In our last article, “Energy Efficiency vs. Conservation – what is the real issue?” we covered plenty of the issues that involve your actual house while it is being worked on. While we have also had several articles on making your house more energy efficient, money saving tips & tricks, air sealing, green cleaning, and many others, we have not had an article on just conservation. In order to rectify that, and seeing everyone likes top ten articles, etc… we thought we would raise the bar and give you 25 common sense lifestyle changes that will not only allow you to conserve energy, water and gas but maybe some time as well. We hope that they are a help & if you have any to add, feel free to drop us a comment below.
The Family Challenge:
Before we do get started, for those of you that are married or have kids you might wish to consider the following (if you are single – feel free to skip ahead). While you may have caught the conservation bug, it does not mean that your family has. If you start by changing everything overnight without input, expect some resistance and some tension. If your kids are young enough, consider making a game of it by checking the numbers on your electrical meter daily. You may even have one of your kids run & get the numbers daily & put them on a calendar. If you take those numbers and compare them to last years, you can easily create a competition. You might even consider prizes based on the savings – for mommy, if you increase you gas mileage to X, we could afford to go out… Hey, kids all the money saved on the electric bill will go for the new pool table, or vacation, or…
- I know we shouldn’t need to say this but… Turn the lights, TV’s, computers, radio’s, etc… off when you are not in the room
- Family Time: At 7 pm at our place, it becomes family time where we all gather in the living room to watch a show or a movie, play a game, talk, or simply read – what this accomplishes besides having everyone having everyone gathered together which is a nice way to wind the day down, is we only have one set of lights on & a TV instead of numerous lights, computers & TV’s.
- Ghost Loads: Use a surge strip that you can physically turn on and off for chargers, TV’s, computers, etc… (Warning, there is one issue with Cable TV boxes, Direct TV & Dish boxes & that is the start up time – you might want to leave those on a regular outlet & simply turn it off, while the other items that start up quickly would be better on the surge strip.)
- Take shorter showers, you can easily get cleaned with a 5 minute shower, while most individuals spend 10 to 15 minutes
- Another, do we really need to say this — Turn the water off when you are not actually rinsing something; washing teeth, shaving, rinsing off dishes, etc…
- Showers vs. Baths – a 10 minute shower wins over a bath, especially if you have a WaterSense or low flow shower head installed
- If you have a dual flush system, use the proper flush
- Do not throw tissues, or other items in the toilet & flush them, use a trash can
- A full dishwasher load will save you water over hand washing
- While they have created smart dishwashers that can base water usage on if it is full or not, you are better off waiting for a full load as it still uses at least 75% of the water used for a full load
- During the hot summer months, consider cooking with your microwave or outdoor grill, or enjoying a nice salad. This will help cut down on the amount of heat introduced into the house from the oven that needs to be cooled.
- Use the delay timer on your clothes dryer and dishwasher so they run during the night
- Use your blinds wisely, while they can help block the heat, you will still want to allow natural light in, make sure you close blinds when the sun shines directly in the windows
- Bump your thermostat up during the summer months (78 or higher), and use energy efficient ceiling fans to help circulate the air which will help you feel cooler.
- Close your drapes during the nighttime, and open them up when the sun is shining
- Lowering your thermostat and dressing a little warmer will keep you more comfortable throughout the entire house, due to clothes trapping heat and blocking the radiant / conductive heat loss you feel when you are near windows or other cold areas of the house
- While you should never use the oven to heat your house, by turning off the vent when you are completed & cracking the oven door open, you have just gained some additional warmth
Cooking / Baking:
- Pre-Heating; this is one of the most ridiculous items in the history of cooking and is generally only required when baking (baking = cakes, cookies, and bread) — this may add a few minutes to your cooking time, but it beats the 10 minutes it takes to preheat your oven
- Turn the oven off within 5 minutes of your finished cooking time – there is enough residual heat, that you will never notice
- Do not open & close the doors more than necessary – all you are doing is letting all that heat out which requires the oven to work harder & slows down the actual cooking
- Proper maintenance & settings
- By draining your water heater yearly, you are removing any sediment at the bottom or starting to build up on the electrodes allowing for the water to heat faster
- Setting the temperature at 120° will not only help you conserve electricity or gas, but it will also help prevent scalding – most dishwashers include a heater in them to heat the water to a 140° to help kill germs
- Use cold water instead of hot for rinsing your garbage disposal & washing clothes (really it does work)
- Plan your trips wisely, instead of multiple single runs, a well thought out route will help you get everything done at once saving you not only gas, but time
- Are you running to the grocery store more than once a week? Try working up menu plans or shopping lists to help eliminate wasted trips – if you work at a grocery store, feel free to ignore this
- Starting from a stop – while stomping on the gas wastes fuel & can result in accidents, taking a mile to get up to speed doesn’t save you any gas & depending on the heat can result in your death from a case of road rage. Lightly step on the gas, by the time you have cleared the intersection you should easily be around 20 mph and nicely accelerating up to speed limit
- Driving – most newer cars are setup to run efficiently at a steady cruising speed and in many cases 65 to 75 is their optimal range, so when you reach the speed limit – relax the gas pedal a little & enjoy the savings – the days of 45 to 55 being optimal are 20 years in the past
- Stopping – Flying up to a stop light is not only ridiculous, but also dangerous – as soon as you see it turn yellow or red simply let up on the gas pedal, coasting up to it & using the brakes as necessary. Not only will you save gas, but your brakes & passengers sanity