Steps that Cost Us Nothing:
- We turned down the programmable thermostat to 63 during the day and 55 at night.
- We also decided that “night” could begin an hour earlier, at 8:00, since everyone is in bed reading or watching TV by then. (Later, we decided to make 7:00-8:00 family time in our room, so night now begins at 7:00 in the rest of the house.)
- We closed off those parts of the house that aren’t used on a daily basis, and shut off or turned down the heat in those areas.
- We learned to live without air conditioning, period. We instead installed ceiling fans in our most-used rooms.
- We grouped our electronics into families and put each family on its own powerstrips. So when the computer goes off, so too the printer and modem. The TVs are grouped with the DVD player, game systems, and stereo. Also, all the countertop kitchen appliances share a powerstrip.
- We turned “Turn out the light” into a family mantra. I freely admit to accidentally turning lights off as I leave a room, evoking an angry “HEY!” from the kid I just left in the dark.
- We started drying our clothes in the sunshine. We did this because our dryer died, but we kept on keepin’ on after we bought a new (Energy Star) model. Partly because it still saves us quite a bit on our electric bill, but also because I’ve really come to enjoy it.
- We also use the air-dry setting for the dishwasher. Just a matter of pushing an extra button.
- If I need to use the oven, I’ll bake several items at once or double the recipe. This saves energy by cutting down on pre-heating times, and saves me time because I’ll have extra meals on hand in the freezer.
- We take shorter showers. My kids have excema, so the doctor wants them taking shorter showers, every other day, at not-as-hot temperatures. We also use all-in-one cleansers to make life easier. Since I make them take short showers, they police my showers with a timer in hand.
- The outside lights are on a timer.
- We put up thick curtains (which we made ourselves with sheets and blankets) and we open them at first light to take advantage of the solar gain. (In summer, the opposite holds true; the curtains block the sun and we open them at night to let the cool in.)
- Wear this outfit twice, and do half as much laundry. Also: washing on cold is just as effective on 95% of your clothes.
- We unplug our cell phone chargers when they’ve finished charging. This was the hardest habit to develop.
- I airdry my hair. Unless I really need to look presentable, which thankfully doesn’t happen very often.
- We keep the fridge and freezer very nearly full at all times, and I learned how to vacuum those coils.
- Speaking of which, I am careful to keep the heating vents clear and vacuumed as well.
- Putting the lid on the pot reduces cooking times!
Steps with an initial cost:
- When we had to replace our washer and dryer, we bought Energy Star models. Given the amount of laundry involved with three kids and a husband in construction, this had a tremendous impact on our electric bill.
- Jeff (the husband) bought some caulk and sealed up every crack he could find.
- He also installed ceiling fans all over, and we made it through last summer never turning on the air conditioner. (On days that were truly unbearable we went to the pool.)
- As they burn out, we replace our bulbs with CFLs.
- We bought energy efficient night lights for the kids, which cost only pennies a year even though they’re plugged in 24/7.
- My boys read in bed every night for a half hour with a solar flashlight. (Bonus: When you purchase a BOGO light from SunNight Solar, one is donated to a child who needs light. You can even choose what organization or area you would like to receive the donation.)
- I bought a crockpot and learned to love it.
- I also bought a good thermos to keep my coffee hot, so I can turn off the coffeemaker when it’s done brewing.
- We need to figure out how to set the sleep function on our TV. My husband insists he needs the TV on to fall asleep, and inevitably I wake up at 3 a.m. and the dang thing is still blaring. That’s at least five hours where the only one watching TV is the cat.
- We are considering putting the water heater on a timer. This makes me a little nervous, having had to bathe a child in the middle of the night when they woke up puking. But given that this particular scenario only happens maybe twice a year, I think the energy savings may win out. (I’m not sure what the hangtime would be if we turned it back on; if we’re able to reheat the water in only a few minutes everything would be fine.)
- I’d love to put in solar outdoor lighting, but we live on a heavily treed plot; I need to investigate how much sunlight they require.
- More Energy Star appliances– specifically the dishwasher and refrigerator, when the ones we have kick the bucket, which with any luck will not happen for a long, long time.
- Look into solar panels. This is a long term dream, to go “off the grid”, and it may not be possible with all the trees around. But worth checking out, I think.
- More likely is a solar water heater, because this is something you can build yourself. (I can see this appealing to Jeff as a summer project.)
- Finally, I want to get a Kill-a-Watt, so I know exactly which of our electronics is using the most energy, and adjust accordingly.
But a lot of these things are little things. Is it worth it?
Regardless of your “green” leanings, energy conservation is worth taking time for, because we dramatically reduced our energy bills, almost by half.
I don’t know about you, but we sure can use that extra cash.