Time for a Energy Diet

As the child of people who lived through the Great Depression, I grew up on an “energy diet.” My parents encouraged us to turn off the lights when leaving the room, put on a sweater instead of turn up the heat, and walk to the store instead of drive.

My parents ingrained these habits into their children, but were rarely able to afford to undertake the more expensive items on the energy diet list. There are a lot of these big-ticket changes being pushed today too: buy a smaller car, insulate your house well, install energy-efficient windows, and buy an efficient furnace.

These are big expenses, but are good to accomplish – if you have the money. In the meantime, here are some other “diet tricks” that help my family broaden our energy diet.

Use a Kill A Watt

Our library has a really cool item to checkout. It’s called the Kill A WattTM. This device connects to your appliances to check their efficiency. You can calculate the kilowatt usage of the appliance by day, week, month or year to get an idea of how much power each appliance uses. You may be shocked with how much energy your water heater, dryer and refrigerator uses! The knowledge you receive from the Kill A Watt could help you consider ways to save money on these appliances.

Unplug unused appliances

If you don’t want to head down to the library to check out the gadget, you can unplug those appliances you aren’t immediately using. I have plugged our television, DVD player, and stereo system into power strips so that I can turn off all of the appliances at once when we’re done using them. The same goes for the computer and all its accessories.

Remember that most appliances operate on “standby power,” which means they are ready to operate in a moment when they are plugged in. For instance, our microwave has a clock and our DVD player has a little red light, both of which let me know the appliance is plugged in a ready to go. However, those clocks and lights use power to run – a small amount of power of course – but nevertheless it adds to the electricity bill.

I also make sure to unplug the toaster and the other appliances on the kitchen countertop. I first did this when the children were small, so the hot toaster, etc., wouldn’t hurt them, and I noticed our kilowatt usage took a nice dive.

Put you computer to sleep

If you must leave your computer on all day, use the energy saving feature to put the monitor and the hard drive to sleep. If you find they fall asleep too quickly, it is easy to adjust for a longer period of time. You can also save energy by turning your computer off at night.

Use a slow cooker

Rather than heat up your oven to cook dinner, why not put it in the slow cooker? If your family eats a lot of one-pot meals, this is a great way to save time and energy. Some estimates say that on average, a slow cooker running for 10 hours uses about 25 cents worth of electricity.

Turn your water heater down

New parents today are reminded to turn the water heater down so the water temperature at the tap is no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent children from being scalded. This also makes sense for energy savings.

Most water heaters’ thermostats should be easy to check. The thermostat is usually located behind a panel on the front of the appliance. Please check your model’s instruction book for step-by-step instructions on where to find the thermostat and how to adjust it safely.

Don’t turn down the water heater any more than 130 degrees Fahrenheit though. That is the lowest it can go and still kill germs in the water tank.

Reconsider holiday lighting

There is nothing better than the holiday light displays around our town. I especially appreciate them after Daylight Savings Time has reverted to Standard Time and it is dark early in the evening.

However, last year we put up our usual holiday lights on our house, and I noticed an increase of $20 for every month the lights were up (we put them up around Thanksgiving and took them down in the middle of January). That extra electricity use, coupled with the rise in electricity rates that year, made the bill noticeably higher. If you’re really trying to pinch pennies this year, a non-lighted display will save money.

Turn that thermostat down

If you’re lucky enough to have a furnace with a thermostat, turning down the temperature even two degrees can add up to noticeable savings. Make sure and turn the thermostat down even more at night, if possible, and add another blanket if you find it’s too cold. My father tells me he even sleeps wearing a stocking cap on his head at night!

In addition, rather than heat the whole house with the big furnace, consider a space heater. It will warm the room your family is in, while the rest of the house can be kept at a cooler temperature. Space heaters seem much better than they used to be. Many seem safer and will turn off if they tip over.

You can do it

Taking your energy diet to heart is like any lifestyle change. It’s hard at first, but after a bit of practice, it will become ingrained.

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7 Responses to Time for a Energy Diet

  1. Julie says:

    I only turn on my hot water heater when I am going to take a shower or use the dishwasher. I have saved a fortune over the past 31 years that I have been doing this.

  2. kerry says:

    @ Julie: that’s an interesting idea, but are you using a tankless heater? I’m not sure my time management skills are up to the task of remembering the water heater before a shower (a mistake you’d only want to make once :) )

  3. Joan says:

    “If you

  4. April says:

    Some old systems with steam radiators don’t have a thermostat. I once lived in such a place. I had on and off. I finally figured out that was why a bunch of places in the neighborhood had windows open in winter. We turned the steam on, then opened various windows to get the right balance.

  5. Benjamin says:

    Great Article!

    Kill A Watts are great, my buddy and I recently did an “audit” of his house and realized that a stereo that he had plugged into an outlet in his basement (that he realized) was costing him over $3 a month in passive energy use!

    Also, that is a great suggestion about the wasteful use of holiday lighting decorations!

  6. ThiNg says:

    Just a quick add-on. You have to be careful about directly cutting the power to certain items. If you own a projection TV, like my 52 inch Sony Grand Vega, when you turn off the power from the remote, the fan stays on for a couple of minutes to cool the lamps. Cutting the power directly could cause your lamp to prematurely burn out – an expensive boo boo to say the least.

    Most items that need to be left on will be pretty obvious – they will continue to whir and make noises or beeps when turned off. Then a couple of seconds or minutes later they will go quiet. Then you can kill the power at the outlet!

  7. I keep my programmable thermostat at 72 Fahrenheit when the humans are gone, 74 when the humans are awake, and 72 overnight. However, it is hard to leave one

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