Easy Ways To Save On Energy Costs Around The House

With energy costs seeming to go nowhere but up and a growing “green” movement, you gotta love tips that save energy and money. Yahoo Finance has a list of seven eco-friendly ways to cut energy costs. Following even just a few of these can save you big bucks. Our favorites:

“2. Seal up air leaks. According to the Department of Energy, sealing air leaks will cut your utility bill by over 10 percent, so the average household will save $160 over the course of a year.

3. Tune up your air conditioning. If you have a central air conditioning system, the Alliance to Save Energy estimates that you’ll save 10 percent a year — or $160 — if you use a programmable thermostat to raise the temperature when you’re not at home.

4. Supplement air conditioning with an attic fan. Buy and install an attic fan this summer and you could save about $230 the first year alone.

7. Use water wisely. By being more aware of our water consumption and conservation, the EPA estimates we can save about $132 a year.”

Since we’re in the midst of summer, you may only be able to save half the amounts listed above if you implement them this year. That said, saving over $300 would still be very “cool.”

Eco-Friendly Ways to Cut Energy Costs [Yahoo Finance]

FREE MONEY FINANCE

(Photo: amyadoyzie)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Thrust says:

    And they missed:

    New Windows or new door weatherstripping. Good multi-pane windows can save you a fortune in the long run, as can that lil strip of rubber around your exterior doors.

    Change that damned furnace filter before you burn down your house!

    Close the vent for the fireplace when not in use.

    Don’t open your door to solicitors or jesus-peddlers. Flip em off thru the window so you don’t let out all the hot (winter) or cold (summer) air out.

    If you don’t have a programmable thermostat (winter only), do NOT drastically turn down the heat when you’re out for the day. It takes more gas/power to reheat your place than to just leave it at a decent temp.

    Kick your kids’ asses out the door. Not running a Wii or PS3 can save you enough to buy that new PC game, which you can play in peace now that the bratlings are outta yer face.

  2. chimmike says:

    it never ceases to amaze me how common-sense things like this have to be reiterated constantly.

    IMO an attic fan will cost a bit in the long run to use, electric wise.

    Getting some fresh blown insulation in the attic IMO would be a much better investment and wouldn’t require electricity to run.

  3. “4. Supplement air conditioning with an attic fan. Buy and install an attic fan this summer and you could save about $230 the first year alone.”

    They call these a “whole house” fan where I am and they save RIDICULOUS amounts of money. The first summer we lived here we turned the A/C on only two days all summer, and we had a nasty heat wave in the 90s. With the whole-house fan, I only have to use the A/C when the allergens are really bad and I need the air filtered. (They also don’t help with humidity, obviously.)

    Mine is over the stairwell, which is open to the 2nd floor ceiling for the whole stairwell. It’s where the hot air from the first floor naturally rises, so it’s very efficient at pulling that air out and throwing it outdoors.

    They cost some ridiculously low percentage of what A/C costs to get the same degrees of cooling.

  4. alpha says:

    @Thrust: “It takes more gas/power to reheat your place…”

    Lies, pure and simple. There have been numerous tests proving that your comment is incorrect.

  5. @chimmike: “IMO an attic fan will cost a bit in the long run to use, electric wise.”

    chimmike, I want to say they cost something like 5% of what the A/C costs to run for the same cooling if they’re installed in the right place. We leave ours on all the time when it’s hot and it’s literally pennies a month for a measurable difference in indoor temperature. Dead cheap. Makes the house much, much more comfortable.

    Adequate insulation won’t actually help with the heat problem if the house is already hot inside. (Nor if the insulation does a kick-ass job of trapping the summer heat in the attic!)

  6. Thrust says:

    @alpha: Seen tests myself as well, and the results typically go both ways. I’m talkin the ones who crank their thermo down to 10 celcius (minimum) then back up to 25 when they’re home. It does take a lot to reheat that, and I’ve seen the change in my own heating bill. Drop it to 15 or 18, its fine.

  7. kaikhor says:

    As an apartment dweller, only one of these could possibly apply to me (turning on the appliances when on vacation). Anyone have suggestions on how myself and the many other apartment dwellers out there can conserve energy at home?

