The 3 Biggest Energy Savings Drains in Your Home

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Today, we’re going to get away from a collection of techniques and get down to the most effective techniques you can use to save energy.

There’s three areas that use the most energy in your home, according to Energy.gov:

  • Space heating
  • Cooling
  • Water heating

Together, these three functions account for nearly 75% of your home’s energy use. So rather than spend your time adding gaskets to electrical outlets and getting little energy savings from it, focus on these instead.

Let’s get to it:

  1. Space Heating

If you can avoid using a space heater at all, do it. They consume an amazing amount of energy for the heat they produce.

They work for an emergency situation where you need heat for a few days or hours. But that’s the only situation where you should consider using them.

If you insist on using one, make sure you get the right kind. A radiant heater uses infrared radiation to heat up whatever’s closest to the unit. It won’t heat a whole room. But it could heat a desk, bed, or recliner.

The best long-term solution is insulation. Make sure your walls and attic are properly insulated. It’s common even for brand new homes in Texas to not have the appropriate amount of insulation. You can also do small things like making sure your doors have weatherstripping and your windows are covered in plastic to keep heat in.

In the winter, make sure your ceiling fan blows up at a slow speed. This bounces the heat off the ceiling and back at you and throughout your home.

  1. Cooling

The easiest thing to do here is to run your AC less often. And you might also consider turning your temperature higher a degree or two. Run your ceiling fans – they cost about a penny per hour to run. And they make you feel 3 to 8 degrees cooler. So you can turn up your thermostat to compensate for that, and save energy and money as a result.

Your ceiling fan should be blowing down to help you feel cooler.

Another great idea is to use a bed fan. You can get bed fans that blow under your sheets and keep your body cool. Meanwhile, you can turn off the AC entirely because you’ll feel cool enough.

  1. Water Heating

Easy one here. Get a solar water heater. Yeah, it costs $5000 up front. But it pays for itself in 7 years. Get a loan if you can’t afford the cash price. After that, your hot water will basically be free.

Not planning on staying in your home? No worries. Any solar system improves your home’s resale value.

Otherwise, use a gas water heater if possible, wrap it in a blanket, and use as little hot water as possible in the first place.

That’s how you reduce the wasted energy and money caused by these three big energy drains.

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The Truth Behind Shutting Down Your Computer and Putting It in Sleep Mode

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“You should shut down your computer at work and home overnight to save energy,” says one person.

“But shutting it down and starting it up again uses more energy than just shutting it down. Plus it’s hard on the machine, which causes problems,” says another.

You’ve had that argument with friends, family members, or maybe just yourself.

So what’s the truth?

The idea that your computer uses more energy when being powered off and on again is completely a myth. Turning it on and off again does cause damage. But you’d have to sit there and turn it on and off many times successively for hours on end.

So unless you’re planning on spending your time doing that, simply turning your computer on and off like you usually do isn’t going to cause harm. If your computer has problems, it’s because of defective parts or bad manufacturing, not being turned off and on.

The Truth about Today’s Laptops and Desktops

Back when sleep mode first came out more than a decade ago, energy savings were minimal at best. But energy savings still happened.

And today, sleep mode saves a significant amount of energy. The typical laptop uses 15-60 watts of energy when in use – and just 2 in sleep mode. The typical desktop and monitor uses 80-320 watts when in use, but just 5-10 watts in sleep mode.

So, you don’t need to make shutting down your computer or putting it into sleep mode a big deal at the end of each day. Instead, make sure you’ve automatically set your computer to go to sleep after a certain period of inactivity.

Don’t bother with screensavers anymore either. When they initially came out, they prolonged the life of monitors. But today, newer screens are built with so much durability and energy efficiency that screensavers make absolutely no sense to use anymore. They actually cause you to use more energy when you have them on.

If you have several family members and many devices, you may want to consider unplugging them all to save energy. Costs can add up with a number of devices.

If You Remember to Unplug at Night…

You really just have to recognize you’re one of those who goes “above and beyond” the call of duty. Admire what a great job you’ve done.

But don’t feel obligated to shut down your computer at night. It’s just not a significant source of energy savings anymore.

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5 Electricity Savings Tips So Senseless You Should Ignore Them

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Some electricity savings tips are just…well they’re just plain stupid. And you should totally ignore them.

