How often do you think about your daily energy use?
Between lighting and air-conditioning, the average American household consumes about 10,399 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. This figure is way higher than the amount of energy used in the UK, which averages at 4,000 kWh a year, and six times the amount of energy used in China, which averages at 1,500 kWh a year.
To produce 40% of America’s energy, electricity plants must consume more than 900 million tons of coal each year. The burning of coal is responsible for 32% of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. because it emits substances such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and heavy metals.
These air pollutants contribute to the effects of global warming and climate change and can cause serious health issues. Sulfur dioxide produces acid rain and can worsen pre-existing respiratory illnesses and heart diseases. Nitrogen oxide contributes to ground-level ozone that can irritate and damage your lungs.
The price of energy varies due to multiple factors such as weather conditions, power plants, and transmission and distribution centers. Nonetheless, the average American pays about 12 cents per kWh, and the typical household spends about $2,000 on utility bills each year.
Simple changes, such as turning off the lights when you leave a room, is all it takes to practice energy reduction. Until we achieve 100% renewable, clean energy, less electricity consumption means less demand for fossil fuels that destroy our environment. The more energy we save, the more money you save, and the more you can help the planet.
1. Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
One way you can reduce your electricity bill and environmental impact is to buy energy-efficient light bulbs. You can start off small by switching the light bulbs in the rooms you frequent the most. Then, work your way to changing all the bulbs in your living space.
If you’re unsure of which ones to use, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the most common.
Compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, an ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL lasts about 10 times longer because it uses about one-fourth the energy to emit the same amount of light. These bulbs come in a range of colors including warm tones.
One fact you need to remember about fluorescent bulbs is they contain a small amount of mercury. This hazard means they need to be recycled properly after they blow out.
ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs require only about 20 to 25% of the energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb. They come in various colors and have dimmable options. One of the great qualities of LEDs is they can be installed both inside and outside, and they perform well in cold temperatures. They also last five times longer than CFLs.
Ranging in price from $2 to $12 for a single bulb, investing in CFLs and LEDs will save you money over time because they use less energy and last a lot longer. By switching a few lights in your home, you could save up to $40 each electricity bill.
2. Less Air Conditioning, and Trying Solar Powered Fans
In 2018 the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that “electricity use by fans and air-conditioning equipment for cooling the interior space of homes was the single largest use of electricity by the U.S. residential sector.” In the average home, air conditioning can drain more than 2,000 kWh of electricity per year. This rate causes power plants to emit about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 31 pounds of sulfur dioxide.
To reduce your carbon footprint and energy use, you can purchase a solar-powered fan. Like their electrical counterparts, they can cool down a room and improve air circulation.
Ranging in price from $20 to $150, these fans come with solar panels that generate the energy needed to run the fan. All you have to do is place the panels in a sunny area of your home to get the fan working.
These fans are free to run, which means you’ll save money on your monthly electricity bill. However, they work best when the sun is out, so they’re ideal for daytime use.
3. Get More Efficient With Your Clothes Washing
Along with cooling and lighting our homes, we use quite a bit of energy to wash and dry our clothes. On average a washing machine can consume up to 600 kWh, while a dryer needs about 800 kWh. These statistics mean that if you wash four loads of clothes a week, you’re sucking up about 5,600 kWh per week.
Even if you don’t have the money to buy an energy-efficient washer and dryer, there are a few habits you can develop to reduce your energy use.
First you can start by washing full loads. The average washing machine uses the same amount of energy to wash a load, no matter its size, so try to only wash clothes when you have a decent size load.
Next, rely on cold or warm water to wash clothes. By refraining from using hot water, you’re able to cut your energy consumption in half.
When it comes to the dryer, try air-drying your clothes instead. This practice is especially good for delicate materials such as silk and satin, as well as other items you don’t want to shrink such as jeans and sweaters.
If you need to operate the dryer, make sure to clean the lint filter. When the filter is dirty, it causes the dryer to take longer to dry your clothes.
The same logic applies to the number of clothes you dry. If you put too little or too many clothes into the dryer, it will take more cycles to properly dry them.
To be more efficient with your dryer, you can buy sustainable products such as wool dryer balls that separate clothing and allow more heat to reach each article.
Of all the ways to reduce your energy use, the simplest and easiest is to unplug anything you’re not using. Each year Americans lose $5.8 billion and produce 8.7 billion pounds of carbon pollution when they leave unused devices plugged in.
To get into the habit of unplugging anything you’re not using, you can set an alarm. For example, if you know it takes your laptop three hours to charge, set an alarm to remind you to unplug your charger once it’s done.
You can do the same for everyday appliances such as the toaster and blender. For devices and appliances, you don’t turn on often, keep them unplugged until you need them.
You don’t need to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to reduce your energy use. You can start small and focus on turning those changes into habits. Once they become habits, you can find other ways to be energy-efficient. Until then, take your time and do what works best for your day-to-day life.
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