Few people, if any, look forward to next month’s energy bill, especially in this day and age. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s report for 2020 stated that, despite paying lower than they did in 2018, households still paid for an average of USD$115 in 2019. The fact that the price of electricity increased to over USD$0.13 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2019 doesn’t help.
These figures have stressed the significance of conserving electricity at home more than ever. Home solar energy systems are connected to the grid or powered by off-grid solutions; households should be practicing ways to lower their energy consumption.
For this, experts have come up with some tips—and most of them aren’t that complicated.
- Keep Windows Shut
Nothing’s more tempting than turning the thermostat up or down during temperature extremes. Even if studies show that every degree increase helps save around 3% to 4% in energy costs, no one likes to live inside a sauna or freezer. Especially it holds among households in the extreme north and south.
Fortunately, Chinese and Canadian researchers found a more cost-effective way to resist turning the thermostat to the edge: keeping windows shut. According to data gathered from households in Ontario, window shades and opening schemes produce the most effect on heating and cooling, as much as an 11% reduction in demand.
That said, it pays to make sure the windows aren’t leaking precious cold or warmth to reduce the need to crank the thermostat to the extremes. Various window shading strategies also help, such as blinds, shutters, awnings, and even planting a tree close to it.
2. Unplug When Not Being Used
Unplugging appliances and devices not being used now may feel like a hassle, but it has benefits, starting with cost savings. According to Berkeley Lab, some appliances and devices in a typical household continue to draw power so long as they remain plugged in, even if switched off.
This comparison outlines how many watts they continue to use up; here are a few excerpts.
- Washing Machine – 7 watts on, 4 watts off
- Cable Box – 28 watts on, 26 watts off
- Laptop Chargers – 48 watts charging, 27 watts idle
- High-Definition TVs – 21 watts on, 1-watt standby
As a side note, watts aren’t the same as watt-hours. A 28-watt cable box that operates for, say, three hours will consume 84 watt-hours of electricity. As such, even if not in use, it’ll consume 78 watt-hours of electricity over the same period, which is still a big deal.
There’s a term for such household items: “energy vampires,” which account for a fifth of a household’s energy consumption. The result is a monthly bill that can quickly go upwards of USD$200 if not unplugged when not in use. It won’t take a few seconds to remove the plug on a desktop computer or electric fan.
Unplugging also protects appliances and devices from power surges, which happen more often than one might believe. Lightning storms and sudden power outages, among others, can result in lasting damage to these items.
3. Harness Natural Light
Despite technology making today’s light fixtures more energy efficient, the sun remains the best light source. It’s free and even provides some health benefits, which is why modern home design always takes daylighting into consideration.
As with the previous examples, the cost is one of the most significant reasons for natural lighting. In a 2015 study, researchers in Europe highlighted that artificial light (i.e., fixtures) make up 19% of electricity consumption worldwide. It might not look much, but 19% of a USD$115 monthly electric bill means a lot if a household can save that much on lighting.
Fortunately, letting in more natural light doesn’t necessarily involve investing in state-of-the-art systems. The same study explained that simple designs like skylights are highly effective in such roles. In this case, skylights can achieve a reduction in lighting costs of up to 77%, with climatic requirements limiting their widespread use.
4. Optimize The Décor
The position and orientation of furniture and other furnishings can impact energy consumption. Most people will be surprised at how all it takes to make a room colder or warmer is to relocate the couch blocking the vents. Sometimes, a large floor rug in the right place can prevent much-needed cold air or warmth from escaping.
Every dollar saved on unnecessary thermostat changes and additional light fixtures, among other things, can add up to a significant amount. These practices become even more critical as the cost of electricity may not go down anytime soon (at least, until renewables become widespread).