  8. kaikhor says:

    @kaikhor: Sorry, “ON” should be “OFF”…oops…

  9. pestie says:

    Use water wisely. By being more aware of our water consumption and conservation, the EPA estimates we can save about $132 a year.

    I don’t think that’s going to work quite that well for me, since my water bills are around $8 a month.

  10. @kaikhor: you can still do some weatherstripping/sealing on your windows. There are various temporary products. You can also get insulated curtains. They keep the cool in in the summer and the hot in in the winter reasonably well.

  11. Chicago7 says:

    When I was a kid, we had an attic fan and it was just great. Once it got hot, we turned it on and almost immediately, the temperature went down 15 degrees or so.

    And, it made the basement less musty.

    What does water use have to do with energy consumption? This guy is all over the road? An energy audit could LEAD to energy savings, but, in itself, does nothing. And that’s his FIRST recommendation. Why do I get the feeling he gets a stipend from the Energy Auditors of America?

  12. Thrust says:

    The problem I’m having with utilities bills right now is their farking service fees. They are determined to make a minimum of $40 for every bill even when you use nothing.

    I use $5-10 a month of natural gas from spring to fall, and they tack on $25 delivery charges and $5-10 admin fees. When I use $25-50 gas in the winter, my delivery is typically $15 and admin around $3. And the fun part is how they list the delivery. There’s “Fixed Delivery Charge” and “Variable Delivery Charge”. But the fixed charge aint bloody FIXED. One month it will be $10 fixed and $15 variable, and the next month $13 fixed and $17 variable for the same volume of gas.

    Then there’s Water/Waste. As Pestie says, water ain’t much. But my water bill’s $10 consumption gets tacked with $10-15 for garbage service, $10 for water drainage, and again more admin fees. $10 and $10 becomes $40.

    Finally add electric power. Two supercharged PC’s running most of the night, plus a PS2, Wii, or XBox going on a fair sized CRT TV with 5.1 surround… Yeah we use a fair bit of power. Again they tack on $5 or so for admin fees, but here I am getting $35/mo of electricity for only $40/mo. That’s not bad compared to the other two bastards.

    So in the end, $35 of portable lightning, $20 of water & waste, and $5 worth of refined dinosaur works out to $120. Can’t merge any of my utilities because the providers keep splitting the companies. Why not, 50% more profit to be made in just admin charges.

  13. chimmike says:

    @eyebrows mcgee

    I live in FL. A/c here is a year round thing. I’ve never heard of anyone using those attic fans here, anywhere. It’s too hot here to really make any difference, it’ll just woosh around the hot air.

    I do know that good window treatments will block a lot of heat, as well as good insulation that will keep the heat out.

  14. Papercutninja says:

    I live in an apt with central air. The thermostat is not programmable. I have to leave it on during the day when it gets hot out because i don’t want my cat to die of overheating. Any thoughts. I don’t my pet to be uncomfortable, but i also don’t want to spend extra $$$ cooling the place. Any thoughts?

    • clickable says:

      @Papercutninja: Cats generally like it warmer than humans anyway, so even if you leave the a/c on for them, you can bump the thermostat up to 76 or 78 for their comfort. But they probably don’t need an a/c unless temps go over 90 regularly, as long as you leave a fan and can crack a window for fresh air. They’ll loll in the path of the fan’s breeze if they’re hot.

      You can freeze a bowl of water for them and put it out in the morning. It will melt as the day goes by and they will have cold fresh water all day. Alternately, leave them a bowl filled with loads of ice cubes and just a bit of water, the rest of the water will come as the cubes melt. They’ll have fresh cool water and a fun toy as they play with the cubes.

      Watch street cats in summer, you’ll see them lying flat on the ground in the shade, it’s what they do to keep cool – they get as close to the ground as possible. Your cat at home will probably revert to doing the same thing, it’s instinct, and it’s interesting/funny to see. Another one of those things that make it look like cats have liquid inside instead of bones.

