5 Ways You Can Save Energy, Money at Home

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Did you know October is Energy Awareness Month? There’s no better time than now to remind you of how much you can save if you keep an eye on what you consume.

A groundbreaking ceremony is held for the newest Air Force 19-megawatt solar array at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on March 24, 2015. It's the second industrial-scale array at the base. Once complete, they will be the largest photovoltaic system in the Department of Defense. U.S. Air Force photo

The 19-megawatt solar array being installed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, will be the base’s second industrial-scale array and the largest photovoltaic system in the DoD. U.S. Air Force photo

All branches of the military are doing what they can to conserve energy to save money and natural resources. For example, a new solar array being installed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada will add to the current array’s production, resulting in 100 percent of the base’s daytime operations being powered by solar energy. It will also be the largest solar array in the Department of Defense.

While cool things like that are happening around the services, you can find ways to save at home, too. Here are five areas where you can do a little to save a lot.

Insulate and Seal Air Leaks

According to the Department of Energy, home heating and cooling accounts for 48 percent of total energy consumption in American homes. That’s nearly half!

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Collin Uvanni caulks the baseboards of the new post office at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, June 6, 2006. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Collin Uvanni caulks the baseboards of the new post office at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, June 6, 2006. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson

First, do a home energy audit. If you determine you need more insulation, make sure you pick the right type and level, or R-value, for your area. You can figure that out here, or ask a contractor about it. You might also need to insulate walls and air ducts.

Seal drafts in your home by adding weather stripping to doors or by using caulk around windows, which can account for 10-25 percent of your heating bill. There’s also the option of using removable rope caulk or shrink-to-fit plastic sheeting kits, both of which are cost-efficient and pretty effective.

If you have the money, though, you might want to consider replacing your old windows with thermopanes, which can increase energy efficiency by up to 70 percent.

Also, close off rooms you don’t use regularly and shut their vents to contain the heat to a smaller space.

Use a Programmable Thermostat 

Photo courtesy of energystar.gov

Photo courtesy of energystar.gov

You can save up to 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10-15 percent for eight hours. It’s easy to do with a programmable thermostat.

Once the thermostat is installed – your utility provider may do this for you – you can set it at varying temperatures during different times of day. For example, you may set it several degrees lower while you’re at work, a few degrees higher when you get home, then back down when you go to bed. Usually, there’s room for several settings a day.

Improve Water Heating

Water heating accounts for about 12 percent of your utility bills, so try these things to cut that back:

Use less hot water. Take shorter showers and wash your clothes in cold water.

Turn down the water heater’s thermostat; they often come set high, but 120 degrees is a good temp.

Photo courtesy of Huntington Veterans Medical Center

Photo courtesy of Huntington Veterans Medical Center

Insulate the water heater storage tank (NOT thermostat) by following the manufacturer’s recommendations. You can also insulate the first couple of feet of the water pipes connected to it.

Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads (try WaterSense-labeled products). Fix leaky faucets immediately since they can quickly waste gallons.

Drain a quart of water from your tank every three months to remove sediment that can impede heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of the heater. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for this, too. Also, according to the DOE, installing a drain water waste heat recovery system can provide energy savings of 25-30 percent.

If possible, buy an energy-efficient water heater model, as well as dishwashers and clothes washers, for more long-term savings. Heat pump, natural gas on-demand, solar and tankless water heaters have been known to be very cost-efficient.

Upgrade Lighting 

By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the Energy Star, you can save $75 each year. Photo by energy.gov

By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the Energy Star, you can save $75 each year. Photo by energy.gov

Lighting can account for about 11 percent of your energy budget. Improving on it can be one of your easiest fixes, so start by trading out your old incandescent bulbs for more efficient linear fluorescent tubes or compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

Yes, I know those bulbs cost more, but they’re cheaper in the long run because of how little electricity they use. Energy Star CFLs can save about $30 over each bulb’s lifetime. They also use about 75 percent less energy, produce 75 percent less heat and last 6-12 times longer, the DoE said.

Use timers and dimmers to save electricity, and of course, turn lights off when you’re not in the room.

If you want to get even more savings, try LED lights, which use even less energy than CFLs.

Unplug

The DoE said turning off computers, printers and small appliances and unplugging chargers and plug strips when they’re not in use actually does conserve power. If you don’t already have a laptop, get one instead of a desktop — they use much less energy.

Lastly for, all of the above, buy Energy Star products, making sure to activate the “power management” features to get the energy savings.

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