March 23, 2020
If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with the current pandemic crisis, you’re likely reading this from your home, where you’ve been told to shelter-in-place. While these recommendations might be inconvenient, you can still make positive changes during this uncertain time. For example, newly minted work-from-home employees can leverage their increased time at home to learn how to better conserve energy, save water, and implement other eco-friendly tips.
Because you’re staying at home all day, it’s highly likely you’re relying more heavily on your utilities. Instead of eating out, you’re cooking from home. Perhaps you’ve also taken to working late-night hours when it’s quietest in your house, so you're using more electricity longer into the night. Ultimately, the longer you work from home, the more quickly you’ll notice that your utility usage subsequently creeps up as you consume higher than average amounts of energy.
Although unavoidable, self-isolation at home means there are new opportunities to complete easy DIY projects, make sustainable changes to your household, and employ more eco-conscious practices. We’ve compiled some eco-friendly tips to save energy at home and reduce your environmental impact.
Saving energy, conserving water, and other home sustainability tips
As you dial in your workflow and groove while working from home, it’s important to consider how you can mitigate the impact of your higher consumption of utilities. Below, we’ve compiled a list of quarantine home tips you can implement while avoiding the outside world.
Saving energy, conserving water, and other home sustainability tips
As you dial in your workflow and groove while working from home, it’s important to consider how you can mitigate the impact of your higher consumption of utilities. Below, we’ve compiled a list of shelter-in-place home tips you can implement while avoiding the outside world.
Tips to save energy
1. Replace light bulbs
First and foremost, if you plan on burning the midnight oil in your search for work-from-home peace and quiet, consider ordering LED light bulbs online to replace your current incandescent bulbs. 90% of the energy incandescent bulbs use to generate light gets turned into heat. For you, that means wasted money from an inefficient device.
In contrast, LEDs offer incredibly efficient energy; almost all the electricity they consume is directly generated into light.
Besides switching out your old light bulbs, you may also want to consider adding a dimmer switch to your lights. It’s a great way to get just the right amount of light you need instead of full brightness every time you need a little illumination.
2. Pay attention to your thermostat
When you’re working from home, it’s important to be as comfortable (but not too comfortable!) as possible so you can focus on your work. With that said, even just a few degrees difference may help you save up to 10% on your energy bill.
3. Watch out for “power vampires”
No, this isn’t something you need to check for under your bed. A power vampire is a device that’s turned off yet continues to pull energy from the grid, even if it’s fully charged or turned off—because it’s connected to an outlet. While the power consumed might be minimal, it can add up over time, especially if there are several devices adding to the unnecessary power drain.
Common power vampires are found all over your house in the form of computer cables, cable boxes, phone chargers, and even your beloved coffee pot.
To reduce the effect of power vampires, consider investing in a power strip so you can turn off your charged and ready devices all at once. In fact, you can even get a “smart” power strip that automatically turns off when it senses your devices are charged.
It’s also a good idea to fully unplug the devices you don’t use frequently. For example, a stereo or a secondary TV are devices that you can unplug without disrupting your life. Your alarm clock, however, might be a good device to keep plugged in.
4. Take advantage of passive solar heating
Passive solar heating methods may be a way to save on heating bills during chillier days. If it’s sunny, ensure your blinds and curtains are drawn to allow the sun to radiate inside. This solar radiation will warm up your room, and make your day a little more cheerful while you’re quarantined at home.
When the sun goes down, draw the curtain to trap the solar heat, keeping as much residual warmth as possible. Practicing this habit every day has the potential to save energy while working at home.
5. Keep your fridge stocked and well-maintained
It’s not useful to hoard more food than you can possibly use within the timeframe of your shelter-in-place, but a thirty-day supply is a good rule-of-thumb. Keep your fridge full, but ensure that none of your goods block essential ventilation.
If your fridge is too empty, more warm air enters the interior, forcing your fridge to work harder to cool. On the contrary, if your fridge is overstuffed, the cold air won’t properly circulate around your food to keep it chilled.
While you’re at it, adjust your fridge’s temperature. The FDA recommends setting your fridge set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer to 0 degrees or slightly below.
PRO TIP: Even energy-efficient appliances won’t run as well if you don’t maintain them. To optimize efficiency, the coolant on the coils must be free of debris. A quick 5-minute dust and clean is an easy way to save energy, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve taken the time to really scrub those coils.
