Top 10 energy conservation tips

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Energy conservation can be as simple as relying on sunlight to brighten up your home. Image source: Kingspan

Conserving energy can be as simple as changing your daily habits, like opening your curtains instead of turning on a light, or by using less hot water. Whatever your motivation for conserving energy, be it to save money or to help the environment, it can seem like one more daunting task for your “to-do” list.  

But we are here to tell you that living a little greener is easier than you think! In this blog, we’ll discuss the top 10 energy conservation techniques and how conserving energy can help you save money.

First, we’ll walk you through the differences between energy conservation and the similar, yet different, practice of energy efficiency.

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    What’s the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency?

    It is important to recognize that energy conservation and energy efficiency are separate methods to reach the same goal - to save energy! 

    Energy conservation is a form of energy management and takes place when you perform actions that lead to less energy being used. These actions include unplugging electronics when they’re not in use or turning a light off when you leave a room. 

    Energy efficiency involves the use of energy-saver technology that requires less energy to complete a task. For example, many appliances like washing machines are now labeled as energy efficient, or Energy Star, and use less energy than traditional appliances to complete the same task. If you can afford to upgrade to energy-efficient appliances, that’s another great way to save money on energy costs, too.

    Learn more: 8 ways to transform your house into an energy-efficient home

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    What are the top 10 ways to conserve energy?

    By adding energy conservation to your habits, you will save money by reducing your energy usage and lowering emissions in the process. Some of these are simple fixes, requiring minimal effort, while others will require a change in habit. 

    With all of the potential good that it can bring, making energy conservation simple and easy to follow is key. Here are the top five ways to conserve energy:

    1. Embrace the sun and enjoy natural lighting 

    On sunny days, opening your curtains reduces the need for artificial light. Turning on the lights less is one of the easiest ways to conserve energy, and letting in more natural light boosts your mood, too! 

    With this simple technique, you’ll be saving money and feeling a bit better in the process - just by following nature’s light schedule.

    2. Unplug appliances when not in use and use smart power strips 

    “Vampire power,” a phenomenon in which plugged-in appliances still use energy even when turned off and not in use, can account for 23% of your power usage each month. That phone charger that’s always plugged in? Yes, that is zapping energy even when your phone isn’t attached. 

    While it’s impractical to always keep unplugging certain appliances in your home, like the refrigerator and your oven, being more mindful about unplugging desk lamps, chargers, and the occasional hair dryer will go a long way in terms of energy conservation - and saving you money on your electric bill. 

    Or, add a smart power strip so that you can just turn off the power strip instead of unplugging appliances after each use. 

    3. Upgrade to a smart thermostat 

    Smart thermostats give you the ability to automatically adjust settings for your heating and air conditioning units, set a schedule for energy use, and turn off the lights when you’re not at home.  4 digital renderings of the Nest Smart Thermostat, each display a different feature. Top left: weather, top right: internal temperature, bottom left: internal temperature using full screen, bottom right: analog clock

    The Nest smart thermostat makes it easy to conserve energy every day. Image source: Nest

    One of the easiest ways to reduce energy consumption is to make sure your home isn’t using unnecessary power when you are at work or on vacation. After all, the house doesn’t need to be the perfect temperature when no one is home to enjoy it. 

    4. Use less hot water 

    Wash your clothes in cold water and yes, turn down the shower heat! A quick way to ease into this habit is by reducing the highest temperature on your water heater. Heating up water for dishes, laundry, and showers is a big energy thief. 

    While hot water is necessary in some cases, oftentimes your laundry and dishes won't even notice the difference, thanks to new detergents that are meant to be used with cold water. Better yet, install a solar water heater to get your hot water pollution-free.

    5. Practice energy efficiency!

    Switch to energy-efficient appliances, insulate drafty parts of your home after conducting an energy audit, and check out some tips for more simple ideas on how to easily implement energy-efficient behaviors. 

    Though the two concepts are different, energy efficiency helps achieve energy conservation. Energy-efficient products help make your home more sustainable overall, since they use less energy to complete the same task as their non-energy-efficient counterparts.

    6. Change your light bulbs 

    One of the quickest updates that you can make to your home is simply to change your light bulbs from incandescent light bulbs to either compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. Both types of light bulbs will last longer and use less energy to light up your home.

    LED and compact fluorescent light bulbs save you money because you will need to buy less of them, and because they cost less to light up your home. 

    7. Replace your windows 

    If you live in an older home or have not replaced your windows for years, you might be wasting energy trying to keep your home’s temperature regulated if air leaks from the windows, letting the cool or warm air escape.

    Additionally, two-pane energy-efficient windows can help keep the energy inside your home. Although replacing your windows could be a little pricey, it will pay off in the long run because your home will not be losing energy out the window.  

    8. Insulate your home  

    Similarly to potential energy losses via drafty windows, if your home is not properly insulated, it will take more energy to keep the temperature consistent throughout the home. If you have a room in your house, perhaps the kitchen, that never seems to retain heat in the winter, that room is costing you money. 

