When you decide to take action against electricity waste at home, it can sometimes be hard to decide where to start. It may be tempting to track down “energy vampires” like device chargers and small appliances with digital clocks, but the potential energy savings from many of those efforts are negligible. If you really want to make big gains in energy savings, you need to look at the appliances that consume the most energy.
Here’s a rundown of what appliances and devices really add to the typical electric bill, and what you can do to keep them at a minimum.
If you live in a cold climate and rely on an electric furnace for space heating, your furnace is almost unquestionably the biggest electricity hog in the home. Other large electric heating units, like baseboard heaters, also tend to use more electricity than other household appliances. Electric heating can be less efficient than other fuel sources such as natural gas or propane and is always less efficient than more modern heating systems like air or geothermal heat pumps. But those solutions aren’t practical for every home, and electric heat systems are comparatively cheaper to install, replace and maintain.
To cut down on the electricity consumption of your heating system: reduce the thermostat setting to the lowest comfortable level while dressing warmly indoors, schedule annual maintenance of your heating system and replace air filters regularly, seal air leaks around your home and upgrade insulation where needed, and clean your vents regularly to ensure proper airflow throughout your rooms.
While heating is the big electricity expense in winter, air conditioning is what drives your power bill in summer. Staying comfortable at home is often worth the price during the hottest months, but there are steps you can take to minimize the damage.
Dress lightly at home and use fans so that you can set the thermostat as high as comfortably possible, upgrade to a smart thermostat to make energy-saving cooling schedules easier, make sure your home is well sealed and insulated, and keep sun-facing window shades closed during the day.
In hotter climates, air conditioning may be the biggest expense, and in colder ones, electric heating may come in first. But no matter what climate you live in, electric water heaters are likely to come in third for electricity consumption. All heat-producing electrical appliances use lots of electricity, but water heaters keep especially busy because we use hot water so frequently throughout the day for bathing, dishes, laundry and other needs.
If you want to cut back on your electric water heater’s energy consumption, try these tips: set the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, conserve hot water around the home by taking shorter showers and using cold water for clothes washing, install an insulating jacket around your water heater’s tank and pipe insulation on accessible hot water lines throughout your home, flush your water heater at least twice per year and replace the anode rod as needed to maintain energy efficiency over the life of the unit.
Is your refrigerator running? As the joke goes, the answer is always yes, and that ‘round-the-clock service comes at a cost. The most effective way to minimize your refrigerator energy consumption is to upgrade to an energy efficient model, but when it comes to saving money on the fridge you have now, there’s still more you can do:
Set the refrigerator temperature no lower than 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and the freezer temperature no lower than 0 degrees Fahrenheit, minimize the amount of time you keep the door open, periodically clean the vents and coils on the bottom and back of the refrigerator, and replace rubber door gaskets if and when they become loose, cracked or brittle.
Electric clothes dryers have a lot to do, when you think about it: they generate heat, blow air and tumble a heavy drum, sometimes for hours per day. This makes them one of the bigger energy consumers in homes that have them. To keep this consumption to a minimum, try these strategies:
Clean the lint trap after every load, use low-heat settings when applicable, air-dry clothes whenever possible, and stop the dryer and remove clothes promptly when dry.
Incandescent Light Bulbs
If you’re still working your way through a stockpile of incandescent light bulbs, you’re better off biting the bullet and buying some new LED bulbs. Prices on LEDs have decreased significantly in recent years, and in addition to lasting more than 20 times longer than incandescents, they use more than 80 percent less electricity. The sooner you upgrade to LEDs, the sooner you can start saving.
Small, rarely used appliances and modern, efficient electronics still contribute to your monthly electric bill, but they’re drops in the bucket compared to the heavy users listed here.