Older people who spend most of their time at home or who live on a fixed income need to watch their energy expenses carefully. It's easy to crank up the heat to a comfortable temperature but not so easy to pay a big bill later. Following a few simple tips can help seniors save energy as well as money on their home electricity, natural gas and water use.
Save on electricity
- Make sure electronics are turned off or unplugged when not in use. Anything with a standby mode is still drawing power even when it appears to be turned off. Instead of unplugging everything, try plugging electronics into a power strip. This makes it easier cut power to all the devices at once, as you can easily push the switch off with your foot rather than reaching down or behind bulky furniture to do so.
- Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient light bulbs, such as CFLs. Also, don't get a more powerful bulb than you need – the higher the brightness, the more electricity required. There's no need for a really bright light except for reading, computer work and kitchen tasks.
- Install motion sensor lights. Many are inexpensive and as easy to install as screwing in a light bulb. Lights come on when you enter a room and automatically turn off when you leave, saving you energy if you ever forget to turn off the lights. Motion sensor lights are perfect for stairways, hallways and closets where the light switch may not be so handy.
- Use the microwave and toaster oven for smaller meals. These appliances use a lot less energy than the stove or oven. Or try making a double batch of your favorite dishes then freeze the leftovers in individual portions. This saves cooking energy and time.
Stay warm or cool
- Move (or enlist an able-bodied relative to help you move) your favorite comfy chair to a sunny window in winter to stay warm. Moving it to a cooler area or under a fan during the summer helps too.
- Make sure furniture or drapes aren't covering vents or radiators, blocking air flow. Also make sure heat-generating devices such as a lamp or TV are not too close to the thermostat, making it think the house is warmer than it really is. This affects how often the thermostat kicks the heat or air conditioning on.
- Change the filter in your HVAC system every season. Even if your kids won't let you climb a ladder anymore, this is a task that still needs to be done every three months. This allows your system to run more efficiently and keeps irritating dust and pollen out of the house.
- Use a space heater in winter so you heat only the room you're in to a comfortable temperature, rather than the whole house. It's safest to use a heater with a timer so you don't accidentally leave it on when you go to bed or leave the house. You can also place a rolled-up towel at the bottom of a door to reduce drafts and keep heat in a room.
- Seal cracks around outside doors and windows. Add caulk around windows if you see any cracks and add weather stripping to the bottom of doors. This can reduce uncomfortable drafts and tighten up the house to save on your heating and cooling bills.
Save hot water
- Wrap a thermal blanket around your hot water heater to prevent heat loss. Also, lower the temperature to 120 degrees. This is a good idea for two reasons. One, it will save you money while still giving you water plenty hot enough to shower and wash dishes. Two, it will prevent your visiting grandchildren from getting burned in the bathtub.
- Wear your shirts and pants a couple of times before you launder them. Chances are they don't get very dirty during the course of one day. This saves wear and tear on your clothes as well as energy doing laundry.
- Use cold water to do laundry rather than warm or hot water. Hang up clothes on a clothes line or drying rack rather than use the dryer. If you do toss clothes in the dryer, do one load right after another to reduce heat loss from the dryer.
- See if you qualify for a senior discount or senior rate for your electricity and/or natural gas supply. If you live in a deregulated area, some retail energy suppliers offer a special rate for those over 60.