Energy efficiency is the practice of using less energy to perform the same task – that is, eliminating energy waste. Energy efficiency brings a variety of benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing demand for energy imports, and lowering your cost on utilities. While solar panels also help accomplish these objectives, improving energy efficiency is the cheapest – and often the most immediate – way to reduce the use of fossil fuels. There are enormous opportunities for efficiency improvements in every sector of the economy, whether it is buildings, transportation, industry, or energy generation.
General Energy Breakdown of Homes
Homeowners need to understand what they are paying for when they pay the utility company. Based on national averages from the U.S. Department of Energy, 44 percent of utility bills resulting from energy usage is heating and cooling the home, 33 percent is attributed to lighting, cooking and other appliances, 14 percent is water heating, and 9 percent is energy used by the refrigerator alone. Once you realize how you use energy you can begin to formulate a plan on how to identify places where you can save. Assign priorities to your energy needs and then form a whole house efficiency plan.
Big Energy Users
Larger appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, stoves and refrigerators are the most serious offenders when it comes to wasting energy. Replacing old or run down appliances is a smart investment. When shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label. These appliances have U.S. EPA and Department of Energy approval for being the most energy efficient products in the class. A refrigerator with Energy Star label will save you between $35 and $70 a year compared to models designed 15 years ago. That is a savings that adds up to between $525 to $1,050 during a 15-year life of the unit. But if you cannot replace old units, it serves you to know why they are costing you so much money so you can take action. About 80 percent to 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes -- use less water and use cooler water. Unless you are dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half. Also, be conscious of good operating positioning as well. For example, don't put stoves that produce heat next to refrigerators that produce cold.
Tips To Be Energy Efficient
Saving energy is cost-effective, but also it is environmentally friendly. What better way to reduce your annual energy cost than to actually use the environment to do this? Carefully positioned trees around the perimeter of a home can actually save up to 25 percent of a typical household's energy for heating and cooling. This is an annual savings on average between $100 and $250. For example, deciduous trees, or trees that lose their leaves in the fall, when planted on the south and on the west of a home will help keep your house cool in the summer and allow sun to shine in the windows in the winter. You can also deflect winter winds and reduce heating costs by planting evergreens and shrubs on the north and west side of your house.
Be careful when planting trees in front of your new solar panels because you do not want to have your panels covered in the shade. It will bring down production of the solar panels.
Making The Most Of Time-Of-Use
Time-of-use metering is a method of measuring and charging a utility customer's energy consumption based on when the energy is used. Utility companies charge more during the time of day when electricity use is higher. TOU rates vary by region and utility. Inquire with your utility to find out what the time of use plans and rates are in your area to make the most of it and here is how you can do just that!
There are a number of ways to make the most out of a time-of-use rate. The simplest, and easiest to implement, is to use your appliances during the hours when electricity is least expensive. For customers who take the initiative to shift consumption habits, even slight changes could produce visible savings.
In fact, for residential customers on PG&E’s time-of-use rate, if you run your dishwasher 20 times a month at 9 pm instead of at 6 pm, you could save $70 per year on electricity costs!* Repeat this process with other household appliances, such as your washer and dryer, and the savings begin to add up quickly.
Another great way to decrease your exposure to peak pricing on time-of-use rates is to invest in solar, and even more so to invest in solar-plus-storage. Many time-of-use rates have the highest cost in the middle of the day when your electricity consumption could be offset by electricity produced by a solar system on your property. Even if you’re not home in the middle of the day, you can invest in a home energy storage system to ensure that more of the energy you consume in the evenings comes from the sun and not from the grid even when time-of-use rates remain high.
Here are a few more tips for energy proofing your home:
- Consider switching off your computer monitor during long periods of non-use. The monitor itself uses more than half the system's energy and there really is no reason for leaving it on all night if it is not being used.
- Unplug battery chargers when they aren't in use. Chargers for cell phones, laptops, and other wireless devices use lots of energy even when they aren't charging their devices.
- Don't leave the lights on. Turn off lights any time you aren't in the room. Or install timers or motion sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.