Strategic Sustainability: Where Do We Use the Most Energy?
Most homeowners these days are making some sort of effort towards reducing their carbon footprint by making changes here and there. Perhaps they are more conscious about their recycling efforts, upgrading to biodegradable garbage bags, and switching out their old light bulbs for LEDs. There are many ways homeowners can make small changes to benefit the environment.
However, while these small efforts are not something to dismiss, they aren’t quite enough to make the impact that the world really needs. Of course, it is always better to do something versus nothing. Still, when it comes to living a more eco-conscious lifestyle, homeowners must make more strategic sustainability efforts to effect change on a larger scale.
Energy consumption, for example, is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. This is because fuel, which is a toxic and non-renewable resource, is required to generate electricity. So the more electricity we use, the more fuel is burned, releasing harmful gases and pollutants into the atmosphere. If homeowners can start using more renewable resources, however, and upgrade to products that use less energy, they can significantly reduce their energy consumption.
Areas of Your Home That Use the Most Energy
One easy way to make more precise and strategic eco-friendly changes in your home is to look at where you are using the most energy. Zeroing in on the exact problem area will not only help reduce your carbon footprint, but it can help you save money by lowering your energy bill as well—so it’s a win-win.
Below are the top five energy users in your home:
1. HVAC System
Your heating and cooling system is the biggest guzzler of energy, accounting for 46% of the average energy consumption in your home. Depending on where you live the numbers may fluctuate a bit, but on average, most homeowners use their AC and heating more months than they don’t. The average HVAC unit uses around 3500 watts, running two to three times an hour.
Ways to reduce your HVAC energy consumption:
- Only run your system during the hottest or coldest parts of the day. A setting of 78°F in the summer and 65°F in the winter is best.
- Install ceiling fans to help—counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter.
- Keep up with regular maintenance and tune-ups to ensure it is running as efficiently as possible. This includes keeping it clean and free of dust and regularly replacing filters.
- Close your curtains on hot days to block the sun and open them on cold days to allow heat from the sun to enter.
2. Water Heater
Your water heater comes in second place, accounting for 14% of the average home’s energy consumption. Most people don’t think of water consumption as using energy, but a water heater uses around 4500 watts running for about 3 hours a day.
Ways you can reduce your water consumption:
- Take quick showers and avoid baths.
- Set your water heater temp to 120 or lower.
- Install water-conserving faucets and toilets.
- Upgrade to a solar water heater.
On average, the appliances you use in your home account for around 13% of your energy consumption. Most of these appliances are things we use daily, especially in homes with more people living there. An individual that lives alone, for example, might not use their washer and dryer or dishwasher every day, but a family of 4 or more might.
Below are the specifics of each appliance and how you can reduce its energy use:
On average, refrigerators use 225 watts a day.
- Don’t overpack your refrigerator, as this overloads the system.
- Avoid holding the door open for long periods.
- Set the temperature according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Regularly clean behind and underneath the fridge.
- Upgrade to a more energy-efficient model.
Washer and Dryer
Your washer and dryer use around 3045 watts collectively.
- Only use the washer when you have a full load.
- Always opt for the cold water setting.
- Full loads are best, but avoid overloading or stuffing too many things in at once.
- Hang dry clothes as much as possible.
- Clear the lint out after every load.
Electric Oven and Stove
The average electric oven uses around 2,500 watts, and the stove, 1,500 watts.
- When possible, use smaller appliances as an alternative, such as microwaves, toaster ovens, and slow cookers.
- During hotter months, try to only use the stove and oven during the cooler parts of the day.
- Skip the preheating step when possible. Many dishes will still cook properly if you put them in before the oven or stovetop has fully preheated.
Dishwashers, on average, use around 330 watts.
- Only wash the dishes when you have a full load.
- Skip the heated dry step.
- Run it in the mornings or evenings when it is cooler outside.
The lighting in your home accounts for about 9% of your energy use on average. Of course, the more lights you have on throughout the day, the more energy you will consume. The average 100-watt bulb left on for around 2 hours a day uses about 0.2 kWh per day.
To reduce your lighting energy consumption:
- Only use lights when you need them, and turn them off when you leave the room.
- Replace old bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs.
- Open your shades and curtains to make use of natural light.
- Use solar-powered outdoor lights or ones that only turn on when they sense motion.
5. Media Devices
The electronics you use throughout your home account for about 4% of your energy consumption. On average, most of the energy use comes from entertainment systems, such as the television, cable boxes, streaming devices, and video game consoles. However, office spaces and home studios can also account for a significant amount of energy consumption.
To reduce your electronics energy consumption:
- Turn your devices off when you are finished with them. Avoid using standby or sleep modes.
- Opt for ENERGY STAR-certified electronics.
- Reduce screen and monitor brightness.
If you aren’t sure where to start when considering the changes you want to make to be more strategic in your sustainability efforts, it’s helpful to go through your home room-by-room and start making a list. Create a budget for the things you want to replace or upgrade and make a note of the habits you can change in your daily life to reduce your energy consumption concerning your home’s most significant energy users.
You can even jot things down on sticky notes and place them throughout the house as a reminder until these changes in habits become more natural. For example, notes by light switches remind you to turn them off. If you want to make a difference, try setting a good example and convince others to follow your lead. The more homeowners living an eco-conscious lifestyle, the better.