Where Is All My Power Actually Going?
“Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”Thomas Edison
So consider that next time you are deciding between multiple appliances. Energystar.gov makes it easy to see the power consumption of appliances, and you can even sort those appliances by price. If you are considering solar in the future, it would be a smart idea to first consider all the ways you can reduce your electric use without affecting your quality of life. Things like buying more energy-efficient appliances when replacing an aging one can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings over the product’s lifetime.
Not all appliances and electronics are created equal, but some of these electricity vampires might surprise you. So, let’s discuss where the power goes once it enters our home.
Heating and Cooling System (Approximately 45%)
It may or may not shock you to learn that our home’s heating and cooling system accounts for almost half of the monthly energy costs used by the typical household. This can be significantly higher or lower, depending on the age of the system and the temperature you maintain in your home. Here are a few tips to help lower the cost of your HVAC system:
- Use air conditioning only during the hottest portion of the day (12p-4p)
- Have your AC and Furnace serviced at least twice per year
- Make sure ceiling fans are set to counterclockwise during the summer and clockwise during the winter
- Check filters and replace them as needed
- Never block the vents
- Dust and vacuum regularly to reduce clogs in filters and vents
- Draw curtains closed on warm days and open on cool days to take advantage of the sunlight
- Dress warmer indoors during winter and dress lighter during summer
Water Heater (Approximately 15%)
The water heater is also a big contributor to higher electric bills, and this is especially true with older outdated models. Here are some precautions you can take to reduce costs.
- Wrap older water heaters with a well-fitting insulation jacket
- Take showers instead of baths
- Set water heater temperature below 120F
- Insulate hot-water pipes
- Install shower heads that conserve water
- If you go on vacation, turn down the water heater
Washer and Dryer (Approximately 15%)
The washer and dryer we use to clean our clothes and keep the bedsheets smelling fresh are also substantial contributors to monthly energy costs, as you might expect. But, before you decide to invest in brand new, more efficient technology, there are ways to reduce the power consumption of even the older washer and dryer appliances.
- Use cold water for your wash - Tide (and I’m sure others will follow) make specially formulated detergent that works effectively in cold water
- Only wash full loads - You will use the same energy no matter the size of the load, so focus on creating full loads of wash (this will also help you wash less, which is a win in my book)
- High-speed spin cycles are your friends - The more moisture you can remove during the wash cycle, the more efficient the dryer cycle will become.
- Use a cool down cycle - Some newer dryer models have a cool down cycle, which takes advantage of the heat already in the dryer to finish drying a load of laundry without continuing to burn energy heating it.
- Put in a new load after the previous one finishes - By throwing your clothes in an already hot dryer, you reduce the energy needed to bring a dryer from cold to hot.
- Use Dryer Balls - Wool or rubber balls help to separate clothing, allowing the heat to more evenly disperse while also helping to eliminate static.
- Clean the Lint Trap - Not only will this help the dryer run more effectively, but by cleaning the lint trap after each use, you will reduce the risk of fire or damage to your dryer
Lighting (Approximately 12%)
Lighting is one thing that can fool even the most-savvy homeowners. Often, homeowners assume that they have already converted all lighting to high efficiency LED bulbs. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Check each bulb in the house and replace them with LED lights, which have a longer lifespan and a lower energy cost. Outdoor lighting, like floodlights, often uses enormous amounts of electricity and are easily forgotten. Today, we’re fortunate to have efficient outdoor lighting at a very reasonable cost and taking the time to replace outdated lighting can often pay for itself in a matter of weeks or months.
Refrigerator (Approximately 4%)
In my house, the only thing more exciting than a new movie on Netflix is the possibilities that might lie within the fridge. In many houses, kids simply open the fridge and stare, waiting for something exciting to appear. Unfortunately, healthy Jon often does the grocery shopping while snacking Jon is left with a pile of veggies and Greek yogurt from which to create something to satisfy a snack craving. If you find members of your family opening and closing the refrigerator too often, you’re losing energy. The best advice is to buy bins to organize your fridge logically, so when you want to search for a snack, you know exactly where to look. Once again, this is an appliance where you are better off investing in a new fridge rather than fixing an aging one should it malfunction. New technology has allowed refrigerators to better trap the cool air, and some new fridges come with built-in windows so you can plan your meal before you even open it.
Electric Oven (Approximately 4%)
Cooking in an oven is a necessity, but sometimes we are our own worst enemies with saving money on our electric bill. A dirty oven will not work as efficiently as a clean one, so take the time to clean it. Be sure to clean it once a month, either by hand or with a self-cleaning feature if you are lucky enough.
TV, Video Games, Computers and Cable Boxes (Approximately 3%)
I know this one is shockingly low compared to what you might expect, but somehow TVs seem to be the one electronic appliance that we ensure is always new. Luckily, newer television sets benefit from advances in technology, so along with brighter colors and better resolution, they also use less power. That said, those Netflix marathons now become even more problematic when you throw in the amount of electricity used to power it and, of course, the frequent trips to the fridge.
Dishwasher (Approximately 2%)
Cleaning your dishes with a dishwasher is not only beneficial from a pain-in-the-butt standpoint but also from an energy savings one. By using a dishwasher, you use significantly less water than cleaning dishes by hand, allowing your water heater to do less work, helping save energy as well.
So, there you have it, a breakdown of where your money is going each time you pay a utility bill. If you can focus on replacing aging appliances, you can often significantly reduce your monthly bill. New water heaters to replace older ones, updating the lighting, and seeking the most energy-efficient washer and dryer system can help drop your bill by almost 25%. The real savings, however, is replacing an old HVAC system with something more efficient. Since that is not in most people’s budgets, the next best solution is to better insulate your home. Anything from replacing drafty doors and windows to only keeping certain rooms at comfortable temperatures will decrease costs. No matter what you do, I’m confident that just having this knowledge will help you make better decisions and reduce your electric costs.
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Jon Nelsen | Solar Consultant