Conserving energy is a great way to help the environment and save a lot of money at home too (from electricity and utility bill savings).
In this article, I’ll be showing you some of the top 21 ways you can make your home more energy-efficient, and conserve energy at the same time.
I’ll also be including how-to instructions with each tip to help get you started.
The best part?
These strategies and tips will be easy to implement, yet effective. And more often than not, they’re comparatively inexpensive next to large-scale renovations.
With that being said, let’s get started!
(By the way, I’ve split up the article into 3 sections: No-cost ways to conserve energy, Low-cost ways to conserve energy, and slightly higher-cost renovations that will improve energy efficiency). You can skip to each section by clicking the relevant link above.
Ways To Conserve Energy at Home (No Upfront Costs!)
Here are some habits you can change to start conserving energy with NO upfront costs involved. These are the simplest and easiest ways you can save electricity.
1. Turn Off Lights and Use Natural Lighting
You’ve probably already heard this tip before, but anyway, it’s pretty simple to implement so I thought I would include it:
Instead of turning on your lights during the day, open your curtains to use the sun’s natural light for your lighting needs.
Make sure that you turn off lights whenever they aren’t in use as well.
2. Unplug Electronics When not in Use
Many devices draw electricity when you aren’t using them. These “energy vampires” can account for as much as 10% of an energy bill, so they’re critical to address.
For example, nowadays, smart TVs use power to stay connected to the internet or to be turned on via remote control. Cellphones and laptop computers still use power even when they’re fully charged. Appliances like coffee makers still pull electricity to maintain times and user settings.
By unplugging devices when not in use, you can reduce the amount of “stand-by energy” or “phantom energy” that is drained by everyday electronics.
You can also follow these other tips to cut down on some power-leaks:
- Use the energy saving “sleep mode” if your device offers it.
- Plug devices commonly used together (e.g., coffee pot, grinder, milk steamer) into a “smart strip,” or a programmable power bar.
- Don’t charge your smartphone overnight. Most smartphones will fully charge within a few hours or so.
- Don’t use gaming consoles to stream movies. They use almost 50 times more power than streaming consoles.
3. Use the Cold Water Setting in your Washing Machine
At 25 gallons per load, your washing machine is the biggest hot water hog in your home, especially if it’s more than ten years old.
You can cut energy consumption in half by switching to cold water when washing clothes. Generally, the colder your water setting, the less energy.
Additionally, here are some more laundry guidelines to help you save energy:
- Use cold water detergents.
- Set water level settings to match load size. Don’t wash small loads using the large water level setting.
- Turn down your water heater thermostat to 50 C (120 F).
4. Air-Dry your Laundry instead of using a Dryer
Hang your clothes outside to dry instead of using a dryer. I find that clothes will dry within a couple hours in the sun, so it isn’t too inconvenient (plus it’ll save electricity).
However, if you prefer to use a dryer, make sure you follow these tips to keep your dryer as efficient as possible.
- Clean your clothes dryer lint trap regularly.
- If your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it to keep from over-drying clothes.
- Don’t dry heavier towels and thicker garments with lighter ones.
5. Air-Dry your Dishes
Don’t use your dishwasher’s dry setting. It uses hot water and a lot of electricity.
Instead, place your dishes on a drying rack or simply leave them in your dishwasher, and wait for them to dry. It doesn’t take much time to dry!
6. Spend Less Time in the Shower (And Get a Low-Flow Showerhead)
Hot water is obviously expensive, so if you can cut your shower time by a few minutes per day, you can save a lot of electricity and money.
Likewise, investing in a low-flow showerhead can also reduce hot water usage and help you save electricity.
In fact, a single person who takes one 7-minute shower per day can save about $54 per year just by using a common low-flow (1.5gpm) showerhead. Think about how much an entire family could save!
7. Seal your Chimney
Before and after winter, thoroughly inspect your flue or chimney before closing it up for the summer months.
Make sure the damper is closed and seated properly. Constant heating and cooling often warps dampers, leaving gaps and bad fits. These open spaces let cool air escape during summer time, so replace ill-fitting dampers. You can check for chimney drafts by using the smoke from a lighted match or by using a smoke pencil.
If you want a simpler solution to a warped damper, install a chimney balloon. These simple devices are exactly what they sound like — inflatable, heavy-duty insulated balloons that expand inside your chimney to ensure a tight seal. They’re also effective at keeping out noises, smells, and critters that might find their way into your home.
8. Use Old-Fashioned Sun Power When Possible
Solar panels aren’t the only way to harness the sun’s energy, although they might be a good idea for your home if you don’t already have them.
There are many ways to use the sun’s natural energy as an alternative to using electricity, and I’ve already talked about a few above (i.e. drying clothes in the sun).
For example, use a solar cooker to cook outside during the summer months, instead of heating your house when you cook using your stove or oven indoors.
You can watch the video below to learn how to make your own DIY solar cooker.
Low-Cost Ways to Save Energy at Home
Now that I’ve gone over the free methods you can use to conserve energy, I’ll list some more tips that may require a little bit of upfront investment to get you going.
These energy-saving strategies could cost anywhere from a few cents to a few hundred dollars, but are still easy to implement and will save you more money than you spend over the long run.
9. Install a Home Energy Monitoring System
By identifying where electricity is going, you can make smarter decisions about your energy use.
A home energy monitoring system gives you an accurate picture of how electricity is used around your home.
These devices connect to your electrical system via your service panel. From there, they account for every watt that flows through, tag where it came from, and send you a report. They can also connect your home’s electrical breaker box to your smartphone for easy access.
Systems cost anywhere from $100 to $300 depending on the features, and professional installation is required. But your utility bill savings will help pay off the investment fast.
