We always say the first step to going solar is lowering your energy use. It will help you reduce the cost of your system, and hey, it’s good for the planet too!
So this St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of 53 of the best ways to #GoGreen by lowering your energy use. And the best part? They’re all either low cost or no cost!
So without further ado:
- Unplug items you rarely use.
- Unplug your televisions/VCR, stereos, clocks, cordless vacuums and small appliances when you’re away on vacation. Many items draw power even when they’re turned off.
- Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Remember to turn off your computer, or use the sleep setting.
- Turn down the brightness on your TV and computer monitor.
- Keep lights and lighting fixtures clean, especially if you’re reducing the number of lights you use. Dirt absorbs light. Let lights cool before cleaning them and never touch halogen bulbs with your bare hands. The oil from your skin can greatly damage the bulbs. Use a small piece of paper to hold the bulb.
- Dress according to the weather and the season.
- Close foundation vents in the winter months.
- If your air conditioning unit is on the ground, keep the area around it clean and free of obstructions to maintain airflow. Vacuuming A/C and furnace filters can help increase efficiency between filter replacements.
- Set or program your thermostat according to the season: for hot/warm months, 78-80 degrees when home and 5 to 10 degrees warmer when you’re away; in cold months, set the thermostat to 68 degrees when home, and lower to 55-62 degrees when leaving the house.
- Take full advantage of your window coverings. In the summer, close blinds and drapes during the day to keep heat out. In the winter, open window coverings on the sunny side of your home to take advantage of free heat from the sun. Close the coverings on cloudy days or right after the sun sets.
- Use your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer as late in the evening as possible, especially in summer months. (This is still true when you have a solar PV system, and you are using supplemental energy from the grid. If you are completely off grid you may want to live without a dishwasher and do your dishes by hand. As much as possible, everyone with solar PV systems and battery backup should wait until after 2pm when your battery bank is full and the sun is still up to run these appliances using the PV panel generated electricity.)
- Run full loads in your dishwasher, washer and dryer. Use cold-water to wash clothes as much as possible (90% of energy is used to heat the water).
- Use the energy saver option on your dishwasher, allowing dishes to air dry. If your dishwasher has a filter, keep it clean.
- Clean the dryer lint filter with each load.
- Clean the dryer ducting periodically to increase efficiency and prevent a fire hazard from accumulated lint.
- Utilize a clothesline for drying your clothes.
- In warmer weather, barbecue outdoors when practical, or cook later in the evening. Reducing the heat coming into your home from any source, such as cooking, will reduce the load on your air conditioning. (A/C uses more energy than is really practical if you are completely independent off grid. Using a swamp/evaporative cooler, if ample water is available, and/or as many Passive Solar techniques as possible is critical for off-grid living in hot climates.)
- Clean the reflectors underneath the burners on stovetops.
- Make sure food is cool and covered before it goes into the refrigerator.
- Use the energy saving feature on your refrigerator, if available, or set the thermostat to 38 degrees.
- Keep your freezer as full as possible. Use containers or plastic bottles filled with water for empty spaces.
- Vacuum refrigerator and freezer coils (underneath and in the back) and don’t obstruct the coils. They need air space to work.
- Keep the seals (gaskets) on refrigerators and freezers clean.
- Turn off the water while you brush your teeth at the sink and while you are soaping up and washing your hair in the shower.
- Set your water heater to 110 degrees.
- Install electrical outlet and switch plate insulation.
- Change your incandescent bulbs to Energy Star rated compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL’s) or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). Both radiate less heat and use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
- Use smart power strips for your home theaters and entertainment centers that will prevent your game players or stereo from using power when you are only watching TV.
- Replace worn or damaged seals on your refrigerator and freezer.
- Install a door sweep at the bottom of your door between your home and your garage to seal the gap and prevent cold air from coming in and warm air from escaping your home.
- Caulk windows and exterior doors.
- Seal small gaps around plumbing stacks, vents, ducts, or electrical wires with caulk and seal holes up to 3 inches in diameter with spray foam. For spaces larger than 3 inches, cover with a piece of foam board and seal with spray foam.
- Install a water heater blanket but be careful not to cover vents or temperature settings.
- Install hot water pipe insulation. Keep the insulation at least six inches away from the flue (exhaust pipe) of gas water heaters.
- Fix leaky faucets.
- Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
- Use room fans to keep the air moving and reduce the feeling of heat in your home.
- Replace furnace and air conditioner filters at least once a year. Check filters every 30 days and replace if necessary. Spray the filters with a light coating of lemon furniture polish or vegetable oil cooking spray to help trap dirt in the filter.
- Seal holes, tears and leaking connections of HVAC ducts using mastic or metal (foil) tape (never use ‘duct tape,’ as it is not long-lasting).
- Seal holes and gaps around chimneys or furnace flues that penetrate your attic floor. At areas that get hot use metal flashing for larger gaps and use high temperature caulk for small holes and gaps.
- Replace normal thermostats with programmable thermostats.
- Install pool trippers to reduce the time your swimming pool pump runs. 8-12 hours a day is sufficient.
- Buy a cover for your pool to retain heat in the water.
- Plant trees and shrubs on the south and west side of your residence. The vegetation acts as insulation and provides shading, reducing thermal gain in a building.
- Install floor and ceiling insulation: It is recommended to have a minimum of an R-30 – R-38 insulation in the attic (varies per climate) and R19 insulation in the sub-floor. (Find and seal air leaks before adding more insulation.)
- Add window screens or window films to reduce the solar energy from entering your home. Remember to include skylights; some shade systems include remote controls making them more convenient to operate.
- Replace inefficient and single pane windows with energy efficient multi-pane, thermally-broken, vinyl-framed windows. Windows with integral solar blind systems may qualify for the 30% Solar Federal Tax Credit.
- Appliances over 10 years old are usually not as energy efficient as newer models. Look for products with the ENERGY STAR™ label. The Energy Guide Label tells you how efficient it is and how much it will cost you to run.
- Service your heating and air conditioning systems once a year.
- If your furnace is over 10 years old, replace with a 90%, or greater AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rated unit.
- If your centralized air is over 10 years old, replace it with a properly sized unit for your home. Oversizing or under sizing your AC unit can reduce efficiency, accelerate wear, and shorten its lifespan.
- Testing and sealing the ductwork. Not only does this improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, it makes the house more comfortable.
- Have ceiling fans installed in all bedrooms and your family room. They can make you more comfortable while allowing you to set your thermostat to higher temperatures in the summer and lower temperatures in the winter.
Do you have a low-cost tip for lowering your energy use? Share it with us in the comments!