10 Common Sense Tips To Save Energy (and $$)

For me, I’m one of those people who if I think about why it makes sense to do something, then I’ll do it because it makes sense.  If you just tell me to do something but don’t tell me why, it really goes in one ear and out the other.


1)  Turn your water heater down  

If your hot water is too hot to use straight when washing dishes or showering, turn it down to where it’s comfortable.  It’s a waste of energy to maintain water at a temperature that’s too hot, just have to cool down anyway.  Your water heater, on average, equates to a quarter of your electric bill or more.  Even turning it down 10° can save energy and money on your bill.  If you’re worried about being hot enough to kill germs in an automatic dishwasher, don’t.  They actually heat the water themselves, they just use less energy to heat if they have access to hot water.

2) Insulate your windows

Most of us will cover drafts in the winter.  We’ll put plastic over windows, cover drafty spots at the bottoms of doors with draft blockers, etc only to get to that blessed warm spring air when we throw open every door and window in the house and air everything out.  If it still gets chilly at night, no biggie, we’re willing to throw on a sweater.  What about when we turn on the air conditioner? We’re using the same energy to cool the house as we did to heat it in the winter but we don’t use the same logic to use it efficiently.

I found some great cheap curtains (only $5 each!) at a thrift store (and they were new).  They were classed as “nursery” curtains. Unlined, light blocking but not black out curtains.  My bedroom gets sun all day long and it’s a huge difference in temperature depending on whether or not I have my curtains open or closed.  The air conditioning doesn’t have to work nearly as hard if you’re not adding the heat of the sun directly into the room.

energy-saving lightbulbs

3) Change your light bulbs, then shut them off

In 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act.  One of the things in that act is the transition from traditional light bulbs to energy-efficient (a.k.a fluorescent) bulbs.  In other words, what you see on the shelves is all there is folks, they are not making “regular” light bulbs anymore.  In the interim, the industry has now come out with LED bulbs that are even more cost efficient and safer for the environment.  LED‘s are brighter and use less energy than both traditional and fluorescent bulbs.  Also LED‘s are safer for you and the environment than fluorescent since they don’t contain mercury inside; important to know if you have kids, pets or breathing issues.

After that, shut them off!  It’s estimated that if every home would watch TV for 1 hour a week in the dark (like a movie theater), the world would save enough coal to fill the Empire State Building.   That’s pretty significant.   Earth Hour is a program started in 2007 to spread awareness and make a global effort to reduce energy consumption and global warming.  Now imagine what it can do for  your electric bill if you do this once a week.

4) “Vampire” Electronics

In this age of technology, we tend to want things immediately.  As such, most people are not satisfied waiting for things to “warm up” or boot up and even get impatient waiting for a microwave to beep.  In comes “standby mode”.  Most modern electronics don’t actually shut off, but rather go into a standby mode, waiting for the next time you use them.

You shut off the tv but the little red light in the corner stays on, the cable box and DVD players still display the time or have little lights on.  They’re all pulling energy and truly the only way to shut them off is to pull the plug which for most of us pretty difficult. We all have that bird’s nest of cords hiding in a mass behind all the electronics because we don’t like looking at them, right?  So put them on a timer.  If you work days, the kids are gone, etc put them on a timer just like you would do for lamps when you’re out-of-town.

If you put your electronics on a timer Monday through Friday from 9-3 while everyone is out of the house, do you realize you’ll save 1,560 HOURS of electricity use?  Imagine what that would do for your electric bill!  Oh and don’t forget to remove burnt out light bulbs.  An empty socket draws no energy, but one with a light bulb does… even if that light bulb doesn’t work.

5) Running toilet?  Catch it!

Water usage is expensive.  If you pay a water bill, you know exactly how expensive.  More and more apartments are charging tenants for water just because usage can become so staggering.  Dripping faucets, running toilets, leaky garden hoses, they all add up.   Think you’re okay because you’ve got well water?  Not really, that pump is always running and you’re spending more in electricity and putting more wear and tear on the pump.

When I was running a chain of small retail shops, the meter reader had come around to do the monthly reading and swiftly came in and shut off our water for excessive, unusual consumption.  As it turned out, the toilet was running.  The employees couldn’t hear it over the radio they kept playing and the normal customer noises.  In one month’s time our normally $115-$125 water bill jumped to over $5000!  Granted commercial rates are different but you see what a difference it can make.


6) Put a lid on it

Steam is heat and in summertime there’s nothing worse that doing things like boiling pasta and heating the kitchen up.  So cover it up.  Food cooks faster, water boils faster and you use less energy when leave the lid on.  Afterall, that’s how a pressure cooker is able to do its magic.  On that same note, leave the lid alone when using your crock pot.  Every time you lift the lid you add about 20 minutes to your cooking time.


7) Circulation counts

As we all know ceiling fans are amazing in winter to bring the heat that rises down and mix it with the cooler air.  What if you don’t have a ceiling fan?  Use one or two smaller fans – point them towards the ceiling in winter and along the floor in summer to get that cool air to rise up.

8) Fill that freezer

Ideally you want to stock up on food, but until you do stuff it with bags of ice or even crumpled newspaper.  It will keep your freezer from working as hard.  Remember that it’s the exposure to air that causes freezer burn (still date and rotate food), so less air circulation means less freezer burn as well.


9) Get your laundry clean

This is a pet peeve of mine, I’ll be honest.  My sister has the best smelling laundry of anyone I know.  Truly it’s amazing.  That being said, she can only use certain brands because it causes irritation for her and her husband.

Question…if your laundry smells like the detergent, is it really clean?  Think about it.  We wash, then drain, then rinse, then spin, then rinse, then spin again.  If you washed your dishes, rinsed them twice and there was still dish soap making your dishes smell like mountain rain, would you still eat on them?

So here’s a suggestion, cut back on the detergent a little at a time until you can’t smell the detergent.  Of course you still want to make sure that your clothes are clean from dirt, but you’ll know that the rest of the detergent is washed out.  Companies want you to use their product as fast as possible so you’ll buy more.  It’s what keeps them in business.  Generally you can use 1/3 to 1/2 of the recommended amount and still have your clothes clean.  If you want that lovely lavender scent, put a few drops of lavender oil on a washcloth in with the last 15 minutes of drying.

Of course air drying when you can is always an energy saver.  Also, unless you’re bleaching a load of linens, wash in cold water. You’ll get your clothes just as clean and save on heating the water.

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10) Cooking Ahead

As most of you know, my love is in the kitchen.  Having worked in restaurants I like having things prepped and ready.  Cooking ahead allows you to do that. When you’re cooking a chicken, cook two.  Or throw in a beef or pork roast, this way you can heat and eat later. Cooking a pot of mashed potatoes?  Make twice as much and freeze half (before you put the milk & butter in).  Why buy canned soup when you can make a big pot of homemade soup and freeze it in individual or meal portions.  Things like this not only save cooking energy, but they save your energy as well.  Why get one of those sodium and preservative laden overpriced heat & eat meals when you can have your own favorites at your fingertips?  Check out Work Smart, Save Money, Eat Great! for more prepping and storing ideas as well.

I’d love to hear your energy & saving tips, so please share!



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