5 Surprising Energy Drains in Your Home – and What You Can Do about Them

December 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Energy, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

Cleaning up clutter can help your heating and air conditioning systems by unblocking air vents and removing dust catchers. Photo: © Vibe Images - Fotolia.com

Cleaning up clutter can help your heating and air conditioning systems by unblocking air vents and removing dust catchers. Photo: © Vibe Images – Fotolia.com

Friends of ours just bought a home and were more than a little shocked after receiving their first set of utility bills. Whether you’re looking to save money or just want to reduce your environmental impact, there are easy do-it-yourself fixes that can make your home leaner and greener in a matter of minutes.

1. Kitchen

Lots of energy-saving tips focus on your hot water heater, or your heating and cooling systems, but the kitchen can also be a huge source of energy loss. Refrigerators are the biggest energy hogs, since they run constantly — if you have an older model refrigerator and aren’t afraid of a unique look, cover it in shag carpet to keep it insulated.

Your oven and stovetop are the second largest energy users, but you can make small changes to save energy, like using appropriately sized pots on each burner and only boiling just as much water as you need. If you’re not cooking multiple things on your range at one time, consider using a toaster oven instead for smaller items. And, if you use the self-cleaning feature on your large oven, try using it once you’ve just completed cooking a meal, so the temperature is already high.

2. Computer

Desktop computers are energy hogs that rarely get enough attention from green advocates. The average desktop computer will gobble up 250 watts with just a single Google search. While many newer models have power saving features, if you leave your desktop idling in your office, it might be eating up all that wattage and giving you nothing in return.

If you primarily use your desktop for emailing and web browsing, consider investing in inexpensive tablet computer options, which only consume 38 watts a day when heavily used; save the desktop for when you really need that computing power. The trade-off is that you’ll get lower resolution, but if that’s not important to you, why not save money as well as energy?

3. Clutter

Your messy house may actually drain more energy than you’re saving by not cleaning it up. One of the main reasons clutter in the home can be making your home less energy efficient is if you have things blocking or otherwise obstructing airflow coming from your vents. Obstructing airflow can require your heater or air conditioner to work significantly longer and harder to bring your home to the proper temperature. Dust is also an enemy to energy efficiency. Dust can clog your vents and ductwork, build up on refrigerator coils, fans (for electronics), and is generally detrimental to things that need to breathe (like you).

4. Washing Up

Often, the “green” thing to do involves more time and elbow grease than the alternative; but, believe it or not, dishwashers are much more energy efficient at cleaning your dishes than you are, even if you’re trying to monitor how much water you use. Of course, this is only true if you’re filling your dishwasher full each time you use it, and the savings are better if you get an Energy Star-rated appliance. So let the dishes pile up (in the dishwasher) and give yourself a break the next time you have a big meal.

5. Vampire Power

You probably have heard that your TV, laptops, cell phone chargers, and other electronics draw power even when turned off or not charging their paired device, but you might not realize how much you’re losing when you’re not even charging. In many cases, particularly with small appliances, the chargers and A/C adapters drain the same amount of power whether or not the device is on (or even plugged into the charger). It’s a simple fix: Either unplug your charger when not in use, or connect devices like computers and televisions to power supplies, and flip the power switch on the strip to ensure no power is being sent to turned-off devices. You can even invest in smart strips, which will cut all power when your devices are turned off.

When you’re finished making the changes in this list, it’s also worth the investment to get an energy audit from either your gas or electric company (should be less than $50 for a visit — and may even be free) to see what else you can work on to save energy in your home.

Patricia Shuler

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.

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