    By insulating your house with the proper type of insulation, you will not need to waste electricity keeping your AC running or your heat blasting in the winter. 

    9. Air dry your clothes 

    Although the idea of air drying clothes may be unattractive to some, it can actually go a long way in conserving energy. One load in the dryer uses anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 watts of electricity for an electric dryer (energy use is measured differently for natural gas dryers). 

    Maybe not every load is practical to air dry but try to challenge yourself to hang clothes periodically, like a load of delicates. Not only will this help  your clothes to last longer due to less wear and tear from the dryer, it will also keep your energy costs down. A win-win!

    10. Turn your refrigerator temperature up 

    It is safe to keep your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees fahrenheit or below, so consider turning it up to 40 to save the most energy. Turning up the temperature is a simple way to conserve energy while still keeping your food safe and fresh. 

    Most of these examples are quick fixes to save you a large amount of energy and in turn, lower your electric bill. If you want to get your electric bill to $0, adding solar panels can help you get there by generating electricity for free. 

    Find out how much you can save annually by installing solar panels

    Hidden trick to save more money

    One important thing to consider is how your utility charges you for energy. 

    For instance, some utilities use time-of-use rate costs, meaning that your electricity is more expensive at certain peak hours of the day. If this pertains to you, and if you are good at planning ahead, you can run your washing machine during the hours that your utility charges the cheapest rates. 

    Typically, the cheapest hours are during the day or late at night. This follows the assumption that most people are at work around 9am-5pm and the peak hours of electricity use are before and after those times. Think about it, many people come home around 6pm to cook dinner, watch TV, and blast their air conditioning systems. Running the washing machine during that time adds stress to the grid, so it costs more money. 

    For example, the utility company PG&E in California describes two of their peak rate plans here. One designates the peak hours from 4pm-9pm and their off-peak hours after 9pm and before 4pm. The other is a bit more convoluted because it can be different pricing based on the seasons, but the peak cost is from 5pm- 8pm. 

    If you pay for the first plan, E-TOU C, the cost is $0.27157 kWh versus the normal rate of $0.23824

    Based on those rates, it would cost you 15 times more to run your washing machine at 4:30pm than it would to run it at 3:30pm. Changing the time you use your most energy-sucking appliances can help you increase your energy savings.

    Benefits of energy conservation

    It is never too late to start enhancing your conservation of energy, the benefits of doing so add up! Some of the perks of being energy-conscious include: 

    Saving money by using less energy 

    When you change your habits to use less energy in everyday life, you can save money on your energy bills. Reducing your energy consumption leads to less energy needing to be generated to power your home, which ultimately saves you money. 

    For example, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average American home spends $2,000 a year on home utility bills, which can be reduced by 25% by taking energy conservation measures.  

    Qualifying for incentives that save you even more 

    There are many monetary incentives on the federal, state, and utility levels. Find out more about how you can save money where you live here.

    In many states, residents are encouraged to reduce their energy consumption to help states reach environmental goals, such as reducing CO2 emissions and pollution. For instance, if a majority of a state's residents commit to being more energy-conscious, pollution would be reduced, which means cleaner air for everyone. 

    The federal government and states offer various incentives to help make energy conservation choices less expensive for consumers and businesses. It might not be feasible for some who aren’t in the financial position to upgrade their homes and businesses; these incentives serve to alleviate this burden.

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    Using less energy is better for the environment 

    If you have not yet switched to solar, energy conservation will help you reduce the amount of pollution that’s emitted to power your home from traditional energy sources like coal or gas plants. With less CO2 in the air, you are helping curb the amount of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. 

    Not only are CO2 emissions reduced, you are also helping lessen air pollution that causes respiratory issues and hazy skies - particularly, you are reducing particulate matter emissions. When less pollution is emitted in order to power your home, the air becomes a little easier to breathe

    Make the most out of energy conservation with solar 

    If you make the upgrade to solar, you are helping to accelerate the growing switch to renewable energy within the U.S. And, as an added bonus, switching to renewables is infectious; you’ll likely be encouraging your neighbors to start living greener lifestyles, as well. 

    Energy conservation and solar power are a perfect pair

    If your intention is to conserve as much energy as possible, solar panels can help you reach this goal more quickly, effectively saving you more money and contributing to a cleaner environment! 

    Making the switch to an energy-conscious lifestyle is simple, and there is no better time to start than today. So turn off those lights and unplug the appliances, you’ve got some energy to conserve. 

    Key takeaways

    • Energy conservation allows you to continue your habits but with slight tweaks, like upgrading appliances or unplugging appliances, to reduce the energy used.
    • If your utility bills you with time-of-use rates, changing your energy use hours to off-peak times can save you even more.
    • Investing in an energy-efficient home with new windows or appliances comes with a high upfront cost but it will save you money in the long term.
    • Pairing energy conservation with solar panels will maximize your savings.
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Ana Almerini

    Web Content Specialist

    Ana is a content specialist at SolarReviews. She uses her experience in marketing and knowledge from her master's in climate communications to research and review the solar industry.

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