Each year, Earth Day reminds us of ways we can be better stewards of the planet we call home. The day, which always falls on April 22, is one of active participation — millions of people gather to march for awareness, plant trees, clean up roads, and more. And while these activities are important, daily, ongoing efforts are what have the biggest impact.
One of the easiest things you can do is decrease your energy consumption. Our homes and residential buildings account for 21 percent of total U.S. energy use. By using less energy, you can reduce power plant emissions, conserve the earth’s natural resources, and protect ecosystems.
As an added bonus, energy saving efforts can also save you money. In 2016, American families spent, on average, about $113 per month on electric bills.
This Earth Day, pledge to implement the following tips to create long-term benefits for both the planet and your budget.
Heating and Cooling
- Close blinds on the sunny side of your home in summer and open them in winter to welcome warm rays.
- The heat from lamps and TVs located next to thermostats can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary. Set them apart and save energy.
- Programmable thermostats can save up to $150 a year on energy costs. Running your air conditioning at 78°F instead of 72°F can save between 6 and 18 percent on your cooling bill.
- A dirty furnace or A/C filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder. Clean or change filters regularly.
- On average, households lose about 20 percent of their heated and cooled air through the duct system to the outside. To avoid wasting energy, have your ducts inspected to ensure they’re sealed properly and insulated if necessary.
- Well-planned landscaping is more than merely pretty. Trees around your home can save between $100 and $250 annually.
- By using a ceiling fan, you can increase the temperature on your air conditioner by 4 degrees without sacrificing comfort. Just remember to turn it off when you leave the room.
- Look for the Energy Star label, the government’s symbol of energy efficiency, on a wide range of consumer products, including appliances, to save up to 30 percent on related electric bills.
- Sometimes the simplest things have the biggest impact: Use a power strip to easily turn off lights, appliances, and electronics when not in use.
- Leaving a computer on can cost about 21 cents per day, or $75 a year. Turn on your computer, monitor, printer, and fax machine only when you need them.
- Refrigerators and freezers actually operate most efficiently when full, so keep your refrigerator and freezer as full as possible.
- Using dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers at night not only keeps your home cooler, but it also reduces strain on the power grid during the peak usage hours of 4-6 p.m.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone plugged in overnight; it only takes a couple of hours to charge.
Heating water accounts for 14 to 25 percent of energy use in your home.
- Switch to low-flow faucets and shower heads.
- Turn the temperature of your water heater down to the warm setting (120°F).
- Wrap the water storage tank in a specially designed “blanket” to retain heat.
- About 90 percent of energy used by washing machines goes to heating the water. When possible, wash clothes in cold water to save about $63 a year.
Lighting accounts for about 15 percent of a typical household energy bill.
- You can save up to 75 percent of energy use by replacing incandescent bulbs with LED light bulbs — and they also last 25 times longer.
- If you have outdoor lights, control them with a timer to ensure dusk-to-dawn-only operation.
Many of the above tips can become habits that, after time, you don’t even have to think about. Get your family to participate in your efforts by making it a fun challenge. Use the money you save over the year for a family outing or toward a purchase you can all enjoy.