Thursday, January 10 is National Cut Your Energy Costs Day. While I haven't been able to figure out who first started this holiday that celebrates energy efficiency, I believe that January is a great time to share tips for saving energy and how to achieve a lower electric bill.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to create an energy-efficient home. However, since doing so can be pricey, I figured a round-up of cost-savings tips that save energy and money are a perfect way to celebrate this holiday.
Since I started writing for Home Goes Strong in 2010, I've covered many different ways that homeowners can save money on energy. For example, one of my favorite tips I've shared to stay warm in winter is to keep the shades and blinds open in my Southern-facing rooms during daylight hours on sunny days. This allows the sun to come streaming in, warming the place up as it does. (I write this while sitting in front of my sunny, Southern-facing window in my home office.) I, in turn, don't need to raise the heat in order to stay warm.
Another easy way to get to a lower electric bill each month—change your relationship with your lighting. In addition to swapping incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs—the latter use way less energy—get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave a room. I mean, why pay to light a room when no one is in it? This is a message I am still trying to get through to my teenage daughters. Maybe when they are older, on their own, and paying for utilities, they will see the knowledge in finding ways to a lower electric bill.
Another big energy waster is heating (or cooling) your home when no one is there. I work from home so I can justify keeping the heat on during winter days or air conditioning on during summer days. But if you are out of the house most days, you should install a programmable thermostat so that heating and cooling are not being wasted when no one is home. Similarly, program your thermostat to adjust the temperature for the overnight hours.
As far as tips for saving energy and money, if you never got around to making improvements to your house to create an energy efficient home, you're in luck: the recently passed American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 renews some of the tax credits and incentives for improving your home's energy efficiency. This could be improving your home's insulation, installing new windows, or even buying new energy-efficient appliances. (Before you head out to buy a new, energy-efficient dishwasher, however, read my story on a DIY dishwasher fix that could save you hundreds of dollars and hours of frustration.)
Some other simple, everyday changes you can make around the house to save energy in the home and lower your electric bill? Wash all laundry in cold water, turn off your dishwasher's heated drying cycle, and use exhaust fans sparingly in bathrooms and kitchens—as they can draw out all the hot air from a room, causing you to raise the thermostat and therefore use more energy.