4 things a home owner should do immediately to save on energy costs

With energy costs on the rise, every home owner should be looking into ways to cut energy usage thereby saving costs and reducing carbon footprint. When we had bought our new home in 2014, the house came installed with all the standard fittings such as CFL lights, programmable thermostats, energy star appliances, etc which are considered energy efficient systems.

Here are 4 simple things to save energy consumption.

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LED Lighting

About 5 years ago LED lighting had a very high entry cost, however over the years the prices have become much more affordable. Considering the pricing and the energy savings, it is a no-brainer to swap all your non LED lighting with LED’s. In my case, I did not want to change about 60 lights in my house at the same time so I only focused on the ones that I was using on a daily basis. These included some of my outside lights, family room bedroom lights, etc.

Here is some reference on energy usage and costs associated with LED, CFL and regular incandescent lamps providing an equivalent of 60W. Assuming 4 hours of use per day and a rate of 15 cents/kWh costs.

LightsPower RatingDaily Energy ConsumptionMonthly CostYearly Cost
LED9W0.036 kWh$0.162$1.97
CFL15W0.06 kWh$0.27$3.29
Incandescent60W0.24 kWh$1.08$13.14

At the time of writing this post the cost for a 9W LED lamp is $2.67, cost for 15E CFL is $3.99 and the incandescent would lighten your wallet by $2.08. It is a no brainer to pick between CFL and LED. With the incandescent considering the purchase and usage cost it is clearly evident who the winner is.

Smart Thermostat

A standard programmable thermostat would work really well if we had a fixed schedule. Initially I had created a weekly schedule based on a typical 9-5 work and kids being home early. Unfortunately my wife did not have the same schedule every day. This created an issue because as per the schedule the thermostat would switch to away mode and my wife would start freezing in couple of hours. Having heard of Nest and Ecobee, I decided to try them out. I went with Ecobee as it came with an extra sensor that I could put in another room. The thermostat would come on and off by detecting motion near the thermostat and the external sensor. This alleviated the issue of schedule and the thermostat would automatically turn to heat or cold when it detected movement and otherwise would switch to a “Smart Away” mode. Think automation which I have elaborated on this blog post.

The savings could be difficult to calculate unless you have a metering device connected to your AC unit or the fan. In my case, however, my summer month’s electrical bill dropped from $450 to $215 which alone justifies the cost of the unit in one year.

Unplug unused or rarely used devices

A typical home would have umpteen devices connected to outlets but used either once in couple of months or rarely. Some examples of such devices in my house are the paper shredder, room humidifier, air fresheners, etc. These devices when plugged in always pull in small levels of current which are no value as they are not being used. Unplug these devices completely when not in use.

I took one step further, influenced by my Valuist wife, where I would get rid by donating or trashing devices that I have not used in 2 years. The reason I took two years as a set mark is because it would allow me to go through all the seasons and if it happens twice that I do not use it then I do not need it.

A simple way to evaluate the energy drain is use a device called Kill-A-Watt (available on Amazon) and plug your devices into it with it plugged to the wall outlet. The unit will display the energy consumption in various modes (such as On, Off and Standby depending on the device). Use the simple calculator by clicking this link and calculate the energy costs. Trust me, you’d be amazed by the amount of energy drain if you are doing it for the first time.

Standby or Sleep Mode

There are obviously devices that you frequently use and may take a long time to turn on such as your laptops, desktops, printers, etc. All Windows based computers come with either a SLEEP (or HIBERNATE) option. Other devices such as printers, scanners or 3D printers come with a STANDBY option. Check your user manual to enable this mode.

Wrapping up

It is normal to not realize how much these energy suckers drain energy and your wallet. These 4 simple steps would substantially reduce it thus saving you some dough and the environment.

Take a weekend to go treasure hunting.

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