $100 a year –more if you do laundry for a larger family. Wash with hot water only when you must –to clean really dirty clothes.

3. Sing in the shower. Saving on hot water also means taking shorter showers. It takes 2-3 minutes to sing a couple of verses of just about any song. That’s about how long it should take to get clean. Practice your “American Idol” audition as you wash up, then turn off the tap to keep hot water use under the 3-minute mark. (Avoid singing epic songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “American Pie,” or “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant!”)

4. Practice passive cooling. The goal here isn’t to stop using your air conditioner (or central AC system) during hot weather; it’s to use it less. Passive cooling can be as simple as opening windows (and turning off the AC) to bring in cool evening breezes and then closing windows early in the morning. You can also limit solar gain by using curtains on windows that get a lot of direct sunlight.

5. Retire the extra refrigerator. It may be convenient to have an extra refrigerator in the garage or basement, but it’s definitely adding unnecessary expense to your monthly electric bill. This is especially true with older models that don’t operate as efficiently as new ENERGY STAR refrigerators.

6. Clean your refrigerator coil. Dust that collects on this serpentine run of tubing (located behind or under the refrigerator) will make your refrigerator work harder (consuming more electricity) than necessary. Special coil-cleaning brushes are available at most hardware stores and home centers.

7. Use solar power to dry your clothes. Old-fashioned outdoor clothes lines are making a comeback. Drying your clothes in the open air not only saves energy and cuts your electric bill; it also makes clothes smell fresh. Even if you don’t set up a clothes line, you can drape clothing over lawn furniture or deck railings to dry.

8. Close garage doors. If your house has an attached garage, you’ll save energy by keeping garage doors closed, especially when it’s really hot or really cold outside. Closed garage doors will cushion your home’s main living space from these extreme temperatures.

9. Cut phantom loads. Computers, TVs, printers, DVD players and battery chargers all consume electricity when they’re in “sleep” or standby mode. You can save electricity by eliminating phantom loads. Simply turn these devices off completely by unplugging them or by switching off a power strip where they’re plugged in.

10. Use your thermostat. A programmable thermostat can be set to automatically give your HVAC system a break when you’re not at home. But you can also save energy with a standard manually operated thermostat. When the house will be empty, you can turn the thermostat up (in summer) or down (in winter) to reduce HVAC system run time. Definitely make these adjustments when you’ll be away on vacation or for a weekend; there’s no need to pay to keep your house comfortable when there’s nobody home.

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