This week I learned about the environmental impact of our electricity system and it is not pretty! Eventually, I hope to convert to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, but until then, I'm making a few small changes at home to reduce the amount of electricity I use. Since residential use accounts for 38% of electricity consumption, this is one of the weeks where individual changes can actually make a big difference.
Install energy efficient lightbulbs
Energy Star certified lightbulbs last 15 times longer and use up to 90% less energy than standard bulbs.
Turn the lights off when you leave a room
This takes some getting used to, but eventually you'll start flipping the switch automatically.
Use natural light
If there is enough natural light to complete your task, do you really need to turn the lights on? This week, I realized it doesn't have to be all that bright for me to take a shower, so the light from my bathroom window is sufficient.
Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use
Even if your appliances and electronics are turned off, they are continuously drawing power.
Take shorter showers
Water doesn't magically heat up; that raise in temperature requires electricity. Shorter showers can both save water and reduce your energy usage.
Wash laundry in cold water
Washing machines also rely on electricity for hot water. Instead, wash your laundry in cold water, which is actually better for most clothing.
Install ceiling fans for warmer weather
Look, I grew up in Louisiana, and there were some 100+ degree days where a ceiling fan just didn't cut it. However, they usually make a huge difference and at the very least you won't have to turn the AC quite so low.
Use curtains to block out heat
Putting simple curtains or shades on your windows will block out heat from the sun, which means you won't need to run quite the AC quite as much.
Manage your thermostat
If you have electric heat, lower your thermostat by two degrees to save 5% on your heating bill. Lowering it five degrees could save 10%.
Seal doors and windows
Every little crack lets the cold air in and the hot air out, or vice versa. Check your windows and door for gaps so your heating or air conditioning unit doesn't have to work so hard.
Dress warmer in the winter
Take it from someone who didn't have control over the heat in her Brooklyn apartment, wearing socks and a sweater (and sometimes a hat, coat, and mittens) made the cooler temperatures much more bearable.
Only run the washing machine and dishwasher when full
Obviously, every time an appliance is run, it uses electricity. Don't waste energy, or water, with tiny loads.
Air dry clothes
Your dryer is likely the second highest energy consuming appliance in your home, after the refrigerator. Air drying laundry not only saves energy, but has loads of other benefits: your clothes will last longer, be less wrinkly, and the sun's UV rays can be used to naturally disinfect and brighten.
Upgrade to energy efficient appliances
When it's time to shop for new appliances, opt for Energy Star certified to make sure your getting the most energy-efficient.
Switch to green energy sources
Over 600 utility companies in the US offer customers the option to choose green energy, or energy from renewable sources like wind and solar. Check your utility company's website or call to find out if this switch is available where you live.