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Financial Literacy Month: Cutting Energy Costs for Earth Day

by on April 23, 2012

By Meghan Stewart

Yesterday marked Earth Day and to celebrate this special day in conjunction with Financial Literacy Month, the PowerWallet team is by providing some awesome tips and tricks to cut energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time!

Energy costs are a big expense in any budget. The Department of Energy reports the average American family spends $1,300 per year on energy bills. At the same time, this is also costing Mother Earth big, too. In this sense, cutting back on your energy costs by improving your energy consumption offers twice the positive impact—on your world and your wallet.

Here are some easy ways to make sure you’re using energy in the most efficient way possible for the planet and your finances:

– Use proper insulation. Using the right insulation can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 30%. You keep more heat and A/C inside, so you use less energy to keep your home at the right temperature. When buying insulation, look at the R-value which is a measure of how well the insulation resists the transfer of heat. You may even be able to get a rebate from your electric company for adding insulation.

– Repair cracks, holes, and old weather stripping. Letting air out even in tiny amounts is wasting energy and increasing your utility costs. You can test seals around doors and windows on a windy day by holding a stick of incense up around the seals on the inside of your windows and doors. If the seals are airtight, the smoke will trail straight up. If it seems to be moving in one direction, you may very well have a leak.

– Adjust for time of day. Having your home at a constant temperature for 8 hours of each weekday when no one is home is a waste of energy. Use a programmable thermostat and set it to stop heating or cooling at times when no one is home. You can also use less energy at night while you’re sleeping and have it turn on in the morning right before you get up.

– Change light bulbs to energy efficient light bulbs. These fit almost any standard fixture. If you have an extremely old or unique fixture that you can’t find an energy efficient bulb to fit, try using a lower wattage or “soft white” light bulb.

– Be energy efficient with laundry. Run clothes in the washer on the cold water cycle. Always adjust your washer settings so you’re not using more water than you need for each load. Keep dry lint traps and vents clear and always dry with the appropriate sized load. When possible, hang clothes to dry.

– Running a full dishwasher is more efficient than washing by hand. It actually costs more water and energy to hand-wash a full load of dishes than to run it through the dishwasher. Just don’t waste your energy savings by prewashing everything.

– Make sure your fridge isn’t draining power. Old fridges tend to eat energy, so if your fridge is extremely old you may need to budget for an energy-efficient model. In any case, keep the door closed and keep the fridge full—a full fridge runs more efficiently.

– Turn your water heater to right temperature. Water heaters are often set at a higher temperature than you need. Check the manuals for your dishwasher and clothes washer to see what they require. You can usually turn your heater down to 120 degrees.

– Don’t water your lawn or wash your car (dogs, etc) at the hottest times of the day. Try watering and doing any outdoor washing early in the morning or in the evening to avoid wasting money and water.

– Use native plants and let grass grow. Native plants tend to retain moisture better for the area, so you use less water. Longer grass actually retains moisture better, too, so consider mowing more often at a higher blade setting to keep your grass longer.

– Use free evaluations to find ways to be more efficient. Most power companies offer free home evaluations to help make your home more energy efficient. Once you’ve checked everything you know about and made you adjustments, why not call the experts and let them evaluate your home energy efficiency for free?

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