Some equipment in the home is sneaky about its energy consumption. Energy vampires, they are called. Think of all the devices that never really turn off despite having an Off button. They sip from the power source 24/7.
However, if this is your first time assessing your home's energy use, you want to start with the big, obvious consumers, the "hogs."
For years, manufacturers have striven to reduce the amount of water and power their equipment consumes, catering to consumer preference. Therefore newer appliances are almost always less power-hungry than old ones. But when we look at all the equipment in the home, the hogs of yesteryear are still the hogs today—they are just on a diet.
Here are the three biggest energy hogs in a typical home according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), along with our tips for how you can reduce your consumption.
Heating and Air Conditioning—54%
More than half the energy that a typical home consumes goes to heating or cooling the rooms. The HVAC system accounted for 54% of total consumption in single-family detached homes, per the EIA report. Usage is highly regional and seasonal. Some homeowners live in places where heating is hardly necessary but the A/C runs for eight months straight, while homeowners elsewhere keep the heat running half the year but don't even own an air conditioner.
“The energy hogs of yesteryear are still the hogs today—they are just on a diet.”
HVAC is dual-purpose equipment: a two-headed hog, if you will. One of those heads is a lot hungrier than the other. Among single-family detached homes, heating accounts for 46% of energy consumption while air con is a mere 8%.
What you can do about heating.
It is clear from these figures that the best way to reduce overall household energy consumption is to focus on heating yourself and your rooms for less.
In stages, you can acclimate your family to a cooler house in winter. Lower the thermostat 2 degrees one week and 2 more the next. "You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68 degrees while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home," advises the Energy Department.
The biggest home power source in America is retail electricity (43%) per the EIA, followed closely by natural gas (42%).
They say you get your best sleep in a cool room anyway. "The best bedroom temperature for sleep is approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit," says the Sleep Foundation, which adds that most doctors recommend "keeping the thermostat set between 60 and 67 degrees … for the most comfortable sleep." So turning down the thermostat not only saves money on electricity but could garner you your best night's sleep.
In single-family homes, 19% of all energy used goes to heating water.
What you can do about water heating.
You could save $450 a year and 215 pounds of emissions by lowering your water heater to 120 degrees. This is plenty hot for all household uses except one: the dishwasher. However, many modern energy-efficient dishwashers can heat water to 140 degrees for sanitation. Look for a "heating" indicator light on the panel, or check the manual to see if your model has a "booster heater" feature. If the dishwasher can boost the temperature when needed, then the main water can be at 120 degrees.
When it comes to laundry, cold water wash cycles use much less energy than hot. Surprisingly, 90% of the energy used by a washing machine isn't for the agitation or tumbling but for heating the water. Consider washing all your clothes in cold water.
Many detergents have cold-water versions, or else they advertise that their usual formula also works in cold water. If you can get the same good clean to which you are accustomed and save 90% of the energy, why not do it?
And the Rest—21%
The third biggest hog of energy in the average household is "all other," to use the EIA label. This category includes all your kitchen appliances except the fridge (refrigeration, a category of its own, uses 3% of total energy). It also includes your computers, your fans, the radio, and so on, but not lighting, which is a separate category (5%).
Among single-family detached homes, 21% of all energy goes to power "devices such as televisions, cooking appliances, clothes washers, and clothes dryers, as well as a growing list of consumer electronics including computers, tablets, smartphones, video game consoles, and internet streaming devices," explained the EIA.
What you can do about all the rest.
We've already tipped you off to a way to save electricity with the clothes washer (go cold). Try drying fewer clothes too; you can save drying time as well as the hassle of ironing if you hang up all men's shirts to dry. No clothesline? Use your shower rod. You may find that two loads of wash can be condensed into a single load of drying once you remove all the items that benefit from air drying.
We aren't going to suggest you reduce your use of consumer electronics, because who would listen? If you wanted to watch less streaming video or stop scrolling so much on your phone or tablet at home, you already would. You'd do it to bring more variety to your life and to maintain a better mood (more and more we hear that following the news is bad for you), not because it saves electricity.
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