How to Save Energy at Home: 8 Actionable Ideas to Try!

By Angela Tague in Thinking Sustainably

Several years ago, I completed an energy audit with my gas and electricity provider to learn how to reduce my impact on local resources. The rep and I walked through my house and discussed how to save energy at home by greening my routines and trimming monthly utility bills. By making a handful of updates around the house and adopting energy-minded habits, you can put less strain on your community's energy grid—and save a few bucks!

Fast forward, and all the tips did indeed help to reduce my water, electric, and gas bills. Not only was my wallet happier, but I was embracing my eco-conscious values and improving my home efficiency at the same time. Cue a happy dance! You can learn how to save energy at home, too, by adopting a few of these ideas.

home with solar panels on roof

Energy Use, Sources, and Trends

Energy consumption overall is slowing in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2020 report. And, that's a good thing! Thanks to the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, energy-efficient mass transportation (buses, rail systems, etc.), and non-energy intensive equipment in manufacturing, we're moving in the right direction. Tom's of Maine is committed to working to minimize the total environmental impact of our supply chain as part of the brand's sustainable Stewardship Model.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains the three most common energy sources in the US are natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. These nonrenewable resources negatively affect the environment by:

  • Emitting air pollutants, including greenhouse gases
  • Releasing pollution into bodies of water and soil
  • Generating solid waste
  • Affecting ecosystems, including plant life and animals

Simply put: when we use less energy from these sources, we make less of a negative impact on the environment.

Americans are getting better at choosing cleaner, renewable energy sources, with the most growth seen in wind and solar energy. The EIA predicts that, by 2050, solar energy use will increase to a whopping 46 percent. Wind energy is expected to climb to 33 percent. And happily, nonrenewable resources, including coal and nuclear energy, are on the decline as coal-powered energy is predicted to drop from 24 percent usage to 13 percent by 2050.

window with curtains and sunlight shining through

How to Save Energy at Home

So, you're already a pro at turning off lights as you leave a room and unplugging appliances when you go on vacation. Go, you! Now it's time to consider implementing some long-term home efficiency best practices and updates that can minimize your use of nonrenewable energy sources. Maybe you can add a few of these to your weekend to-do list!

The following tips were gleaned from the US Department of Energy's Energy Saver program for fall/winter and summer, as well as my personal experiences as a homeowner.

1. Use Your Curtains and Drapes

Open your curtains and drapes wide during sunny days to let the warmth of the sunshine flood in. At night, or on windy days, close your window coverings to keep the cool air out and the furnace from running excessively to heat up your home. When I updated my home office window treatments to lined, heavy-weight fabric, I could feel a reduction in drafts and an increase in overall comfort.

2. Update or Cover Windows

If you have older windows, they may not be insulated as well as newer ones, or they may have cracks or leak. Cover them with plastic film during the winter to keep cold breezes outside. Or, start budgeting for new windows. In my last home, we worked in phases to keep the project cost manageable, replacing the upstairs windows first to avoid heat loss in winter, since heat rises.

3. Look at Your Lamps and Lighting Fixtures

Swapping out old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with newer, longer-lasting compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs can save you up to 75 percent in electrical costs. Plus, they don't need to be replaced as often. Lighting accounts for about 10 percent of your home's energy costs.

4. Dress for the Season

In summer, wear shorts. In winter, opt for sweaters. It can be easy to adjust that thermostat when we're chilly or too hot, but what if we instead adjusted our personal comfort by changing our clothing? This means using less energy to heat your home in the winter or cool it in the summer. Setting the air conditioner to 78 degrees instead of 72 degrees in the summer can save 6 to 18 percent on your electric bill.

weather stripping around a door

5. Audit the Home for Leaks

Do you feel drafts near doorways? The garage door? Windows? Mail slots? The fireplace flue? All of these areas of the home can be improved with a little weather stripping or caulk from the home improvement store. In turn, you'll lose less heat or air conditioning, saving you on energy usage and costs.

6. Check Your Major Appliances

Can you turn your water heater down a few degrees, using less energy to warm the water? Or, maybe you can have the air ducts cleaned on your furnace to allow for better airflow. After all, you want that warmed heat to actually reach you and not get absorbed by obstructions along the way. You can check to see if your furnace ductwork is insulated, and if not, add that to your home improvement list! The average household loses 20 percent of its heat through ductwork that's not sealed properly or insulated.

7. Plant a Tree or Bush

Of course, plant-loving me thinks this is the best tip. But, did you know that shading your home with a fluffy canopy of trees or wind-breaking bushes can reduce your energy costs by $100-$250 each year? Grab the shovel and do a little landscaping this spring.

8. Be Mindful in the Kitchen

How you cook, use water, and choose appliances all matter. For example, instead of frequently making small meals, you can save energy by batch cooking. Wait to run the dishwasher until it's filled to capacity, and fix leaky faucets to stop excess water (and money) from going down the drain.

With a little extra attention to home maintenance, you can make your house more energy efficient, in turn making less of an impact on your use of local resources. For more eco-conscious ideas, visit the @tomsofmaine DIY Naturally board on Pinterest.

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The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Pausing to evaluate and update how you use energy around your home not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also helps trim utility bills. Channel your inner can-do DIY talent! Going green—and, in turn, saving some green—are sure ways to make living at home more affordable and enjoyable, too!