For this post, I am going to step away from my amateur radio hobby and talk about things related to my day job.
During the week, when I am not playing radio, I am working full-time for an organization that promotes environmental / energy conservation. While I am on the job, I am visiting homes providing products that both conserve energy and save our clients money. During these visits I also provide some consultation on changing behaviors to reduce consumption.
Along my travels, I have seen all sorts of behaviors when it comes to how people use energy (electric or other). Some are good, some are very bad. As a result of this, I have put together some tips that you can use to help reduce the amount of energy you consume in your home and help save you a little money at the same time.
Some of these tips are free to implement, others may cost a little bit, but the return should be greater than the initial cost (given enough time). Also, for the purpose of this article we will assume that ENERGY USAGE = COST, as that is typically the case, unless you are using solar or wind power to generate your own electricity.
Tip # 1: TURN IT OFF – The old saying “It costs more to turn it off and on than it does to leave it on” is a myth. It costs much more to leave your lights, appliances, and even your car on than it does to shut it off and turn it back on again when you need it.
Tip #2: Reduce your shower time – I would recommend that showers be reduced to ten minutes or less. The less hot water you use, the less the heater has to work to heat the cold water coming in. Also, if you are on a well, it will cost less to run the pump to fill the tank. If you are on a city or municipal system, where the incoming and outgoing water is measured, then it should also help reduce your water bill.
Tip # 3: Install low flow water measures – The most popular of these that I’ve seen are low flow shower heads and aerators. A really efficient shower head should only use about 1.5 to 1.75 gpm (or approx 5.7 lpm). A good example of a very efficient shower head is the Bi-Max which can switch between 1.0 gpm and 1.5 gpm. Another efficient one I’ve found is this 1.75 gpm from Toto. Don’t be scared, low flow does not necessarily mean low pressure. Most manufacturers have overcome this problem and actually provide great water pressure. You should be able to easily find some low flow aerators at your local hardware store. Try to purchase the most efficient ones possible.
Tip # 4: Wrap your hot water heater in an insulated blanket – For what it’s worth, a hot water heater is highly inefficient (as is most anything with an element). Although the newer ones are better insulated, they will still lose heat over time and need to turn on to reheat the water in the tank. Naturally, if we can reduce the heat loss, we can reduce the energy needed to heat the water. A typical tank blanket / cover should add an R value of around 5 to your tank, thus improving the efficiency and reducing the cost to run it. Most hardware stores will carry these blankets. I’ve included a couple of pictures so you know what to look for.
Tip # 5: Install energy efficient light bulbs – This one can be costly if done all at once but can be a huge saver. I currently recommend Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) as they are the most affordable and provide great energy savings. A typical CFL that replaces a 60w incandescent bulb uses only 13w and a typical 100w replacement uses 23w. Do the math and you can figure out how quickly the savings will add up. If you have a bit extra to spend, you can look into getting some LED bulbs as they do reduce consumption even further and have a much longer life span.
I’ve got a bunch more that I could add but I will save those for a future post. This should be enough to get you thinking about reducing your consumption and cost! If you have any specific questions or comments feel free to add them in the comments section.