  15. forever_knight says:

    @Thrust: You are incorrect, but it’s a commonly held belief. Yes, the a/c or furnace has to work harder to bring the temp in line, but it doesn’t have to *constantly* keep it in that range all day. If it did take more energy or even as much energy to bring a house to a comfortable temperature then programmable thermastats wouldn’t save any money. Think about it.

  16. alpha says:

    @Papercutninja:

    When you leave in the morning bump the thermostat up 5-10 degrees. Your cat will be fine. When you get home, it’ll be a tad warm for your tastes I’m sure, but just put it back down to the normal level. This is what people did before programmable thermostats.

    Alternatively, you could talk to your landlord and see if they’ll install a programmable thermostat if you pay for…and of course have it removed when you move out…

  17. anatak says:

    @Chicago7:
    A proper energy audit will show you what areas of your house need the most work. It will find the “leaks in the system”. You do this first so that you know where to spend your money.

    @chimmike:
    I’ve lived in the south and never seen these either. They also don’t put in metal duct work anymore. Know why? The dumbass homebuilders do what is cheapest/quickest/easiest for them. They don’t give a shit about your utility bills or quality of life down the road. In Florida, you can build zero-net-energy homes and have zero electric bills. How many of those do you think KB will be putting up next year? How many solar panels do you see? How many wind turbines?

  18. FLConsumer says:

    @chimmike: Attic fans are fine….as long as you don’t have any humidity. I’ve seen them installed in FL houses and they were total disasters. Even when off, they let so much air leak through that they were eventually removed.

    @Thrust: If set-backs don’t work, then why does every major company in America employ them at their buildings? They’ve done the studies (as have I) and set-backs do work, but you need good controls to accomplish it. If you’re running a heat pump and suddenly jack up the temperature with a cheap thermostat, the electric heat will kick in and your savings go out the window. If you have a good thermostat, it’ll calculate what it’s going to take to bring the place back up to temp with the heat pump alone. Get a quality set-back thermostat (read: NOTHING they sell at Homeless Depot) and you’ll enjoy some pretty big savings. Just replacing my AC here and employing a setback is saving me $300-$350/mo. FWIW, my “away” temperature when I’m not home is 45F (7C), “home” temperature is 72F (22C). The control system I’m using is smart enough to know that it can’t let the place drop down to 45F and still make it back up to 72F in 3 hrs, so it won’t let it get that cold. It’s basic physics. Heat flows to areas which are cooler and the rate of flow is determined by the temperature difference between the warmer & cooler zones. If the temperatures are closer to equal, the heat loss from your home will be slower. Also, the heating system only costs money when it’s running. Shut it down and leave it off when it’s not needed. A good programmable thermostat will make sure it’s 22C by 6pm if that’s what you’ve asked it to do.

    @kaikhor: There’s quite a bit you can do.
    1) Get better curtains to keep the heat out / in. Those apartment-special mini blinds don’t do anything in terms of sound, light, or heat insulation.
    2) Switch to more efficient lighting. At the very least, use lower wattage bulbs if you’re running incandescent. You probably won’t notice 5 watts less, but your electric bill will.
    3) Get rid of “phantom” loads or put them on a switched power strip. Phantom loads are devices which consume quite a bit of power when they’re switched “off”. DVD players, TVs, cordless phones, cell phone chargers, computer power supplies, printers, microwaves, even stoves can be this way. I’ve even seen gas stoves which used 400 watts of electricity when running. In my own home, the phantom load was a hair over 500 watts at idle. Some switches, power strips, and more efficient eletronics & appliances and my idle load is down to about 50 watts (HVAC system’s crankcase heater + low voltage transformer + controls take ~20, fish tank takes ~15, outdoor lighting takes ~10 watts, 5 watts scattered around in cordless phones, etc)
    4) Make sure the furnace filter is clean.
    5) Clean the refrigerator coils — no one else probably has bothered.
    6) Keep your fridge and freezer full. If you have nothing to put inside, throw a few plastic bottles of water in there to create a thermal mass, meaning it’ll take longer for the fridge to warm up, especially when opening & closing the fridge.

