Steps to reduce your energy use

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, world-wide energy use has increased by about 30% in the last two decades, and is likely to increase by another 53% by 2035. With the global population heading toward 9 billion, we need to find ways to reduce energy use at every level, including home, work, and school.

Strategies need to include both energy efficiency (so we use less energy) and increased investment in renewable energy (so the energy we do use is better for both health and the environment). Below, we list simple steps to get you started, as well as longer-term improvements you can make to both increase efficiency and reduce energy costs.

Live in an apartment? Take a look at this Energy Savers page for info. And if you’re looking for a new apartment, keep these tips in mind.

The Basics

Set the thermostat appropriately and dress for the season.

Heating and cooling account for about 43% of energy consumption in the average U.S. home, according to the Department of Energy. By turning your thermostat up during the summer and down in the winter, you can save big! Increase the set temperature in the summer when you’re not home, and lower it in the winter when you’re out or sleeping.

And of course, dress appropriately: wear layers in the winter and take them off in the summer.

Understand where and when you use the most energy

Identify everything in your home that uses energy (electricity, natural gas, and everything else) and try to determine what the biggest users are. A Kill A Watt or similar device can help pinpoint problem areas.

Another key concept in energy use is peak loads. The more we can reduce peak demand (for electricity, usually the hottest days of summer; for natural gas, the coldest days of winter), the more we can reduce the need to build new power plants. Avoid running dryers and dishwashers and other energy suckers in the middle of hot summer days. Duke Energy will actually pay you to allow them to reduce your load–by a fraction you are unlikely to notice–during peak times.

If you’re not using it, shut it off!

It’s easy. When you leave a room, turn off the light–no matter what kind of bulb or how long you’ll be out of the room, according to the Mythbusters. Turn off your TV when you’re not watching it. Turn off your monitor if you’ll be gone for more than 20 minutes, and the whole computer if you’ll be gone more than two hours (according to Energy Savers). Look around for other things to turn off too!

Combat phantom loads

Even when you think something is off, it can still draw power. These “phantom loads” can cost consumers up to $200 a year, according to one study. To find the phantom loads in your home, turn all the lights off in a room and look for anything glowing–TVs, computers, chargers, digital clocks, etc. Where practical, unplug these items or plug them into a power strip that can be turned off when items aren’t in use. You can even buy smart power strips that turn themselves off.

Close your curtains

Curtains can help keep heat out in the summer and in in the winter–and they’re much cheaper than new windows. See here for more information.

Don’t use your dryer and check your fridge temp

After heating and cooling, dryers and refrigerators are two of our biggest energy consumers.

  • When the weather allows, hang your clothes outside! Your grandmother would be proud.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is set at the right temperature. The recommended setting for your fridge is 40 degrees F, and 3 degrees F for the freezer. If you have it set colder than this, you may be wasting energy!

See here for info on energy use by dryers, refrigerators, and lots of other appliances.

Think you can do more?  See here for intermediate steps.