Cut Your Home Energy Use with These Simple Steps

Electricity is an expense that can really eat into your bank account, especially in the winter. The truth is we spend an unnecessary amount on energy for no good reason. We’re just lazy.

So what’s the answer? A couple of simple, affordable upgrades can offer a huge benefit.

In a nutshell, you want to replace the hungriest power drains in your house with more efficient alternatives.  Once that’s done, you’ll notice a marked improvement in your energy bill each month.

Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of simple suggestions to cut your energy costs without spending a fortune.

1) Replace your Incandescent Light Bulbs with LED alternatives

An LED light bulb

Photo credit: Marco Verch

A few years ago you had only two real options with lighting: power hungry incandescent bulbs, or high-efficiency fluorescent fixtures.

Incandescent: These light bulbs are inexpensive and popular, and they produce great light quality. The main problem is they’re remarkably inefficient. Much of the power used is lost as heat, so you’re not getting very much ‘bang for your buck’.

What’s more, incandescent bulbs burn out very quickly. They’re cheap to purchase, but when you go through dozens per year, the costs add up.

Fluorescent: These bulbs use far less power, but the light quality isn’t nearly as good. They operate by ‘flickering’ at a rate just too fast for the human eye to detect.

You may not actively notice it, but fluorescent bulbs are notorious for causing eye strain and headaches.

Furthermore, many fluorescent bulbs contain harmful metals such as mercury, and must be recycled carefully to not cause environmental harm. Most people don’t bother to recycle them, so then end up in the landfill. Boo!

LED Bulbs: An energy-saving alternative for your home

LED light bulbs were once very expensive , but ilately the price tag has come way down. LEDs are highly efficient, using a fraction of the energy of a comparable incandescent.

They aren’t really ‘bulbs’, but a collection of many small light emitting diodes. They are actually tiny semiconductors, and they’re remarkably energy efficient.

LED bulbs don’t create much heat. In fact, you can usually handle one immediately after switching off. They’re less of a fire hazard.

They’re also very durable, since they don’t rely on a fragile metal filament. They can survive drops and bumps and years of use.

Most importantly, an LED light bulb is going to be far more energy efficient than an incandescent, as they produce more lumens per watt. They’re comparable with fluorescents for efficiency, but the light quality is superior.

Want to save some money on your home energy bill? Switch your bulbs to LEDs and note the difference.

2) Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

Man adjusts programmable thermostat

Photo credit: EE Image Database

Finding your home energy bill too high for your liking? Perhaps it’s your thermostat. Your heat may be running at a constant temperature all day long.

Building heating systems are bogglingly inefficient. It makes no sense to heat a huge space when it’s only occupied by a few individuals, particularly at night.

I often forget to turn down the thermostat at night. Each time I do, it costs me.

A programmable thermostat is a fantastic way to reduce that cost and have a little more peace of mind.

We have several in our house. I set them to automatically turn down the heat after we go to bed. You can always manually crank it up too.

That’s pretty low tech though. Currently, your best bet for an energy efficient home is a learning thermostat. They know when you’re home and when you’re away by learning your habits. Then they heat the home accordingly, so no power is unnecessarily wasted.

(I’ll write a dedicated article on that topic soon!)

You don’t necessarily have to go that high tech yet, though. A simple programmable thermostat is a fantastic, inexpensive way to save a lot of money.

3) Unplug Your Appliances and Gadgets to Save Electricity

Photo credit: Alan Levine

Obviously I’m a gadget junkie, but this habit can cost me.

Those little recharging units plugged into the wall? They often draw a bit of power even when not in use.

The same is true for almost all power adaptors and many appliances and gizmos. Everything from your coffee pot to your hair dryer could be drawing juice all day long.

The solution is blessedly simple: just unplug them when you’re not using them.

Not sure if an adaptor is drawing power? Feel it! If it’s warm to the touch and nothing is plugged in, it’s drawing electricity. There are also energy monitors, like this one, which can tell you exactly how much juice each idle appliance is drawing.

You might be very surprised. Each adaptor, device and appliance has a cumulative effect. Over time they can cost you a lot of money. If you’re baffled by ‘phantom’ energy costs, this is a good first place to look.

4) Get a High Efficiency Hot Water Heater

A tankless hot water heater

Photo credit: Roger Mommaerts

This might not be the first thing to spring to your mind, but a high efficiency hot water heater can make a staggering difference in your monthly heat and electricity costs.

Modern water heaters are far more efficient, because they have to keep far less water heated at any given time.

My recommendation is to install an on-demand hot water heater which removes the need for a tank altogether. They only turn on when the tap is activated.

Think about how often you use hot water each day. A shower, a bath, washing dishes, washing your clothes, it’s a huge energy draw (whether you’re on natural gas or electricity). And you’re paying to keep a big tank of water hot all day long, whether you use it or not.

There are an impressive number of highly efficient water heaters to choose from. Best to get a professional to install it, however!

Other Tips and Solutions to Lower That Home Energy Bill

There are many other, non-gadget related ways to reduce that bill. I’m a huge geek when it comes to electrical efficiency, so I can’t resist sharing a few more tips!

  • Window efficiency is a big one: a double glazed window will save you a fortune over the long run, and it will reduce outside noise as well.
  • Sealing air leaks and improving your home insulation is a big one too. If you’re unsure about thermal leaks, you can either hire an insulator to take a look, or pick up a cheap thermal leak detector to measure the temperature of your walls, windows and ceiling. These devices are a good way to pick up on a costly heating leak.
  • Invest in shade. In the hotter summer months, you can save on AC and fan electricity bills by shielding your home from the sun. Trees, shrubs and greenery can make a huge difference in how cool your home is.And surprisingly, insulation makes a big difference in keeping your home cool as well as hot.
  • Hang your clothing to dry. During the summer, this is a great way to save some juice. A dryer takes a lot of energy to run, and nothing makes your clothing smell better than fresh summer air.

How have you cut your energy bill recently? Have any tips to include? Please leave them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!