Because they make your life really inconvenient. Or the time you spend making them happen far outweighs the money you save.

Check out these dumb tips we’ve heard to get an idea of what we mean:

  1. Wear Slippers and a Hat During Winter…When You’re Inside Your Home

Okay, so maybe slippers aren’t ridiculous. But one website we found, and we won’t mention their name, recommended wearing a hat inside all winter long. That’s because most of the heat in your body escapes through your head.

That’s true. But, could you imagine everyone in your family wearing stocking caps all winter long, and sitting around in the living room talking to one another? The only time they take theirs off would be to take a shower!

Come on! No one wants to do that. Can you imagine the complaining?

  1. Turn Down the Thermostat One Degree When Guests Come Over

So tell us, who’s thinking goes like that? “Uh-oh. Here come our guests. Let’s make sure to turn the thermostat down one single degree for two hours while they stay over.”

Seriously? You’ll save maybe 50 cents, if that. Some “energy savings opportunities” simply aren’t worth the hassle. Focus on having a good time with your guests instead.

  1. Fill Your Half-Empty Fridge or Freezer with Bottles of Water

Technically, you will save energy with this tip. But not nearly enough to justify the cost of buying the water from the store. You’re looking at pennies at best.

But even major utilities, like Wisconsin Public Service, tell you to do it. If you actually take this tip seriously, you belong on “Extreme Cheapskates.”

  1. Install Foam Gaskets Under Your Electrical Outlets

Again, you will save energy with this one. But they cost at least $1 a piece. It may take years before you recoup that dollar.

Ever heard the saying,”Can’t see the forest from the trees?” This one falls into that category. Don’t waste your short life doing it.

  1. Install Replacement Windows

Yes, windows do save energy. And sometimes a significant amount of energy. But it’s not a practical tip because it costs a lot of money to replace your windows.

So it’ll be years before you see any real financial savings, and possibly never. The only reasons you would install new windows are:

  • To make your spouse happy
  • You don’t like yours anymore
  • You really want to help the environment, even if it costs you money

Do whatever you want. We’re not here to judge you. But it’s important you know the reality of installing new windows.

Be Careful When You Read Energy Savings “Tips”

The internet lets anyone with a computer become an “expert.” So read those energy savings tips you find on the web carefully. And check them out from multiple sources to ensure they’ll give you a worthwhile benefit for your time.

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6 Ways to Save Energy You Haven’t Heard Before

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Wow, we’ve probably written thousands of energy-saving tips here on the Payless Power blog! If you followed most of them, you’ll definitely cut at least a few hundred bucks off your yearly energy bill.

Well, we’ve found a few more tips for you that we likely haven’t mentioned before. Give them a read and see if you’ve heard of them before:

  1. Paint Your Roof White

This one’s only for homeowners in sunny climates. So, Texas makes a pretty good fit. In fact, Berkeley University found that white roofs can cost up to 40% less to cool than black roofs. In a sunny climate, that amounts to $100 per year in savings.

Simply use paint rollers on an old paint roller flame, along with a long pole to save wear-and-tear on your back. And you only need to use a cheap white, elastomeric paint just about every hardware store carries.

  1. Buy a Halogen Oven

These ovens save an astonishing amount of electricity versus the standard electric oven: 75%. And they cook 50% faster too.

Roast a chicken in just 30 minutes.

  1. Forget the Water Heater Blanket – Install a Solar-Powered Water Heater

No joke here. You simply mount photovoltaic panels on your rooftop and watch the savings roll in. Some power companies offer financial incentives for doing this. Check with yours for additional savings before you actually do the installation.

  1. Keep Your Freezer Full

This seems the reverse of what you’d think. But, an empty freezer sucks more energy than a full one. So keep it full. And you’ll never have to worry about making a late run to the grocery store for supper.

  1. Grill Out When You Can

Your grilling days may be coming to an end here in December/January. But who knows? You can get the occasional warm day here and there. Buying propane or using charcoal costs less than using electric.

Keep this one especially in the forefront of your mind as spring rolls around so you don’t have to run the AC.

  1. Use Motion-Detecting Lights

Make these CFLs for sure, and LEDs if those fit your budget. Not only do they help you save serious energy, but you don’t even have to think about monitoring them for more energy savings.

