By Grace Cassidy
Making your home more energy-efficient can feel like a daunting task. From re-insulating behind the drywall, re-sealing around doors and replacing windows to switching to a tankless water heater and purchasing energy-efficient appliances, it can seem like you have to spend money (and lots of it) in order to save money on utility bills in the short term—and help save civilization in the long-term.
But there are plenty of easy, inexpensive things you can start doing that will immediately make your home more energy-efficient without making any costly structural changes.
1. Go Cold Laundry
According to Energy Star®, the U.S. government’s energy-efficiency initiative, about 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes toward heating the water. Plus, washing your clothes in cold water can help prolong the lifespan of your threads. While it’s understandable to wash certain items in warm or hot water for sanitary purposes—including underwear and heavily-soiled items like work-out gear—lightly soiled everyday clothes do just fine in cold water. For more facts and resources on going cold with your laundry, visit Cold Water Saves.
2. Hang ‘Em Dry
While we’re on the subject of laundry, hang-drying instead of machine-drying your clothes can have a big impact. Project Laundry List estimates that hang-drying clothes can save the average household $25 a month on energy bills. Like washing in cold water, hang-drying can extend the longevity of your clothes—and if you have an outdoor clothesline, the sun acts as a natural disinfectant! If you live in a colder climate, of course, line-drying outside may be practical only in the warmer months. But if you have space for an indoor clothesline, hang-drying can have a humidifying effect during the drier cold months.
3. Clean Your Machines
Like any machine, fridges, dishwashers, laundry machines and other appliances function more efficiently when they’re well-maintained, whether or not they have the EnergyStar® seal of approval. Simply keeping your appliances clean—wiping away the built-up grime from air vents, washing and changing filters, etc.—can prevent them from overworking. Regularly defrosting your cooling appliances will enable them to keep your perishables cold and your energy bill low. You may need to pay a service provider to do repairs and other maintenance, but it’s well worth the cost when everything is in tip-top shape.
4. Throw Some Shade
Nothing’s more glorious than sunshine streaming through your windows and flooding your home with brightness and warmth. Of course, when the weather’s already warm, that same radiant sunlight can quickly trigger a domestic greenhouse effect. Before you crank up the air conditioning, try closing the blinds or lowering the shades to cool things off. According to energy.gov, “medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%.” Even if you end up resorting to AC, blocking out the sunlight will keep your unit from having to work harder.
5. Just Unplug!
We all know that virtually unplugging from our smartphones, computers and TVs can be good for our mental health, but physically unplugging your electronics on a regular basis can dramatically reduce your energy bill. So-called “energy vampires” like phone chargers, computers and coffee makers can suck volts from electrical outlets even when they’re not in use. Unplugging or using the sleep feature on your electronics can help to stop the suck.
6. Get Audited
Unlike tax audits, a home energy audit isn’t something you want to avoid. If your energy provider doesn’t offer the service, try researching energy-efficiency assessments in your area. An auditor can offer recommendations for reducing energy use throughout your residence, making for a more environmentally friendly, more cost-efficient home.