How to easily save energy at home

One consequence of human-caused climate change is extreme weather, including more intense heat waves. And a consequence of that is higher energy use at home. For example, a 2015 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that a boom in air conditioning use alone over the rest of this century will nearly double residential electricity consumption.

This is what’s known as a positive feedback loop – and it’s a problem. If you want to be part of the solution, here are 10 easy ways to reduce power use in your house or apartment, five for the winter and five for the summer.

In the winter

  1. Turn down the thermostat. Lower your thermostat at night – you know this already, but you might not know how much energy you can save with this simple step. You can cut 1 percent from your heating bill for each degree you set back your thermostat, according to the Department of Energy. Turn it back for 8 hours every night and you can reduce your bill up to 10 percent per year.
  2. Use your windows wisely. During the day, open the curtains or blinds on any windows that receive sunlight and free heat will shine in. At night, close the curtains to keep heat in. When drawn during cold weather, most conventional curtains can reduce heat loss by up to 10 percent, says the DOE.
  3. Close the doors to unused rooms. If there are rooms in your home you don’t use a lot, don’t spend heat on them. Instead, close them off. Shut the vents in those rooms, as well as the doors, and it will take less energy to heat the rest of your home. Also: use an old towel to block the gap under exterior doors. A one-eighth inch gap under a door will let in as much cold air as a 2.4-inch hole in your wall.
  4. Insulate your radiator. If you have a radiator against a wall, cover the wall in foil. This will prevent heat escaping and reflect it back into the room. You can buy foil made for this purpose, or you can use plain-old aluminum foil. Also: large furniture will absorb heat from the radiator, so move it away (unless you’re sitting in it).
  5. Cover bare floors. Bare floors can pull as much as 10 percent of the heat out of your home. Cover them with rugs or carpeting to you save heat – and keep your feet cozy.

In the summer

  1. Close your curtains. Shut your curtains or blinds to keep out the heat during the day. Doing this can reduce heat gain by 45 percent, according to the DOE. Curtains are not as effective as blinds, but even a medium-color curtain with white plastic on the back can cut heat gain by 33 percent.
  2. Set your AC higher. If you use air conditioning, set it at the highest temperature you can tolerate comfortably. You’ll save 10 percent percent a year on your cooling bill by setting your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees higher for 8 hours each day. Also: AC will not cool a room faster if you crank it down. Dialing the thermostat to 60 won’t get you to 70 any quicker. You’ll just waste extra energy and money.
  3. Make a personal AC. Put a bowl of ice in front of an electric fan. The fan will blow the cold air in your direction and keep you cool. This uses a lot less energy than air conditioning. Also: using a fan without ice will allow you to comfortably raise the temperature on your AC.
  4. Plant trees. If you own a home, plant more trees, shrubs and bushes around your house. They not only provide shade, but they cool the air before it reaches your walls and windows.
  5. Line dry your clothes. Clotheslines are making a comeback. There’s even a nonprofit, Project Laundry List, devoted to the promotion of line drying. And summer, of course, is the best time for line drying. The sun is available, and you’ll keep radiant heat from the dryer out of your home. Running an average electric dryer costs about $200 a year.