In 2015, the average U.S. household spent nearly $4,000 on utilities, making it one of Americans’ largest annual expenses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a recent NRDC study found that nearly a quarter of home energy use is due to “idle load electricity,” which is caused by electronics drawing power even when not in active use. But you don’t have to sit idly by while your energy usage mounts — there are a few easy upgrades that will cut your consumption of electricity and let you enjoy all the extra “green.”
Install Energy Switches
Instead of keeping a close eye on your energy bills to stay informed on your home’s energy use, you can now use an energy monitoring switch. These switches are installed right at on the wall, often as just a pass-through plug, and track precisely how much power you’re using. They’re also movable, so after you have your air conditioner’s energy use reined in, you can move it to your TV or another location. Or, as they cost about $30 each, you could buy several to stay informed on all your electronics. An added bonus is that many of these switches let you wirelessly control the plug device, letting you can turn the power flow on or off, or put it on a set schedule.
Update Your Bulbs
Renters and owners alike can make this simple switch from incandescent to CFL or LED light bulbs, which last longer while dramatically cutting wasted energy. They’re typically more expensive, but they more than pay for themselves throughout their lifespan. Incandescent bulbs lose up to 90% of their energy in radiating heat, whereas LEDs emit very little heat, use 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer.
Use a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, will familiarize itself with your schedule and habits. After about a week of observing your manual temperature adjustments, the smart thermostat will take over and adjust your home’s temperature to keep you comfortable while reducing unnecessary energy use. While you’re training your new thermostat, keep in mind when you are and aren’t typically home to enjoy the comfy temperatures. Energy.gov estimates that by dialing back the temperatures for eight hours a day (or dialing them up, during the summer cooling season), you can save up to 10% off your annual heating and cooling bills.
Plug Into Advanced Power Strips
Power strips aren’t what they used to be — they’re better. To combat that “idle load energy” we mentioned earlier, adding up to between 10% and 23% of your monthly energy bills, advanced power strips can monitor the activity of your electronics to automatically shut off your devices when activity ends or cut power to devices already in “off” mode. If you’re really good at remembering, you can reap the same benefits by plugging your electronics into a regular power strip that you switch off when you’re not using them.