Becoming energy efficient at home can save money and help you do your bit to reduce emissions. All those appliances and lightbulbs may seem relatively insignificant, but they all add up. Saving electricity at home helps reduce your household's need for energy and, in turn, helps reduce the demand for polluting fossil fuels. What’s more, you’ll also save cash on your electric bills.
Electricity consumption remains a significant environmental concern around the world. We still generate most of the electricity consumed from fossil fuels; oil, natural gas, and coal. We source the fuel for electricity generated this way below the ground surface, which usually requires collection using drilling and mining.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), coal-fired power plants were the most significant contributor to emissions growth in 2018. Coal-fired electricity generation accounts for 30% of global CO2 emissions.
Saving energy remains important despite countries like the UK having made huge strides toward cleaner electricity.
Over 40% of electricity generation in the UK came from renewable sources in December 2020. At the same time, the US tallies a more modest, yet improving, 20%.
However, non-renewable power plants still fire regularly to meet peak demand. Especially in colder months to heat our homes, or when very hot, to provide energy for the ubiquitous air conditioner in warmer climes.
When we conserve energy at home, we can all play a small yet valuable role in helping to reduce the need for electricity generation. And for each energy-saving we make in the home, we help reduce demand, reducing polluting CO2 emissions.
Here are 17 ways to save electricity you and your family achieve conveniently.
Did you know: Your electronic appliances use as much as 75% of their electricity consumption when switched off?
A simple tour of your home will likely prove you have at least several plugged-in items you’re not using. For example, electrical items on standby, such as TVs, computers, and video game consoles. Many of these appliances draw a small amount of electricity whilst waiting for use.
You can recognize electrical appliances drawing electricity if they have a standby setting or a little light glowing while waiting for use. Turn them off at the wall to conserve energy when not using them for a while.
Whereas the electricity they consume might seem small, it all adds up over a longer period on your electric bill. Keep an eye out, especially for older appliances that might be less energy efficient.
Whereas unplugging and switching off appliances at the wall will do the trick, another task in our busy days can easily slip the mind. To help keep those energy-hungry appliances in check, you’ll find it easier to conserve energy using smart power strips.
A smart power strip deals with the problem of not-in-use electronics draining energy unnecessarily. With a power strip, you can configure them to shut off electricity to appliances when not in use. Alternatively, some models enable you to save electricity costs by setting timers to turn off the supply when you’re at work or asleep.
For example, the Kasa Smart Plug (on amazon) pictured above connects to an app to monitor power usage while allowing individual configuration of each appliance. Minimizing use will help you save money in the long term.
Whereas your modern washing machine and dryer may be marked energy-efficient, even energy-efficient appliances still consume a lot of electricity with each use.
To conserve electricity as much as possible, pool your laundry together (as a family or roommates) and do full loads all at once. As a result, you cut down on the number of times you use the washer weekly. If it helps, think about how much money you’re throwing away with each wash of an item or two.
Further, treat the warm wash as optional for when you really need it. Not heating water every time you wash clothes makes for one of those super easy ways to save energy. With all the bells and whistles of modern washers and detergents designed for cold washes, you’ll quickly find you can have spotless clothes using cold water.
You can also cut out dryer use to save energy by drying your clothes in direct sunlight (if you live in a home that allows for it, that is). If you can’t avoid the dryer, use a lower setting, even if drying might take 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 to save money on the heat cycle. It's perfectly OK to let dishes air dry they'll be just as hygienic.
If you're in the market for a new appliance, look for the more recent models that provide the best energy efficiency. For example, in the EU, look for A+++ energy efficient; in the US, energy star-rated fridges, washing machines, and other appliances.
With each new energy-efficient appliance you purchase, you’ll find your total energy consumption reduces.
Pictured: Nest Thermostat (on amazon)
Many people consume electricity throughout the day because they don’t want to go home to a too-hot or too-cold house. With a programmable thermostat, one of the most energy-efficient appliances you can install, you can pre-set your home’s temperature at different times of the day.
For example, you can keep your home at a specific temperature all day and set the programmable or smart thermostat to heat your home or reduce the temperature one hour before you get home.
If you have a water heater that stores hot water, you can also use a timer to heat it before morning showers and evening dishwashing. Shorter showers will help too.
This approach will help reduce the need for a room air conditioning or your heating or cooling system to run when you don’t need it to, in turn using less energy. Your energy bill will thank you for it.
Some electricity providers will also offer cheaper electricity during off-peak hours and may also offer the choice of renewable energy tariffs. Only heating and when it's cheapest and cleanest is one of those simple ways to save electricity that's super easy to do.
