This post was sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities as part of their Project Envolve Ambassador program. All opinions expressed in my post are my own.
According to energy.gov, the average U.S. household spends $875 or more a year on heating and cooling. You can help combat this in your own home by utilizing a few quick tricks and tips. These creative ways contribute to an energy efficient home and lower electric bill—a win, win for you!
One of our family’s favorite ways to save on energy on the very hottest of days, is to leave the house. We love to go get wet at a local splash pad, stomp through a creek or enjoy an indoor activity in a local already air-conditioned facility. Before we leave for these outings, we make sure to do these six energy-saving ideas first.
Consider doing these things before you leave your house for the day!
1. Turn off any energy-sucking appliances
Turn off any energy-sucking appliances, especially appliances that won’t need to be on all day. Have you ever used one of these handy Kill A Watt Monitors? This is a job your kids will absolutely love to do with you—and you’ll be shocked at what you learn about energy use in your house! We were surprised to learn that our hair blow dryer used twice as many amps as our toaster, and our toaster and toaster oven used the same amount of amps!
Take it with you around each room and test your appliances to see how much electricity they are using, sometimes even when they are off! Checking things like your toaster oven, coffee maker, TV, computer, and lamps, will lead to some unique observations.
2. Adjust your thermostat accordingly.
Since you will be away all day, and you won’t want it to get hot while you are gone, consider installing a smart thermostat like this one. Even the simplest model will allow your home to be have temperatures adjusted based on the time of day.
We like to use a Nest Thermostat. The Nest automatically watches our home activity and knows when we are away. We use our phone to adjust abnormalities in our schedule and to double-check the Nest is doing its job right, but overall, it really does learn our habits. You will even notice that it adjusts the temperature based on how often you walk to your thermostat and change it.
While a Nest will cost you about $200, it is worth the investment. We noticed a $50 decrease in our electricity bill the first month we had ours installed! Independent studies have proven that the Nest Learning Thermostat saved an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. That means that in two years, it can pay for itself.
Also consider the temperature at which you set your thermostat. You likely can lower it 1-2 degrees and won’t notice a change. To give you an idea of what other homes set their thermostat, I read that most energy efficient gurus recommend you set your thermostat to 78 when you are home, and 85 degrees when you are away, during the warmer months of the year.
A personal note: While you are at home, running a fan will allow you to lower your thermostat by about 4 degrees without feeling a reduction in comfort!! But don’t run your fan while you are away from home. It is only for comfort and will actually use more electricity if run all day when you are not there to feel the results. Psss…. I love our fan shown in this photo— I love the looks, it connects to the Nest and maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was at the name of the company who makes them!
3. Close your curtains.
This is one very simple thing you can do before you leave your home for the day (or a fun job your kids can do for you while you are packing your things to leave for the day!)
Heat enters our homes the quickest through our windows. If you’ve ever stood in front of a window while the morning sun was shining in, you understand what I’m saying. In the spring time, I often move my breakfast chair so its in the sun—I love to feel that warmth!
Well that little warmth, really adds up and increases the heat in your home quickly. Closing even the most basic curtains will block out up to 10% of that heat. But if you really want to get the job done right, invest in some blackout curtains and you’ll notice even more of a difference.
A personal note here: I don’t like curtains. I love to let outdoor light in my house and I need things bright. However, I do see their energy savings and purpose. That’s why I found these light filtering shades that I can tuck up behind my kitchen window valance and I only pull it down when I’m not at home, and these stylish/decorative curtains that fit my bright preferences for the room, but still block out the heat.
Find out more energy efficient window treatment ideas on energy.gov.
4. Change your air filter regularly.
You can save as much as $40 per year (assuming your electricity bill is about $100), if you change your air filter regularly. Plan on changing it once every 1-3 months. If it looks darker than a new one, then its time to replace it. Why? Simply put, it requires more energy to push the air in your home through a clogged air filter. Makes sense, right?
A personal note: We buy our air filters in bulk (enough for 6 months to a year). We wait until we receive a $5/$15 coupon at a store like Ace Hardware. Just an extra way to save a few bucks!
And here is a bonus tip for you. If you had to guess what eats up the most electricity use in your home, what do you think it would be? If you guessed your water heater (who thinks of that?!), you’re right! In the average home, water heaters account for up to 30% of your electricity bill!
I literally had no idea!
But here’s the tip. You can buy a water heater blanket that will help keep the water the temperature it needs to be and thus minimize the need for your water heater to run and heat your water. We bought this water heater blanket two months ago, and have noticed our electricity bill drop about 10%!
A personal note: If you are really excited about efficiency and energy saving, go ahead and add a timer to save another $6-10/mo! Adding a timer to your water heater will cost some money, but it will only heat your water during the hours that you’ll use hot water, thus saving you money in the long run.
5. Unplug your charging stations.
Did you know that the little transformer inside your laptop and cell phone chargers are constantly being fed electricity? Even if they are charging nothing! Some charging stations are more efficient than others, so if you want to know exactly which chargers are sucking the most of your energy then be sure to test each of them with your Kill A Watt Monitor. Taking care of this problem can save you as much as $180/year.
A personal note: We find it helpful to use this Advanced PowerStrip (given to us by PPL a few years ago—call them for a free audit, they might still be giving them out!), which will only direct electricity to chargers if the device plugged into the main port is turned on. This is ideal for a TV—so your DVD player, gaming system, Roku etc., only receive power when the TV is turned on.
6. Have a dinner plan.
If you’ll be home in time for dinner, plan on having something ready in the crock pot, grilling or eating a cold dinner like salad, cold cuts, cheese and crackers. Using a slow cooker, the grill or eating cold foods will all save you electricity and reduce your energy bill!
Some of our favorite crock pot dinner recipes are Slow Cooker Sweet Calico Beans and Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken. And it never hurts to end with something cool like Frozen Yogurt Bites, Chocolate Peanut Butter Banna Popsicles or my favorite potluck dessert ever—Eclair. For those who love to grill, you won’t want to miss these taste the savings grilling ideas!
Go Have Some Fun!
Now that you’ve taken these steps to prepare your home for energy savings, head out to one of these local Lancaster County places for the day and enjoy cooling off in the heat for FREE! Whether you choose to get wet or stay indoors at a place with air conditioning, these ideas are sure to keep your day filled with fun!
Check out some other great posts on staying cool and saving energy this summer, and find some of my favorite energy saving ideas on PPL Electric’s Energy Savings page. PPL Electric Utilities offers tools, tips and energy efficiency programs to help customers save.