12 Tricks to Achieve Everyday Energy Efficiency

Did you know that in summer 2013, the average American residence was expected to be billed roughly $395 for electricity alone? (That, according to The U.S. Energy Information Administration.)

The good news: There are many ways to become more energy efficient, helping you to lower your utility charges and save the environment at the same time. These can be moves as small as swapping out a light bulb to as big as replacing your furnace. In fact, according to HGTV and DIY network host Jeff Wilson you can cut your energy bills by up to 85 percent with some home retrofitting.

So whether you want to drop your electricity use during these final summer weeks or you’re looking to make your heating dollars go farther this winter, here are 12 tricks you can try to make your home more energy efficient:

Trick No. 1 – Replacing light bulbs with LED bulbs

While they’re still pricier than incandescent bulbs (right now, LED bulbs at one retailer start at roughly $10, while incandescent bulbs can be found for under $2), swapping in LED bulbs can shave as much as 80 percent off your electricity use for lighting, according to Forbes. Plus, the publication notes, LED prices are becoming more affordable and the bulbs will last for over a decade – making them a great investment.

Trick No. 2 – Unplug electronics

Even when powered off, gadgets can sip power, points out U.S. News & World Report. That’s why you may want to save energy by unplugging gadgets you’re not using. Plugging your appliances into smart power strips will allow you to completely cut juice to the electronics you’re not using.

Trick No. 3 – Get a more efficient washing machine

CNNMoney notes that trading in your current top-load washer for a front-loader could be a good investment. While CNNMoney puts the extra cost for a front-loader at roughly $500 more than your typical top-loader, the site points out that the new washer will use about half the water and requires less detergent and energy than your old washer.

Trick No. 4 – Replace your furnace

If your furnace has been around since the 1990s, you may be paying over $200 more in heating bills than you need to, according to CNNMoney. To save money and increase efficiency, the site recommends swapping in a new, Energy Star-certified model.

Tricks Nos. 5-8 – Eliminate leaks

There are all sorts of ways for the air inside your home to sneak out and the air outside to sneak in. To keep your home better insulated, consider doing the following:

  • Plug holes: Outdoor air may be seeping into your house through the holes in your home through which pipes, gas lines and electrical cables enter. Popular Mechanics recommends sealing these gaps with expanding foam and caulk (and while you’ve got that caulking gun, CNNMoney urges you to run it around the outside edges of your windows).
  • Line ducts: Heating and cooling ducts can leak as much as 30 percent, according to the Department of Energy on CNNMoney. The site recommends filling cracks with either an Aeroseal application or using metal tape or mastic sealant.
  • Cover glass: Applying plastic sheets to windows and glass doors can reduce your heating bill by roughly 14 percent, according to Popular Mechanics.
  • Add insulation: Your home may have gaps in insulation, notes CNNMoney. So make sure you have enough around attic doors, chimneys and in corners. Increasing insulation can save you about 20 percent in heating costs, the site says.

Trick No. 9 – Adjust your thermostats

No, we’re not talking about the ones on your wall (though, obviously, turning them up in the summer and down in the winter is the easiest way to save energy). We’re talking about the ones in some of your appliances. For instance, your refrigerator may be set for colder temperatures than necessary, says CNNMoney. Keeping the temperature at 35 to 38 degrees for the refrigerator and 0 to 5 degrees for the freezer will keep your food cold enough. And down in the basement, CNNMoney points out that your water heater doesn’t need to be set to 140 degrees – 120 degrees will give you water that’s plenty hot enough.

Trick No. 10 – Install a shower drain water heat recovery system

HGTV’s Jeff Wilson shows Fox 59 News that you can use 40 percent less hot water by installing a water heat recovery system in your shower drain. The system won’t recycle shower water, but will instead transfer the shower water heat back into your pipes.

Trick No. 11 – Hire an energy auditor

If you really want to make sure your home is running at maximum energy efficiency, you can hire an energy auditor, suggests U.S. News & World Report. An auditor will check your residence to make sure there are no air leaks or other inefficiencies.

Trick No. 12 – Put apps and programs to work

Looking for more ways to help you stay green and curb energy costs? There are plenty of apps for that. For a rundown, see our recent Straight Talk post, “5 Apps to Help You Save Money by Going Green.”

How do you keep your home energy efficient? Will you be making any investments in energy efficiency this coming year?

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