Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Home Energy Hogs

Cutting down on energy use is a huge part of going green, but sometimes even our best efforts to be eco-friendly at home can come up short. So if you’ve updated your house but still can’t seem to bring down those sky-high utility bills, try looking out for these sneaky energy hogs that may be driving up your home energy needs.
Energy vampires
Shutting down your TV or computer may seem like a guaranteed way to decrease your energy bill, but did you know that many appliances continue to use energy even after you’ve turned them off? Sometimes called “energy vampires,” these appliances, including printers, DVD players, and computers, will continue to suck up energy even when you’re not using them in order to power features like LED displays, cooling equipment, or wireless sensors. Battery packs and cell phone chargers are especially bad and will continue to pull power even when your devices are disconnected - this type of stand-by power accounts for 5% of all residential energy!
How to fix it:
The easiest way to make sure your appliances aren’t using up energy is simply to unplug them. If you want to go a little more high-tech, though, look for a power strip that will sense when your electronics are not in use and cut off any remaining power supply. If you’re not sure which appliances in your home are energy vampires, you can use a kilowatt hour meter to measure how much energy your appliances are using when turned off.
Inefficient appliances
Old or poorly maintained appliances can be a huge power drain – for example, older refrigerators can use upwards of 1,400 kWh a year, while newer, Energy Star certified models will use only a third of that. And those wasted energy numbers can climb even higher when you have problems like poor insulation and dirty coils or if you’re using your appliances inefficiently. Running half-empty dishwashers, setting your thermostat too high or low, and doing laundry in hot water can make even the most modern appliances guzzle up electricity.
How to fix it:
Think about replacing old, worn out appliances with new, more efficient models (often the savings on your utility bill can often make up for the cost of a new air conditioner or washer), and do regular maintenance to make sure all your appliances are running as well as they should be. Also work on adjusting your own habits to maximize efficiency: small changes like being conservative with thermostat, water heater, and fridge temperature controls, washing your clothes in cold water, and keeping that freezer door closed will make a big difference.
Whether you want to teach kids about pet ownership or just love to watch the gentle back and forth of your favorite goldfish, fish can make great, low-maintenance pets. But what is that bubbling aquarium actually costing you to run? A lot of us focus on large appliances like air conditioners and washing machines when we want to tighten up our utility bills, but small appliances like aquariums can also be an energy drain. A typical 120 liter tank with lighting, heating, and aeration can cost up to $50 a year, and if you have several tanks or an inefficient system those costs can shoot up quickly – in fact, two 120 liter saltwater tanks can use as much energy as your refrigerator!
How to fix it:
The most important way to keep your aquarium energy use down is to make sure your system is running as efficiently as possible. Keep your tank in a warm area of the house, insulate the bottom and back of the tank to cut down on the need for heating, and select the smallest wattage heater and pump you need for the size of your tank. Also make sure you’re using a high-efficiency fluorescent bulb.
Cable boxes and DVRs
Although they don’t draw as much power as larger appliances, the energy cost of cable boxes and DVRs can add up quickly because they are usually on 24 hours a day. In a 2010 study, the National Resources Defense Council found that the combination of a cable box and DVR actually used as much energy as a high-efficiency refrigerator in many homes, and up to 2/3 of that energy is used when the TV isn’t even on!
How to fix it:
It can be a hassle to turn these devices on and off, but you can save energy by shutting off your DVR when you’re not recording or watching TV. Also ask your cable company about replacing your cable box with newer, more efficient models that include low-power sleep states and the option for smaller, multi-room units.
Bad habits
No matter how green you make your home, if you keep up your bad habits you won’t see those utility bills go down. Even the most efficient appliances will continue to suck up energy if used incorrectly, which means changing your daily routine is a necessary part of cutting down your energy use.
How to fix it:
The little things you do at home every day can dramatically reduce your energy bill. Start by dialing back your thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator—turning down the furnace by just 1° can save you 1-3% on your heating bill. Simple changes like turning off the lights when you leave the room and keeping the fridge door closed will also help. Lastly, make sure you’re using your appliances as efficiently as possible; for example, try to only run washers when they’re full and skip the extra dry cycles.
This post was posted in Blog and Green LibrarySave Energy and was tagged with Eco Home ImprovementENERGY EFFICIENT