10 Home Energy Saving Tips for Less than $10

ME: Do you want to save energy?

YOU: Ok…but how much will it cost?

ME: The time it takes you to read this article.

YOU: You have 5 minutes.

(Ok, well it depends on how fast you read.)

After reading this article, you (and the friends you forward this to) have absolutely no excuse for not being energy savers.  The world we live in today allows us to save energy and make money while doing it.  Keep in mind that I am not an energy zealot with $50k solar panels on my roof.  I’m a practical guy that wants to save money (and the environment, if possible).  Each of these energy saving tips is easy to implement, costs less than $10, and can save you hundreds of dollars in return.

In addition to giving you these ten energy saving tips, I have included helpful links where these money savers can be purchased.  This is based on my personal shopping experience and searching on Google.  If you come across better products at a cheaper price, please comment below to help save the planet (and GRS readers’ pocketbooks).

  1. Program your thermostat. Set your thermostat as high as comfortable during the summer and as low as comfortable during the winter.  For every degree setback, you save 3% on your heating or cooling costs (over a 24-hour period).  So for every 8-hour setback of 10 degrees, you save 10% on your overall heating/cooling costs.  If you don’t know how to work your thermostat, check out this quick guide to programming your thermostat. Cost: $0.
  2. Replace air filters. Changing your furnace filter every few months during high use periods (or according to manufacturer’s recommendation) will allow better efficiency and air flow. Air filters that are left in for months on end – or years – clog and obstruct air flow.  This makes your furnace work harder to circulate air.  Sometimes it can even cause long-term damage to the furnace which may cost thousands of dollars to repair.  When it comes to filters, there are a plethora of choices available, with models that are washable, made for allergen reducing purposes, extended use “lifetime” filters, etc.  My family doesn’t have any special needs, so we keep the filter selection basic.  We purchased a Filtrete filter made by 3M.  The cheapest I could find online is a 4pk sold at Target for $33.56.    Cost: $8.39.
  3. Make your home air tight. If you have small holes and cracks in the ceilings, walls, and floors, it can easily take 30% more energy to heat or cool your home. Cracks and holes allow air to infiltrate into and out of your home.  For a couple dollars, you can use DAP All-Purpose caulking to seal the cracks.  For drafts below the door, you can buy heavy duty door bottoms that do the job.  While heat loss usually comes from the bottom of the door, sometimes the top and sides of the door leak air as well.  Solve this by buying weatherstrips to install around the door.  Cost: less than $8.37.
  4. Seal your ducting. The majority of homes are warmed and cooled through ducting systems made of sheet metal (also known as HVAC systems).  Many of these systems have air leaks which can reduce efficiency by 30%.  Inspecting ducting systems can present a challenge however, since much of the ducting  is hidden.  They’re easiest to inspect when you have a crawl space or unfinished basement that allows for easy access.  If you don’t have access to your ducting system you might be out of luck, but you can still take out the floor registers and look at connecting joints to see if there are any issues.  Scattered holes in ducting and joints can easily cost you hundreds of dollars per year.  Use foil tape (or other heat approved tapes like mastic or butyl) to seal cracks and leakages.  Amazon has Scotch foil tape that does the job.  Cost: $6.99.
  5. Air dry dishes. Do not use your dishwasher’s drying cycle; air dry your dishes  instead.  It is estimated that air drying can reduce energy usage by 7%Cost: $0.
  6. Wash only full loads. Washing only full loads of dishes and clothes is easy and practical, but too often forgotten.  Cost: $0.
  7. Lower your water heater temperature. Manufacturers typically set water heater temperatures to 140 ᵒF, but you only need 120 ᵒF.  Lowering your water heater temperature to 120 ᵒF can save you 3% to 5% in energy usage – and more importantly, save you and your loved ones from scalding.  If you don’t know how to lower your hot water temperature, read this quick guideCost: $0.
  8. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are estimated to save $30 over the bulb’s lifetime, use 75% less energy, and last ten times longer than the usual incandescent bulbs.  (Thomas Edison may have invented the first commercially viable incandescent bulb, but he did not have the environment in mind.)  One downside, CFLs take time to charge and appear dim while charging, but that is a small price to pay for great savings.  Hot tip: Costco sometimes sells a 10pk for $3.99 after an instant rebate of $10.  If you can’t find them there, pick up a 4pk from Lowes for $4.88.  Cost: $1.22.
  9. Install light dimmers. Light Dimmers are great to install in high traffic areas, such as foyers and hallways where lights are constantly on.  Instead of having lights on full blast, you can limit the output of the light and save energy.  Dimmers control the amount of time that electric current flows to the lamp which in turn reduces energy usage.  Dimmers also extend the life of the bulb as well.  If you dim your bulbs 10 percent, your bulbs will last twice as long!  Dimmers can easily cost over $50, but Home Depot has the cheapest, bare bones, no frills dimmer for less than $10.  This is the lowest price I could find, even when compared to internet prices.  Price does not include shipping so swing by a store nearest you.  (Note: Dimmers can shorten the life of typical CFLs.  If you’re dimming CFLs, make sure to buy CFLs made specifically for dimmers.) Cost: $9.97.
  10. Use power strips. Even when electronic devices are on standby, they still use energy known as “phantom” loads.  This can occur for TVs, VCRs (heaven forbid you still have one), stereos, game consoles, printers, scanners, computers, chargers, DVD players, etc.  Some estimate that 75% of the electricity consumed by these devices is used when they’re “off”.  For areas with lots of electronic appliances, you can use a power strip to eliminate standby power consumption.  You can spend $30+ on fancy power strips with surge protectors and voltage options – or pick up a basic Belkin power strip from Home Depot on the cheap.  Cost: $3.27.

There you have it.  Ten simple ways to save energy and make money while doing it.  While you won’t get rich by lowering your energy costs, you can be content with what Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved, is a penny earned.”

Start saving pennies today.