6. Clean or replace your HVAC filters
Cleaning your HVAC filters is a simple project that can help your entire HVAC system run more efficiently. When your vents are blocked by dust and debris, your heating and cooling system has to work harder to overcome those obstacles, consequently wasting energy.
7. Clean your dryer vent
Have you noticed how much lint gets trapped in your dryer’s lint trap? Well, another place lint can build up is in your dryer vent. Dryers are the second-highest energy-using appliances, right next to your HVAC system. Cleaning your dryer vents makes your dryer more efficient so your clothing dries faster so you don’t have to run it for as long.
Consider adding a drying line to your laundry setup to avoid using your dryer for clothes that don’t need to be dried right away.
8. Look for drafts in your home
When you’re quarantined at home, you’re going to have some serious downtime on your hands you’d otherwise spend going to local events, going out, or socializing. However, in lieu of social activities, you can now turn your attention to learning how to save energy and make sustainable choices at home. After all, you can only spend so many hours streaming shows before you get the itch to do something a little more productive.
Consider conducting your own DIY energy audit to help you better understand where your home might have a few inadequacies that you can take care of yourself. For example, one of the easiest fixes you can make is finding and sealing drafts in your home. To find drafty areas, light an incense stick and carefully watch to see where the smoke is pulled, for example, through window cracks or under doors.
You’ll need sealant or weatherstripping to stop air from escaping. If there’s an area with drafts you can’t fix yourself, make a note of it and revisit your concern with a professional after your shelter-in-place is over. In fact, some contractors offer virtual assessments that allow you to set up appointments later.
9. Change your ceiling fan’s rotation
Do you know if your ceiling fan is spinning clockwise or counterclockwise? Well, it's an important piece of knowledge to know as it can impact your energy use. During the winter, your fan should spin clockwise at low speeds. During hotter months, your blades should spin counterclockwise.
Why? The answer is based on the law of thermodynamics. Hot air rises while cool air sinks. During summer, it’s important your fan’s blades work with your AC and not against it. To do so, make sure your fan’s blades spin counterclockwise to help pull hot air up away from you. And to make the most of your home’s heating in the cooler months, your ceiling fan’s blades should be spinning clockwise to push heated air back down to the main living areas where you’re spending the most time.
10. Wash your clothes in cold water
Heating is a huge part of your utility bill. But, if you take steps to reduce how much heating you use, you can limit those expenses. Consider washing your clothes in cold or warm vs hot water. Additionally, setting your water temperature to 60 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 75 degrees Fahrenheit may save you close to $60 a year in utilities.
11. Start composting
Unless you’re ordering out through meal delivery or pick-up services, you’re probably cooking at home more than you typically would. As a result, you’ll likely have significantly more food scraps. Instead of tossing them in the garbage, consider composting to create a rich, nutrient base for your house plants and landscaping. In turn, composting may save you money by improving water penetration in your soil and lowering trash hauling costs.
To create your own DIY compost bin, you’ll need an old trash can with ventilation holes, a base of carbon (think wood chips or leaves, for example), nitrogen (that comes from your food scraps), and moisture. Some good food leftovers to get your compost bin started include fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, grass clippings, coffee grounds, shredded paper, and untreated wood. Avoid meat, oil, fat, dairy, or grease because those food products can harm your garden.
Water conservation tips
12. Take shorter showers
If you love long, luxurious showers, we’re here to break the spell. The average family uses almost 40 gallons of water a day and showering accounts of almost 17% of indoor residential water use. If you shave just two minutes off your shower time, you can save around 10 gallons of water.
Order a low-flow showerhead if you want to save even more. Ideally, one with an EPA-criteria approved WaterSense Label.
13. Build a simple rain barrel
Creating a potable water catchment system when you’re in quarantine will be unrealistic for the majority of people, but crafting a simple rain harvesting system isn’t out of reach. You only need a few supplies, many of which you likely already own. And if you’re missing necessary components, consider ordering from your local hardware or home improvement store.
Saving energy during shelter-in-place, one DIY project at a time
Although shelter-in-place is an inconvenient reality for many, there are ways to relieve the energy consumption and reduce your environmental impact when you spend more time at home. By focusing on small changes and DIY projects, you can feel productive and become more conscious of your home energy usage, water use, and overall carbon footprint. And when you’re ready to take on those large home energy improvement projects, you can contact a licensed Ygrene independent contractor to help you get started.