There's a new resolution in town. Americans still see losing weight, spending less, and (finally!) getting organized as top goals, but these days we're adding a new ambition: "Save energy." However, we are often unsure how to accomplish this without biting the bullet and giving up the comfortable lifestyle we're used to. So how to get started? Try these 8 painless energy-saving tips.
- Set up a programmable thermostat. Once it's up on your wall, you just need to literally "set it and forget it" to enjoy the benefits of energy savings on an ongoing basis. The thermostat will automatically regulate your home's heating and cooling system temperatures to reduce power consumption while you are away from home or asleep.
- Save on hot water for your shower in several ways. Insulate hot water pipes to keep the water hotter -- this will pay off in the kitchen and laundry room as well. Install a low-flow aerating showerhead. Adjust the water temperature a degree or two lower than usual (you'll scarcely notice the difference) and make your shower a minute or two shorter. And if you're a truly hardcore energy saver, look into drain water heat recovery. That's a very green technology which utilizes leftover heat from your shower, washing machine, or dishwasher water after it flows down the drain.
- Install a light tube, the low-cost way to import more natural daylight into a dim room. Not only will you find yourself flicking the switch to turn on the electric light less often, you'll enjoy the mood uplifting benefits that come along with a healthy helping of natural sunlight.
- Set your fridge for efficiency. You don't need to go below 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit to store your food safely, as long as your refrigerator seal is in good shape. Wrap or cover food before putting it inside; cutting down on the moisture in your fridge puts less of a strain on the compressor. I recently read a great energy-efficient refrigeration tip: Place (shallow) storage containers in the fridge a half hour or more before you plan to scoop hot food into them. This will cool down the contents to safe temperatures quicker and minimize the amount you'll raise refrigerator temperature.
- Plant a hedge of (attractive, curb-appeal-adding) shrubbery around your home. Be sure that the bushes will shade your A/C's outdoor unit. Leave about one foot between the plantings and your exterior wall to act as an insulating air space, which will keep your house warmer in winter and cooler in summer. This trick is especially useful on the side of your home that faces the wind.
- Hang energy-saving curtains or blinds. What an inexpensive, easy-to-manage method of keeping out cold air in winter and hot sun in summer! If you happen to be renting your current home, you can readily pack up your green window treatments when you're ready to move out.
- Supplement your HVAC system with rotating fans. These will circulate the warmed or cooled air more efficiently and allow you to set your thermostat 4 degrees lower without sacrificing comfort. Fans are much less energy-greedy than central heating or air conditioning.
- Buy an Energy Star-certified oven when it's time to replace your old one. Then try this energy-efficient tip. The less you open your oven while it's on, the more heat you will save. Keep the window clean so that you can peek through to check how your chicken or casserole is browning. There's no need to preheat unless you're about to bake a complicated souffle (and as an avid cook, I've successfully tried skipping the preheat step for everything from roast veggies to chocolate chip cookies). Turn off the oven 5-15 minutes ahead of schedule, depending on the size of whatever you’re baking or roasting. The residual heat will finish the cooking process just fine, thank you.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.