There are lots of things you can do in and around the house to help save on energy that cost little or nothing. Here are a few ideas for you to try.
Thermostat temperature control.
A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. This misconception has been dispelled by years of research and numerous studies. The fuel required to reheat a building to a comfortable temperature is roughly equal to the fuel saved as the building drops to the lower temperature. You save fuel between the time that the temperature stabilizes at the lower level and the next time heat is needed. So, the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save.
Check your plumbing.
Older showerheads deliver 4 to 5 gallons (15.1 to 18.9 liters) of water per minute. However, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 sets maximum water flow rates at 2.5 gallons (9.5 liters) per minute at a standard residential water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (552 kilopascals).
A quick test can help you determine if your shower is a good candidate for a showerhead replacement. Turn on the shower to the normal pressure you use, hold a bucket that has been marked in gallon increments under the spray, and time how many seconds it takes to fill the bucket to the 1-gallon (3.8-liter) mark. If it takes less than 20 seconds, you could benefit from a low-flow showerhead. A top-quality, low-flow showerhead will cost $10 to $20 and pay for itself in energy saved within 4 months. Lower quality showerheads may simply restrict water flow, which often results in poor performance.
Because of the different uses of bathroom and kitchen faucets, you may need to have different water flow rates in each location. For bathroom faucets, aerators that deliver 0.5 to 1 gallon (1.9 to 3.8 liters) of water per minute may be sufficient. Kitchen faucets may require a higher flow rate of 2 to 4 gallons (7.6 to 15.1 liters) per minute if you regularly fill the sink for washing dishes. On the other hand, if you tend to let the water run when washing dishes, the lower flow rate of 0.5 to 1 gallon per minute may be more appropriate. Some aerators come with shut-off valves that allow you to stop the flow of water without affecting the temperature.
Repair leaky faucets and turn off the water when not using it.
Simply repairing leaks in faucets and showers can save hot water. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month, yet could be repaired in a few minutes for less than that. And some apparently insignificant steps, when practiced routinely at your household, could have significant results. For example, turning the hot-water faucet off while shaving or brushing your teeth, as opposed to letting the water run, can also reduce water-heating costs. Another option is limiting the amount of time you spend in the shower.
Flush your water heater.
Flushing your water heater will allow your appliance to heat water more efficiently. An easy way to check your water temperature is by running hot water over a meat thermometer. If the temperature is over 125 degrees, you may want to adjust the setting for safety enhancement and to prolong the life of the appliance.
Maintain your heating system.
Clean or replace your furnace and air-conditioner filters monthly, and have your complete system checked and serviced annually. A clean and well-maintained unit runs much more safely, efficiently and inexpensively.
Dishwashers don’t need to be dish-dryers.
Turning off the “heat dry” cycle will save about half the energy it normally uses.
Use timers on holiday lighting.
Operating your Christmas lights with a timer is not only more convenient, but can save energy. Set your Christmas lights to come on at dusk (4:30 pm) and shut off at 11:00 pm. This can save as much as $60.00 per holiday season.
Bob Beisbier, owner of BK Home Inspection, is a Certified Master Home Inspector who has been providing professional and thorough home inspections in southeast Wisconsin for over 12 years. Bob is Infrared certified, DILHR Certified, and provides Home Energy Tune-ups, Environmental Data Reports, Pre-sale Home Inspections and Pre-offer Home Inspections.