Budgeting / Credit Cards and Debt / Personal Finance

Fix Your Finances in 30 Days

Day 18: Evaluating Your Expenses – Energy

I’m often surprised how many people are extremely inefficient with their energy usage, and when they think of fixing problems, they put in tremendous effort to do things that aren’t much of a benefit, like neurotically keeping their lights off while having inefficient lighting which costs them more for one hour of use than efficient bulbs would cost in four hours of use.

In short, an hour’s worth of effort and a few small tasks can cut a solid chunk out of your home energy usage.

Replace your regular bulbs with CFLs. CFLs are those bulbs that look like small spirals, the ones most people skip by because they’re “expensive” and they’re “saving” because they buy the cheap ones. The truth is that the “expensive” bulbs are the ones that save a lot of money: if you have 15 bulbs in your home (many homes have many more than that) and use them an average of only four hours a day (again, some houses will use even more), you can save $100 a year including the comparative bulb cost if you switch to CFLs. Even better: CFLs rarely need to be replaced once they’re installed.

Install programmable thermostats and learn how to use them. Letting the ambient temperature take over in unused rooms is a fantastic way to save energy; the only problem is that it’s very easy to forget to do it if you’re even doing it at all. If you replace your thermostats with programmable thermostats and spend the time to program them appropriately, you can easily trim hundreds of dollars from your energy bill each year.

Install surge protectors for all of your electronic devices. Not only will these protect your devices during a storm, they also prevent electrical “drag.” “Drag” refers to the small amount of electricity (5 watts or so) that all electronic devices continuously pull out of your sockets when they’re powered off, which can seriously add up if you have a lot of electrical devices.

Turn off your home computer. People who make claims about how powering up your computer uses tons of energy are living in the 1970s. The truth is that modern PCs don’t use any extra energy when powering up, so you’re better off powering down your computer when it’s unused. But if you’re like me, you tend to leave it on and forget about it, so set up your PC to turn off every evening automatically.

Air seal your home. This will take a few hours, but the Department of Energy has a very nice guide for making this process as easy as possible. Make sure you don’t have any drafts that can just slowly drain the heat (or the coolness) out of your home and you’ll save a lot of money.

These four tasks will reduce your energy usage significantly and any reduction in energy usage will bring about some serious savings in your monthly energy bills. In a large home, these tips can save $50 a month easily, a pretty good deal for things that you can do once and forget about them.

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