Old habits die hard. Well, at least some of them do. My husband and I had an interesting conversation last night after he came home from work late for the 4th night in a row, right after he worked two overtime shifts on the weekend. You see my husband has gotten into the habit of jumping at the chance to get overtime work because those opportunities were so rare after the 2008 recession fiasco until recently. When the recession first hit, he was laid off for weeks at a time and obviously this was a source of stress and anxiety for him. But we weathered that storm quite well in large part due to our greener lifestyle. Now that, coupled with a shift towards minimalism, means we are spending less than ever and I had to remind my husband of that. He doesn’t need to work overtime and I would rather have him at home than to have extra money we don’t really need. The habitual idea that you need to work harder instead of enjoy life more is hard to break. It was such a cool revelation (to me at least) to see how values and attitudes about money have changed on this great green journey of ours.
Anyway, that conversation reminded me that it was time to ramp up my annual energy saving plan, especially since we are in a new house and don’t know exactly what the costs will be. Energy plays a large role in everything we do. From the time we wake up until the time we go to bed, we are dependant upon the energy flowing through our homes. And even as we sleep, we use energy to keep us warm and protected. But all this power usage comes at a price and sometimes we suffer under the burden of high energy bills. To that end, here are some ways that you can help to cut down on your energy consumption.
1) Plug up leaks – Air leaks contribute a large amount to home energy consumption. If your windows and doors are aged and drafty, you could be wasting as much as 35% of your energy dollars through them. Making sure the leaks are sealed will prevent the loss of heated or cooled air, meaning your heating and cooling system doesn’t have to work as hard. You can use a candle to detect drafts and then fill them with insulation, caulk, etc. Draft snakes are also easy to make and they work great!
And it’s not just windows and doors – remember that the fireplace, ducts, electrical outlets and plumbing are all potentials for energy loss.
2) Replace with energy efficient materials and appliances – while you might not be able to run out and replace everything in your house, as things wear out you should take care to replace them with energy efficient models. This goes for everything from windows to washing machines. When looking for our new place we made sure to find one that had Energy Star appliances. We opted to replace our washer and dryer recently because the we felt they were energy hogs and we managed to snag a more energy efficient set on Craigslist for only $300!! We got them off a well-to-do young man who was selling off all his belongs to go backpack in Europe. I had to go to a laundromat for a couple weeks and it took over a month to find the perfect set but eventually we did.
Another tip – Vent your dryer indoors… it is amazing what a difference this can make.
3) Do Your Own Insulation – There are soooo many ways to add some extra insulation to your home… draft snakes, hot water heater blankets, pipe insulators, etc. You can also use heavy duty thermal curtains on windows. We have them on every window and they are perfect for winter and summer. They block all light and they are so heavy that they block drafts as well. Pretty quilts can also be hung over windows and put on walls like tapestries to help with insulation. Quilts and blankets on couches and chairs also helps with making surfaces appear warmer so you won’t be tempted to turn up the heat.
4) Lower the thermostat in winter – Every degree makes a difference in your energy consumption. Keep your heating thermostat lower and throw on a sweater! Get some organic long johns for you and the kids too. Having a stack of fresh linens and blankets in the common rooms also encourages kids to bundle up when they need to and you can keep the thermostat set low. You’ll see considerable savings on your power bill.
5) Use appliances responsibly – It goes without saying that the television, lights, stereo and game consoles should be turned off when they aren’t in use. But it’s surprising how many people don’t do this basic step. Other things aren’t so obvious, like phone chargers or mp3 chargers. We often leave them plugged in when not in use. Did you know they continue to draw a current even when not plugged in? Those little things do add up. Make sure that you turn off or unplug any appliances that aren’t in use. We have a couple nifty power strips like this Practecol Power Strip that we really like. It has two spaces at the end of the unit for stuff you never want to be turned off like alarm clocks or DVRs. Then you use a remote to turn off the others each night. It is ingenious IMO.
How do you save energy in the winter?