  19. kaikhor says:

    @FLConsumer: Thanks for the tips. Plus the good excuse not to clean the refridgerator out (a chore I hate).

  20. nachas101 says:

    @Papercutninja:
    Suggestion #1 – Get rid of your cat.
    Barring that, turn your temp up to 75-78.
    Your cat is a freakin’ cat.
    I have a dog.
    Unless it is REALLY hot outside, I don’t leave the AC on in the house anymore (i have window units).
    So far, he’s not dead.
    Run a fan.
    Unless your apartment gets to above 100 degrees inside (which isn’t likely), your kitty will be fine.
    I used to have a window unit with a thermostat on it (programmable and electronic). I would leave the setting at 80 degrees and on the energy saver mode. He didn’t die.
    Buy a fan.
    Cat’s and dog’s live in hotter climates than your apartment in the wild. They don’t die there, so why would they have an issue in your apartment?
    Don’t be silly!

  21. FLConsumer says:

    I put in a programmable thermostat at my last apartment, no problem with management over it as long as their ratty mercury thermostat went back on the wall when I left.

    Cats & dogs tend to sleep mid-day, as do humans in tropical climates. This “siesta” is intentional — sleep & slow down the body when it’s warm out. No use being awake & warm when it’ll be cooler later in the day.

  22. Chicago7 says:

    @anatak:

    Yes, so the actions you take BASED on the energy audit would be good advice. But an audit doesn’t save any energy. Why would the audit be #1 in an article about energy saving tips?

  23. FLConsumer says:

    @Chicago7: Without knowing where your energy consumption is going, how do you plan to control it? I installed a central energy monitor in my home last month and it’s been hugely helpful in reducing my energy usage. Conserving energy in the average home is much like trying to drive a car without a speedometer & fuel gauge.

  24. mac-phisto says:

    @Papercutninja: as long as your cat has water, it’ll be fine. cats have lived all over the world for thousands of years w/o central air…something tells me yours will survive.

    oh, & you could always opt for a lion-cut if you think it’ll help.

  25. @chimmike: Well obviously they’re regionally dependent. I’ve never lived anywhere that had them before either, but EVERY house has them here and they seriously rock.

    And, as I noted originally, they don’t help with humidity.

    (Re: air leakage — you can get ones that seal closed — otherwise our house would be an ice cube in the winter!)

  26. Pasketti says:

    The two biggest things we did to lower our electric bill were:

    1. CF bulbs. We replaced every bulb in the house. The bill dropped by $5 / month.

    2. Put film on the garage door windows. The sun would shine straight in in the morning, and turn the garage into a sauna. The heat would then percolate into the rest of the house. I plan on replacing the doors with new insulated garage doors, but until then, this is working well.

    And also, of course, TURN STUFF OFF.

    You don’t need to leave a desktop computer on ALL THE TIME. Turn the light off when you leave the room.

  27. anatak says:

    @Chicago7:
    “Why would the audit be #1 in an article about energy saving tips?”

    Because its the first flippin thing you should do! Besides that, most people don’t know about them and that some power companies will do them for FREE.

    But no, no. Lets just go ahead and replace the windows with low-e, replace the A/C with the highest SEER available, replace the fridge with an e-star one, add 3 more feet of insulation to the attic, and then, then maybe we should do an energy audit. Only to find out that we could have tuned up the A/C, caulked the windows, and been pretty well off. No, that audit would not save any energy or money. That’s just dumb.

  28. FLConsumer says:

    NOOOOo don’t replace the AC “with the highest SEER available”!!! Going much above 14-16 SEER doesn’t even pay back in Florida!

  29. Snarkysnake says:

    Amplification on the attic fan item. If you have an older home , it will pay for itself in just a few months. I am restoring a 1951 vintage small 2/2 house and it had no attic vent. Damnation ,it as hot in that attic ! I went in early in the morning and installed a gable vent and the house is noticeably cooler and more comfortable now. The attic is no longer acting as a heat trap for the rest of the house. Lowe’s sells them for $72 and there is even a solar version available that uses no electricity and is a breeze to install. The downside on it is that it only moves about 1/3 of the air and the price is steep (about $245).