October is the Department of Energy’s “Energy Awareness Month.” Think of it like spring cleaning for your energy consumption. It’s a great time of year to take stock of how your habits are impacting your energy usage, and to find ways to improve them before winter kicks in. The DOE has some great checklists for how to lower the power bill for your home and office, but admittedly, many of these techniques can be expensive and take a lot of time. So instead of going over each of them, we’re going to focus only on the tasks you can complete today, either completely for free, or in a way that will pay for themselves in one year or less. Let’s get started!
- Turn down your water heater – The “warm” setting, around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, is plenty hot for bathing and laundry needs. For anything that you need hotter water for, you’ll be boiling it anyway.
- Pick up a water heater blanket – These insulating blankets help to keep your hot water hot, so you don’t waste energy heating it up over and over again. Ranging from just $20 – $40, this investment will easily pay for itself within a year.
- Take cooler showers – A long, hot shower is a common luxury, but heating water can account for up to 25% of your power bill! Turning that faucet down just a few degrees is like putting money back in your pocket, and cooler showers are actually healthier for your body and mind anyway!
- Turn off lights when you’re not using them – This one is pretty basic, but it can be hard to remember as we move from room to room with other things on our mind. Try creative ways to keep yourself mindful, like notes next to light switches or on doors. If that still doesn’t do the trick, it’s well worth the energy savings to spend a couple of bucks on an automatic timer that will kill the lights for you.
- Turn off the electronics – Speaking of timers, your desktop, laptop, and these days, even your smart TV have features to automatically switch off after a period of inactivity. Dig in to those settings! Twenty minutes is a good place to start, and if you find yourself constantly needing to turn it back on right away, lengthen the timer in ten minute increments. If you’re not planning on using your computer or TV for a couple of hours, just turn it off! Be sure to turn it off at the power strip so it doesn’t continue to draw power even though it’s off.
- Use your smartphone more – This one may seem counter-intuitive, but believe it or not, it costs less than a dollar per year to keep your smartphone charged. It can be a fun challenge to see just how much of your daily computer activities can be done on a smartphone, and it’ll save you big bucks while you do it.
- Program that thermostat – It can be intimidating, I know, but crack open that manual and give it a shot anyway. A few minutes of tinkering with your programmable thermostat can mean huge savings, and keeping your home at a sustainable temperature will be much easier if you don’t have to think about it.
- Pull the curtain on heat loss – During the day, open south-facing curtains and blinds to let in sunlight, which will passively heat and brighten your home or office. Then, as the sun sets, close the blinds to create a soft barrier that helps to retain heat and repel cold. This works the other way around in summer as well.
- Use task lighting – Whenever possible, consider using just a single lamp to illuminate the task at hand, rather than turning on a multi-bulb fixture or track lights intended to light up the whole room.
Of course there are more drastic ways to reduce your power bill, such as replacing appliances, fixtures, furnaces, and so on. And naturally the best way to lower the cost of your energy is to produce it yourself with a solar array! But it’s also possible to make a noticeable impact just by changing a few habits and picking up a few cheap supplies. Get energized to do it today!