Most of the electricity we use in the United States is generated by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. When these fossil fuels are burned, carbon is released into the atmosphere. The negative effects of this on the environment are well known.
If your electricity is generated by fossil fuels, then everything in your home that uses electricity – including your lights, dishwasher, and computer – causes carbon to enter the atmosphere. More carbon is released if the device burns fuel directly – a gas stove or water heater or an oil-burning furnace, as examples. The amount of carbon that the device releases into the atmosphere is known as its carbon footprint.
For those interested in reducing their energy usage and lowering their carbon footprint, it’s important to think about your major appliances and your home’s lighting. While the best new appliances are more energy efficient than older ones, it’s not recommended that you purchase a new one for the sole purpose of reducing energy consumption, because the energy expended producing and shipping a new appliance would more or less counteract its greater efficiency. So if your old, appliance is still working satisfactorily, it’s okay to keep it.
There are, however, plenty of ways you can reduce energy usage with your existing appliances by changing how you use them.
One of the easiest changes you can make is to wash clothes in cold water. Hot water doesn’t get clothes any cleaner, and can actually cause them to wear out faster. A washing machine uses 75% less energy when used with cold water than with hot water.
Skip the dryer! Get a clothesline or a drying rack and use the free energy of the sun to dry your clothes. It might take a little longer, but if you’re so desperate for a clean, dry shirt that you can’t wait a day, you might need to rethink your laundry schedule. If you must use the dryer, be sure not to overfill it, which reduces its efficiency.
While extremely convenient, dishwashers use a lot of energy. If you must use one, turn off the heated dry cycle. A dishwasher uses about the same amount of energy whether it’s nearly empty or full, so use it only when it’s full. (One full load will use half the energy of two half-full loads.) If you don’t have a full load but need certain items, wash them by hand.
Install an exterior layer of insulation on your water heater. This will keep the water inside hotter longer, so the device will use less energy reheating it. Easily-installed insulating sleeves are available for every size heater. While newer water heaters are better insulated than older models, they still benefit from this additional insulation.
Also consider turning down the temperature of your water heater. Don’t go below 140°F, however, to avoid creating optimal growth conditions for the bacteria that causes legionnaire’s disease.
Look at the position of your fridge in the kitchen. Is it near the oven or in direct sunshine opposite a bright window? If so, it’s being forced to compete with those sources of heat, and should be moved. Another way to reduce energy usage is to keep your fridge full of food or water. The items in the refrigerator act as a thermal mass and keep it from changing temperature quickly when you open the door.
Replace conventional incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs. Both save energy directly and, because they generate virtually no heat, reduce the need for air conditioning.
At TerraSol Energies, we want to help our customers save as much money as possible on their home energy costs. Contact us for more information on how we can reduce your monthly utility bill.