Easy, Smart Ways to Stop Wasting Home Energy

If you get your utility bill each month and feel like you’re just throwing money away, you may be. Studies show that 35% of home energy consumption in the U.S. is wasted energy — that’s energy you’re paying for but isn’t doing you any good. This energy inefficiency drains your finances and leads to higher bills, with no added benefit to you.

Fortunately, there are some easy (and smart) ways to stop wasting money (and energy) when it comes to your utility bills. By making a few simple changes, you can significantly reduce your energy consumption, stop paying too much for electricity, and keep more money in your pocket each month.

#1 – Avoid Phantom Power

Phantom Power, also known as vampire power, is used by any device that has stand-by power or a remote control. If you see a clock function or red, glowing indicator lights, these are indications that power is being used. The ability to use a device wirelessly, like your wireless printer, may be convenient, but it also uses energy, even when the unit appears to be turned off.

Here’s how to alleviate phantom power in your home.

Unplug Devices

Disconnect devices and appliances when they are not in use. This is the simplest way to eliminate standby power consumption.

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Use Power Strips

Plug multiple devices into a single power strip with an on/off switch. This allows you to easily cut off power to all devices at once when they are not in use.Smart power strips automatically cut off power to devices that are not in use or in standby mode. Some smart strips also have timers or motion sensors to manage power usage efficiently.

Disable Standby Settings

Some devices allow you to disable standby mode or set them to consume less power when not in active use. Home printers are a great example of this. We disabled the remote printing option, which allows us to print from any computer in the house. We also unplugged the computer completely and simply plug it back in when we need to print.

Use a Power Measuring Device

A Kill-a-Watt meter is a very inexpensive, easy-to-use, method of detecting when appliances or devices are consuming vampire energy. This device is simple to use and remarkably accurate.

Here are the steps to using a Kill-a-Watt meter.

  1. Plug in the Kill-a-Watt Meter: Insert the meter into a standard electrical outlet.
  2. Connect the Appliance: Plug the appliance you want to measure into the Kill-a-Watt meter.
  3. Turn on the Appliance and Read the Display: Ensure the appliance is operating normally, so you get accurate measurements.
  4. The Kill-a-Watt meter’s digital display will show you various metrics. However, we generally pay most attention to the watts which are being used.
  5. Monitor Usage: For long-term measurement, leave the appliance connected for several hours or days. The Kill-a-Watt meter will track cumulative energy consumption, giving you a clear picture of how much power the appliance uses over time.

How much can you save?

Estimates suggest that phantom power can account for about 5-10% of residential electricity use.

#2 – Stop Throwing Money Down the Drain

If someone were to ask you which activities in your home add the most money to your utility bills, “heating water” may not be one of the first answers which comes to your mind. But, it should be. Heating water is one of the top three contributors to rising utility bill costs.

A simple way to combat this is to set your water heater temperature to 120°F (49°C). Most water heaters are set at 140°F (60°C) by default, which is higher than necessary. Lowering the temperature to 120°F can save energy and reduce the risk of scalding. According to the US Department of Energy, this heat setting is generally considered safe for most people and this five-minute task could save you money every month.

How much can you save?

Lowering the temperature setting from 140°F (60°C) to 120°F (49°C) can reduce your water heating energy consumption by 6% to 10%.

#3 – Give Your AC a Boost

Your AC works harder when furniture is in the way. Make sure that furniture or curtains do not block air vents or registers. Blocked vents can restrict airflow, causing the AC to work harder to cool the room.

Additionally, using ceiling fans or portable fans to help distribute cool air more evenly throughout the room, can reduce the burden on your AC unit and promote better air circulation.

Finally, make sure your AC unit is cleaned and maintained regularly and any filters are changed.

#4 – Program Your Thermostat

We all can guess that the highest percentage of our monthly utility bill can be attributed to heating or cooling costs. So, the first step you can take to moderate this amount is to turn your thermostat off completely when the weather allows. Sometimes energy companies offer helpful guides, information on how to program your thermostat to save the most energy and rebates on new programmable thermostats. So, be sure to check their website.

Secondly, you should familiarize yourself with your thermostat’s features and programming options. Many modern thermostats, especially smart thermostats, have advanced features that can help you save energy.

