Reduce Your Household Energy Use

It’s hot and humid, and you just got back from a COVID walk-around-the-block break from your bedroom office. All you want to do is open the refrigerator door and stand in front of it.

Don’t do it! You’ll feel cooler, but letting that cold air escape wastes enough energy to power 50 loads of laundry. Plus, it costs you money and affects the environment.

Whether your motivation is to save money or to decrease your carbon footprint, making small adjustments to reduce your daily energy consumption can have a positive effect on the environment and help reduce the amount of energy consumed by your community.

boy with chart

U.S. energy consumption is on the rise

The U.S. houses less than 5% of the world’s population, but consumes 17% of the world’s energy and accounts for 15% of the world’s gross domestic product, according to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems. In comparison, the European Union has 7% of the world’s population, uses 12% of its energy, and accounts for 16% of its GDP. China has 18.5% of the world’s population, uses 24% of its energy, and accounts for 18% of its GDP.

If projections are correct, U.S. energy consumption is expected to rise by over 7% in the next 20 years, according to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. Global energy consumption is expected to rise 40%.

There’s a direct connection between energy use and the environment. When we consume less power, we reduce the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants, conserve the earth’s natural resources, and help protect ecosystems from destruction. Perhaps the most notable way that reducing energy helps the environment is by decreasing the harmful byproducts, such as carbon dioxide, from power plants that produce the electricity. Cutting back on energy consumption reduces the amount of electricity that power plants have to make.

man at fridge
Minimize the amount of time you leave the refrigerator door open to save energy.

Reducing energy use is easier than you may think. Living in smaller houses, living closer to work, and using public transportation are examples. Households can save as much as 15% a year on heating and cooling bills by simply turning the thermostat back 10-15 degrees for 8 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although your own energy saving adjustments may seem inconsequential, small steps become great leaps when multiplied by 7 billion others just like you. Try switching up some of your lifestyle habits with these easy tips. Then tell us in the comments section below or on social media what you do to reduce your energy use.

40 Ways to reduce household energy use

  1. Shut down your computer at night or set it to sleep when not in use.
  2. Choose the right light. LED bulbs are the most energy efficient. They use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer.
  3. Unplug electronics. Even when off, TVs, microwaves, scanners and printers use standby power.
  4. Unplug the charger. Some chargers still pull small amounts of energy when left plugged in. If it feels warm even when not charging a device, it’s using energy.
  5. Use a power strip. Prevent phantom energy loss by flipping the switch on a load of plugs all at once, rather than pulling plugs individually.
  6. Turn off lights when you leave a room, hallway light too.
  7. Use natural light. Do you really need that lamp on? Two 100-watt incandescent bulbs switched off an extra two hours per day could save you $15 over a year, according to BC Hydro.
  8. Install automatic light sensors or timed sensors on outdoor lighting.
  9. For landscape lighting, install solar-powered devices.
  10. Buy energy efficient appliances. Look for the ENERGY STAR label, which is a federal guarantee the thing will use less energy. ENERGY STAR clothes washers consume 25% less energy and 45% less water than conventional ones; refrigerators 9% less energy than the conventional.
  11. Hang clothes to air dry (at least sometimes) instead of using a clothes dryer.
  12. Use cold water in the washing machine whenever possible.
  13. Only wash full loads of laundry.
  14. Wash dishes by hand (at least sometimes) instead of using a dishwasher.
  15. Seal leaky windows that let in cold in winter and let out the cool in summer.
  16. Use timers on the holiday lights.
  17. Use ceiling or floor fans instead of air conditioning.
  18. Use a timer and sleep mode on the AC overnight.
  19. Adjust the AC temperature setting a degree or two higher than you normally would and pretend you didn’t. Each degree increase saves about 10% energy use.
  20. Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners once a month or as recommended.
LED bulbs last 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.
  1. Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed and make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
  2. In winter, keep the drapes and shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow warming sunlight to filter in. Close them at night to keep out the cold.
  3. In summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun’s heat.
  4. Dust lamps and lightbulbs frequently. Aging light bulbs and dust buildup can reduce total illumination by 50%.
  5. Close the chimney flue when not in use to keep out not only bats, but also cold air.
  6. Open the refrigerator or oven door only when necessary so the cold and the heat don’t escape. Your appliances will thank you for not having to work extra hard to do their job.
  7. Thaw frozen foods in the fridge, not on the counter. This will help keep the fridge cold.
  8. Thaw meats and casseroles completely before cooking to reduce cooking time.
  9. Wait until hot foods cool before placing them in the fridge. This will keep the fridge from having to work overtime to keep its contents cool.
  10. Match the size of your cooking pot to the size of the burner. Using a larger burner allows heat to escape into the room.
house solar panel
It can be difficult to calculate how much money and energy solar panels on your home would save. Here’s a guide to help you calculate.
  1. Putting a lid on a pot allows the contents to cook or boil quicker, using less energy.
  2. Install a programmable or smart thermostat.
  3. Cook foods in larger quantities than you need that day; eat the leftovers the next day.
  4. Only buy the appliances you really need, not just want.
  5. Purchase the smallest size appliance that you need. Do you really need a toaster that browns four slices at once if you live alone?
  6. Consider investing in a pressure cooker. Foods cook in about one-third the time of using the oven or stovetop and you can make large quantities of soups or stews for the freezer.
  7. Instead of using energy to boil water for tea, put the tea bag(s) in a glass pitcher or jar and place it out in the sun to get hot. (Our staff reports the tea is less acidic than if boiled water is used.)
  8. Reduce paper waste and energy use by limiting what you print out at work and at home.
  9. Turn off the office lights and computer when you leave work for the day.
  10. On October 1, celebrate National Energy Action Month, also known as Energy Awareness Month and National Energy Awareness Month, by continuing to do the above small actions.

