Small Investment, Big Returns
In the area of conservation energy is one of the first places to look to save a little money. If we're energy conscious we are already making sure to turn off all the lights before we leave the house and we are doing our absolute best not to leave the oven on over night. But what's the first step to reducing energy use when we're not quite ready for new appliances or solar panels?
The answer is: every little bit counts. In Ohio we average around $120/month on electric bills or around $1400/year according to the Environmental Impact Assessment. I know I'd much rather have an extra grand for a vacation or new toy every year. Now conservation alone will not eliminate our power bill if we still want to have overhead lighting and keep up on post-apocalyptic dramas, but we can do the earth and our wallets some good. So where to start? One of the first places to look is up.
According to the ENERGY.GOV website we can save 75% of the money we put into lighting by using LED lights. Newer LEDs offer the same color and brightness of light as incandescent bulbs but typically last ten times longer. Literally, you can expect 10,000 hours of light with LED compared to 1,000 hours with incandescent. Start by replacing the most used bulbs in your house – kitchen, living room, primary bathroom then as other bulbs burn out make sure to upgrade.
Another great way to conserve energy is to reduce our heating and cooling bills. Of course nothing compares to proper insulation and good windows, but we can save a few bucks and do the world some good at the same time. In a home with South-facing windows we can harness the greenhouse effect of the sun. In the summer we want to save money on cooling our homes and in the winter we want to save on heating our homes.
The right kind of tree in front of those south-facing windows can make all the difference. You'll want to plant deciduous trees that are leafy in the summer but barren in the winter. This will offer cooling shade in the summer and warming sunlight to pass through in the winter. Choosing fruit trees can also offer a pleasant source of healthy snacks to enjoy in your new shade!
While on the topic of windows, bear in mind those windows you cover with plastic in the winter time are hemorrhaging all year. It is far more noticeable in the winter as the cooler air is seeping in and sitting low in the room. In the summer when we're cooling our homes, just as much cool air is moving through that leaky window, but it's going out so it's less noticeable. Running the air conditioning nonstop may not be necessary. If possible keep that ugly plastic in place all year until you're able to upgrade those leaky windows.
These are a few ideas that could save a few bucks every month and add up quickly over a year. If we can then take that money and combine it with state and federal incentive programs which will pay you to upgrade an old water heater or add solar panels, then the savings can really start compounding until we may be paying little to nothing out of pocket for our energy use. In fact with an efficient enough system, homeowners can even begin to earn money by feeding generated electric back into the grid. Wouldn't it be great to be earning money while you watch TV or relax?
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