6 Easy Ways to Save Energy

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There are dozens of ways to lower your energy costs, and most require little in the way of effort or expense.

A new study from Whirlpool and Harris Interactive reaches a less than startling conclusion: “Consumers Are Looking to Save.” Reminds me of this story from satirical newspaper The Onion, “Save Money by Taking a Vacation Entirely in Your Mind!

Fortunately, the rest of the study is more interesting than the title – it’s actually about how people want to save on energy costs, and it gives some good tips. Here are some of the stats…

  • 25 percent of people who want to save on energy use don’t know how much their appliances consume
  • 15 percent seek out green products
  • 49 percent would consider paying extra for an appliance that would lower their utility bills over time

And here’s some practical advice, combined with some of our own quick fixes…

  1. Don’t pre-rinse dishes. Apparently, 87 percent surveyed still do, but scraping the plate clean right after eating instead can save up to 20 gallons of water per load. Plus, using dishwashers instead of hand-washing saves up to 230 hours a year, in their estimation. And here’s what they don’t say: Turning it off after the wash cycle and opening the door to let them air-dry saves energy too.
  2. Maintain your appliances. Make sure your appliances aren’t wasting energy because you’re lazy or unaware. Regularly empty the lint trap in the dryer, vacuum the coils on the back of your fridge, and clean your clothes washer. Change your A/C air filters at least every three months.
  3. Size matters. “Use pots and pans with flat bottoms that fit the burners. A 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner wastes more than 40 percent of that burner’s heat. Using the right-sized pot can save up to $36 annually for an electric range and $18 for a gas range,” according to the study.
  4. Minimize opening/closing. Don’t open the oven door during cooking – each time you do, you can lose about 25 degrees of heat, Whirlpool says. (So a windowed oven is helpful.) You can also turn the oven off a few minutes before the food’s done cooking – it’s not like the temperature inside the oven instantly drops to match the room’s when you press a button or turn a knob.
  5. Use power strips. Plug electronics you use together (TVs and gaming systems or DVD players, for instance) into a power strip that you can shut off when you aren’t using them and unplug with one cord instead of several. Even when in “off” or in “standby” mode, these devices still suck up power. And did you know cable boxes use more energy than a refrigerator?
  6. Get energy-efficient bulbs. Yes, there’s been a lot of confusing changes in terminology and light design in the past few years. But it’s not that hard to understand, and you can save $50 a year by swapping out a dozen incandescent bulbs – with lights that last years longer. We spell everything out in Bright Idea: Get the Right Light.

Ready to go the extra mile on saving energy? Check out The 5 Best Tips for a Cheaper Winter, 13 Cool Tips for Lower Energy Bills, and this 36-page guide from EnergySavers.gov [PDF] for many other ideas.

Stacy Johnson

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