With wildfires raging and warmer than usual temperatures causing a surge in utility bills this summer, efficient use of water and energy is a priority for many of us who want to save money and protect our planet. At the same time, finding effective ways to conserve these natural resources while keeping cool in our homes may seem like quite a daunting task, especially when we’re facing near- record heat. To help put more money back in your wallet without sacrificing your comfort this summer and in the seasons ahead, try applying several or more of these strategies:
Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs: By replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs (light emitting diodes), you can reduce your energy usage on lighting up to 75 percent and more. Not only do LEDs consume far less electricity to power than incandescent lights, but they also last much longer than the older bulbs. While CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) are also more efficient than the incandescent bulbs, they have significant drawbacks as they can’t be used with a dimmer switch, contain a small amount of mercury and cast a harsher light than the soft, warm white tones of LEDs.
Choose drought-tolerant deciduous trees: A great way to create shading for your home is to plant trees near your home that lose their leaves in autumn, since deciduous trees allow for exposure to the sun during the winter months when it is needed. To save on water, choose drought-tolerant trees well-suited to the soil and climate where you live. A few good choices in the Bay Area are the Valley oak, the Peppermint willow and the Chinese pistache. For more suggestions, visit http://bit.ly/DroughtFriendlyTreesBayArea.
Adjust window coverings to help control temperatures: Using your window treatments resourcefully can decrease heat gain in your home in the summer and reduce heat loss in the winter. During the warmer months, light-colored or white-lined shades, drapes or blinds reflect sunlight away from your home to keep it cooler. Be sure to keep these coverings closed on sunny days to block sunlight from heating your home. Conversely, switch to darker window treatments in the winter months to help absorb the radiant energy from the sun. For more help in selecting energy-efficient window treatments or coverings, visit http://bit.ly/EnergySaverDOE.
Use water-saving faucets and shower heads: According to HGTV, showers and faucets together tend to use about 23 percent of household water, which is more than toilets or clothes washing machines. But by installing low-flow faucets and shower heads, you can reduce your water usage by 30 to 50 percent. And since water requires energy to be heated, using less heated water equals more savings on energy as well. For more information on how to lower your bills with low-flow faucet and shower fixtures, visit http://bit.ly/LowFlowFaucetsHGTV.
Wash your clothes in cold water and don’t overuse the dryer: Another simple way to save on hot water heating is to wash your clothes in cold water. Further reduce energy usage in the dryer by cleaning the lint filter between loads and using the dryer moisture sensor to turn the dryer off automatically. As reported by PG&E, operating the dryer an extra 15 minutes per load can cost you an additional $34 per year.
Run your dishwasher with full loads: The average dishwasher uses 6 gallons of water and 1,800 watts of power. Operate your dishwasher with full loads to conserve both water and power. For more energy savings, dry your dishes on the energy saver setting.
Keep cool by using fans: With cooling costs second only to heating in terms of household energy use, it makes good sense to use fans instead of air conditioning when the weather is warm but not intolerably hot. Although fans don’t actually lower the temperature of a room, they do make you feel about four degrees cooler. Also during warm weather months, set ceiling fans to turn counterclockwise for more cooling benefits. Just be sure to turn fans off when you’re not using them, because the rooms themselves won’t get any cooler.
Another cost-efficient technique to keep your home cool in the mornings and evenings is to use fans in your windows to blow warmer air out and cooler air in. To do this, just turn your fans so that they face out from windows. By opening another window, you can also create a cross-breeze.
On excessively hot days, you can still save on air conditioning costs by using fans to keep a breeze going, enabling you to raise the thermostat about 4 degrees for the same level of comfort. For each degree that you raise your thermostat, you can save roughly 3-5 percent on cooling costs.
Remedy air leaks: According the Department of Energy, one of the quickest energy and money-saving tasks you can do in your home is to caulk, seal and weather strip all cracks and large openings to the outside. Proper sealing reduces average heating and cooling costs, protects your home and helps create a healthier indoor environment. In fact, EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs (11 percent of total energy costs) by sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces and basements. Find tips on properly sealing your home at http://bit.ly/DOEAirSealingYourHome.
Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo: Need to replace your old refrigerator, washer/dryer, dishwasher, air conditioning unit or other outdated appliance? Be sure to purchase a new model that has met the energy efficiency requirements of an ENERGY STAR label. Even if the product costs more than a less-efficient model, you’ll recover your investment in utility bill savings within a relatively short time. For example, just purchasing a new ENERGY STAR multi-speed pool pump can allow you to reduce your energy bills up to $1,000 per year. Also look for rebates, which may be available on new energy-saving appliances. If you’re a customer of PG&E, you can find information on product rebates at http://bit.ly/RebatesByProductPGE.
Consider renewable energy sources: Currently, there are a number of clean, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind that can be used to power your home and significantly reduce, and in some cases possibly eliminate, your utility bills. What’s more, they can improve the resale value of your home, and of course, reduce your carbon footprint. To learn more about how to power your home with various renewable energy sources, visit Popular Mechanics at http://bit.ly/7WaystoPowerYourHomeWithRenewableEnergy.