Bright Ideas Blog

Five Easy & Inexpensive Ways to Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient and Comfortable

Author: Jennifer Dunton
Posted: Nov. 06, 2013
Category: Energy tips, Solutions

I started working at Next Step Living about a year ago. Before then, I didn’t know much about energy efficiency. If I remembered, I would turn off the lights in my house before heading to work or adjust the thermostat setting, but other than that I didn’t really do much.

Over the past year, I’ve learned about the many ways to save energy and thought I’d share five of them that may be new to you. The best part? They won’t cost you much or anything at all:

  1. Use an advanced, or “smart,” power strip. An advanced power strip not only helps protect your appliances from an electrical surge, it also includes three distinct plug categories. By plugging certain appliances into the right one, the power strip automatically turns specific appliances on and off based on the characteristics of the appliance in the first plug (like turning off your DVD player and game console when your TV if off). The power strip does the thinking so you don’t have to. You may even be able to get this quick fix at no cost during a home energy evaluation.
  2. Use a programmable thermostat. Like smart power strips, programmable thermostats may be a quick fix that you receive at no cost during an energy evaluation. Why? Most of us have patterns – on workdays, for example, we generally leave and return home at roughly the same time every day, even if we’re too busy to realize it. During the long New England winter, no one wants to come home to a cold house so you leave the heat on when you’re gone, even if it feels (and is) wasteful. Using a programmable thermostat to automatically lower your home’s temperature while you’re at work and raise the temperature before you return home means you save energy and money without having to come home to a cold house.
  3. Make sure your ceiling fans are on the right setting for the current season. You may not know it (I didn’t), but ceiling fans turn in two directions. For good reason: One rotation direction pushes air down, and the other draws air up. During the summer, make sure your fan is pushing air down creating a "breeze" by rotating in a counter-clockwise direction; in the winter, you’ll want it to turn clockwise at a low speed creating an updraft which forces the warm air near the ceiling down into the room. You’ll be more comfortable and your home will use less energy trying to regulate the temperature. (Helpful hint: The switch to change the rotation direction should be near the fan blades. To determine which direction the air is moving, simply stand under the fan, and look up.)
  4. Vacuum and dust your refrigerator coils and fan regularly.  Dirt and dust build up on your refrigerator’s coil and fan. That can decrease airflow and affect the fan’s balance, which can contribute to premature failure of the compressor.  Gently vacuuming and dusting these parts will help make your refrigerator run more efficiently and last longer. Be sure to unplug your refrigerator before cleaning. (You might want to set a quarterly reminder on your calendar to do this.)
  5. Take the screens off your windows in the winter. Leaving the screens in place during cold weather is OK in that it won’t damage your home or the screens. However, screens inhibit sunlight from coming into your home, which means you’re blocking the sun’s natural heat from flowing in. By removing the screens during the winter, your home can soak up as much free heat from the sun as possible.

What tips can you share?

Jen Dunton is a communications specialist at Next Step Living.