In honor of this year’s Earth Day theme: “A Billion Acts of Green,” ACEEE suggests six energy-saving tips that will not only help consumers create less pollution, but also help them save money. With many wondering what steps they can take to lessen their environmental impact, energy efficiency measures represent an often easy, immediate, and cost-effective way to take action. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu has even gone so far as to call energy efficiency “not just low hanging fruit; it’s fruit lying on the ground.” Moreover, with the summer season soon arriving, along with its associated increase in energy bills and gasoline costs, these tips are also especially timely.
For households, we recommend tips involving electronics, air-conditioning, and cooking:
- Cut down on “vampire” loads: All those gadgets and electronics in our homes use a significant amount of energy — even when we're not using them. Cut down on this "vampire" load by unplugging electronics when they're not in use. Sound like too much work, or worried you'll forget? You can put certain electronics (say, your TV or DVR) on timers so that they're only drawing energy during the hours of the day you'd normally use them. "Smart" power strips are also available with wireless wall switches to conveniently cut off power to a whole group of electronics at once.
- Stay cool in the kitchen: Experiment with different cooking techniques to expand your culinary efficiency: crockpots, toaster ovens, and pressure cookers are more efficient methods of cooking than conventional oven and stovetop cooking, and use about half the energy. Half the energy translates into half the heat steaming up your kitchen, a major plus in the hot summer months. When you need to use the oven, try to do all your baking at once. For example, two recipes that require temperatures of 350 and 400 degrees probably don't need to be baked separately; a temperature of 375 should work for cooking both of them at the same time.
- Get smart about AC: Improve the efficiency of your window AC unit by selecting the "re-circulate" option; instead of exerting a lot of energy trying to cool down hot outside air and pump it in your home, your AC can re-cool the inside air. Got central AC? Set up the thermostat so that your house is allowed to get a bit warmer when you're away for more than a couple hours — your pets will be fine at a slightly warmer temperature. You can do this every time you leave the house, or automate the process by swapping your old thermostat for a programmable one. Have family members coming and going at different times? Some utilities offer thermostats that can be controlled remotely from the Internet, allowing you control over your home’s temperature from the office. Contact your local utility for more information.
To learn about more energy efficiency recommendations, including more tips to reduce summer cooling costs, see our Consumer Guide for Home Energy Savings.
For drivers, increasing your fuel economy will save money and cut down on emissions. ACEEE recommends the following:
- Empty your car: During the summer many drivers end up using their car as a storage space for sports equipment, chairs and blankets for the beach, camping equipment, and other items that aren’t used daily. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds reduces fuel economy by about 1 percent. Take a few moments to unload your cargo area.
- Change the oil: In addition to making your car or truck last longer, replacing the oil and oil filter regularly will also help fuel economy. Check your owner's manual for specific recommendations about how often to change. Ask the service station if it recycles used oil, or if you do it yourself, take your old oil to someplace that does recycle. Ask for recycled oil as a replacement.
- Replace your tires: Buy low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tires. Switching to a typical set of replacement tires lowers a vehicle's fuel economy as much as 4 percent. LRR tires, on the other hand, are specially designed to improve a vehicle's fuel economy. Most major tire manufacturers now produce LRR models, so when it comes time to replace your tires, seek out a set of LRRs.
To learn more driving tips, and which cars are rated best for the environment, go to greenercars.org for more information.