So those are 6 ways to save energy that we likely haven’t discussed before.

Which will you put to use?

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How to Do Your Own Home Energy Audit

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Some power companies and HVAC companies do home energy audits completely for free. But not all do. And you may not have access to a free home energy audit.

So here’s a simple way to do your own:

  1. Check Your Furnace’s AFUE Rating

It’s easy and fast – you can’t miss it. Look for a big yellow sticker with a number on it. Say the rating is 88. That means your furnace is 88% efficient.

You can get efficiencies as high as 97 and 98. But, you pay a lot more up front for that. You should have a furnace in the 92-95 range.

  1. Check Your AC’s SEER Rating

Sorry, this isn’t as straightforward as your furnace. SEER is a bit more confusing. For starters, the higher the number, the better the efficiency.

The minimum number a central AC unit can have today is 13. For example, an AC with a SEER of 13 is 30% more efficient than one with a SEER of 10.

So, consider a more efficient central AC if yours is getting old (15-20 years), or if you’d like to buy a more efficient unit.

  1. Check Your Home For Drafts

This is one of your biggest, and most cost-effective, wins. You might know of some already. To find major leak sources, wait for a windy day, and close all your windows and turn off your gas furnace and water heater. Shut all your windows and your fireplace flue.

You can either wet your hand or light an incense stick. Pass your hand or the stick around baseboards and windows. If the smoke wavers or your hand feels cold, you’ve found a draft and an area to seal off.

  1. Water Use

You should have a low-flow shower head, low-flow toilets, and low-flow sink faucet aerators. That’s what you need for optimal efficiency anyway.

  1. Insulation

This one’s harder to check on your own because you don’t look at insulation every day and learn what’s good and what’s not. When you go up in your attic, you should notice insulation piled as high as the tops of your floor joists. If it’s fallen lower than that, then it’s settled. And it’s time to have some new stuff blown in.

If you notice your house feeling unusually hot during summer or strangely cold during the winter, that’s another sign you need insulation. If you’re one of the rare Texas homes with a basement, it should be heated. If it’s not, you should have insulation.

So those are some of the areas for the biggest wins. Give them a check, and see which fit your budget.

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5 Tips for Saving Electricity with Your Kids This Year

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You can save energy and have fun with your kids too. And you can help them understand ways to save energy at the same time.

Here’s some ideas you can do:

  1. Use Rechargeable Batteries in Their Toys

It’s a small way you can save serious energy over buying batteries. And it’s a great way to teach your kids too. Plus, you won’t have to worry about buying batteries every time you go to the store.

And you can teach your kids basic handyman skills – like how to use a screwdriver and put the batteries in. Who’d have thought their toys could be such a great teaching tool?

  1. Turn Off the Videogames and Play Outside

PS4 and Xbox One are energy hogs – even when you’re not playing them. The electric costs do add up, but they’re nothing compared to the bonding you miss out on with your children.

Teach them how to have a good time outside during the winter. Maybe it’s hockey, snowshoeing, snowball fights, ice skating, or wrestling. And remind them how you save electricity by not playing all those videogames!

  1. Use LED Lights for Your Decorations

LEDs are so ridiculously efficient that they’re like using no electricity at all. By the time your kids grow up, hopefully they’ll have replaced CFLs.

Teach your kids about LEDs versus CFLs. Maybe talk about the “old days” and their advantages over incandescents. Buy your kids LED flashlights and play hide’n’seek, tell scary stories, or read their favorite books.

  1. Vampires Don’t Come Out Just on Halloween…

Sorry to say it, but energy vampires suck your energy 365 ¼ days per year. We’re referring to appliances you leave plugged. This could also be your laptop charger, smartphone charger, or maybe a charger for your kid’s toys. It’s a great teaching opportunity to show your children that even the small things count.

  1. Buy Energy-Star Devices

If you are getting your children some electronics, make sure they have the big Energy Star logo on the side. Explain to your children what that label means. There’s no guarantees as to the amount of energy you’ll save, but you will save significant energy compared to similar devices without the label.

Saving energy can be fun….without making your life irritating or miserable.

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4 Winter Energy Savings Mistakes Not to Make

Festively decorated living room

“He’s making a list – and checking it twice! Santa Claus is coming…to town.”

