Sustainability is vital for a variety of reasons, and at-home energy consumption is an important key. With more people working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started, homes have often become a combination of residences and offices.
Taking some simple steps to reduce power consumption at home can be incredibly helpful, not just in reducing costs but also in alleviating strain on stressed power grids. These energy-efficient measures can literally be lifesaving during weather emergencies such as extreme summer heat.
Taking a Home Energy Inventory
One of the first steps in reducing power consumption at home is to take a home energy inventory or audit. The energy inventory may be different depending on the household but can include common elements such as:
● Average monthly energy consumption.
● Peak energy trends (such as higher A/C consumption during summer months).
● Current appliances (such as the dishwasher, laundry machines, etc.) and their energy ratings.
● Lighting, including indoor and outdoor lighting.
● Office supplies and equipment.
● Windows and insulation.
Take a good look at each category to see where possible energy leaks and drains might be lurking. Some simple fixes might include making better choices, such as not putting the air conditioning on a high setting during peak power loads.
Appliances can be a huge power drain. In the home energy audit, identifying energy-guzzling appliances can potentially have a huge impact.
For example, is an ancient refrigerator consuming far more energy than it’s worth? In many cases, old appliances can be replaced with modern versions that have much better energy ratings.
Of course, weighing the cost of the new appliance versus maintaining the old one is also important. Note too that replacing an appliance does have an environmental impact as well. The old appliance may end up as landfill waste while the new one had an energy and environmental cost involved in its production and transportation. Thus, if replacing an appliance is only going to save a few pennies per month in energy costs, it is likely not worth it.
All that said, sometimes the choice is clear: Many newer appliances have significant energy savings and possibly other benefits. For example, a new high-efficiency washing machine not only saves energy but water as well.
When your appliance needs upgrading, look for products by respected brands carrying the yellow and black Energy Star label. These certified products can make a big dent in utility bills.
Lighting is an easy way to enhance energy efficiency in a home. These days, LED lightbulbs are affordable and long lasting. They also do not contain mercury, which was a major concern about compact fluorescents or CFLs.
LED light bulbs are much more efficient than traditional bulbs, by up to three times or even more. LED bulbs also produce up to 90% less heat, making them longer lasting and safer to use.
Turning off lights when they are not in use will also save energy. New smart lightbulbs and smart plugs can make this even easier. Using an app, you can program when lights will turn on and turn off in specific rooms.
Outdoors, consider replacing wired lighting with solar powered lights. These lights can be used to make pathways more visible and are a far better option when using lights for decorative purposes.
Slaying Vampire Power
The term vampire power refers to unnecessary energy consumption by plugged-in devices. The devices may be asleep, hibernating or even “turned off” but are still consuming a small amount of energy. Electronic devices such as smart TVs, computers and computer monitors are common sources of vampire power suckage. If left unchecked, vampire power can end up becoming 10-15% of your power bill.
Smart plugs can be extremely helpful in managing vampire power leakage because they can be programmed to turn off an outlet strip at designated times.
Windows and Insulation
When temperatures rise or fall, one of the things that keeps energy bills from getting too high is insultation. Insulation acts as a buffer between the home and the outside world. Good insulation will keep heat in during the winter months and help your air conditioner cool the house in the summer.
Insulation can take the form of special materials used to line the insides of walls and roofs, but sometimes even exterior decoration can serve an insulating purpose. For example, Formstone, a fake stone applied to brick rowhomes popularized in Baltimore, helps to insulate older houses. Formstone has gone out of style, but many residents keep their Formstone precisely because it helps insulate their homes.
Windows are also a common source of lost energy. Upgrading windows to energy-efficient versions can make a hugely positive impact on heating and cooling bills. They might also be more soundproof and provide more peace for homes in noisy neighborhoods. Don’t forget to seal and weatherstrip your windows to make sure that cracks aren’t letting outside air in.
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