10 Easy Ways to Save on Energy at Home

You can save money and lower your utility bills with these tips for energy efficiency.

| July 21, 2009

Save on energy

Unplugging devices when they’re not in use is a simple way to cut your energy costs.


These days, it’s more of a win-win than ever to save on energy. Every time you lower your utility bills, you put more money back in your bank account. And lower energy bills also means less energy consumed, which means less harmful emissions released into our environment. And what makes this an even better deal is you don’t have to overhaul your home (or buy a new one) to make it more energy efficient. There are many easy, effective things that you can do, with little investment and little or no DIY experience, to save energy at home. Here’s a list of 10 ideas to get you started.

1. Minimize Phantom Loads

The term “phantom load” refers to the energy that an appliance or electronic device consumes when it is not actually turned on. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “In the average home, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.” A report from the University of California Berkeley says that phantom loads account for about 6 percent of all national residential electricity consumption. You can eliminate phantom loads by unplugging appliances and electronics when you are not using them, or by plugging them into a power strip, and turning the strip off when they are not in use. For more information, see Save Energy, Eliminate Phantom Loads.

2. Use More Energy-efficient Appliances

If you are shopping for new appliances, make sure to look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label before making a purchase. Energy Star appliances use between 10 and 50 percent less energy and water than their conventional counterparts. They may cost more than appliances without the Energy Star designation, but in most cases they will more than make up that additional cost through energy savings.

3. Change Your Light Bulbs

One of the least expensive and most effective changes you can make in your home is replacing your light bulbs. According to Energy Star, one of its qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which cost just a few dollars, “will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.” Although some people are concerned because CFLs contain mercury, Energy Star says that CFLs do not release any mercury when in use, and actually reduce mercury emissions because they lessen the need for electricity from power plants that emit mercury. Learn more at Energy Star’s CFLs and Mercury page. For more energy-efficient lighting, see Bright Ideas for Home Lighting.

4. Install a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats work by automatically adjusting your home’s temperature to your schedule, keeping it comfortable only when you need it to be. If you don’t already adjust your thermostat throughout the day, a programmable thermostat could save you as much as 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. For more information on programmable thermostats, including a step-by-step guide to installing one, check out How to Install a Programmable Thermostat.

5. Use Fans for Cooling

In the summer, use stationary, ceiling and whole-house fans to cool your home, reducing the need for air conditioning. Simple Ways to Cool Your Home and Save Big explains that for every degree you raise your thermostat, you reduce your cooling costs between 7 and 10 percent.

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6/30/2017 6:04:04 AM

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1/18/2016 9:03:19 PM

I've averaged $65 electric bills - brought them down to $30. Electric AC kills my average in summer. CFL are perhaps more economical but getting rid of them includes hazardous materials I'm not comfortable putting in a landfill - they don't last very long either. I've converted to LED lights - perhaps more expensive, but way cheaper in energy usage. I think they will pay for themselves in 10 years or so - are advertised to work for 20 years with 5 hours use a day. I read some of your comments that they don't throw enough light - the quality of the light is different but you can get 100 W to 5 W bulb equivalents. I've experimented with them and have them all over the house - including outside. Some are dimmable, motion sensitive/light sensitive (for outside lights - turn on when dark and someone passes close). ________ Killing power to all kinds of electronics makes a difference. one strategy is using switched power strips so you can power only what you want to power - "Tripp Lite 7 Outlet (6 Individually Controlled) Surge Protector Power Strip 6ft Cord (TLP76MSG)" is available on AMAZON. I've turned off the clock on my stove; I turn off power to TV, Internet, computer, etc - no phantom power thieves in my house - all on switched power strips so I can turn on what I need and not what I don't. For small electronics I use solar powered batteries - from Goal Zero. Hope this helps someone.

