You’ve looked at your lighting, you’ve looked at your HVAC, you have even looked at your building envelope. How is it possible to still have high energy use when you have covered these important areas. The suspects might be hiding in plain sight. By taking understanding their role and taking a few easy steps, you can pull these energy wasters in line with little or no cost.
Often overlooked when examining energy consumption is the role of appliances. There are three suspects that you might want to take another look at, and with a few easy steps increase your efficiency, stopping waste and reducing your impact.
Our first suspect typically works as a energy stealing duo, your washer and dryer. These culprits represent up to 13% of the energy used in most homes, and while efficiency has improved in newer energy star certified models, there are steps that you can take with your existing washer and dryer to reduce their energy usage without replacing them.
When it comes to laundry, it all starts with sorting and washing. The size of your loads can have a domino effect as the same amount of energy is used no matter the size of the load, even if your washer uses less water for smaller loads. This doesn’t mean to overstuff your washer, that can damage your washer. Match your loads to your washer’s capacity.
Drying takes even more energy, consider hanging clothes to dry if you can. Indoor hanging racks can be helpful in apartments or during winter months. Also, the addition of wool dryer balls can help reduce drying time as they separate the clothes while they dry making the drying process faster.
Its also important to note that there is no such thing as a perfectly green detergent for that laundry load. The harvesting, processing and transporting of these products can have a big impact on their environmental impact. Take time to consider what goes into your laundry soap, how it got to your retailer, and how effective is it.
Next up as we look for energy thieves, another major appliance using a significant amount of energy is your water heater, at nearly 14% of the average household energy consumption. Like the laundry, if your buying new look for energy efficient, energy star certified models. But you can start saving money now with one simple step – setting your water temperature to 120 degrees instead of 140 degrees. This alone can save you 6-10% with no change in equipment or use, putting about $60 a year back in your pocket. For additional savings, look at the tank and hot water pipes – are they insulated? Another 4-9% in savings can be gained by these advanced steps.
Seems like your work here might be nearly done, and as you reach into your refrigerator to grab a cold beverage to celebrate your success, you have just stumbled into suspect number three, your refrigerator. 126 million refrigerators and 38 million freezers run 24 hours a day consuming a combined total of nearly 200 billion kWh of electricity each year, representing 8% of residential use. Again, like our other two appliance types, if your buying new there a great options. Efficiencies have really improved in refrigerators and again Energy Star certification provides a great indicator to make sure you are purchasing an energy efficient model. Even if your refrigerator is still operating, often local utilities have incentive programs that might make replacement a viable option. A pre-2001 refrigerator uses twice as much energy as a new Energy Star model.
But even if you’re not ready to replace your refrigerator just yet, there are a few tricks that can reduce energy consumption now. The first is to look at the lighting, there’s a strong possibility that you have incandescent lights in your refrigerator. By replacing these heat generating lamps with LED versions, you immediately improve efficiency and use less energy for lighting the interior space.
Look at where your refrigerator is located. Position it away from heat sources such as an oven, a dishwasher or heat from a window. It’s also important that there be a few inches between the wall and the back of the fridge to allow for circulation. One last thing on location, that extra refrigerator in the garage is probably costing you a lot more then you realize. Refrigerators can use 2.5 percent more energy for each 1 degree over normal ambient room temperature (70 degrees). This means your refrigerator could use 22 to 25 percent more energy in an 80-degree room, and 45 to 50 percent more in a 90-degree room. On the other hand, if the air temperature of the room falls below 40 degrees, the thermostat may not run its cooling and defrost cycles appropriately.
Another easy step is cleaning out the fridge. First, what really needs to be in refrigerator. You might be surprised that often condiments don’t require refrigeration. Secondly what is expired, but your still spending energy to keep it cool. By organizing your refrigerator, you can spend less time with the door open looking for items. Likewise, keeping air flow moving will improve efficiency and help your refrigerator run efficiently. This is done by making sure
Look at your temperature setting. According to Energy Star, your refrigerator should be set between 35-38 degrees while your freezer should be between 0-5 degrees. Keep in mind that often internal thermostats are not highly accurate on refrigerators, so checking the temperature with a refrigerator thermometer can be insightful. While your checking the temperature, also examine the door seals – close a dollar bill between the door seal and the door. Repeat at different locations along the door edge. If your dollar bill moves easily, your seals are likely not tight enough and you should consider replacing them.