In case you missed it, we recently had an awesome Q&A session with Lifehacker. Our CEO, Kerry Cooper, shared a few of our favorite energy hacks to help curb energy expenses.
Kerry answered questions about solar costs, the effects of renewable energy, and even helped someone deciding whether to purchase a new dryer or not.
We love to help make sense of energy expenses (it’s confusing, we know). So, we decided to share 7 of the questions and answers, and post our “energy hacks” with the community.
Since we’re about efficiency – we’ve summed up the session into 7 quick hacks that will help you save money and emissions.
Without further adieu: here are of the questions and hacks (questions have been edited for brevity and conciseness):
Q1: What appliances should I keep disconnected during the day I’m not home?
A1: Probably not the fridge :). Computers and monitors continue to draw energy even when they’re not used, so they’re good candidates. In addition, if you have window AC units, take them out for the winter as the hot air escapes through the vents and they’re not well sealed. One other big one? The cable box is a big energy drain, it is estimated that it can be a bigger drain than your refrigerator or washer/ dryer!
Q2: How do I save money when the house is occupied 99% of the time?
A2: If you, like I do, live in a regulated state, you can manage a lot of the big energy users in off-peak hours. The washer and dryer are big users of energy – using them at night and on the weekends can amount to substantial savings. The dishwasher too!
Q3. Why do you think home solar installations are still so rare? Just too expensive of an investment for most people? When I was a kid, I thought everyone would have solar panels in a few years?
A3: Solar is an interesting opportunity and states like CA are leading the way in getting solar installed. It is still an expensive proposition. For a good-sized house, it can cost $10-20k and managing through the financing of that can be challenging. There are a lot of great options that minimize the money down, but it can take 7 years to get the payback to work so it does take some homework.
Q4: What can I do as an apartment dweller with limited ability to modify home? 950 square feet and one zone which leaves the bedroom a solid ten degrees cooler than the rest of the apartment?
A4: That is a good question! If you have south facing windows, you can benefit from passive solar by opening up curtains during the day, and closing at night. You can even add curtains with lining so heat does not escape at night. Also try an oscillating fan to move heat around the apartment.
Q5: Hey Kerry, thanks so much for doing this! I live in a condo, and as a result cannot switch the thermometer in our place to a more energy efficient or “smart” brand (although we just bundle up in the winter rather than turn on the heat). We have switched our showerhead to a low water use head – but I would like to know other things we could do in a condo to save energy when we have limited control.
A5: Sorry I’m getting slower at responding! Look at your light bulbs, because they typically consume 25% of your home’s energy budget. Replace them with high-efficiency light bulbs, either light emitting diode (LED) and/or Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), right away. That plus looking at using your heavy appliances in non-peak hours (dishwasher, washer/dryer if you have them) can make a difference.
Q6: I have a really old dryer. I’ve replaced every single moving part in this thing over time, it’s a tank and I can still get new parts for it. But I wonder, how much money would I actually save if I replaced it? I can’t imagine it uses too much power as last month’s power bill was only $72 (TN, 2 adult, 2 kids, gas heat…). Would I be looking at multiple years before I got my money back?
A6: TN has great low-cost electricity so you’re lucky to live there! The dryer is one of the largest users of electricity in your house. However, given your low bill, even if it represented $15 a month of your bill, it’d be many years before you’d get a payback of a more efficient dryer. FWIW, the EPA estimates residential clothes dryers in the U.S. annually consume about 43 billion-kilowatt hours of electricity and 445 million therms of natural gas, leading to carbon dioxide emissions of 32 million metric tons.
Q7: Do you believe that choosing electricity from 100% renewable energy providers actually decreases the usage of non-renewable energy? (i.e. does choosing this make a difference or am I throwing my money away?) What are the most common sources of renewable energy?
A7: Absolutely! With more and more consumers choosing renewable sources, we can make a big difference in the energy that goes into the grid. At Choose Energy, 20% of our plans are renewable and we’re excited to see the impact as more and more consumers make that choice. Every vote counts :). Common renewables include hydro, wind and solar. There are other new sources coming on the market soon that are more experimental today.
Here’s the Gist:
1. The appliances that use a ton of electricity are:
a. Cable box
b. Computer + monitor
c. AC window units which let out hot air
2. In a regulated state, where you cannot choose energy plans, so using the larger appliances (washer/ dryer/ dishwasher) at night can save significant money.
4. Leave south facing windows shades open during the day, and closed (with liners) at night, so you can retain extra heat for free! An oscillating fan will also help circulate that heat.
5. Light bulbs use about 25% of the home energy budget, and switching to LED or CFL bulbs can show immediate significant savings.
6. Dryers consume 43 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 445 million therms of natural gas, which contribute to 32 million metric tons of carbon emissions in the US annually. Upgrading to newer dryers models depends on household usage and the state’s energy costs. Read more on dryers here.
7. By choosing renewable energy plans (20% of Choose Energy plans are renewable) you can play a part of cutting down the 6.5 Billion metric tons in carbon emissions per year.