The Twelve Days of Energy Savings
Between holiday lighting displays, large festive meals and the arrival of cold weather, Americans use the largest amount of energy in December and January. Spreading holiday cheer doesn’t have to come with a hefty energy bill. There are many ways you can save energy this winter while still celebrating the holidays and keeping cozy.
This is the perfect time of year to get started. We’ve identified 12 energy saving projects, each taking less than a day to complete, that will add up to big savings for you and your family. It’s time to start celebrating the Twelve Days of Energy Savings!
Day 1: Understand Your Energy Bill
Ease into your 12 days of energy projects with a simple one that can make a big difference: understanding your monthly energy bill. You can find an easy-to-read breakdown of your bill on the Virginia Energy Sense website.Know what you spend the most money and energy on to lower your usage next month.
Day 2: DIY Energy Audit
Now you’re ready to dive in. Start saving right with an energy assessment of your home to identify what fixes will help boost your efficiency. A professional energy audit is the most thorough way to inspect your home for energy waste, but you can also get started cost-free with an online home energy test. That will provide some potential ways to save based on your home’s age, energy sources and other characteristics.
Day 3: Light Bulbs
Did your energy audit reveal that you’re still using incandescent light bulbs in fixtures you forgot were there? By replacing 15 traditional incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs you can save $50 a year and more than $600 over the life of the bulb. They live much longer and save you money. The best of both worlds!
Day 4: Detecting and Sealing Air Leaks
Most homes have air leaks that need to be sealed to make your home more comfortable and ensure the money you’re spending on heating and cooling isn’t escaping. A simple way to detect some leakage is by lighting an incense stick and passing it around edges of common leak sites. Wherever the smoke is sucked out of or blown into the room, there’s a draft. Focus first on baseboards and junctures of the walks and ceilings, where leaks occur most often. Once you’ve detected drafts, use the U.S. Department of Energy’s easy guide to get started with the right air sealing for your problem areas.
Day 5: Water Heater Temperature
Today’s task is as easy as pie. Simply lower your water heater’s maximum temperature to 120 degrees. The default manufacturer setting for many water heaters is 140 degrees, but 120 should be sufficient for most homes. This simple act can save you up to 11 percent on your water heating costs and still provide you with a hot shower.
Day 6: Water Heater Blanket
Head back to your water heater for another simple fix: fit your water heater and the first five feet of exposed pipe with insulation blankets. Heating water, though necessary, consumes a lot of energy. Adding the blanket and insulating your pipes can help raise your water temperature 2-4 degrees, saving you money water heating for showers, laundry and other tasks.
Day 7: Sealing Your Switches
While your light switches are covered by a wall plate, air can still easily escape from them. Check to see if there are foam gaskets under the faceplate. If not, these inexpensive gadgets can be purchased from your local hardware store and easily installed for quick energy savings. Foam gaskets can also be placed behind electrical outlets. Complete the process by plugging in child safety plugs to further reduce escaping air.
Day 8: Doors and Windows
Another great way to keep the heat in (and the cool air out) this winter is by weatherstripping your home. Weatherstripping is good for areas that often open and close like doors and windows. As there are many different kinds to choose from, consult the Department of Energy’s guide to decide which is best for your project.
Day 9: Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat can regulate the temperature of your house based on time of day, season and your schedule — helping you save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling costs. They can be purchased for as low as $20 or as high as a few hundred dollars. But before you make a purchase, check with your utility provider to see if they offer free installation or an incentive toward your purchase.
If you do install it yourself you should:
- Carefully read all instructions
- Place it on an interior wall, away from any heating or cooling units that may affect its temperature reading.
- Shut down electricity during the replacement to ensure your safety.
You can also find programming instructions in our DIY Guide (pg. 12-13).
Day 10: Smart Power Strips
Even when you aren’t charging a device, a plugged-in charger still draws power. To avoid being a victim of “vampire power” — which can account for adding 10% or more to your energy bill — stop plugging appliances and electronics directly into wall sockets. Instead, try smart power strips that can automatically cut power drain. Even if you are using traditional power strips, you can easily turn off all connected appliances with one simple switch.
Day 11: Save on New Appliances
Your home can always benefit from a little retail therapy. Take advantage of the holiday sales to upgrade an old refrigerator, dishwasher, laundry machine or water heater to a newer, more efficient model. Energy efficient appliances, which are easily identified by an ENERGY STAR label, will save you money for years to come.
Day 12: Refrigerator and Freezer
Check your temperature settings for your refrigerator and freezer. The fridge should be set anywhere between 37 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer should be around 5 degrees Fahrenheit. For even more savings, try the “dollar bill” test.Try to slide a dollar bill in your refrigerator door. If you can easily move the dollar back and forth, replace the seal around the door.
Just because we’ve limited our list to 12 days of energy savings doesn’t mean you have to! Head over to At Home tips for tips to help you become even more energy efficient all year round.