Conserving energy helps the planet and saves money—so why don’t more people make the effort to do it? Maybe they don’t realize how easy it is or what an impact they can make on the environment by following simple conservation tips. If each person around the world did just one thing to save energy, it would make Earth a cleaner place with a healthier environment.
A recent report from consulting firm McKinsey found that the United States could save $1.2 trillion through 2020, by investing in improvements like sealing leaky building ducts and replacing inefficient household appliances with new, energy-saving models. That investment would cut the country’s projected energy use in 2020 by about 23 percent. Read more»
Easy Ways to Conserve Energy
1. Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot
2. Turn down your water heater thermostat
3. Clean or replace air filters as recommended
4. Use less hot water by installing low-flow shower heads
5. Whenever possible, walk, bike, car pool, or use mass transit
Read on to find out how you can start making a difference now!
Saving Energy at Home
Home energy usage adds up quickly, as we power our televisions and computers, take showers and run our dishwashers and washing machines every day. One of the worst energy-wasters is “vampire” electronics—appliances and gadgets that waste energy even when they’re not being actively used. For example, your microwave uses power even when you’re not cooking food—it’s keeping the digital clock running. And even when your computer is “asleep,” it’s still using energy! In fact, scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory say standby power accounts for 5-10% of household electricity consumption.
You can combat the issue of wasted standby power by unplugging appliances when they’re not in use or replacing your energy offenders with more efficient models. Check out the Federal Energy Management Program Standby Power Data Center website to learn which appliances use the least energy.
- Use a broom instead of a water hose to clean the sidewalk or driveway.
- Plant shade trees and paint your house a light color if you live in a warm climate, or a dark color if you live in a cold climate.
- Use a rake instead of an electric or gas leaf blower.
Heating and Cooling
- Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Energy is lost when air conditioners and hot-air furnaces have to work harder to draw air through dirty filters.
- Adjust heating and cooling controls to reduce overheating or overcooling and use natural ventilation more effectively. During the summer, keep your thermostat at 78°F / 25°C. During the winter, keep it at or below 68°F / 20°C. Wear a sweater or long-sleeved shirt if you need extra warmth.
- Keep the air flow by keeping air vents open.
- Use fans to cool off.
- Have your air conditioner and heater serviced once per season.
- Install a programmable thermostat. This can reduce heating and cooling bills as much as 10% since you can conserve energy when you are away from home.
- Set your clothes washer to use warm or cold-water setting, not hot.
- Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket.
- Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140°F / 60°C when 120°F / 49°C is usually fine.
In the Kitchen
- Do not overfill pans and kettles.
- Use the correct size burner for your pan.
- Keep refrigerators ice free.
- Turn down your refrigerator temperature. Refrigerators account for about 20% of household electricity use. Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature to 37°F / 2.7°C and your freezer as close to 3°F / -16°C or close as possible. Make sure that the energy saver switch is turned on.
- Check the gaskets around your refrigerator/freezer doors to make sure they are clean and tightly sealed.
- Run your dishwasher when it is full and use the energy-saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20% of your dishwasher’s total electricity use.
- Don’t let the faucet run while performing various activities such as rinsing dishes, or scrubbing vegetables.
In the Bathroom
- Use less hot water by installing low-flow showerheads.
- Take shorter showers.
- Fix any faucets that drip.
- Don’t let the faucet run while performing activities such as brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Use sunlight to illuminate your home. It’s free!
- Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. Efficient fluorescent light bulbs use less than half the energy than traditional incandescent bulbs do to produce the same amount of light, and they last a lot longer.
- Turn off lights, TVs, and computers when they are not being used.
- When purchasing an appliance such as a dishwasher or television, look for a model that’s highly efficient. If possible, choose an appliance that has an official label, such as the Energy Star in the US or A/A+ in Europe.
Intelligent Insulation Choices
- Insulate your walls and ceilings. This can save 20 to 30% on home heating bills and reduce CO2 emissions. (If you have electric heat, you might also consider switching to more efficient gas or oil.)
- If your home already has some insulation, consider increasing the amount in the attic and over the basement or crawlspace ceiling. The insulation in your attic should be at least 6 in thick, though a full foot is better.
- If your home’s windows have only one pane of glass, they’re probably letting a lot of heat in (or out) of your home. Windows with two panes of glass—double-pane windows—are much better at insulating your house.
- Install curtains on your windows.
- Check for leaks and drafts around windows and doors, and add caulk or weather stripping as needed.
Do electronics use energy when they’re off?
The New York Times recently published an article asking how much electricity appliances use when they are turned off. This form of energy use is called, “standby power,” and it actually uses more energy than many think. The author turned to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and found that some devices can use as much as 20 watts of power when they’re off, but not unplugged. The Berkeley Laboratory also has interesting “home tours” that show standby power usage in homes in various countries. Take a look at the power your electronics are using.
Saving Energy on the Road
When you think of ways to save energy on the road, you may immediately think of alternative-fuel cars. And while these vehicles, often called hybrids, are certainly helpful in the quest for cleaner energy in transportation, there are plenty of actions you can take to reduce the amount of fuel you use (no matter what kind of car you drive!). Having your car tuned regularly and keeping your tires properly inflated are two easy ways to save energy.
- Whenever possible, walk, bike, car pool, or use mass transit.
- Have your car tuned regularly.
- Keep your tires properly inflated.
- Slow down. The faster you drive, the more gasoline your car uses.
- Avoid abrupt starts. They use about twice as much gasoline as gradual starts.
- Pace your driving. Unnecessary speedups, slowdowns, and stops decrease fuel economy.
- If your car has an air conditioner, make sure its coolant is recovered and recycled whenever you have it serviced.
- Use your air conditioner sparingly.
- Avoid lengthy engine idling.
- Plan your trips in advance and try and combine short trips into one to do all your errands. Avoid traveling during rush hours to reduce high fuel-consumption patterns such as starting and stopping and numerous idling periods.
- When you buy a car, choose one that gets good mileage.
Saving Energy as You Shop
When you’re browsing at the grocery store, do you look for foods that were grown locally? If not, you should! Buying locally produced food has numerous energy and environmental benefits—it means less fuel burned in the transport of the foods from production site to store, less packaging and, often, less exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.
- Buy minimally packaged goods. Less energy is used to produce the package and less waste will go to the landfill.
- Choose reusable products over disposable ones, and recycle.
- In many cases, products made from recycled materials require less energy to produce compared with those made from original materials.
- Buy local food to reduce the need for the food to be transported a great distance.
- Buy local fresh fruit and vegetables in season. This will reduce the amount of produce grown in energy-intensive greenhouse conditions that are often necessary for out-of-season production.