Dear Mr. Energy,
I have an energy audit scheduled for next month, but in the meantime ere there any quick and cheap things I can do around my house to be more energy efficient?
–Want to Save in Wendell
Dear Want to Save,
You are speaking Mr. Energy’s language with this question. First, you’ve scheduled your audit, which will show you exactly where you can make big improvements to your home to save the most energy and money, but your question also shows that you want to make changes in your habits, which can go a long way towards making your home more energy efficient.
Here are five things you can do that are simple, cheap, and effective in reducing your home’s energy consumption:
1. If you don’t have a heat pump*, you can be your own programmable thermostat. Mr. Energy thinks programmable thermostats are great, but they also are fairly expensive to install considering that all they do is change the temperature in your home a couple of degrees based on your living patterns. Just do it yourself! When you leave the house or go to sleep, turn up or down the thermostat (depending on whether or not you’re cooling or heating your home). When you’re at home again, or awake, change it back to a comfortable temperature. Ta da! A D.I.Y. programmable thermostat.
2. Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees. If it was previously set to 140, turning it down to 120 will save 20% of the energy it used before you made the switch. Plus, you won’t be able to tell the difference in the shower.
3. Plug your energy vampires, like the TV, computer, stereo, video game systems, etc. into a power strip that you can turn on and off. These devices pull energy from the outlets even when they are turned off; a power strip on the “off” position will block this energy leakage.
4. Switch out any conventional lightbulbs for CFLs. Mr. Energy has done the math and these really do give the payback that they profess.
5. Seal your electrical outlet and switch plates. This is a tedious task, but it only costs the price of the little foam sealing doodads and some caulk. Every outlet and switch plate in your home is a source of a tiny amount of air leakage; added together they are significant.
* The reason Mr. Energy doesn’t recommend a programmable thermostat (d.i.y. or otherwise) if you heat or cool your home using a heat pump, upping the temperature causes the heat strips to turn on, and this uses more energy than if the heat pump is working normally. Some newer heat pumps have an outdoor temperature sensor, which will keep the heat strips from activating when they’re not needed. If you don’t know whether or not your heat pump has an outdoor temperature sensor, ask your HVAC contractor.