Wouldn’t we all like to cut energy and cut living costs, as well as optimize the comfort of our home and do a little bit to give the environment a helping hand? Our energy bills seem to chew away at our income, but we write them off as an inevitable expense. Do they really have to be? Making small changes to our lifestyles can cut utility costs, reduce waste, improve home comfort and air quality, and conceivably take no more time from ourselves than we are willing to give.
Unplug unused devices
Do you ever wonder how much energy the little light on your television set is using while you’re at work or sleeping? How about your router and modem while you’re not even online? Or the little clock on the microwave, the cell phone charger with nothing attached, and the computer on standby? The point is, we have so many pieces of electrical equipment plugged in, taking a tiny bit of electricity constantly, that it can really start to add up. With a bit of awareness, and a couple of smart purchases, this drain on electricity and cash can be cut drastically. One simple way is to unplug everything when it’s not in use. This can get a little bit tedious, though. Alternatively, you could invest in a smart surge protector. These stop any electricity getting to a device which isn’t in use, protecting it from power surges but also protecting you from huge bills – a worthwhile investment for sure.
If you want to get a little bit obsessive, devices such as Killawatt are great for using on every single electrical device in your home to understand their energy consumption. Using this enables you to make smart decisions about which pieces of equipment it’s fine to leave plugged in, and which it would make sense to turn off. Even if turning off offending appliances for a few hours a day only saves you a dollar a day, think about how much that can all add up to – it’s worth the hour spent on research to make a saving like that.
Isn’t technology a wonderful thing? We are moving more and more towards being able to control our homes by the touch of a button, and not just the thermometer in the home as a whole. Smart thermometers and ventilation systems allow you to heat and cool individual rooms, even when you’re not at home. Do you ever worry about the pipes bursting while you’re away in winter? With smart devices you can monitor the temperature remotely, meaning you can heat the home just enough to keep the pipes safe, without wasting money on heating rooms more than necessary. In this way, being able to zone a home to control the temperature and airflow in each room individually can save significant amounts of energy and cash by avoiding the rooms which are not regularly used. Do you and your family members often disagree on AC settings in summer or heating levels in winter? You don’t when you can zone your home! Don’t skimp on the system, though. A good product with high-quality parts, including the HVAC damper for each room isn’t necessarily cheap, but it’s a worthwhile investment. And overall, investing in a smart zoning system will allow you to make that money back in no time by cutting down on wasted energy consumption.
When you think about it, we’re a little bit obsessed with using fantastic quality drinking water for all of our home water needs, for no reason. Why do we feel the need to flush our toilets with water which is clean enough to drink? Rainwater collection systems can easily be installed, and then plumbed into a domestic toilet system so you’re able to use free water to flush toilets, rather than fresh drinking water (which we have to pay for, incidentally). The same goes for car washing – why use perfectly good drinking water when rainwater, collected and neutralized, is the ideal free substitute?
By the same stretch, what happens to the waste water when we wash the dishes or do the laundry? Rather than draining it down the sink, that water is perfect for watering garden plants. This is also perfect if you’re experiencing a hosepipe ban during a summer drought – keeping plants healthy in those conditions can be tricky, so dishwater is a great alternative. If you use ecological detergent and dish soap, there is no reason that “gray water” would be bad for your garden. Let it stand for a couple of days before you throw it on your plants to neutralize any active ingredients, and it’ll be perfect. Don’t leave it too long, however, as food deposits can start to break down in the water, which won’t be good for your plants either.
Good insulation can save a home hundreds of dollars in heating bills every year. Why pay to heat your home constantly if that money is just escaping through the roof as soon as it enters the room? It can cost a bit of cash to bring your insulation up to standard, but the savings can be immense once winter comes around.
Bring in some plants
House plants are perfect air purifiers, without the cost of running an air purifier – genius! They take carbon dioxide and other unwanted molecules from the air, and pump pure oxygen back in. This can help to keep mold and mildew problems at bay, and make the inhabitants feel healthier too. Indoor environments tend to be quite stagnant, meaning the air isn’t replenished frequently. This allows pollutants to build up, which can actually cause physical illness to the people in the home if not addressed. Even NASA rely on plants to purify the air! They even help us to feel more positive, and add color, light, and a beautiful natural element to a home. Many houseplants are easy to keep, so don’t be put off by the responsibility. Spider plants, dracaena, and snake plants require very little care, and are perfect for removing pollutants from your home’s air.
Make the most of natural light
Natural light is crucial for our sense of wellbeing. Unlike unnatural light, it is energizing, lifts mood, and boosts productivity. It’s also free, which is a definite bonus. So whenever you’re at home in the daytime, throw open the windows and let the sun shine in. Paint window surrounds white and use tactically placed mirrors and reflective surfaces to optimize the light that enters your home, and see how much energy you can save by keeping the lights switched off in the daytime. Obviously, once the sun dips down below the horizon, electric light becomes a necessity. Try to change your old-fashioned halogen lights for LED lighting and see how much your energy bill drops by. LED bulbs use far less energy, and run more efficiently, releasing far more of their energy as light, rather than heat like halogens. They cost a bit more to buy, but they last a whole lot longer, so they’re a worthwhile investment.
Get your green-fingers
Food waste is a real shame – you literally see your hard-earned money go into the trash. Why not try to start your own compost heap (you can pick them up for a low cost from any major gardening or hardware store) and use the waste to grow your own fruit and veg? Composting is a great way to encourage the kids to get involved with their food, and it’s a bonus science lesson too. The fruits of your labor, literally, are free fruit and veg after harvest, and you know that nothing is going to waste.
Keep your AC filters clean
Did you know that dirty AC filters could be costing you significant amounts of money? When they’re clogged with dirt and dust, the AC has to run longer and work harder to circulate the air, which isn’t cheap. If you clean them every spring, and replace them every few years, you could see a significant drop in energy costs throughout the summer, for relatively little work. Keeping them clean is also really useful if anyone in your home suffers from any allergies, including hayfever, dust, or pet allergies. The filters, when clean, are more effectively able to filter these allergens from the air, making everyone a bit more comfortable.
Use fans as well as AC and heating
When it’s hot, we want to give the warm air a helping hand and push it out of the building. When it’s cold, we want to encourage the warm air to stay. Fans aren’t able to cool or warm a room, but they are perfect for moving air around. Keeping airflow constant is the best way to maintain a comfortable temperature in a home, but you can also use fans to send air in the right direction. Tilt them downwards to encourage the heating and AC to stay in the room longer. If you’re using fans but no AC in summer, point them upwards to encourage the hot air to rise, being replaced by cooler and more mobile air in the spaces we inhabit. Give it a go, it really works!
We all want to cut living costs and do our bit for the environment. What do you like to do to cut your energy bills? Get in touch and let me know your tips and tricks.