Easy ways to save money and energy at home

According to Energy Star, a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), which costs only a few dollars, will save about $30 over its lifespan and will pay for itself in just six months. In addition, CFLs actually reduce mercury emissions around the world, because they lessen the need for electricity from power plants that emit mercury. Coal-fired power generation accounts for 51 percent of the mercury emissions in the U.S. But CFL bulbs contain mercury, so some people prefer not to use them due to safety concerns if a bulb brakes. LED light bulbs (light-emitting diodes) cost more upfront but last even longer than CFLs, consume less energy and they contain no mercury.
What are some other easy ways to save energy and money? How about getting rid of the phantom of the office? Desktop computers and laptops continue to use power in sleep mode if they are plugged in. There are similar phantoms-phantom electrical loads-that can be found throughout the home. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that 75 percent of electricity used to power home electronics is actually consumed while the products are turned off. Some people feel it is not convenient to turn multiple appliances and electronics on and off, but a power strip allows multiple devices to be turned off with one switch. Conserving water is becoming a fact of life. Using less water will lower the overall water bill, and using less hot water will save on the electric or gas bill. Lowering the hot water temperature to 120° saves energy and is hot enough for showers and use in clothes washers and dish­washers. Water-efficient fixtures, including showerheads, faucets and toilets are available, and appliances should be upgraded to those labeled with the Energy Star designation as they are replaced. Demand-type water heaters (tankless) provide hot water only where it is needed and do not produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters. Creating a drought-resistant landscaping can also cut down on water usage outdoors.
When the air-conditioner is on, another way to reduce energy consumption is by raising the temperature. For every degree higher it is set, cooling costs are reduced between seven and ten percent. Periodically replace air filters when running the heating or cooling system and it will operate more efficiently. Ceiling and whole-house fans can also play a large role in keeping inside temperatures manageable while reducing cooling and heating costs.
With more than fifty percent of a home’s energy use going towards heating and cooling, slowing the flow of air between inside and out can make it easier to control temperature. Adding insulation in the ceiling is one way to reduce that air flow. Measuring the current level of insulation is easy and can be done using a yardstick to measure the thickness of the insulation, and then multiplying the thickness by the R-value (resistance to heat flow) of the insulation material. The R-value ratings of a variety of attic insulations can be found on the Department of Energy website. The site also lists the appropriate R-value ratings for various parts of the country. Adding insulation to an attic is often one of the most cost-effective methods of improving a home’s energy performance.
Sealing areas where air leaks may occur will save energy and lower energy costs. Some common areas to check include weather-stripping around doors, caulk around window frames and any unsealed spaces around pipes; check for air leaks in the attic hatch, around fireplace dampers, mail slots, and wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.