How To Save Electricity In Ways That Really Count

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Before we look at how to save electricity, let’s talk about why. Most electric power comes from burning non-renewable fossil fuels, which give off greenhouse gases that pollute our planet. So scaling down electricity consumption reduces your carbon footprint. Another, more tangible benefit is that using less electricity lowers your utility bill.

It helps, though, to figure out how to save electricity without driving yourself (and your household) crazy, or freezing in the dark. Here are 5 easy, effective ways to reduce your electrical power use.

  1. Insulate your ductwork. This is Number One on the list for all kinds of reasons – it’s simple, it’s cheap, it only needs to be done once, and it won’t hurt a bit … really. How to save electricity by insulating your ductwork? Well, insulation will prevent your forced-air heating and air conditioning from leaking out of the ducts. You and your loved ones will be just as comfortable while using less HVAC, because you will be getting the full benefit of your heating and cooling system.

  2. Turn down the heat, comfortably. Heating your home (or air-conditioning, in summer) accounts for over half of your electricity consumption! So give serious thought to dialing back your HVAC a few degrees; it doesn’t have to leave you shivering. Tried-and-true solutions like wearing several lightweight, cozy layers and keeping your head warm really help. Hire an electrician to install a programmable thermostat or smart home system and program your thermostat to lower the heating a little more during the hours you’ll be asleep. Ditch the electric blanket in favor of an energy-smart alternative: a hot water bottle, warm compress, or space blanket. (Your furry friends will be happier at cooler temps if you supply them with a self-warming pet bed. I just bought one for my Jack Russell, who heartily approves.)

  3. “Stalk” your family. Track your household electricity consumption with a DIY tool like Energy Star’s Home Advisor, and see where you can cut down quite comfortably – for example, installing power strips and using a "smart switch" app to turn off electronics or small appliances when not in use. Try motion-sensing light controls and thermostats so you folks won’t be wasting electricity when no one’s in the room. (Speaking of thermostats, placement is crucial for an accurate reading. Position your thermostat on an interior wall, in a room that you use often.) Get the whole family on board with incentives for successful energy savers like privileges or treats.

  4. Make your kitchen an electricity-saving hot spot. Skip “heat dry” at the end of your dishwasher cycle; open the door to let dishes air dry instead. Opt for toaster oven or microwave meals, which consume less power. When you do turn on your full-sized oven, prepare multiple dishes (for instance, roast sweet potatoes while you bake a couple of cakes – one for tonight and one to freeze). Cover stovetop pots and turn off the burner a few minutes early. Set your refrigerator and freezer at their most energy-efficient temperatures (35-37 degrees F and minus .4 F, respectively); they work extra-efficiently when full, so if necessary, stock their shelves with a few plastic bottles of water. Even if you're la-di-da enough to have a dining room, eat in the kitchen in winter to take advantage of the heat generated by your cooking.

  5. Replace electricity hogs. Reduce and reuse are two favorite words among energy-conscious consumers … and with good reason. But when it comes to outdated “energy hog” appliances, it’s worth replacing them (and recycling whenever possible, of course). This applies not just in the kitchen and laundry room -- where most homeowners are aware that Energy Star certified appliances will save electricity -- but also in the home office and all around the house. For example, replacing your old desktop computer with a laptop or mobile device or buying a new television in place of your old clunker is a great way to save electricity.

 Laura Firszt writes for

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