With more families staying indoors and working from home, energy consumption has had an interesting shift in usage over the last year.
Because of the drastic reductions in visits to establishments and massive halts in operations, the commercial sector’s usage of a kilowatt-hour (kWh) dropped 11% year-over-year, and the industrial sector fell 9%. Likewise, the sharp plunge in transport usage also meant a drop in passengers and, consequently, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
While the measures to combat the pandemic have eased the pollutant pressure society has placed on the environment, power usage has shot up in households and other industries. Power consumption for hospitals increased by 600%, and American household energy sales increased 8% on average.
The typical U.S. family spends more than $2,060 per year on utilities. The more we stay home, the more appliances and equipment we’re using on a day-to-day basis. Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, bills can pile up quickly, but there are ways you can both reduce your carbon footprint and reduce your electricity bill.
Swap out your lightbulbs… and turn them off!
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, around 5% of your energy budget goes towards lighting. However, changing five of your light bulbs to LED (light-emitting diodes) bulbs with the Energy Star label can help you save around $75 per year. They only use 20%-25% of energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
While they tend to be more expensive, the investment pays off in the long run due to their low energy use. When considering the cumulative cost of all the lightbulbs you turn on in a household, it amounts to a significant portion of your consumption. So, switch them out and turn them off when you’re not in the room!
Beware of “vampire loads”
Unplugging all your inactive devices can go a long way in saving energy. Appliances and electronics like televisions, computers, chargers, and sound systems can suck up power when they’re not in use (which is where the “vampire” concept comes into play).
Although they may be turned off, they’re usually still consuming power, especially if they don’t have a power-saving mode. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these loads are responsible for nearly 10% of the average household electric use.
While unplugging devices is a great solution, another way to decrease the impact these have is by investing in smart or advanced power strips. These help to prevent electronics from drawing power when they’re off or not being used. Check out the one that’s best for you with this infographic developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Wash full loads with cold water and opt for air drying
Make sure your laundry load is at full capacity on laundry day. Since the machine will use the same amount of energy whether you’re washing a small or a full load, plan to wash one full load rather than two smaller ones. While you’re at it, use cold water when possible rather than warm or hot as this can cut the load’s energy use in half.
When drying, consider letting pieces air dry instead of using the machine. By doing so, you could avoid around 5 pounds of CO2 emissions (and a reduction in your monthly bill) since a typical clothes dryer uses approximately 3,000 watts per hour.
If you do use the machine, use wool or rubber dryer balls to cut on drying time and clean the lint filter on the dryer regularly to avoid the buildup that can slow it down.
Ease up on thermostats
Heating and cooling are typically the most expensive items in electricity bills at about 50% of the costs. While you can invest in smart thermostats that take advantage of the time you aren’t home to shut down heating/cooling or adjust accordingly, there are simple things you can do around the house to maintain a stable, low-cost system.
You can allow natural sunlight to warm up the home and seal up any crevices where warmth could be escaping during the colder months. During warmer months, you can shut the blinds during the day to stabilize the temperature or have the A/C on a couple of degrees hotter than you usually would since it’ll put less strain on the unit.
Checking and cleaning the air filters every month can also have a bigger payoff. By keeping filters in optimal conditions, airflow will travel easier, and the equipment won’t need to use extra energy that they would need to put in with dirty filters.
Go to the source!
While you can keep track of the things you use, you can get a better picture of the ways your household is consuming energy. You can get a professional energy audit to assess your energy use through your electric company or the Department of Energy’s website. This is estimated to help you shave off 5%-30% of your bills when you follow the efficiency recommendations.
Another way to work with utility providers is by finding out if they offer cheaper rates during particular times of the day. In some cases, doing laundry or using other energy-intensive appliances during off-peak hours can be less expensive.