But if you make these naughty winter energy savings mistakes, he might cross your name off the list and give you a nice sack of coal:

  1. Turning Your HVAC System Off

Think of how much money you’d save by not running your heating at all…

Wait a minute. Don’t do that – ever.

It actually puts a lot of stress on your HVAC system and costs you more in energy and wear on HVAC system than you get in savings.

Instead, change your thermostat based on activity levels in your home. If people are going to be in your house, and they’re going to be actively using it, use 68, or whatever your most comfortable setting is. If no one’s going to be around, or you’re all going to sleep, cut that to 60 (or 8 degrees lower than your comfortable setting).

Your energy bills – and your HVAC system – will thank you for it.

  1. Not Changing Your Filter Costs You 15% in Wasted Energy

It’s easy to forget about your filter, among all the other things you have to do in life. The recommendation home inspectors and realtors give is to check yours every time you pay your mortgage.

If it’s a high-usage month, like you need serious heat every day like you do in January or February (or nearly every day), change your filter monthly. If it’s one of those “tweener” months like October or November, you can usually safely change your filter every 2 months.

  1. Ignoring Obvious Problems

Umm…what was that noise you just heard? Or maybe your system cycles on and off constantly. Or maybe you don’t get nearly the heat you should.

Money gets low during the holidays. No doubt about it. But you can’t afford to ignore obvious HVAC system issues too long.

They only get worse and cost you more money. Try to get a no-interest financing plan if you can’t afford a large repair or replacement.

  1. Your Water Heater is the Ultimate Villain of Energy Savings

Poor guy…he’s all alone at the top by himself. That’s cause your water heater sucks about 13% of your home’s entire energy usage.

From a cost and energy-savings perspective, gas water heaters beat the stuffing out of electric ones. Gas water heaters cost about 50% less than electric ones to buy, and they cost about $1300 less to operate over a 13-year period.

If you’re stuck with an electric one, turn the temperature down to 120 degrees. That keeps the water comfortably warm. And you’ll save around $20 per month.

Avoid those winter energy-savings mistakes…and watch your bank account swell this holiday season.

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The 2015 Thanksgiving Energy Savings Guide

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Thank goodness just for the simple things – like electricity and heat – this Thanksgiving. According to Scientific American, somewhere around 25% of the world doesn’t have access to electricity. And in 14 countries, less than 10% of the entire population has electricity.

Really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Back here in the US, it’s not so much the access. And it’s not the cost, either – electricity’s cheap. But, you have so many bills, and you have to save where you can. And you can do things right now to save on your electric bills.

So here’s how you can make that happen this Thanksgiving:

  1. Turn Down the Thermostat a Couple Degrees

More bodies means more heat generated. So you can turn down the thermostat a little without sacrificing any comfort for everyone.

  1. Let Food Cool Before Putting it in Your Fridge or Freezer

Your food will release that heat once you put it in the fridge or freezer. And that forces both to work harder. Plus, there’s other vapors in your food that make life more difficult for the fridge and freezer.

Let your food cool off as much as possible before putting it away for the day.

  1. Tell Your Guests to Bundle up And Wear Their Coats, Hats, and Gloves!

We’re kidding on this one! Had to see if you were paying attention.

Seriously, though, wear long and warm shirts and pants. You may be able to notch off another couple degrees from the thermostat.

  1. Use Your Microwave Instead of the Oven

Okay, so we’re not referring to microwaving your turkey. You’d be in for a family get-together akin to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

But, where possible, do use your microwave to cook instead. It draws half the power of your oven when in use, and it takes less time to cook.

  1. Got a Second Refrigerator? Move It To Your Basement!

With this one, you’re getting a double-whammy. When it’s cold out, frozen foods can melt because the temperature sensor only activates at 42 degrees or higher. And if it’s warm out, the refrigerator has to work harder to keep things cold.

Your basement has a more constant, and cool temperature. Stick the refrigerator down there by its lonely self. You won’t hurt its feelings!

  1. Careful When You Let Your Oven Self-Clean

If it has this feature, don’t use it unless it needs a major cleaning. Use a damp cloth to take care of minor cleaning tasks.

And if you do have to use the self-clean feature, do it right after cooking (if possible) or later at night when electricity use is lowest.

