Eating healthier and getting in shape, quitting smoking and saving money are some popular New Year’s resolutions, but long-term problems don’t have instant fixes, and that’s why so many people get fed up and break their resolutions.
The truth is, to get fit and trim, you may have to purchase a gym membership or exercise equipment; to quit smoking, you may have to enroll in a program that weans you off cigarettes; and to save money in the long run you may have to make some investments, like replacing old home appliances with energy-saving ones.
Here are tips to save money on energy this year and in the years ahead — best of all, they fit every budget!
1. Get more insulation
Insulation is your home’s best defense to keep cold air outside your living spaces during the winter and hot air outside those spaces during the summer.
If nothing ever went wrong, insulation would last just as long as the manufacturer describes — which could be 100 years, or the life of the building.
But that’s not realistic. Contact with moisture and pests can quickly degrade insulation and require it to be replaced.
Check your attic — you may be surprised to see less insulation than there was before, due to damage. If you can see the ceiling joists, it’s definitely time to visit your local home center for more insulation.
2. Stop Energy Vampires
Did you know that turning off your TV or computer doesn’t cut the power running to the device? Or that leaving a charger plugged in an electrical outlet, even without a phone attached, still uses energy?
Electronic items that suck up power even when not in use are often called energy vampires. Despite the cute name, the costs are steep — adding at least 10 percent to your monthly utility bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
If you have a light switch that can turn outlets off and on, plug your biggest electronic items (such as TVs and computers) into these switch-controlled outlets, and simply flip the switch when you no longer need the device. That’s the easiest way to stop energy vampires!
Alternatively, you could plug media devices — some of the worst energy-sucking offenders — into a power strip and, again, control their power use with a switch.
If neither of these is an option, get back to basics: avoid leaving your TV or computer idle; power off the flat screen and put the laptop in sleep or hibernate mode.
Of course, you can also go around the house and unplug devices you’re not currently using.
3. Consider a Fixed Power Bill
What if you knew exactly how much you’d have to pay for electricity, each month, for a full year? There would be no surprises, and you could easily budget utilities?
It’s possible, thanks to fixed-rate electricity plans.
Many homeowners have reasonable utility bills during the spring and summer, but see major spikes as the weather gets colder in the fall and winter.
But with fixed-rate plans, it doesn’t have to be that way. The power company just looks at your past electricity use and provides you a fixed amount to pay for the next 12 months.
That’s the upside, but convenience comes with a cost. This is a contract, and you would be billed the difference between actual energy used and the amount paid, if you prematurely canceled the agreement.
Also, you won’t be reimbursed if there’s a power outage or you’re not actually using as much electricity as expected.
Check your local power company to see if this plan is available in your area.
4. Get a Smart or Programmable Thermostat
If predictable power bills are too risky for you, consider installing a smart thermostat or a programmable one.
Smart thermostats are Wi-Fi compatible and have lots of money-saving features. Depending on the model, they can learn your temperature preferences and self-program; they let you set them remotely with any computer, smartphone or tablet; and they can even sense when you’re away and ease off on the heating and cooling to avoid energy waste.
If a smart thermostat, which ranges from $150-$250 isn’t in the budget, you can upgrade an ancient thermostat to a programmable one without all the bells and whistles.
It’s not Wi-Fi compatible, but you can set different temperatures for weekdays and weekends and it automatically raises the temperature in the summer and lowers it in the winter when you’re away for days.
Best of all? A basic programmable thermostat will just set you back $25 or $50.
5. Get Energy Star Appliances
When you buy an appliance, you’re not paying for just what’s on the price tag; there’s a hidden cost, and that’s how much it takes to operate the appliance.
If you have an old dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer, freezer, refrigerator or dehumidifier, and it’s on its last legs, your best bet — if it’s in the budget — is to purchase a brand-new Energy Star certified appliance.
Look for the Energy Star sticker because it means the manufacturer worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to save you money.
How much money, you ask? Well, Energy Star appliances don’t cost more than non-certified appliances, and they can save you $100 each year.
Well, that’s it for now. We hope these tips help you save energy (and money) in the new year and beyond.
Do you have special energy-saving tips not listed here? Share them in the comments!