Major appliances in the home consume a considerable amount of energy every day and increase your monthly bill. These include everything from washers and dryers to AC units and water heaters. Luckily, there are a few clever ways you can use appliances differently to cut consumption and costs.
How Much Energy Do Your Appliances Use?
There is an easy formula to find out how much energy your major appliances use and how much it costs to operate each one every day. There are exhaustive lists of estimated wattage for each appliance available across the internet.
A refrigerator, for instance, requires between 370 and 780 watts to run. An electric water heater needs an estimated 4000 watts, an electric stove around 2000 watts, a microwave is estimated around 1000 watts, central AC units run at 1500 watts, a washer at 1150 watts, and an electric clothes dryer at 5400 watts.
These are only estimates based on average power and efficiency. If you want more accurate wattage, please check the manual or energy star rating of your appliance.
Once you have determined the actual or estimated wattage of your appliances, try to estimate how many hours per week these appliances are in use. Approximately how many hours do you use the washer to wash your clothes, for instance?
For example: If you use the washer that needs 1150 watts three hours a week, you can use the formula:
Wattage (real or estimated) / 1000 x number of hours / 7 days x cost per kilowatt-hour / month or 30 days = total cost per month
This translates to:
1150 (watts) / 1000 x 0.43 (hours per week) x 0.15 (cost per kWh) x 30 (days) = $2.26
This means that using your washer costs about $2.26 a month. You can go ahead and apply this formula to all major appliances in your home. If you are not sure about the cost per kilowatt-hour, you can find it on your monthly energy bill.
Changing the Way You Use Appliances
Learning how to use your home appliances in an energy-efficient way has many benefits. The biggest benefit is arguably that you will ultimately pay less for power. You will also be relieving the national grid and doing your bit for the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
Indoor and Outdoor Lighting
Energy consumed by light bulbs might seem insignificant, but because they are on for most of the evening, every night, the costs add up. Using the above-mentioned formula, if an ordinary light bulb consumes 75 watts and is on for 6 hours a day, then:
75 /1000 x 42 hours/ 7 days x 0.15 x 30 days = $2.02 per month
The resulting monthly cost is per light bulb. So, if you have five light bulbs on in a home at the same time every night, the energy cost rises to over $10. This excludes external lighting. The way you use your lights should therefore not be underestimated.
To cut costs, simply replace your regular light bulbs with LEDs, which consume about 9 watts compared to 75. It is also good practice to switch off any lights you don’t need. If you want to save energy without ruining the ambiance of your home, try closing the doors of rooms not in use to avoid dark spots.
For outdoor lighting, solar-powered options may come in handy. Here, you will have to decide what purpose the lights will serve. If you want better visibility, then solar flood lights are recommended. Otherwise, you can go for models with motion sensors and timers to conserve more energy.
If you are attached to your stove and oven, get into the habit of switching them off before the food is cooked. The residual heat is often enough to cook food the rest of the way without wasting energy. And when cooking, open windows and doors in the summer or close them in winter depending on whether or not you need more or less heat in the home.
Another energy-saving tip is to heat water for cooking in the microwave instead of running the tap for hot water. When you can, cook food in the microwave as it consumes less power than stoves and ovens.
Using a gas barbecue to prepare meals is also an excellent alternative to the stove and oven. Other energy-efficient cooking appliances include solar ovens and toaster ovens.
Unlike other appliances, refrigerators are tricky because turning them off might spoil food. Instead, it is advisable to turn up the temperature as high as you can. This might not improve the quality of your food, but it does cut energy costs.
Cleaning your fridge regularly is also surprisingly effective. Get a vacuum cleaner and get as much dirt off as possible from the coils at the bottom of the refrigerator. If you have a second fridge or a freezer that is plugged in but not in active use, consider switching it off and using just one.
Washer and Dryer
These two appliances are the terrible twins when it comes to energy consumption. They are frequently used together, but one is often unnecessary.
If you live in a relatively sunny area, ditch the dryer and use an outdoor drying line instead. The dryer can be saved for rainy days. If you use the dryer and the clothes come out warm but still wet, try cleaning the vent pipe and lint strap.
Although handwashing is ideal from an energy perspective, it might not be practical, especially for homes with many occupants. Try to limit the use of washers as far as you can. If you are looking to replace your old model, compare energy star ratings to find out how much energy and money you can save.
Electric Water Heater
You may have to ask a pro or someone with DIY experience to show you the inner workings of your electric water heater. This is because water heaters can be adjusted and cleaned to run more efficiently on less energy.
Find out where to adjust the temperature of the water heater. Though it is typically set to 160 F, it can be lowered to 120 F and still be hot enough for your comfort. Tweaking the temperature alone can save you more than $200 a year.
Twice a year, drain the water heater to remove the bed of residue that settles at the bottom. Also fix leaking taps, especially those designated to hot water.
Touring your local hardware store for solar and other renewable energy solutions is worth it. Products like “geyser blankets” and on-demand heater systems can be valuable investments. The former encloses the storage tank to keep water hot for longer and the latter heats water only on demand to decrease heat loss. Explore your options.
Air Conditioning Units (ACs)
Before the next change of season, get a caulking gun and inspect your home for air leaks. Windows and doors, as well as openings in the light fixtures, ceiling, and AC vents may be responsible for your rising electricity cost.
You can reduce the need for heating and cooling by insulating your house. Proper insulation ensures that conditioned air (warm air in the winter or cool air in the summer) does not escape. It also helps to reduce the use of exhaust fans when trying to get the interior to your ideal temperature.
It might take a skilled hand to get caulking right. If you are inexperienced, employ a local service for a full house audit and repairing of leaks.
In addition to sealing leaks, make sure heating and cooling appliances are well-maintained and up to date. When professionals come around to service your AC, ask how you can help to keep it in good, clean condition all year round.
Finally, focus heating and cooling on the areas of the home you use the most. Many people prefer to heat or cool the family room. Close all doors and windows of unused rooms to prevent air leakage.
Pools and Hot Tubs
Making changes to the way you heat your pools and hot tub will make a significant difference in your overall costs. One affordable solution to decreasing the energy these appliances consume is to get quality, well-insulated covers. This is to prevent heat loss caused by the wind.
While it is common practice to clean the pool for hours each day, try running pool filters for two hours a day and see if it works for you. Cover the surface with a solar blanket to heat the water.
Unfortunately, old hot tubs tend to burn more energy than they need to. Ideally, you should replace older models with energy-efficient versions. If you are cash-strapped, insulate the hot tub with caulking or foam insulation and keep filters as clean as possible.
Many people would be found guilty of leaving appliances like TVs, laptops, and chargers plugged in. Unfortunately, if an appliance is not completely off, it might still be using power. Entertainment systems and smaller appliances should be totally switched off if not in use. It may be a little inconvenient at first, but the savings pay off.
Paying attention to the way you use common appliances can make a huge difference in how much you spend on energy. By first becoming aware of how much it costs to run each appliance, you can then adjust usage and even find energy-efficient alternatives without giving up your quality of life.