A straightforward tip is remembering to switch off unnecessary lights when not using them. 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-watt bulb in a room.
Easily forgotten sometimes is perhaps one of the simplest things you can do to reduce energy use. Simply let the natural light in and avoid turning on electric lights at all during the day. You’ll also find natural light better for your work-from-home environment. And, of course, turn off all the lights before you go out.
Talking lighting, another great substitute is to swap incandescent lights for a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) or LED bulbs. CFLs use between 50-80% less energy than regular incandescent bulbs.
You’ll find these more expensive to purchase at first than regular bulbs, which use more energy. But they will last a lot longer than the regular ones. As a result, the cost balances out over time as you save more energy. CFLs are especially practical for exterior lighting, which you may require left on throughout the night.
Most of us do not pay much attention to our refrigerator's temperature. Providing, of course, we have cold drinks, and the veg remains fresh. However, notching the temperature down a few degrees saves electricity when mindful of energy conservation.
With a slight tweak to its thermostat, your fridge will still keep everything cold and fresh, while this small change results in less engine use to help reduce those energy bills.
Ever get that feeling hot air is finding its way into your comfortable air-conditioned living space in summer? Or vice versa, cold air appears the enemy of saving energy in the winter?
The chances are you have air leaks somewhere in your home. Another one of those easy ways to save electricity is simply plugging air ducts and leaks into the home. Look out for draughts from external doors and windows and repair them or plug them up to prevent air leaking in from outside. You can also use weather stripping to line doors or windows where heat loss is an issue resulting in less heating and cooling costs.
If you have an HVAC system or any form of heating or cooling, you help prevent the need for home heating or your air conditioning from working harder than it needs to. The result, of course, is less electricity use.
Ceiling fans that circulate hot or cold air around the room prevent extra energy use in actually firing up an air conditioner for cooling. In warmer climates, the use of both at the same time helps you feel cool, while air conditioning on a lower setting uses less energy.
Only heat or cool the rooms you need. Simply installing and using thermal curtains can avoid heat loss to the outdoors in colder seasons.
Meanwhile, keep your living areas cool by setting the air conditioner to a comfortable temperature. But not too cold either, reducing the need for the air conditioning to run continuously to conserve energy. Shutting doors between rooms will also ensure that your cooling costs don’t end up paying for more rooms than necessary.
Damaged insulation can 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 results from heat loss through the attic.
One of the more significant ways to save long-term is installing proper insulation in your home to protect it from unnecessary heat loss during winter. And help ensure your air conditioner doesn’t have to work overtime to keep you cool during summer.
If you need to install or repair insulation in your home but can’t afford a contractor, many DIY videos are available online to guide you through the process. You’ll find affordable insulation materials such as fiberglass, natural fiber, sleek foils, and rigid foam boards easily accessible.
Where possible, look out for natural alternatives that have had less impact on the environment in their manufacture. Also, seek to buy locally produced to reduce the transport impacts as an energy conservation bonus. Your next energy bill will thank you.
Regardless of whether you heat your water with gas or electricity, wrap up your water heater cylinder in insulation if you have one. This one simple energy conservation step can save up to 10% of water heating costs on your electricity bill.
Your freezer benefits from occasionally defrosting, usually once a month. When excessive ice builds up in the freezer, the system ends up working harder to preserve all that ice and keep cool air flowing. As a result, a freezer in need of a defrost uses more energy and adds to your energy costs.
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 correctly to allow easy flow of cooling air and improved energy saving (so your freezer’s system doesn’t work too much!).
You can also save more money 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 save electricity by ditching 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's air filters clog up, you might choose to turn it up higher because the regular temperature doesn’t do so much anymore, using more energy.
By changing the filter (monthly, as recommended), you can get enough cold air at a minimal temperature, and you’ll note a reduction in your utility bills. The same 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 electricity conservation changes might seem small, but they all add up. Further, you’ll find by following some of the simple tips above. You don’t need to rush out and purchase energy-efficient products.
You’ll find energy savings as simple as paying attention to use around the home, insulating your water heater, and replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs when the time comes. Small changes such as turning off all the lights before you go out all add up. This all results in conserving energy around the home.
Until the time when we can entirely depend on green energy sources, we can all contribute to our collective effort to preserve our natural resources and slow down the effect of global warming.
Practice some of our tips above to save electricity at home, and you'll make a difference before you know it. Not only will your electric bill thank you, but you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint whilst doing your bit for the environment.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.