In the face of increasingly alarming climate change reports, the need for national and state-level action is clear. Minnesota is leading the way from the North in advocating for progressive greenhouse gas emission goals and moving our energy system away from coal and fossil fuels. But what can individuals do to play their part?
Consider adding these clean energy resolutions to your New Year goals:
1. Eliminate phantom load. The stand-by power we rely on to easily access our appliances and devices means these items consume electricity even when turned off and plugged into an outlet. Devices that are “off” or in standby mode can use up to the equivalent of 50 large power plants’ worth of electricity and cost more than $19 billion in electricity bills—just in one year. To banish phantom load, group appliances together on a power strip and switch off the strip when not in use. Turn off any screen savers on electronic devices and make sure to unplug cell phone chargers when not in use. Do a scan through your entertainment appliances, and disconnect any unnecessarily charging devices, like gaming consoles and DVRs.
2. Air seal your home. Stop money from blowing right out the door. Air sealing windows and doors is one the biggest ways to cut heating and cooling costs. Caulk and weatherstrip around leaky doors and windows, and consider covering single-pane windows with storm windows. In a pinch, a simple, plastic film insulation over the interior of windows can help prevent drafts. Fresh Energy’s science policy director, J. Drake Hamilton, removed the screens on her family’s south-facing windows this winter, letting 70 percent more sun enter her home. Natural, solar heat for the win.
3. Lower your water heater’s temperature. Most water heaters are programmed to 140 degrees—but 120 degrees is usually adequate for most households. By making this 20 degree change, your water heater will require less natural gas or electricity, saving some households up to $460 each year. For additional savings, consider adding a water heater blanket—if your heater is warm to the touch, adding a blanket could reduce standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent.
4. Switch up your laundry routine. Try washing your clothes in cold water. Since 90 percent of a clothes washer energy use comes from heating water, making the change to cold water will dramatically save energy. Added bonus: cold water could also extend the life of your clothes. Consider line-drying your clothes as well. A typical dryer uses more energy than a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer, and dishwasher combined.
5. Program your thermostat. Dialing back the temperature of your home from its normal settings (in the winter) by seven to ten degrees for eight hours a day could save up to ten percent a year on heating costs. Rule of thumb: ten degrees down = ten percent savings.
Do you have additional energy saving tips? We want to hear! Send us your suggestions below and we’ll share them on social media throughout the month of January.