New Habits For A New Year: Will You Resolve to Save?
With another year behind us, it’s time to reflect on the habits we can improve upon and goals we’d like to strive for in the coming months and seasons. As many common resolutions for the New Year include better spending and health habits, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your personal energy consumption and commit to the ways you can make a dent in your energy use and costs.
Since large resolutions can be harder to stick to, we’ve compiled a list of simple energy projects and habit changes to help you ring in the New Year and get started on a renewed path toward energy savings.
Are there are other energy-related resolutions in your 2015 plans? Share your goals to better “value your power” this year on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/virginiaenergysense
- Replace existing lights with ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs. Lighting accounts for up to 11% of Virginia household energy use. Curb lighting expenses by replacing five of your home’s most frequently used lights with ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs, which can save households up to $40 annually in energy costs. Although LED and CFL bulbs can have higher upfront costs than traditional incandescent bulbs, they last up to 25 times longer and are up to 90% more efficient.
- Air seal gaps, cracks and holes. Many of us can settle for areas of our home that are notoriously drafty, especially in the winter. This year, resolve to take action to address the leaks that allow cool air to enter — and the heat you’re paying for to escape. One of the simplest fixes to addressing drafts is through simple caulking, sealing and weatherstripping. Best yet, reducing air leaks throughout your home could save you up to 10% in energy costs! For step-by-step instructions, read our How-To Guide to sealing and saving.
- Cover your water heater tank. Heating water accounts for 18% of annual household energy use. If your water heater is set at a higher temperature than necessary (e.g. 130-140°F), it can cost you up to $400 in demand loss. For every 10°F reduction in temperature, you can cut your water heating costs by up to 5%. For more savings, wrap your water tank with a jacket to improve insulation by as much as 75%. Keeping the water hot lets your tank take more frequent breaks, saving you money.
- Set your programmable thermostat. Heating an empty home is one of the most common ways we use more energy than is necessary, which can add up to a lot on your monthly energy bills. By installing — and properly setting a programmable thermostat — to automatically adjust your indoor air temperature when you’re asleep or away from home, you could save as much as $180 annually! To make the programming even easier, try a smart thermostat that learns your habits and patterns and adjusts its settings automatically. Forgot to adjust the thermostat before heading out for the day? These wi-fi enabled devices allow you to make changes remotely via a smartphone.
- Get to know your home. Nearly half of home energy costs are spent on heating and cooling. But appliances, lighting and electronics costs can add up too. Learn more about your energy use with our Home Energy Test ; just a few minutes to answer questions and you’ll receive a personal report with home improvement recommendations and potential cost saving estimates. To get a deeper, custom look into your home’s energy use and best path forward to conserve, find a qualified energy auditor to conduct your home assessment. It could save you as much as 30% on energy bills after completing the suggested improvements.
- Regularly check and change your furnace filter. Who is your home is responsible for checking and changing your air filters? It’s something that’s easy to forget or delay, but a dirty filter not only forces your HVAC unit to work harder, but it also decreases your indoor air quality. During peak heating and cooling seasons, check and change your filter often (i.e. every 1-3 months) to save up to up 15% on heating and cooling costs. Consider upgrading to a reusable furnace filter, which can be washed and re-used up to 10 years. If you prefer to stick with disposable filters, attach an air filter whistle, which will let you know your filter is clogged when the whistle starts to “sing”.
- Make your fridge more efficient. Refrigerators should be kept between 37°F and 40°F and your freezer kept at 5°F to save energy. Maintain a full refrigerator or freezer to save energy by reducing the recovery time when the door is opened.
- Conserve while freshening up. Did you know an energy efficient showerhead can help you save up to $145 annually in electricity costs? With a built-in thermometer, the showerhead runs normally while the water warms up. But once the water reaches the designated temperature, the showerhead cuts water to a trickle. A change in sound lets you know the shower is warm and a simple pull of a lever will return the flow to normal when you step into the tub.
- Connect less and save more. With the growing number of available electronics and gadgets, home energy use is increasingly impacted by “vampire” power – energy consumed by electronics that appear shut off or in stand-by mode – which adds up to more than $100 a year. Curb your energy use and costs by unplugging devices from the wall when they’re fully charges or not in use. To make it easier, plug your devices into a motion sensor power strip that automatically shuts off electronics when sensing a lack of movement. (Basic power strips work just as well if you can remember to manually flip the switch.)
- Take advantage of discounts and freebies.Reducing your energy consumption can require some upfront costs, though many will bring a quick return on investment. To help offset the costs of your energy projects and more efficient equipment, be sure to do your research for rebates and incentives you may be eligible for, offered by your utility provider, local energy organization and federal, state or local government entities.
For more tips and resources, including our Do-It-Yourself Guide with step-by-step instructions for home energy projects and our energy-saving gadgets list for tools that help make saving energy a breeze.