Electricity consumption is one of our biggest environmental concerns, and for good reason. While the introduction of various different types of renewable energy has reduced our dependence on fossil fuel for electricity, the latter is still our main source of energy. Saving electricity at home can not only help reduce our household need for energy and in turn help reduce demand for polluting fossil fuel, but it can also save you money.
Most of the electricity consumed around the world is generated from fossil fuel1; oil, natural gas, and coal. The fuel for electricity generated this way is found below the ground surface and usually requires drilling and mining to collect. This extraction process has its effects on the environment: leaks into water bodies, oil rig explosions, and other contamination hazards.
Greenhouse emissions are another big concern. To use coal in generating energy, it has to be burned at high heat, and the heat is used to power the turbines which create electricity. This process causes gas emissions which disrupt the natural greenhouse process between the earth and the sun. This disruption is one of the biggest causes of global warming as heat-trapping gases such as methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and carbon dioxide are heavily present in our atmosphere. Man-made emissions upset the natural balance, adding more gases to the natural mix, which in turn disrupt the role these gases have in moderating our climate2.
Most of our daily activities need electricity, so as damaging as some of its sources are, we cannot completely stop using energy. What we can do, is to manage how we use it to reduce production. Our daily use contributes to how much fuel needs to be produced, and if every home can reduce their consumption, then we can collectively lower the amount of coal-fueled electricity generated. This is, of course, not a permanent fix.
As countries like Sweden, Nicaragua, and Germany are aiming to be fossil energy-free by 2030, our efforts will better protect our earth until governments achieve their renewable energy goals. Saving electricity will also help you lower your monthly electricity bill. Your utility company keeps track of energy use through the meter installed in the home. When you use fewer gadgets or spend less time on them, the reduction will reflect in your meter and subsequently, your bill.
Here are 7 ways you and your family can save electricity at home conveniently.
This seems like an obvious one, but many people are unaware of how much electricity they burn by having unnecessary devices plugged in. A simple tour of your home will prove that there are likely several plugged in items which probably don’t need to be. For example, electrical items on standby, such as TV’s, computers and video games. All draw a small amount of electricity whilst waiting for use. If you’re not using them for a while turn them off at the wall. The electricity they consume might seem small, but when put together over a long period, it all adds up.
Your washing machine and dryer may be energy efficient, but they’re still consuming a lot of electricity with each use. To save as much energy as possible, pool your laundry together (as a family or roommates) and do it all at once. This will cut down on the number of times the washer is used per week.
The washer’s heating feature should be treated as optional; heating isn’t always necessary, and you can have perfectly clean clothes using cold water. You can also cut out dryer use by drying your clothes in the sun if you live in a home that allows for it. If you can’t avoid the dryer, then use a lower setting even if drying might take a bit more time. If you use a dishwasher, ditch the heated drying cycle by drying with a napkin. You could also leave the dishwasher door open and allow for air drying.
If you're in the market for a new appliance look for the newer models that provide the best energy efficiency. For example, in the EU look for A+++ energy efficient and in the US energy star rated fridges, washing machines, and other appliances (links to amazon).
A programmable or smart thermostat is one of the most energy-efficient appliances to have in the home. Many people burn electricity throughout the day because they don’t want to go home to a too-hot or too-cold house. With a programmable thermostat, you can pre-set your home’s temperature at different times of the day.
For example, you can keep your home at a certain temperature all day, and set the thermostat to heat your home or reduce the temp one hour before you get home. This approach will help in reducing your energy bill and saving electricity.
The slightest damage in a home’s insulation could increase energy consumption, both in the form of heating and cooling. According to energy.gov, 20% of the energy consumed in a home during winter is as a result of heat loss through the attic. Proper insulation in your home will protect it from unnecessary loss of heat during winter, and help keep your cool during summer.
If you need to install or repair insulation in your home but can’t afford a contractor, there are many DIY videos available online to guide you through the process. Affordable insulation materials such as fibreglass, natural fibre, sleek foils, and rigid foam boards (links to amazon) are also available for purchase. Where possible look out for the natural alternatives that have had less impact on the environment in their manufacture and buy locally produced to prevent their environmental impact in shipping and transport.
Doing simple things like draught-proofing doors and windows can further prevent the need for electricity consuming heating.
Remember to switch off light bulbs when they are not in use. For better results saving electricity at home, use light bulbs with higher wattages and reduce the number of bulbs in each room. For example, you can switch out 2-3 60 watts bulbs by installing one 100 watts bulb in a room.
Another great substitute is the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) or led bulbs (both links to amazon). CFLs use between 50-80% less energy than regular incandescent lights. They are more expensive than regular bulbs, but last a lot longer than the regular ones so, over time, the cost balances out. CFLs are especially practical for exterior lighting which often get lit through the night.
Your freezer needs to be defrosted occasionally, usually once a month. When there is excessive ice buildup in the freezer, its system works harder to preserve all that ice and maintain the freezer’s very low temperature, using up more energy.
Whenever you want to defrost, simply unplug the freezer and remove all food items. Leave the door open for a faster melting process, and then dry out the freezer. Turn it back on, and once cool, repack your food items. Ensure that you place items properly to allow easy flow of cooling air (so your freezer’s system doesn’t work too much!).
You can also save more electricity by unplugging the mini fridges around the house, and using one central fridge. If your refrigerator set (fridge and freezer) is big enough, you can also ditch the big deep freezer often used in the home.
Your appliances will work more effectively and save you electricity at home if they are cared for. For example, when your air conditioner filters are clogged up, you might choose to turn it up higher because the regular temperature doesn’t do so much anymore. By changing the filter (monthly, as recommended), you can get enough cold air at a minimal temperature. The same system applies to your dishwasher, tumble dryer, and other appliances.
Remember that there is a connection between how much electricity you use and your environment. Your personal changes might seem small, but momentum and progress will become visible as more people become conscious of the effects of their electricity use. Until the time when we can fully depend on renewable energy sources, contribute to our collective effort of preserving natural resources and slowing down the effect of global warming.
|Kåberger, Tomas. (2018). Progress of renewable electricity replacing fossil fuels. Global Energy Interconnection. 1.|
|Greenhouse Gasses: Causes, Sources and Environmental Effects, Marc Lallanilla, LiveScience|