To watch a video and see how the Academy is doing its part to reduce energy, visit our Small Actions Spark Big Changes webpage.

By Carolyn Belardo, Director of Public Relations

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  1. Hi. I might be missing something with item 32. I imagine that more often than not, using a natural gas grill or an electric grill has a smaller carbon foot print than using a charcoal one. Also, a lot of charcoals release pollutant additives and binders when burned, though I am aware of charcoals made from recycled materials (e.g., old furniture materials). I can understand that a charcoal grill doesn’t draw electricity from the grid, but surely its climate impact doesn’t justify its mass use. Moreover, a friend pointed out that in terms of total net energy expenditure, we often don’t “turn off” charcoal so it releases energy for hours past when we are done cooking. We could turn of an electric grill off immediately when done.

    Is there more to this point that I’m missing? Or is this item more tightly coupled to reducing home electric and gas consumption?

  2. Re Tip 37 – Clearly an American article – a British person would never even consider trying to make tea by warming some water in the sun. Proper tea can only be made by adding BOILING water to the tea to rapidly extract the flavour. I can only blame the events of the Boston Tea Party for instilling in the Americans the idea that tea and water could be mixed in any old fashion 😀

    1. Americans make sun tea for ice tea purposes, especially in the South. No need to boil water when it’s 105° outside.

  3. A good list in the most part. I use most of these points on a daily basis, though some are irrelevant to me. I have lived in 5 countries including north America, the Antipodes, Europe and the far East. There are distinctly different attitudes to energy use, likely based on the actual cost, which is comparatively very cheap in north America and very expensive in the far East and Europe, and average in the Antipodes.
    Yes, point 37 is clearly ludicrous for the British.
    Point 11. I live in Japan where almost no-one uses or even owns a clothes drier. Those with even the tiniest of balconies will still air dry their washing. I am lucky to have a garden and hang all my washing to dry in the fresh air, and have done so all my life living in five countries. There is nothing like the smell of washing dried in the fresh air and sunshine. Electric or gas driers make the washing smell bad, hugely increase static electricity, and shrink my cotton underwear (as experienced when visiting friends in north America). And must be huge users of electricity (even gas heated driers require electricity of course). No thanks !
    Point 14. Dishwashers. Many people say they use less water than hand washing, but that of course depends a lot on how you hand wash. Running the hot tap for half an hour while washing dishes is a waste of both water and energy, but I have seen people do that. In European countries (I count the British in that list) people tend to use a large bowl of sudsy water and then drain without rinsing. This uses less water but in my view is hardly hygienic ! When I lived in Australia people there would have a double sink so that after washing the dishes were dipped into clean water to rinse off the suds. A little better but the rinse water soon gets rather contaminated. In Japan and other parts of Asia people use a sponge filled with detergent and first wipe all the dishes without any running water, and then once cleaned use cold water to rinse off. This uses far less water and obviates the need for hot water. The strength of the detergent is also different in Asia. Nevertheless it is better to wear kitchen versions of rubber gloves, which are unfortunately only sold in ladies sizes in Japan. It seems that us men are not expected to wash up in Japan, so I resort to workmen’s rubber gloves which are not exactly “delicate”.
    It all depends on attitude. With energy costs rising everywhere in the world due to conflict and other reasons, now is the time for more serious consideration on how we use energy rather than blindly continuing to increase energy supply to meet demand; we need to reduce demand. Surely, solar hot water heaters, solar electric, housing insulation, reduction of use and reduction of excesses will improve matters for many. Energy education and a change in attitudes is sorely needed.

  4. Using LED lights is the best option for energy saving it helps in saving a lot of money, and they are cost effective also. What do you commercial industry also should consider LEDs where they need more lights?

  5. Great job Carolyn Belardo
    I will try to follow these tips to reduce electricity bill. I think we can make noticeable change in the amount of bill by following these suggestions.

  6. #14, I have read that as long as you run a full load in the dishwasher, it is more energy-efficient than washing dishes by hand. Also, I set my dishwasher on “energy saver” which skips the hot air drying and just lets them dry naturally from the heat of the cleaning cycle.

  7. I thought you made a good point when you explained that sealing leaky windows can help you reduce your household energy use. In addition to that, I would think that it would be a good idea to install energy-efficient windows in your home. Preventing high amounts of sunlight from getting into your home would help you use less air conditioning during the summer.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I’d like to offer one more practical tip that can assist homeowners in reducing their energy bills. Regularly changing or cleaning the air filter is a straightforward yet effective method for maintaining your HVAC system and ensuring its efficient operation, ultimately leading to energy bill savings. It is a simple task that most homeowners can do themselves. Check your heating system’s manual for guidance on how often to change the filter and the specific type of filter to use.

    And speaking of filter types, a filter with a MERV rating between 6 and 13 is usually fine for most homes. Filters with a higher MERV rating can make your system work harder and use more energy, so it’s best to avoid them unless your system specifically needs them.

  9. Thank you for sharing these tips on how to reduce energy use. I would like to suggest the use of rugs and carpets as an additional method. In addition to creating a cozy and warm atmosphere, they can also help in retaining heat by preventing warmth from escaping through any holes and cracks in wooden floors. This, in turn, can lead to a reduction in heating bills by up to 10%. Strategically placing these rugs in areas where you spend a significant amount of time or along walkways can maximize their benefits.

  10. Kudos to Carolyn Belardo for shedding light on how to reduce household energy consumption! Her insights are invaluable for promoting sustainability and eco-conscious living.

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