If someone offered you $100 for simply unplugging something when you weren’t using it, would you do it?
Although appliances and lighting options are now held to more strict guidelines, many Americans are still using old, inefficient models in their home. This leads to wasted energy and money. Every year, the average American spends $1,460 on electricity and $421 on natural gas. And with prices for electricity predicted to rise about 2 percent each year through 2018, the energy changes we make within our homes can make a big difference.
But there are even easier ways to cut these numbers down that many people don’t know about.
We surveyed Americans to find out just how many people were taking advantage of these energy saving hacks and put together your guide to saving energy in the home.
Those living in old homes and structures in colder climates often find themselves having higher heating bills in the winter. While it is easy to spot cold air coming into a warm house in the winter, it is harder to recognize the fact that cool air from an air conditioner can escape just as easily. No matter the season, you can be confident that there is energy waste occurring if you aren’t taking the proper steps to seal your home.
The good news is that these types of repairs can be made by yourself with caulk or even window film.
According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, by sealing your home and adding insulation, homeowners can typically save up to $200 per year.
Since the cracks and seams in your house can waste so much energy and money, do most Americans take the proper steps to seal their homes?
- Only 32.5 percent of respondents reported closing off cracks or seams in their home.
- The numbers get higher as age increases, with 55-64 year olds sealing their homes 41.6 percent of the time.
- Of those who reported “no”, 43 percent were male and 57 percent were female.
- Even those in the colder climates of the northeast US states did not close off cracks and seams almost 60 percent of the time. This was the highest percentage of the survey.
The average household has 45 light bulbs. According to the Department of Energy, this can easily add up because the average household’s lighting accounts for 5-10 percent of its electricity used. But what is it about old incandescent bulbs that makes them so lacking in energy efficiency?
The incandescent bulb gives off 90 percent of its energy as heat. Choices like LED (Light Emitting Diode) or CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) are much more energy efficient. Not only do they save 75 percent more energy, but can save you money.
In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act that requires all standard 40-100 watt incandescent bulbs to be phased out. However, that doesn’t mean some don’t still exist. Outdoor incandescent light bulbs can be as high as 100 watts. Other standard bulbs in the house are about 60 watts.
Thinking in terms of one bulb, a traditional 60 watt bulb found in your kitchen would cost you about five dollars yearly (if you kept it on for 2 hours per day). The equivalent LED or CFL would only cost roughly $1 per year. Here is the breakdown:
- 1 60 watt bulb on for two hours each day = $5 per year
- 45 60 watt bulbs on for two hours each day = $225 per year
- 1 energy saving bulb on for two hours each day = $1 per year
- 45 energy saving bulbs on for two hours each day = $45 per year
By replacing all of the bulbs in your house, you can save $180 per year.
Knowing how simple it is to install a new light bulb, most Americans should have switched their bulbs as soon as possible. So, did they?
On the surface, there was a 50/50 split between the two groups. But, when you start to look at the age groups, that is when the differences become more glaring.
- 61.8 percent of 25-34 year olds replaced their bulbs with energy savers. This was the only age group that replaced their bulbs more than those that did not.
- Of this 25-34 age group, almost 70 percent of females replaced their bulbs, compared to 56 percent of males.
- The northeast and western US states replaced their bulbs more than half the time.
- The south was the worst at using energy saving bulbs compared to the other regions in the study.
Most people are told to put computers to sleep when they are not in use to save energy. And while this does save significant amounts of energy, they are still drawing power while asleep. Turning computers off completely can also help extend the life of the components.
Lifehacker conducted a study which showed that out of the 14,000 surveyed, 30 percent had five or more computers. Looking once again at the standby energy from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, desktops use almost 75 watts when they are left idle and 21 watts when put to sleep. Notebooks use about 15.77 watts when they are asleep. For households with three or four computers, that number begins to add up.
Using our energy consumption calculator, leaving three computers (225 watts) on in idle mode for 24 hours would cost $233.28 per year. Simply putting three computers to sleep would only cost $65 per year.
This means that you can save $168.28 per year by turning off your three computers, instead of leaving them idle.
With this being such a large energy draw, do most people turn their computers off, or simply put them to sleep?
- Only one out of every three people shut their computers off when they are not in use.
- However, when comparing ages, the 55-64 age range does completely shut down their computers more than anyone else, at 41 percent.
- The age group that shuts their computer down completely the least is 25-34, at 28.4 percent.
Many appliances are still working even when you think you turned them off. This is called “standby power.” Standby power is actually the minimum power used when something is plugged in according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. So, even though you aren’t using your microwave in the obvious way of heating up food, it is still drawing energy to power things like a digital clock.
Aside from the furnace in your house, a laser printer draws the most standby power in the house at 131.07 watts, which comes to about $131 for the year.
Add this to the other electronics in the house from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the number gets larger and larger. So, do people actively unplug their printers?
- Only 14 percent of respondents unplug their printers when they aren’t in use.
- The age group that unplugged the most (and most likely the more tech-savvy group) was 18-24, with 26 percent unplugging their printers when they are not in use.
- The age group that unplugged the least was 45-54 at 13 percent.
- The southern US states were the worst at unplugging their printer at 66.8 percent not unplugging.
Learn about other energy waste around the typical home and the money you can save by eliminating them with the complete infographic.
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Calculating exact monetary values from energy savings is never an exact science. There are always several factors to consider when you look at state by state energy costs and usage variability across different times of the year. However, one thing is for certain, by using less energy, no matter how small, you are saving money.
Flipping a single light switch off may seem like a meaningless task for one person and one light bulb. But these types of small actions multiplied by the millions of households in the nation can add up. Learn about the ways energy sources power your home at SaveOnEnergy and choose the best fit for you.
We surveyed 1,000 Americans per question listed above using Google Surveys to compile the results. Of the respondents, 47 percent were female and 53 percent were male.
The breakdown of the ages is as follows:
- 15 percent were 18-24 yrs old
- 19 percent were 25-34 yrs old
- 18 percent were 35-44 yrs old
- 18 percent were 45-54 yrs old
- 17 percent were 55-64 yrs old
- 12 percent were 65+ yrs old
The geographical breakdown is as follows:
- 27 percent from the
- 18 percent from the Northeast
- 20 percent from the South
- 25 percent from the West