APPLIANCES: About 15% of a home’s energy use
#1 REFRIGERATOR/ FREEZER
Keeping refrigerator and freezer coils clean will prevent the heat exchanger from having to work harder and using more energy than it would otherwise. You can use a refrigerator coil brush to clean the coils monthly if they are exposed (usually on the back or underneath the refrigerator). Regular cleaning also helps avoid costly repairs, prevent food loss, and maintain appropriate inside temperatures.
Check the refrigerator and freezer doors to make sure they remain sealed so that cold air does not escape. You can test the seal by sticking a dollar bill between the refrigerator and its door. If you can pull the dollar bill out with no tugging, then the seals on the door need to be replaced. Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer doors unnecessarily, or standing with it open for long periods of time. The ideal temperatures for a refrigerator is 36F and for a freezer is 5F.
If you need a new refrigerator or can get an upgrade, purchase a high-efficiency model. Because you can now find highly efficient refrigerators and freezers in the same price range as average ones, there is no upfront cost barrier preventing you from saving thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the refrigerator/ freezer. While Energy Star labels indicate high energy efficiency, it is still worth comparing the actual energy savings of different models. Even within Energy Star labeled products, some models use much less energy than others. If you have recently gotten a new energy efficient refrigerator/ freezer, do not keep your old one operating in the basement or garage as a secondary unit – doing so will just add more energy use. It sounds silly, but many people do it.
If you have a many items in the wintertime that are okay to freeze solid, consider storing them in a safe and secure place in the outside air (make sure animals can’t break in). The great outdoors will keep items frozen for a few months out of the year – just make sure you are ready for the thaws. For those with the space/ capacity, root cellars in basements work great for storing many bulk items.
You can avoid using a dryer at all by hanging clothes on a clothes line outside or on an indoor rack. This saves energy, and as a bonus for renters it can also reduce costs from coin-operated driers. If you are running a dryer:
- Keep the lint traps clean to use less energy and reduce drying time.
- Clean the tube that runs from the dryer to the wall twice a year.
- Use moisture sensor settings (if you have them) in order to avoid over-drying clothes.
- Reduce the need for drying time by using a final spin cycle in the washer, which shakes out your clothes, or by letting them dry in the open air for a short time.
- It is best to keep the dryer in a warm, dry area (insulate around it instead of adding in more energy-using heaters) so that it would not have to work as hard.
- Dry full washer loads, but without over-packing the dryer. Drying too few clothes at a time wastes energy but drying too many clothes at once makes the dryer work harder than it needs to.
Note: Washers use much less electrical/gas energy than dryers, but they do take energy, especially when hot water is used. Using cold water for washing works just as well except for very dirty loads, and uses much less energy.
#3 STOVES/ COOKING
Here’s some simple tips for energy efficient cooking:
- Cook with the lid on the pan/ pot when using the stove and use the smallest pan you can for the cooking you are doing.
- Have multiple items in the oven at once rather than heating one item after another. Also preheat the oven only when necessary as preheating is most important for baked goods and meat that needs an even temperature. Open the oven door as little as possible during the time oven is on or else it will lose around 30F when you open the door, which means the oven has to work harder to get back to the same temperature. (according to http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/cooking.html
- Keep your burners clean and clean up the carbon build up around the pilot light/ ignition to require less gas to be burned. If the flame on the stove top is yellow rather than blue it is in need of maintenance. It signifies incomplete combustion with harmful gasses being released into the kitchen.
- If you are getting a new stove use electric ignition stoves because stoves with pilot lights use as much as 40% more gas. (According to http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/cooking.html)
- Smaller cooking devices like microwave ovens and toaster ovens use much less overall energy than full sized ovens, but remember to unplug them when not in use. If you are cooking enough food to fill more than half of the full sized oven, then that becomes the more efficient choice.
#4 LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE
If you can, use a push mower or and shovel your own snow instead of using powered devices to maintain the landscape. You can also replace your lawn with low-maintenance native plantings to make this much easier. Natural landscaping is also more ecologically friendly and improves water quality, and doing the work oneself helps maintain personal fitness.
If you need to use powered devices, use electric mowers or electric snow-blowers instead of gasoline powered equipment to save energy and reduce local pollution. Some groups of neighbors also save money by creating neighborhood tool/ equipment libraries since these items are only used infrequently and it is usually not necessary for everyone to each have their own.