Enjoy the savings…and hey…make sure they help you host a great Thanksgiving!

 

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6 Heating Savings Tips To Cut Your Energy Bills This Winter

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It’s off to grandmother’s house we go…

But you don’t want to increase grandma’s heating bills!

After all, she and grandpa are retired now, and they have to watch their expenses closely.

While you visit, share these tips for saving on heating costs with her:

  1. Cover Up Those Bare Floors

Hardwood looks nice, but unfortunately it’s not helpful when it comes to your heating bills. Heat has a more difficult time escaping through carpeting and rugs. If grandma wants to save on her heating bills, tell her she can increase that savings by putting out some holiday-themed rugs to cover any bare floors.

  1. Close Your Fireplace’s Flue

Grandma’s house has a beautiful old fireplace. It helps add heat when in use.

But let grandma know that she needs to remember to close the flue when not burning anything. Otherwise, she’ll experience some unpleasant cold drafts…and high heating bills!

  1. Keep Your Thermostat Close to the Outside Temperature

It’s not always possible, is it? She won’t drop the temperature to 40 degrees when it’s 20 outside.

You have to use some common sense. But, if she can keep her home at 65 degrees when it’s 50 outside, that’s going to save money versus keeping the temperature at 70 or higher.

  1. Drapes and Furniture are Beautiful…But Don’t Let Them Block Air Vents

It’s easy for grandma (and you) to forget about those air vents along the floor. But to keep her home at the temperature set at the thermostat, those vents have to stay unblocked.

  1. If You’re Leaving for Vacation…

Or even if grandma’s just leaving to visit other family for a few days, remind her to set the thermostat down when she leaves. 60 degrees is enough to do the job during winter.

She shouldn’t turn it off…the house could get too cold and cause damage to pipes or appliances.

  1. Think about Buying a Heat Pump

Heat pumps can give grandma some pretty serious energy savings. In fact, she might be able to cut her energy costs in – get this – half.

Share those tips with grandma. And think about how great you’ll feel for helping her save some money and improve her financial comfort a little!

 

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4 Sneaky Ways to Save Energy This Fall

Miniature Pinscher in costume.

Halloween is the time of year to be sneaky, underhanded, and maybe slightly deceptive (but in a fun, not harmful, way).

Try putting fake cockroaches in your children’s favorite cereal box.

Buy an undead teddy bear and sneak it into your child’s collection, or if you’re gutsy, into their arms as they sleep.

Use this camera hoax app to add a fake ghost to one of your family photos – and terrify everyone!

April Fool’s day is no fun – everyone’s expecting something. But, you can surprise and scare the living daylights out of your closest family members with those simple tricks.

Oh, and you can surprise your family with some extra money from additional energy savings like these too:

  1. Start with the Coffee Maker

You gotta have coffee, so throwing it away is not an option. But do you know where coffee makers waste serious energy?

When they keep your coffee warm. Instead of letting your coffee maker warm your coffee, dump it into a thermos immediately after it finishes brewing.

You’ll save a sweet $4.90 per month.

  1. CFL Lighting Has Some Nice Hidden Savings Benefits

Incandescent lights not only waste electricity, but about 90% of their energy actually generates heat, not electricity.

So not only do you pay to keep the lights on, but you pay to cool your home off from the additional heat they produce.

The best solution is LED lights. But they’re not necessarily affordable for everyone (although they’re getting close).

CFLs are affordable. They use 75% less electricity and don’t create nearly as much heat.

  1. What to Do with Washing Dishes

Hand-washing dishes has a surprising energy savings benefit: less heat used to heat the water. 80% of the savings comes from that, and 20% comes from the reduced water use.

You can save when your dishwasher does its drying. Air-dry if your dishwasher has the option – it uses 15-50% less energy than the heat-drying option. If you can’t do that, let your dishwasher rinse, and then open the door and let your dishes air dry.

You’ll save $3 per month.

  1. Quilted Curtains Block Sneaky Drafts

Most likely, drafts will come from your windows. But it can be hard to find their true source.

So you can make your life easier by simply buying quilted curtains. It takes less than 10 minutes to install them.

You’ll feel more comfortable, and you can turn the temperature down.

The final savings, in this case, are up to you!

Your energy bills won’t sneak up on you if you follow those slick tips.

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