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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

8 DIY Ways to Save Energy in Your Home

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

In this 3-part series, Greening Your Home, I share ways to make your home more energy efficient, saving you money in the long run. This second article lists some simple ways you can save energy in your home. Caring about the environment and being “green” can be easier than you think as a homeowner.

Believe it or not, even small changes in your home can have an impact on your energy use (and those pesky bills!).  Many are relatively easy to implement, without being expensive.

Even though it’s recommended to have an energy audit completed by a professional, as discussed in last week’s article, Home Energy Audit: Is Your House Leaking Cash?, you don’t have to wait to save energy. An audit will give you direction on some of the bigger energy issues with your home, but there are baby steps you can do on your own.

Here are some easy DIY fixes that you can do today or over a weekend to make your home more energy efficient.

1. Get a Programmable Thermostat

If you do not have a programmable thermostat, run, don’t walk to the nearest hardware store. It allows you to schedule your home’s temperature automatically depending on your daily routine.  For example, you can set the heat to increase when you wake up and drop nice and low when you head to bed. 

I once attended a lecture given by Lisa McDowell, the team nutritionist for the Detroit Red Wings.  She directs professional athletes to set their nighttime thermostat temperature low (I swear she said 62 degrees but don’t quote me!) in order for them to get the best possible sleep. This temperature seemed, well, freezing to me, but her point was made that temperature of the room affects the quality of your sleep.  So drop that temp!  It is good for your wallet and good for your sleep!

There are so many product selections ranging from a simple program-capable unit without wifi all the way up to super smart, connected wifi units that use predictive technology to adjust the thermostat.  Even if you don’t want to invite Big Brother into your home, I would suggest a wifi-capable device so you can adjust the thermostat when you are way from home.  I can count on one hand the number of times I actually remembered to lower the thermostat BEFORE I left for vacation.

Remember, check with your utility providers to see if they offer a rebate for upgrading your thermostat.  Depending on the model, the rebate could cover the bulk of the cost.

2. Get Rid of the Ghost Power

Did you know your electronics draw small amounts of power even when they are turned off?  Called by many names – ghost power, vampire power, standby or idle current – it’s a waste of your resources.  

Luckily, this issue has been noted and products were developed to combat it.  There are power strips that can turn on each plug individually so you only power what you need.  There are smart strips that leave one outlet on all the time and turn the others on when activate the electronic on the first plug. 

For example, if you turn your TV off, all the other plugs on the entertainment strip are turned off.  When you turn the TV on, those items also come back online.  The TV plug always stays on so you can turn the TV on or off.

The traditional power strips probably have encouraged you to keep many of your electronics plugged in constantly, using power even when you’re not using them as they wait in standby mode. Smart strips will shut down power to products on standby mode and shave down energy consumption.

3. Install the Correct Lightbulbs for Your Needs

With the use of incandescent bulbs a mere memory now, buying lightbulbs can be confusing! Before you go to the store (and pay for new bulbs), make sure you understand the differences between LEDs, CFLs, and halogens so you don’t waste money on the wrong bulb. 

The technology keeps changing and improving, drawing less power to produce the same wattage. Since these lightbulbs can last longer and are more expensive, make sure the manufacturer has a good refund or exchange program in case something does go wrong.

4. Hang Dry Your Laundry

Hanging clothes to dry may transport you to Little House on the Prairie, but give it a whirl. Get in the habit of hanging some of your clothes on a foldable drying rack rather than tossing them in the dryer. Your clothes, your utility bill, and the environment will thank you! 

I recently read The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline. It was an eye-opening book in terms of the dryer being one of the sneakiest appliances in your home, both for energy consumption and the way its heat rapidly reduces the lifespan of your clothing.  (I highly recommend this book, it was an interesting read!)

Hanging your clothes to dry can help you cut down on the number of loads you put in the dryer each week. Less loads translates to less electricity or natural gas used. I try to use my folding drying rack as often as possible.  It is not perfect, but good is better than perfect for now.

If you have a patio, porch or even a balcony, you can put your rack outside for even quicker drying. Or, go super old school and get a traditional clothesline. Just make sure the temperatures are cooperative here in metro-Detroit or you will end up with clothesicles on your line.

5. Install Ceiling Fans

Some interior designers hate the look of ceiling fans, and I cannot say I blame them.  However, there are more trendy and stylish designs to choose from these days that could blend in with your rooms.  Don’t cross this option off your list just yet if you want to save energy in your home.

Fans can be a low-energy way to keep air circulating so you can keep your temperature set higher in the summer and lower in the winter. In the winter, you’ll want to have the fans reversed to turn clockwise. This change will pull the cool air upwards and away from you.

One word of caution for you: fans cool people, NOT rooms.  If you leave the room, hit the off switch.  If you leave a fan on in an empty room, you’re back to wasted energy.  

6. Insulate Exposed Water Pipes

Wrap your hot water pipes in the basement or garage with pipe insulation so they don’t lose heat as the water makes it way to your faucets. It can make a two-to-four-degree difference. 

Check the pipes coming out of the hot water heater and insulate at least the first three feet.

7. Double Check Vents

Walk around your home and make sure you’re not blocking your air vents with furniture or piles of stuff. You want this air flow to circulate efficiently to avoid having the HVAC blowing constantly.

While you’re on your vent tour, grab the dust rag and wipe those babies down!

8. Plant a Tree

It sounds simple, and it can be simple. Having a shade tree can help cool your home during hot summers, especially if the sun is shining directly on your roof.  Look into trees that work for your area and provide more opportunity for shade around your home.

You’ll feel the difference since temperatures can be 10% cooler in the shade. You and your home will be much happier since less AC will need to be cranking. And with less direct sunlight on your home, you’ll save energy costs.

If you already have trees around your home, ensure you care for them. You should have trees evaluated periodically for disease or treatment needs.

For example, we had a pair of mature trees in our front yard evaluated. The contractor recommended a special root treatment meant to slow the overall growth of the tree and refocus the tree’s energy on the roots. This recommendation makes total sense when you see the trees are both perched on the edge of a drainage ditch. We want those trees to live long, healthy lives and continue to shield our home from late afternoon sun.

Well, those are your crazy eight for the day! Don’t forget to research energy tax credits that may apply to you when you complete energy improvements to your home. Let me know if you have any questions about these easy tips to save energy in your home!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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