February 1, 2020

Rules of Thumb for Lighter Home Energy Use

By Rachel Ashley

Three actions to reduce your home energy footprint

One of the most tangible ways we use energy in our daily lives is to heat, cool, light, and power our homes. Home energy use accounts for 34% of the average American’s carbon footprint. It would take 309 trees per person per year to absorb all those greenhouse gas emissions.

Lowering our home carbon footprint is often not that hard, and can be a significant potential source of financial savings. Here are our top 3 tips:

Step 1: Opt into renewable energy.

If your home and location allow it, switching to solar could not only be the single most impactful action you could take, but it could also save you money over time. Websites like Energy Sage allow you to compare options for solar near you.

For those of us who rent or live in cold, grey areas, never fear! There’s an option for us too. Most utilities offer an option to purchase clean energy instead of power from fossil fuels. Go to your utility’s website, or check your city or state for local options and community choice aggregators that offer consumers clean energy (see this list or this list for ideas). It’s often as simple as pushing a button.

Step 2: Cut your base load.

Your base load is the low-lying electricity your home uses continuously, 24/7, and usually is a prime culprit for wasteful energy use.

  • Use power strips:  Do you leave things plugged in during the day? Unplug your devices or use power strips to keep them turned off when not in use. This simple action would reduce the average American’s carbon footprint by ~0.7% (like planting 6 trees) and save $150 per household in utility bills.
  • Bright ideas: It’s not just about turning your lights off, it’s about turning on the right light. Swap out your 5 most used bulbs for LEDs would not only to save $45 per year and reduce your emissions by 1%.

Step 3: Limit heating and cooling.

Heating and cooling – both air and water – are usually the most energy-intensive actions we take in our homes.

  • Wear a sweater. While it takes a lot of people to impact global temperature rise, you have the power to manage your home climate all on your own. Keep your thermostat 2 degrees cooler in the winter and 2 degrees higher in the summer to reduce your emissions by 2%, equal to the emissions absorbed by 18 trees in a year.
  • Wash on cold and air dry your clothes. Permanently switch the dial on your washing machine to “cold” and air dry one load of laundry per week to improve your footprint by ~1.2%, equal to the emissions absorbed by 10 trees in a year.
  • Get smart. Smart Thermostats, like Google Nest and Ecobee, help reduce heating and cooling by adjusting for different times of day. Google estimates a Google Nest user saves $130-145 each year.

Let us know how you plan to improve your home energy usage in 2020!

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