Easy New Year’s Energy Resolutions

About 40% of U.S. adults make New Year’s resolutions and a popular one is to spend less and save more. These simple energy resolutions can help make a dent in your energy bill and best of all these actions are largely one time actions. With about half of New Year’s resolutions abandoned by June, these quick fixes keep on reaping savings and environmental benefits all year long. Capitalize on your New Year’s resolve and start saving today!

Resolve to use the most efficient light bulbs

This one really is as easy as changing a light bulb. Incandescent bulbs are being phased out in the U.S. but there’s no reason to wait for your incandescents to burn out unless you want to continue to waste energy and money. LED bulbs use up to 80% less energy than incandescents and last an average of twenty times longer. Additionally, the cost of LEDs has come down and the quality has gone up, with ‘warm white’ and ‘soft white’ varieties, in the last few years.

Resolve to program your thermostat

Programmable digital thermostats have become the norm, replacing old fashioned and highly inefficient manual thermostats. But you have to program it!

They have pre-programmed settings to regulate your home’s temperature in both summer and winter when you are home, asleep, or away. If you need to adjust the pre-programmed settings to fit your schedule, try the Department of Energy’s recommendation of 68° when home and 56° when away or asleep in the winter. In the summer, set your air conditioning to 78° when home and 85° when away.

Smart thermostats, like the Nest or EcoBee, allow remote control and learn your behavior over time and adjust temperatures accordingly. Studies show that smart thermostats can increase energy savings by 10-20% over more traditional programmable ones.

Resolve to manage energy vampires

Energy vampires are are plugged-in devices and appliances that draw electricity even when they are not in use. Computers, smart TVs, game consoles, CD and DVD players, and appliances with clocks can all be vampires.

Unplugging vampires when not in use and plugging them back in when you need them can get tiresome quickly. Try smart plugs that can be accessed from your smartphone to turn off the device. For entertainment centers or computer stations, consider a smart powerstrip. These powerstrips have outlets that always have power and other controlling outlets that will automatically cut power to the neighboring outlets when the electrical device (e.g., TV) goes in standby mode or is turned off.

Resolve to cut your water use

The EPA estimates 3 to 4 percent of national electricity consumption, equivalent to approximately 56 billion kilowatts (kW), or $4 billion, is used in providing drinking water and wastewater services each year. Saving water, saves energy and money.

Taking shorter showers and turning off the faucet after getting your toothbrush wet are the classic advice and great behavioral changes to make. Installing faucet aerators and low flow showerheads and eliminating leaky toilets and faucets can save thousands more gallons a year. Aerators and low flow showerheads are simple DIY installs and many municipalities offer free water conservation kits. Again, these are one time actions that continue to save on daily basis.

Resolve to reduce fireplace energy loss

As cozy as they are, fireplaces typically remove more heat from a house than they contribute, sending up to eight percent of heat pump or furnace-warmed air up and out the chimney. To minimize this energy loss, make sure your damper is in good working order. Even when a fireplace damper is in good repair and closed, the sealing is not complete. Installing glass doors to the front of the fireplace or adding magnetic fireplace blankets will further cut leaks.

If you are not ready to replace a damaged damper, a chimney balloon is a less expensive option. It is an inflatable plastic balloon that seals your chimney like a throat damper. It can be used in almost any fireplace and is inflated and deflated by mouth or with a low pressure pump.

Resolve to be energy aware

This one is more a state of mind than a single action, but can go a long way in keeping you in tune with how your house uses energy and how much. If you don’t know where your home’s energy vulnerabilities and excesses are, it’s hard to take action to mitigate them. Take stock of your home’s energy use with a DIY energy assessment like this one from Virginia Energy Sense. Or you may choose to get a professional assessment like LEAP’s $45 Home Energy Check-Up available in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, more energy efficient 2019!

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