10. Schedule an Energy Audit
Energy efficiency isn’t always a simple subject, and you may benefit from hiring a professional to conduct an energy audit on your home. They’ll find areas which need attention and provide recommendations on how best to proceed. As you apply their insights, you can take a strategic approach to your improvements.
11. Adjust Your Thermostat or Use a Programmable Smart Thermostat
Did you know that 44% of the energy used in an American home goes towards heating and cooling?
In the winter, try lowering your home’s temperature and put on warmer clothes. In the summer, turn down your AC to around 78F (25.5C) while you are awake and in the house.
You should also avoid completely turning off your HVAC system while you are away from home, although you can tone down the heating/cooling.
This may sound counter-intuitive at first, but it actually takes a lot more energy to bring your house back to a normal temperature if your heating/cooling is completely turned off.
An investment in a smart home thermostat may also be a good idea. A smart thermostat like the ones from Nest or Ecobee make it easy to control your home temperature wherever you are, and they can automatically change the temperature when you are away.
12. Replace Old Incandescent Light Bulbs with CFLs or LEDs
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are highly-efficient light sources. Compared to older incandescent types, CFLs and LEDs use about 70% less energy.
Replace old incandescent light bulbs with CFLs and you can’t really go wrong. Even better, get LEDs to replace old incandescent light bulbs, as LEDs are even more efficient than CFLs, and last longer too.
In fact, over the course of 20 years, a single incandescent light bulb will cost $211 in total to buy and use; a CFL will cost $54, while an LED will cost only $34 (ViriBright).
13. Add Insulation to Old Boilers or Upgrade to a More Efficient One
Old boilers can be extremely inefficient in heating water and maintaining heated water, so placing an insulation blanket around your old boiler can help save electricity.
Or, if your boiler is due for a replacement anyway, make sure that you upgrade to an energy-efficient one.
14. Hang Thicker Curtains
You can prevent heat from escaping your home with the low-cost addition of thick curtains. When you hang them across your windows, they act as insulation that maintains your interior temperature (whether hot or cold).
15. Use a Dehumidifier to Help Your AC Unit
HVAC units condition and cool your home by removing excess moisture, and it takes much less energy to cool air when humidity levels are between 30% and 45%.
If the air is too moist, your HVAC won’t cool as efficiently. And if the air is too dry, it will be uncomfortable, leading to dry skin and nasal passages.
To combat the problem, install a dehumidifier in your HVAC system or use a stand-alone humidifier to help condition dry air.
16. Plant Shrubs to Insulate Your Home
You have insulation in the walls of your home because it slows the transfer of heat inside (summer) and outside (winter). But there’s another layer of protection for your home’s walls that’s just as important — nature.
Trees, shrubs, and hedges planted near the outside of your walls act as windbreakers to keep winter winds from cooling your home. And in the summer, they shade your roof, cover windows, and block sun rays from hitting your exterior walls.
Natural vegetation like hedges can also help keep exterior water spigots from freezing.
For the best energy-saving results, get shrubs and hedges that grow well in your region. Also, look for deciduous trees like oaks, maples, and birches. Deciduous trees shade your home in the summer but lose their leaves in the winter to let in warming sunlight.
17. Consider a Carpet or Rug
Rugs and carpets can also improve your energy efficiency. They have properties which trap heat and keep a room far more comfortable in the colder months.
If you have a specific area of your home you want to warm, or if you live in a colder climate, a rug or carpet may prove useful.
18. Assess Windows for Air Leakage
A drafty room is a drain on your energy dollars. Something as inconspicuous as a crack can lead to serious air leakage, so it’s critical to address this type of issue sooner rather than later. Attend to any problem areas you find with a caulking gun and you can earn 10% to 20% in energy savings.
Ways to Save Energy and Increase Energy-Efficiency Using Higher-Cost Home Renovations & Upgrades
These ideas will cost you more and are based mostly upon more expensive home renovations and upgrades.
These tips should only be used if you were going to renovate your home anyway. It might be obvious, but for example, don’t go replacing your 2-year old water boiler for a slightly more efficient one. It isn’t worth it, and it’s wasteful too.
With that being said, let’s get into it!
19. Install Double-Pane Windows
Double-pane windows work by trapping an air pocket between two panes of glass. That air pocket resists heat transfer and insulates your home.
Some double-pane windows are also filled with noble gases like Argon that make them even more resistant. Their insulating properties can reduce your energy use by up to 24% in the winter and 18% in the summer, which can represent significant savings.
Double-pane windows are more expensive. And, to get the full energy saving effect, you need to replace all your windows, not just a few. But, if you were looking to replace your windows anyway, this might be a consideration, as you’ll most likely save money in the long run.
20. Repaint Your Home’s Exterior
Your regional climate should factor into your exterior design choices. In a warmer climate, a lighter exterior will help your home stay cooler, and in a colder climate, a darker exterior will help to maintain heat.
If you’re willing to take on a more involved project, try a fresh coat of exterior paint.
21. Buy Energy Star Appliances
If you have an old stove, fridge, or other appliance that you’re looking to replace, make sure you buy a new one that has the energy-star certification.
Start Saving Energy (and Money) Today!
I’ve just showed you 21 simple ways you can conserve energy at home, while saving money and the environment in the process.
Now, it’s your turn to take action. Start implementing these tips today, and share this article using the share buttons below to spread the knowledge.
Or, if you have any other tips to conserve energy, feel free to let us know in the comments. Maybe I’ll include it later in the article, when I update it!
About the Authors:
This article was written in partnership by Hugh, Emily Folk, and Morgen Henderson.
Emily covers topics in sustainability and green technology. She is the creator and editor of Conservation Folks.
Morgen is a freelance writer from the Salt Lake Valley. She writes about everything from sustainability to business to travel. You can always find her typing away at a new piece, binge-watching a new series, or traveling the globe.