With energy prices constantly on the rise and more people working and going to school from home, utility bills are a bigger expense for homeowners than ever before. Reducing those costs can save you a lot of money. Doing so starts with understanding how much energy you use and where you use it.
There’s more than just the financial side of things, too. Reducing your consumption is also a big step toward making your home energy-independent. Or, in other words, not as reliant on “the grid,” utility companies, giant energy conglomerates, or international politics for your energy — or the amount you pay for it.
Today, more homeowners are taking advantage of new technology that allows them to use less power and even generate their own. It helps the environment, decreases expenses, and avoids power surges, rising bills, and relying on outside sources for energy and pricing.
Whatever your reason for wanting to use less energy, this article is for you.
We’ll explain how and why to track the amount of electricity you’re using. Then, you’ll learn how to use that information to reduce your overall usage.
The first step toward reducing your energy usage is to track how much electricity any given appliance or device is using. You’ll need to make a small investment in some equipment and carve out time to sift through the data you get. But, the payoff will be lower bills and a more energy-independent household.
You’ll need a plan to reduce your home’s energy use as much as possible. Sure, remembering to turn off some devices or switching to more-efficient light bulbs or appliances will help. But, to truly make an impact, you need to know what to target and how to measure it.
Tracking your energy usage is more than just knowing how to read your utility bills and monitoring how much energy you use (although that’s a good start). Instead, you want to drill down to discover how much power any given device or appliance uses.
Once you have that information, you can decide if you need to replace anything in your home or change habits to use less power.
Your heating and cooling system accounts for nearly half of your home’s total energy usage. Therefore, tracking — and reducing — the amount of electricity, natural gas, oil, or other sources it uses is critical here.
Fortunately, a smart thermostat can help you zero in on that consumption. And it will help you reduce it later.
A smart thermostat tracks usage in real-time — no need to wait for your bills every month to discover a sudden surge in usage. And, you can use its control to finetune your settings to keep you comfortable while using as little energy as possible.
You can also use an app to track your usage anywhere you have mobile data or wi-fi. You can also change the settings in your home from any location using the app.
Given the amount of power your heating and cooling takes up, a smart thermostat is an excellent first step toward tracking and reducing your energy consumption.
Next, you want to know how much every outlet and appliance in your home uses. To do that, you need a power consumption monitor that attaches to your electric service’s breaker box.
The best models out there (we recommend the Sense Monitor) learn the unique electrical “fingerprint” for every device and appliance in your home. Then, it can tell you how much each one uses.
You’ll also keep track of dirty energy or sudden spikes in power coming into the house. These are common and can damage your electronics over time.
Now that you know where our energy usage lies, you can begin forming your strategy to use less.
Keeping your heating and cooling system’s energy usage in check can make a big dent in your overall consumption. The easiest way to start doing that is by keeping your furnace and AC properly maintained with check-and-cleans in the fall and tune ups in the spring.
These are preventive maintenance visits where an HVAC contractor inspects, cleans, and optimizes your system for the heavy heating or cooling season. Along with preventing breakdowns, it also reduces the amount of gas, oil, or electricity your system requires to do the job.
There’s plenty more to consider, even when it comes to HVAC, but this is an excellent start.
Next, start looking at what your power consumption monitor is telling you. You’re looking for appliances that use more power than you realize. This could be a second refrigerator in the garage, for instance. Or an older washer/dryer combo that you can replace with a more energy-efficient model.
You can even drill down which outlets or light fixtures use the most electricity. With that information, you can swap out fixtures or leave different lights on based on which use less power.
Have you heard the terms “phantom load” or “vampire energy?” These terms refer to how many home electronics like TVs, video game consoles, and computers continue drawing power even when they’re shut off.
And, with more devices than ever in every home, that adds up to a lot of electricity. The solution? Smart power strips.
Along with providing multiple outlets on a single strip, these models also cut power to various electronics when they’re not in use — saving you a bundle on electricity.
Use these in conjunction with your power consumption data. For instance, you may find that the devices in one room (usually a living room or home office) use a lot of vampire energy. Those are the places to replace regular power strips with smart ones.
Your next step can be making significant investments in energy-efficient appliances. We’ve mentioned washers and dryers already. Today’s front-loading washers and energy-efficient dryers perform just as well as (or even better than) top-loaders and older models.
Next, it’s time to consider going from traditional fossil-fuel furnaces and central air systems to heat pumps. Whether you go with a ducted heat pump model, a mini split, or a dual-fuel hybrid system, you’ll use much less energy in the winter and summer.
These can be big investments, but the payoff is lower energy bills (and less usage) right away and for years to come. And they can lead to the next steps toward making your home truly energy-independent.
Solar panels are the next step toward completely getting your home off the grid. It can be challenging at first: You can only fit so many arrays on your property, limiting the amount of power you can generate.
But, if you have a plan to reduce your energy consumption, you can make it work.
Replacing your old HVAC system with a heat pump makes the most significant impact: Once you’re not using oil, gas, or propane heat, you’ll rely solely on electricity. At the same time, the heat pumps use so little energy that it’s possible to run them entirely off a residential solar panel array.
It can take a little doing, and you’ll want to reduce your energy usage overall to make it work. But, the good news is that you can do so without changing your lifestyle with the right tools and strategies.