I like saving energy. Especially my own. That's why I love tips that don't require a lot of effort but still help me trim my energy bills. They may not make a big difference individually, but even baby steps add up to some pretty big strides. Here are 10 things you can do right now to cut down on your heating and power costs. And you won't break the bank or much of a sweat.
Lock the windows. Even when a window is closed, a little space remains between the sashes where air can leak in. Simply locking the window pulls the sashes tightly together.
Unplug. Many appliances, electronics and other electrical devices — even cellphone chargers — draw power even when they're turned off. Unplugging them when they're not in use eliminates this vampire power drain. Granted, that's not always easy or even possible to do. But where it's practical, you can plug more than one device — say, your TV and DVD player — into an accessible power strip. With the flip of just the strip's power switch, you cut the power to everything plugged into it.
Wash in cold. If you're used to washing with warm water, you can probably switch to cold without noticing a difference. And no matter what temperature you wash your clothes in, you can always rinse in cold. You'll save on the energy that would have gone into heating the water.
There's a bonus: Cold water saves wear on your clothes, so they'll last longer. Or at least they'll be in better shape to donate to charity when you just have to replace them with this season's new fashions.
I wouldn't suggest abandoning hot-water washes altogether, though. I'd still use hot for towels, bedding, underwear and laundry with oily stains.
Want to save even more? Skip the dryer and hang clothes to dry.
Dim the lights. A dimmer works by reducing the power flowing to a lamp or light fixture. If you don't need full brightness, turn the lights down a little.
(Maybe I should do that with the lights over my bathroom mirror.)
One note: Not all compact fluorescent bulbs work with dimmers. If you use CFLs, check the package to make sure you're buying the dimmable kind.
Oh, and turn off any lights you don't need.
Turn off the computer. When you're done surfing the Net and updating your Facebook status for the day, shut down your computer. Better still, activate its system standby or hibernating feature to save power when the computer is on during the day.
Of course, you don't want to turn off the computer if you've scheduled automatic maintenance checks that happen at night.
Rearrange the furniture. A forced-air system works best when air can flow freely from registers and into cold-air returns. Make sure your furniture isn't blocking these vents.
Change the furnace filter. The filter's primary purpose is to trap dust and other gunk before it gets to the air-conditioning system. Dirty filters impede air flow, causing the furnace blower to work longer. Dirty parts also wear out faster. By keeping them clean, you'll cut down on repair costs and reduce the chance of a failure. Change the filter monthly, or clean it if it's a reusable type.
Turn down the tank. For most homes, a setting of 120 degrees is plenty hot for a water heater. The only exception is if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater. Check the user manual to find out whether you need hotter water.
When the water isn't as hot, mineral buildup and corrosion slow. That helps your water heater run better and last longer.
Let the sun shine in. The sun is a powerful heating source, even in winter. Opening window coverings on sunny days lets you take advantage of that free heat. Close those coverings at night to help keep the heat inside.
Avoid the range. As much as possible, skip using the stove or oven and opt instead for smaller cooking appliances — slow cookers, microwave ovens, toaster ovens and the like. They use less energy than that big appliance.