9/9/2014 12:40:35 AM

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2/16/2014 1:40:18 PM

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1/14/2014 8:53:20 AM


1/14/2014 8:50:00 AM

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8/23/2013 2:42:21 AM

In the current times, it is necessary that we start working on saving energy for the betterment of our coming generations. I really like the ideas that you have shared in your post. Why not share it on Schneider electric’s page? I happened to come upon their page where I saw that they have started a campaign for their 50th Anniversary to save 50 mil kWh of energy. You can either pledge to save a certain amount of energy or share an energy conservation idea where if your idea is really good, then it will get implemented and you could win amazing prizes. Why not give it a try. http://www.schneider-electric.co.in/sites/india/en/group/events/50for50.page

8/20/2013 4:04:11 PM

If you have a pool, you can save about $100 in energy each year just by getting a new high-efficiency skimmer door, like aquapower (http://www.aquapowerpool.com). The nice thing about these is that instead of paying $700-$800 for a new pool pump, you can start saving energy immediately and I got mine for about $70.00 at Pinch a Penny. They just started making these. I think they only sell them in Florida right now, but still worth checking out.

7/14/2013 10:25:47 PM

Another great way to save energy is by using smart strips. They eliminate the threat of energy vampires, appliances that consume energy even when they are not in use, without cuasing the consumer any inconvinience. 

Learn more about smart strips at http://www.homeenergyefficiencyaudit.com/

4/25/2013 10:49:55 AM

Who cares abou earth it's so stupied I mean just let the wealth die for real who cares about this place gosh u stupied hillbillys stop caring and start killing NOOOOOW WHO CARES THIS EARTH IS A BAD PLACE SO WHO CARES FOR GEEZE GOSH STOP CARING AND START KILLIN THE EARTH AND THAT'S MY COMMET!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rick Cruz
11/4/2012 5:05:17 PM

I found that the Energymizer to be an effective way to save money on my electric bill. It saves me about 15-20% off my energy costs every month and all I had to do was just plug it in and turn it on. It only makes sense if you are spending more than $100 per month on electricity because the ROI works out for that cost point but saving money is worth it. I read the article at rickcruzdotinfo/energymizer

Rick Cruz
11/4/2012 5:04:42 PM

I found that the Energymizer to be an effective way to save money on my electric bill. It saves me about 15-20% off my energy costs every month and all I had to do was just plug it in and turn it on. It only makes sense if you are spending more than $100 per month on electricity because the ROI works out for that cost point but saving money is worth it. I read the article at rickcruzdotinfo/energymizer

10/26/2012 4:40:46 PM

You can easily build your own interior draft-removing, R-doubling or tripling window inserts that work as well or better than storm windows for about $12 a window. Instructions at http://www.arttec.net/Thermal-Windows/index.html

Henry O'Donnell
10/26/2012 3:41:57 PM

I disagree with number three. I've been switching to qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). On applications where the light is turned on off and on (e.g. hall, bathroom, living room lamps…) have a tendency to fail way before it’s time. Just two failures can cost me more economically than using an incandescent bulb. Additionally the CFL ends up in the waste stream. Thanks to our fine forwarding thinking elected officials I am now burdened to spend more on lighting. This is a brutal taxing of our economic means and more taxing to our environment ingesting mercury and plastic waste.

Puneet Kumar
7/31/2012 5:49:33 AM

I’m going to resist including to the record (haha!) everyone knows there are a lot of methods to do so, and I’m just going to say that any way that you can preserve power is a best aspect, especially over here, where power expenses have gone up twice already in a period of several weeks. Another excellent aspect is that using less power indicates you are reducing your as well as impact, so you are also assisting the world. http://www.foreclosuredatabank.com.

Elga Seibert
7/10/2011 2:42:25 PM

1) My experience with CFL light bulbs is: when 3 are purchased, 1 will NOT work. Of the ones that do work, 1 out of 3 will last only 6 months or less. 2) The LED night lights did NOT give enough light to be safe. 3) Neither gave enough light for these old eyes to see well... difficulty in reading or seeing the dark hair chins in order to pluck them. (Best light is sunlight.... even on a cloudy day). Need a minimum of 100 watt blulb for reading.

