Cut Energy Use, Save Money
Chances are good that you’ve been spending a lot more time at home than usual over the past few months. With safer-at-home guidelines keeping most people working from home when possible, or not working at all in many cases, holing up in the house has become the new normal. But while quarantine may keep you safe from the coronavirus, all that time cooped up indoors can be hazardous to the health of your bank account. After all, those Netflix binges aren’t powered by a hamster wheel. As well, more time at home tends to translate into more energy usage, and that means higher utility bills, right at a time when many are looking to cut back on spending. But you don’t have to turn off all the lights quite yet. Here are 10 ways to reduce your energy usage during quarantine.
Dine by Candlelight
Maybe you can’t head to your favorite restaurant for a romantic date-night dinner, but you can re-create the ambience at home—and save a bit of money—when you dine by candlelight instead. Switch off those overhead lights and enjoy a tasty home-cooked meal, a glass of your favorite beverage, and the company of your loved ones by the flattering glow of flickering candlelight. After all, quarantine can still be romantic.
Turn Up the Thermostat
When you’re at the office, someone else is paying for the heating and cooling, but at home it’s all on you. Depending on the climate where you live, your central air-conditioning system accounts for anywhere from 10 percent to a whopping 25 percent of your summer energy bill. Still, as summer kicks into full gear, you don’t need to suffer in sweltering indoor temperatures. Just turn up the thermostat a few degrees. You’ll still be comfortable, but you’ll feel a lot less hot under the collar when you open your electricity bill.
If it isn’t too steamy outside, you can save even more electricity by turning your central air conditioning off altogether and switching on a ceiling fan or portable fan. The savings can be quite significant: During the peak of summer, it’s not unusual for electric bills to rise $100 to $300, thanks to central air-conditioning use. In contrast, it typically costs around $5 to run a box fan for 12 hours a day all month long.
Take Advantage of Energy Off-Hours
Many utility companies charge a premium for electrical consumption during peak hours, which typically run from late afternoon until around 8 or 9 p.m. These are the busy hours because, at least during normal times, most people are out of the house during the day and have to wait until they're home in the evening to run their major appliances. One small silver lining of quarantine is that you're always home, so hold down your energy costs by running your dishwasher, washer, and dryer either late at night or early in the morning.
Fill Up Major Appliances
Avoid the temptation to toss that Zoom shirt in the wash by itself just because you want to wear it later in the afternoon. The same goes for running an almost empty dishwasher just because you've run out of clean knives. Major appliances like the dishwasher, washer, and dryer consume a lot of energy, so to keep that electricity bill within reasonable limits, hold off on running them until you have a full load.
Check for Leaks
Running the air conditioner with leaky windows or doors forces the appliance to work much harder to cool down your home and, as a result, increases your energy bills. It’s not difficult to check for leaks, though, and fixing them is a simple DIY project to tackle during quarantine. First, turn off the AC and any portable fans or ceiling fans. Then light a stick of incense and hold it in front of all the windows and doors in your home while watching for shifts or wavers in the column of smoke, indicating a draft. Repair any leaks with weatherstripping.
Turn Off the Oven
Yes, you still need to prepare meals during quarantine, but that doesn’t mean you have to switch on the oven. Stoves and ovens, particularly electric models, are heavy hitters when it comes to energy consumption. Instead, prepare meals in your slow cooker, microwave, or toaster oven, all of which consume a fraction of the energy used by a traditional oven. Even better, these smaller appliances won’t heat up your entire kitchen.
Draw the Blinds
Take advantage of your blinds or curtains to help regulate the temperature inside your home, cutting down on the need to run expensive air conditioning or heating. On hot summer days, keep the blinds down to block out the sun’s rays. Go ahead and open them later, when direct sunlight no longer beats on the glass. If it’s the chill you want to keep out, open the blinds to let in the maximum amount of sunlight, and then close them once the sun goes down to help hold in the warmth.
Change the AC Filter
If you are staying safer at home this summer, you're probably also running the air conditioner a lot more than usual. After all, you need to keep your cool during those heated Zoom meetings with your boss. Especially with this increased usage, it's important to clean or change the air filter in your AC unit each month. A dirty air filter cuts way down on the appliance’s efficiency, leading to higher energy costs.
Wash Clothes in Cold Water
After the heating and cooling system, water heaters are the biggest energy consumers in most homes. You can cut down on costs by saving the hot-water cycle for the dirtiest loads, such as sheets, towels, and underwear, and switching to cold water for your other garments. As a bonus, cold water reduces fading, so your favorite dark jeans or black sweater will look good longer.
Save Money While Staying Home
Staying at home doesn't mean your energy costs have to soar. Apply these tips and tricks to help you manage your energy consumption.
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