Lower Electricity: B's Guest Post

Anyone who knows B sees all the obvious reasons I married him: he's interesting and super fun, smart, dependable, generous, thoughtful, and he has the easiest laugh (by far) of anyone I've ever met. The list goes on and on -- I'm lucky to have him in my life, and crazy lucky to call him my husband and partner. In addition to all these things, he's also useful...a nice quality to have. He's written the post below for your practical pleasure and, though he's given me permission to shorten it, I'd rather not. Though you might have heard some of these tips before, they're all great reminders, and if there are obvious things you're not doing, I hope this serves as motivation.
While Dani is at the forefront of our household's simple living movement, I'm lagging behind a bit. In order to catch up on my contributions, I've compiled a list of things you can do around the house to use less electricity and/or make appliances more efficient. The first part of the list are simple steps that require very little effort. The things that take more time, and possibly an initial monetary investment, are in the second part of the list. To keep things manageable, pick two or three items, and focus on those for a week or so. After you have incorporated the items into your daily/weekly routine, pick a couple more to add to the list. Soon, your electric meter will barely move and Clark Griswald will fume with jealousy. (Note from Dani: see?? Funny. :))

1. Turn off your electronics when they are not being used. I know that's very obvious, but some of us forget. When you're not in the room, make sure you turn the lights off too.

2. Unplug your electronics (TV, gaming console, cell phone/laptop chargers) because they can still draw power even in stand-by mode. This could be cumbersome, so start with one room or one section of a room. The TV and entertainment center devices are all probably plugged into one surge protector anyway, so just flip the switch on that, and you're done. Keep in mind though, that some devices may lose settings that you have set, like the time and date. I also know that a cable box sometimes takes up to two hours to download all of the "TV guide" data, after its been unplugged for several hours. One easy way to prevent that is to set up two power strips. That way you can keep the devices that "need" to be plugged in, in stand by mode.

3. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs. Be cautious though, because recent research has shown that CFL bulbs emit UVA and UVC. It's best to avoid using these at close distances and when possible, use additional glass cover. The other thing to take into consideration is cleanup in case of breakage, especially in poorly ventilated areas. When CFLs break, they release mercury vapor, which can be harmful.

4. Hang your clothes up to dry, rather than using a dryer.

5. Turn your heat down by a few degrees. This can add up. For every degree you lower your heat, you can reduce your heating bill by up to 5%.

6. Program your thermostat to adjust the temperature when you are not home for extended periods of time. If you don't have a programmable thermostat, they are fairly inexpensive (starting at about $30) and easy to install.

7. Vacuum and clean the condenser coils of your refrigerator or freezer. If they are dirty, the appliance will not be as efficient.

8. When possible, keep your fridge full.

9. Cool off foods before you put them in the fridge.

10. Cover your refrigerated foods. Uncovered foods will make the fridge work harder because of evaporation.

11. Open the over door as few times as possible. The longer or more often you open the door, the more heat you lose.

12. Try to use ceiling fans over AC in the summer. In the winter, a slow fan will push warm air down to floor level.

13. Clean or replace air filters in your AC or furnace.

14. In the summer, keep the blinds closed. This will help keep a room cool.

15. Plan when to use heat generating appliances (oven, dishwasher, dryer). During summer months, try to use them in the evenings or during the night. In the winter, use them when you're in the house to help your furnace out.

16. Insulate your water heater tank. This will cut down on the time the heater is actually running.

One step further:
1. Get an HVAC inspection. They run in the neighborhood of $50 to $100, but could make a big impact in the long run.

2. Look for incentives on energy efficient appliances. Sometimes there are store specific sales that can help, but the main thing to keep an eye out for are tax incentives. Check for those in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

3. Seal the house. Make sure all your windows and doors are sealed properly. Caulk and weather stripping can be used to battle air leaks.

4. Make sure the air conditioner is the correct size for the space. If it's too weak, it will have to work hard to keep the space cool and the wear and tear will be much higher. If it's too strong, it will waste electricity and manage humidity very poorly.

5. Invest in a more efficient water heater or even a tankless one. If you consider going the tankless route, do some research. People are on the fence about whether it's worth it. It may be more efficient, but the initial investment can be quite steep.

Electricity Usage*

Focus on heating and cooling, since that will give you the biggest return on your investment (followed closely by water heating, electronics, and refrigeration). I realize this list, or even some of the individual tasks, may be overwhelming for some. Just remember that this is to help simplify your life, and in the process, save some money and do your part for Mother Earth. If it's too cumbersome or takes away from your mood, then don't do it, but at least give it a try.

Good luck!

Filed under: Simple Living

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