1/2/2011 5:47:16 PM

Great article. People should really think of replacing some appliances at home if they want to save on electricity. Things such as solar powered heaters, wind turbines, and biofuel technology all help in saving energy and lessening the effects of global warming. I've found a site called www.organicmechanic.com that shows you great info on how to switch to a "green" lifestyle. Go and check it out. -Verniel

Jan Steinman
11/12/2010 3:04:25 PM

(continued) If you have the money, the real winner is LED task lighting. Unlike CFBs, LEDs make excellent task lights, but basically suck at area lighting, actually consuming MORE energy than CFBs when manipulated to evenly illuminate a large area. Although MUCH more efficient, task lighting won't work everywhere. Where it is absolutely essential to have even lighting over a large area, fluorescent, compact or not, is the way to go. So don't just blindly replace bulbs. Re-design your lighting. Choose reflector desk and table lamps over ceiling lights when possible. Choose your light sources to suit your lighting needs, using LEDs (or reflector halogens) for task lighting as much as possible, THEN using CFBs as needed for area lighting. Bottom line: four 20 watt halogens in a room -- using only one at a time, as needed -- saves energy and resources over one 27 watt CFB in the ceiling, on most of the time!

Jan Steinman
11/12/2010 2:59:31 PM

Regarding "change your light bulbs," I would prefer to see "change your lightbulbs as they burn out." Although they consume less energy, CFBs are extremely resource intensive and dependent on numerous long supply chains of stuff like "coltan." Over their often-over-stated lifetime, their "embedded energy" of manufacture and transport might well be saved by reduced energy use, I've seen way too many go bad well before their "seven year" (or whatever) lifetime. I would recommend replacing incandescent bulbs as they burn out. This does a couple things: 1) it keeps an existing bulb working, and out of the land fill, and 2) it means that you will end up with CFBs where they are most needed, as the bulbs most used will be the first to burn out. It's also important to understand the difference between "task" lighting and "area" lighting. Task lighting provides intensive light in a small working area, like a desk or a stove top. Area lighting provides broad, even illumination over a large area. Area lighting is inherently inefficient, because it is, by definition, illuminating a larger area than needed for a task. CFBs are very good at area lighting, but basically suck at task lighting. You can better reduce your energy use by employing low-wattage integrated-reflector halogen lamps for task lighting then by lighting the entire area with CFBs. A 20 watt halogen light focused on a desk top will provide better lighting AND energy savings over a 27 watt CFB in a ceiling fixture.

Brian Simms
4/15/2010 5:02:50 PM

I saw an article in one of my past Mother Earth News that had a outdoor wood fired heating and electricity producing building. I for the life of me cannot find anything on this system anywhere. I'm not that good on the computer!! Any ideas or help would be appreciated. Brian

Kenneth Miller
8/22/2009 11:14:42 PM

It is amazing the one thing that saves as much or more than anything listed here isn't even mentioned. And that is...Clothesline poles! Hanging clothes out can save 10 to 15% on your total energy bill, depending on the size of your family.

Brad Reed
8/19/2009 7:41:23 PM

Am looking for plans on Solar heating of water, FL style cir: 1960 My first home wasa in Miami. boutht in 1960, it had solar water heatig system. Roff mounted, water strage on the roof, an electric booster for cloudy days. IT WORKED GREAT. nOW I WANT TO BUILD ONE IN CAPE CORAL, FL. I AM SURE YOU HAD A DESIGN FORONE BACK IN THE 60'S. PLEASE HELP. MY ELECTRIC BILL IS UP TO $295. PER MONTH.

8/19/2009 2:22:14 PM

We use what's called a Naval or Marine shower head in our shower. Not only is it very low flow, it has a push button valve on the side that lets you stop the water without having to turn off the faucet knobs (so you don't lose your hot/cold settings). So, I wet my hair and bod, use the button to stop the water while I shampoo, rinse, stop the water while soaping up, then rinse off. Granted, one could accomplish the same by turning the hot and cold water faucets on and off, but this makes it much simpler, and like I said, saves me from having to readjust the hot and cold every time. Using a Naval shower head saves us gallons of water every time we shower. BTW, it's called a Naval shower head because it's what's used on submarines and other watercraft where fresh water is at a premium. I recommend them to anyone trying to save water or electricity.

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