October is Energy Awareness Month. We visited the U-Haul Sustainability team to ask the experts how they save energy all year round. You’ll no-doubt find some tips here that will help you save energy too. Take a look!
Thermostats, Time of Use and Water
There are four people living in our two-story home. With a large pool, two HVAC units and frequent teenage get-togethers; saving energy is a priority for us.
- We use a programmable thermostat to increase temps while we are away at work and school, and then cool off with lower settings during off-peak hours.
- We set the dishwasher and pool motor to run in the middle of the night and we do all laundry on the weekends. By scheduling appliances to run at different times during off-peak hours, we reduce the energy demand on our utility, lower our energy costs and maintain an energy-saving routine that everyone in the house can accommodate.
Many of us know the collection, distribution, and treatment of drinking water and wastewater consume tremendous amounts of energy. Did you know that much of your water use at home contributes to your energy bill?
When we use water, we are often using energy, mostly to heat the water.
- At my home, we always wash with cold water, laundry detergent works just as well.
- It’s also a workable idea to turn down your water heater tank’s thermostat to 120 degrees or put it midway between the “low” and “medium” marks. That’s high enough for most of your warm water needs. By adjusting the thermostat, we find we can save about 4-5% in energy costs and reduce the risk of scalding.
Fuel-Efficiency and Vampire Energy
I’ve enjoyed working at U-Haul for the past eight years, and used to commute 22 miles each way to and from the U-Haul Towers in a gas-guzzling SUV. Now I happily drive a Prius, saving gas money and not polluting our skies with as much CO2.
When I first bought my home, I invested in increased attic insulation, and better windows. I share my home with two teenage sons, and my always-there teenage nephew. To help lower our electric bill, I encourage the boys to keep the lights off (better atmosphere for video-gaming), and to turn electronics off when leaving the room. I understand ‘vampire energy’, and started unplugging lamps, kitchen counter appliances, etc. when not in use.
I’ve definitely seen a decrease in our utility bills.
LED, ‘Smart’ Devices and Strategic Shade
As a new homeowner with multiple people living in my home, it is imperative for me to be conscious of my energy consumption. I always strive to be conservative with energy by using energy-efficient products and features such as a LED lighting, applying power-saving modes on TVs and Computers, utilizing the ‘Eco’ setting on my washer and dryer.
However, living in Arizona, the greatest challenge is to reduce energy consumption used by air conditioning, especially at peak times in the day. Further, with people coming and leaving my home at all different times throughout the week the issue is not as simple as turning the temperature up before leaving and back down when returning home. To best address this challenge I installed a ‘smart thermostat’ connected to my home Wi-Fi network that is capable of detecting when my home is or is not occupied. This allows the air conditioning to run only when necessary and to run more efficiently while maintaining a comfortable temperature. With the added convenience of not having worry about frequently adjusting the temperature on the thermostat in my home, I am anticipating 20% reduction in electrical energy consumption each year!
I live in a 914 sq. ft. stucco home with my loving husband, dog and cat. Our small home was built in 1940 and while it still stands beautifully after 76 years, it is very clear that attention to energy efficiency was not a priority during construction. Since we’ve occupied the home, we have tried to remedy the lack of energy efficiency.
- First, we installed LED bulbs in all fixtures inside and out. These were a few dollars more than CFL bulbs, but they significantly reduce our energy consumption, will last many years and do not generate heat.
- Second, our poorly insulated east and west side walls get constant sun exposure and heat up our home, but we learned that our local utility provider operated a free shade tree program. We applied and were given three shade trees that are fast growing and suited for our climate. We planted these trees near both our east and west facing walls in order to shade our house from the sun. Mature shade trees will keep the house cooler in the summer and reduce the burden on our air conditioning.
- Lastly, we retrofitted our original wood encased windows with low-e coated glass and installed cellular windows shades. Cellular window shades allow natural light in during the day, but the cellular shape makes it difficult for energy to transfer from one side to the other, keeping our home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
These small steps have already made a big difference in the energy efficiency of our small historic home.
It can be a challenge to get four roommates on four different schedules to be conscious about energy consumption. However, after receiving our first utility bill (let’s just say it was high!), we became committed to dialing back our usage.
Whenever the last person leaves the house for class, he is responsible for turning up the thermostat. We keep the thermostat around 83°F until after 6 P.M. when peak hours ends. My house is recently remodeled with energy efficient windows and a solar water heater which help keep costs low in the Arizona sun. It’s work in progress for four college students, but we’ve already made lots of headway!
Whether your goal is to reduce energy at home or elsewhere, making some of these small changes to your routine will add up to real savings in your energy bill, while reducing the demand on your utility provider and reducing energy-related emissions in our skies. It’s great to have energy awareness in October, but these savings are a win-win solution during the entire year!
How do you save energy at home or at work? Share your ideas in the comments below.