 Smart thermostats, like the Nest brand, allow you to program different schedules for weekdays and weekends based on your routine. You can adjust temperatures for when you’re at home, away, and sleeping. When you’re on vacation or away for extended periods, you can use the vacation mode, which minimizes energy use while ensuring the house doesn’t get too hot or cold.

Some smart thermostats use your phone’s location to automatically adjust the temperature when you leave or approach home or are even able to sense weather conditions and adjust the settings accordingly.

How much can you save?

While the US Department of energy estimates properly programming your thermostat will save you around 10% on your monthly bill, Smart Thermostat manufacturers estimate savings of 12% on heating and 15% on cooling.

#5 – Use Your Dishwasher Efficiently

Ensure your dishwasher is full before running it. This maximizes the efficiency of water and energy use. Be sure you arrange dishes in a way that avoids blocking the spray arms and ensures that all surfaces are exposed to the water jets. This can prevent the need for a second wash.

Many dishwashers have eco or energy-saving settings that use less water and energy. They might take longer, but they cost less to run. Using the air-dry setting or open the dishwasher door at the end of the cycle, lets the dishes air dry. This saves energy that would be used for heat drying.

Check if your energy provider offers lower rates during off-peak hours, which is generally late at night or early morning. Running your dishwasher during these times can reduce electricity costs.

How much can you save?

It’s a little hard to say. One popular website says you could save $465 by using the dishwasher instead of scrubbing the dishes by hand. While, according to the US Department of Energy, you’ll use twelve percent less energy and 50% less water in an eco-friendly, Energy Star dishwasher, rather than an older model.

#6 – Wash and Dry Laundry Efficiently

When it comes to keeping laundry clean, most laundry detergents are designed to work well in cold water, and washing with cold water can significantly reduce the energy used for heating water. Keep in mind that most people use way too much detergent. Although the back of the detergent container and the manufacturer will tell you to use far more, you only need 1-2 tablespoons of laundry detergent to get clothes clean.

By waiting until you have a full load of laundry before running the washing machine, you maximize the energy efficiency of each wash cycle. Washing in cold water uses far less energy than hot water.

Remember, many lightly soiled clothes don’t need a long wash cycle to get clean. So, use the shortest wash cycle you need and remove as much water as possible. By using the highest spin speed on your washer there will be less water remaining in the clothes. This means you’ll be reducing the energy used to both wash and dry.

When it’s time to dry the clothes, you can, of course, hang them to dry either inside or on an outdoor line, meaning the cost of drying will be zero.

If you choose to use your electric or gas dryer, here are some tips for doing it in an energy efficient manner.

Similar to washing, try to dry full loads to maximize energy efficiency. Clean the lint filter in your dryer after every use to improve efficiency and reduce fire risk.

Use wool or rubber dryer balls. These can help separate clothes and improve air circulation, reducing drying time. Alternately, putting a clean, dry towel in with the wet clothes will also decrease drying time.

If your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it instead of a timed cycle. The sensor will stop the dryer when clothes are dry, saving energy. Finally, don’t wait for the dryer to stop. Check for dryness about fifteen minutes ahead of the machine stopping. Your clothing will, most likely, already be dry (but warm). Take the clothes out when they are warm and fold them right away to avoid wrinkles.

How much can you save?

By using less detergent, washing with cold water, and only washing full loads you can cut the cost of doing laundry in half each year.

4 thoughts on “Easy, Smart Ways to Stop Wasting Home Energy”

  1. Homeowners can also reduce energy consumption at home by insulating hot water pipes. By insulating these pipes, you can minimize heat loss as water travels from your water heater to your faucets. This ensures that hot water reaches your taps faster, reducing the need to run the water for long periods while waiting for it to heat up. Not only does this conserve water, but it also saves on the energy required to heat the water, ultimately lowering your utility bills. This simple yet effective measure can lead to significant savings over time.

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  2. Another effective way to stop wasting home energy through plumbing is to install water-efficient fixtures like low-flow faucets and showerheads. These fixtures reduce the amount of water used without sacrificing performance, leading to less hot water usage and lower energy bills. Additionally, regularly maintaining your water heater, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment buildup, can improve its efficiency and longevity, further conserving energy.

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