With the new year in sight, and resolutions being made all around about anything and everything, I thought that this year I’d offer up a resolution that can be easy to achieve, and actually save you some money. There are a LOT of things you can do in your home to save money, but here I’ll stick to the low-cost changes.
1 – Light bulbs in a nutshell: An incandescent bulb can last about 1,000 hours, compact fluorescents (CFL) about 8,000, and light emitting diodes (LED’s) a whopping 25,000 hours. The cost of LED’s has come down significantly, so you can purchase these bulbs for around $2-$4 a bulb now. You would need 21 incandescent bulbs, 3 CFL’s, or 1 LED bulb to get 25,000 hours of lighting from ONE light bulb. CFL’s also contain mercury, which is a hazard when cleaning up broken bulbs. Factor in that an LED uses about 17% of the energy of an incandescent, and 57% that of a CFL, and LED’s are your hands-down winner. Also consider swapping out your traditional chandeliers and light fixtures with LED fixtures, as the tinier bulbs in these provide ample light, but some use even less energy than even a 450 lumen (equivalent to 40 watts) bulb.
2. Replace some of your light switches with dimmer switches so that you can decide how bright the room needs to be, saving even more energy. Note that if you are going to use LED’s in the fixtures wired to the dimmers, you will have to buy a special LED bulb designed to work with dimmer switches, but most chandeliers with the tiny LED bulbs will work just fine on a dimmer.
3. Most people already know that if you use cold water instead of hot to do your laundry, you’ll save money. Want to save even more? Whether you live in a small space, or just want to cut down your water and gas/electric bills, consider an alternative method of doing your laundry. While unconventional, hand-washing devices such as the Laundry Alternative’s Wonder Wash or the Avalon Bay Eco Wash Portable use no energy, and a fraction of the water of a conventional washing machine, for less than $75. Both can handle 5 pounds of laundry, are simple and easy to use, and take just two minutes to wash a load, and another two to rinse it. (I prefer the Wonder Wash as the lid is easy to use, and it has a 3-year warranty!).
4. Speaking of laundry, you can also pick up a laundry spinner, which spins your clothes almost dry in just two minutes. Afterwards, simply hang your clothes on hangers to finish the drying process within about an hour; or, toss them in the dryer for 10 minutes or so instead of wringing your clothes out and finding a place to let them drip. If you scope out Amazon, you’ll even find small, eco-friendly portable machines that do both, (remember spinner-washers, anyone?) and use a fraction of the water and energy of conventional machines. (note: do your homework and check out youtube reviews and other product reviews before choosing any of these machines – they vary widely in performance).
5. This one’s an oldie but a goodie. String up a clothesline in your yard, or, if you don’t have the space for one, use drying racks indoors AND outdoors for your clothes. You can pick these up for around $10 – $15, and some hold a LOT of laundry. If you have a large portion of unfinished basement, you can string up rope or clothesline, using a staple gun to secure the ends.
6. Replace your old thermostat with an energy-saving smart thermostat like the Nest or the Ecobee to save up to 23% on your annual heating/cooling costs. Nest is a learning thermostat that ‘learns’ your preferences, but still gives you control over the temperature manually, or through your laptop, desktop, or mobile devices. Ecobee goes a lot further, giving you sensors for other rooms in your home to allow it to manage hot or cold spots, and can even detect when someone is in that room to know if it should adjust the temperature. The fun bonus with the Ecobee? It comes with Amazon’s Alexa, so you can ask it to play music, make your grocery list, set timers, ask for recipes, and adjust the temperature in your home.
7. Install energy-efficient ceiling fans to help cool your house in the spring, summer, and fall to minimize the use of your air conditioner(s). Some ceiling fans are even ‘smart’ fans and can learn how to keep your house cool, and can also be controlled by your mobile devices!
8. Replace old window air conditioners with new, energy-efficient models, and invest in some insulated curtains for the south-facing windows of your house. Keep these drawn in the summer to keep the heat out.
9. Replace your hot water tank with a tankless water heater. A tankless system, or ‘on-demand’ hot water system, heats the water as you need it, preventing the need to keep a tank of water hot 24/7, 365 days a year. Most companies that rent hot water tanks will also rent tankless heaters, sometimes at the same price, sometimes for a little more each month. Alternately, you can purchase your own. The added bonus? You’ll never run out of hot water!
10. Plan a family energy savings challenge. If you have kids, you can get them into the habit of turning off lights, televisions, computers, and unplugging ‘vampires’ while they’re not in use by having them run around the house and turning on everything electronic they can think of. Take them to the power meter on the house if you can, and show them the amount of energy that’s being used. Then, start turning things off starting with those items that consume the most power, and have them note the change in the speed that the dial is turning. Continue to do so until everything but the vampires are turned off – then unplug those. (microwave, VCR/DVD/gaming systems/tv’s/coffee maker, etc.). This is to show them JUST how much energy those little vampire clocks, red indicator lights, and other lights on all the devices we use suck up. After that, decide as a family how to conserve power. You can plug multiple ‘vampires’ into a single power bar so that you can just switch everything off at once without having to unplug everything. You can even set a monthly ‘kilowatt goal’ and offer up a reward if the goal is met.
Before you venture out or hop online to make any changes, even to change a single light bulb, check out what your state/provincial government, or local energy company is offering to people looking to upgrade their homes to be more energy-efficient. Lightbulbs, thermostats, tankless water heaters, and much, much more are on government and/or energy company’s lists of items that they offer free or with a rebate. Just google ‘energy savings programs (your state/province}’ and be sure to check all links as some combine the programs into one page, some have separate pages for government/energy company programs. Also note that there are programs for renters in some areas, and even programs for those with a low income. Happy spending, happy saving!