Reducing your carbon footprint, saving on utility costs and improving the overall efficiency of your home doesn't require as much work or money as you may think. U.S. homeowners and renters spend $163 on average on just gas and electricity per month, according to a Intuit Mint survey. Use these tips to decrease your home energy and water usage, cutting utility costs along the way.
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- Wash and dry all at once. To minimize heat loss, dry one load of clothes immediately after another.
- Keep your freezer packed. An empty freezer takes more energy to keep cool.
- Nix the dry cycle on your dishwasher. Allow your dishes to air-dry in the dishwasher to cut down on energy and to keep your dishwasher from producing extra heat in your kitchen.
- Make use of the grill in the summertime. Oven heat makes your A/C work harder to keep your home cool.
- Operate your appliances at the optimal time each season. Avoid using your dishwasher, oven, and wash/dryer during the daytime in the summer. The heat from your appliances will make your A/C work harder. Do the opposite during the winter to give your heating system a boost.
- Separate wash loads into light and heavy fabrics to optimize dry times. For more savings, air-dry your lightest fabrics.
- Set your refrigerator temp between 36 and 38 degrees. The freezer should be kept between 0 and 5 degrees.
- Check the seal of your refrigerator by closing your fridge on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets.
- Remove clothes from the dryer while they are still damp and allow them to hang dry the rest of the way. This will also minimize shrinkage and reduce wrinkles.
- Wash clothing with cold water when possible. You'll save 40 cents per load.
- Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees.
- Fix that leaky faucet, especially if it's a hot water faucet. One drop per second can amount to 165 gallons per month, which is more than one person uses in two weeks.
- Verify a leak-free home. Many homes are victim to hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If your meter doesn't read exactly the same, you have a leak somewhere.
- Make a DIY rain barrel to conserve water usage for watering the lawn and your garden in the summertime.
- Use motion detectors for outdoor lighting. Not only are they convenient and efficient for lighting purposes, but they are also a burglar-deterrent.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use about 1/4 the energy of regular incandescent bulbs and last about 10 times longer.
- Place floor lamps in the corners of rooms or against walls so the light can radiate off the walls. This will minimize the need for overhead lighting.
- Be wary of "phantom" power. Standby power is often referred to as "vampire" or "phantom" power, sucking up as much as 10 percent of your home's electricity usage. Use updated power strips for computers, game consoles, chargers, etc. and turn them off when not in use.
- Plant deciduous trees outside south-facing windows to provide summer shade and allow radiating sunlight onto your home in the winter.
- Keep vents uncovered. Make sure draperies, furniture, rugs, toys, etc. are not blocking any floor or wall vents or obstructing air flow. Vacuum vents regularly to avoid dust and grime build-up.
- Test your windows and doors to see if you're losing heat or cool air by lighting a candle and moving it around the perimeter of the door or window frame. If it flickers, you need to install new weather-stripping.
- Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove built-up sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your water heater. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Use light-colored window treatments in the summertime to deflect heat away from the home.
- Do a home energy audit. Here is a list of items your can audit yourself to make sure your home is functioning efficiently. Consider calling in a professional auditor for a more thorough check-up. Many utility companies offer free or discounted audits to their customers.
Thinking of making larger-scale energy-efficient home improvements? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for information on financing home improvements into your mortgage loan.