Saving money is an important goal, but often hard to do with the high cost of energy. As of 2005, the average American family paid $1,900 annually for utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (see References 4, page 4-4). The agency claims many families can save money and reduce their energy use by up to 25 percent by changing some of their habits at home and on the road. (See References 1)
Heat and Cool Efficiently
Heating and cooling is a major use of energy in most households. Decrease your costs while still keeping your living areas comfortable by insulating your house. Start with weather-stripping and caulking drafty areas; both are inexpensive and can make a noticeable difference in your energy bills. Maintain your heating and cooling system with regular service by a qualified professional, and change the filters regularly. When it's time to replace the system, choose an efficient Energy Star-labeled model. (See References 1)
Lower your electricity bill by replacing the incandescent bulbs in frequently used light fixtures with LEDs or CFLs. Unplug home electronics when you're not using them to avoid so-called "vampire" energy use -- many devices draw several watts of standby electricity, even when they are turned off. A power strip is a handy way to cut power to more than one electronic device at once. Turn your water heater's thermostat down to 120 F to reduce energy costs. Air-dry your dishes rather than using electricity to run the drying cycle in the dishwasher. (See References 1)
Not everyone can afford a brand new hybrid vehicle, but you can maximize the efficiency of your current vehicle by tuning it up and maintaining it properly. Inflate your tires to the levels listed on the sticker inside the doorframe to reduce rolling resistance. Drive efficiently by avoiding jackrabbit starts and stops; braking and accelerating hard use more fuel than slow and steady driving. Carpool or combine trips whenever you can to cut down on fuel use. (See References 2)
Reduce the energy used to ship products across the country or the world by buying local food. Cooking from scratch is often cheaper and healthier than buying processed food or eating out. In general, meat is more expensive than vegetables in both monetary and energy terms, so consider reducing the amount of meat in your diet by substituting vegetarian meals a few times a week. Buy food in bulk only when you can use or freeze before it goes bad -- more than 34 million tons of food waste is generated in the United States in 2009 (see References 3, page 7).
- U.S. Department of Energy: Save Energy and Money Today
- Federal Trade Commission; Saving Money at the Gas Pump: A Bumper-to-Bumper Guide; May 2006
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2009 Facts and Figures; December 2010
- U.S. Department of Energy; 2007 Buildings Energy Data Book; September 2007
Based in central Missouri, Rachel Steffan has been writing since 2005. She has contributed to several online publications, specializing in sustainable agriculture, food, health and nutrition. Steffan holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Truman State University.
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