5 Ways to Save Energy During Quarantine

Offset some of the extra energy expense you're accruing during quarantine with these energy-conservation tips.

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Folks under stay-at-home orders not only use more energy in their homes, but may suffer the double-whammy of losing some or most of their income. Check out these energy conservation tips that can reduce your energy bills without spending an extra cent. If you have a little spare change to invest, look for the low-cost bonus tip in each to increase your long-term savings.

Conserve Energy When Heating and Cooling

Edison International, an energy supplier to Southern California, suggests using nature to your advantage. When warmth is needed, open shades to let in sunlight or a window to allow warmer air to enter the house. Conversely, when trying to cool, pull down the shades or open a window to let in cool air. When it’s comfortable, close things up. Easy.

Keep interior doors open so air circulates freely. Clean duct covers, register covers and heating fins, and change your furnace filter. Accumulated dirt and debris affect airflow, which forces your heating/cooling system to work harder.

One other tip for those with ceiling fans: Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, MN, suggests running them clockwise in the winter to push warm air down, and counter-clockwise in the summer to pull warm air toward the ceiling. Just remember to turn them off when you leave the room, as fans affect people, not rooms.

Investment Bonus: Installing inexpensive gaskets behind the switch and outlet plates in your home can stop the air leakage that saps energy (and money) from your home.

Conserve Energy in the Kitchen

Your kitchen offers many opportunities to save energy. Energy Star recommends heating food in a microwave or toaster oven, which use far less energy than your conventional oven and stove top. If you do need to use the oven, Xcel Energy says convection settings reduce energy use by up to 40 percent.

Choose the smallest pot that fits what you plan to cook and cover the pot while cooking. Both actions concentrate heat on the food rather than allowing it to escape into the room, which increases the load on your cooling system. Xcel also recommends outdoor cooking in summer to minimize indoor heating.

Furthermore, Xcel says opening the oven door while cooking lowers the temperature inside by as much as 25 degrees, so use the oven door window to monitor your food. An oven will hold temperature for at least 10 minutes without power, so you can safely turn off the oven for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Investment Bonus: A slow cooker uses much less energy than a stove top, according to Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, based in Arlington, Virginia.

Laundry Time Energy Conservation

Many appliances operate at peak efficiency when running at full capacity. Save energy by avoiding partial loads in washers, dryers and dishwashers. Wash and rinse clothes in cold water, except for heavily-soiled clothes or loads where germ-killing is desired. Even hot-water washing can be followed by a cold-water rinse to save energy. With the dryer, clean out the vent regularly and the lint trap between loads to keep it operating at top efficiency.

Follow the lead of hotel chains, which encourage using towels at least twice before washing. (This goes for some clothing, too!) The reduction in wash volume adds up quickly. Skip powered drying if you can and use a clothesline outdoors instead. When you do run the dryer, choose a time of day when the house is coolest and can best deal with the additional heat.

Investment Bonus: Pick up a couple of tennis balls to throw in the dryer with your wet clothes. They help create space between the fabrics tumbling inside for a faster dry-time.

Conserve Hot Water

Running hot water throughout your home takes a lot of energy. Touchstone recommends setting your water heater temperature to 115 degrees F. for a home with one or two people, and to 120 degrees F. for three or more. Periodically draining one to two gallons of water from your water heater helps keep the tank clear of sediment that can affect efficiency. Lastly, use cooler water for showering and keep it to less than seven minutes to maximize energy savings.

Investment Bonus: Insulate your water heater with a wrap and cover any exposed hot-water pipes with insulation. You can also install water-saving shower heads and faucet aerators to reduce flow, but not effectiveness.

Conserve Electricity

Lighting represents a top source of home electrical demand. Be vigilant about turning lights off when leaving a room. Many appliances and gadgets consume power in “off” or “standby” mode, according to Edison International. Unplug electrical appliances when not in use, such as TVs, cable boxes, radios, clocks, coffeemakers and the like. Examine your electronics for power-saving modes and activate them. Turn off computers and monitors when not in use.

Investment Bonus: Purchase a power strip with a switch that allows you to easily cut power to all appliances plugged into it when you’re away from home.