saving energy with energysage

Saving Energy with EnergySage, part 5: Reducing your electricity usage

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This post is the fifth in our series about how to save on your energy bills even when you’re spending more time at home, as the entire EnergySage team is, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (here are the first, second, third, and fourth.) Continue to check our blog for more ideas for how you can take control of your energy bills in the coming weeks. 

We’re back with another video and article in our Saving Energy with EnergySage series. In this one, EnergySage Advisor Anna Hagadorn–a heat pump expert!–covers how to tell if your appliances are energy efficient, and provides some concrete tips and tricks for reducing how much your big appliances consume. 

Are your appliances energy-efficient?

In the last blog in the Saving Energy with EnergySage series, we talked about the appliances in your home that use the most electricity. But not all refrigerators, dryers and HVAC systems are created equal–some are designed to be more efficient, using less electricity than others at baseline. 

The best way to know if your appliance is energy-efficient is by searching for the EnergyStar™ logo on the machine; this is considered the gold standard for energy efficiency. Appliances that are EnergyStar™ certified have already met the baseline efficiency criteria established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Electrical appliances in your home, EnergyStar™ certified or otherwise, may have energy-efficient settings available for use. “ECO mode,” “Power saving,” “energy saving,” or “efficiency” would all be potential phrases used to indicate operating settings that use less energy to perform their key functions. For example, the ECO mode setting on my dishwasher uses less water at a lower temperature, as well as implements an air-dry setting to minimize the amount of electricity it uses when running.

If you need to replace any appliances, upgrading to energy-efficient alternatives can help you save money on electricity bills in the long run. These appliances can sometimes cost more upfront, but many utilities or states throughout the country offer financial incentives for upgrading your old appliances with options that consume less energy. For example, the Mass Save program in Massachusetts offers rebates for energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, water heaters, lighting, and smart thermostats. 

How to reduce the electricity consumption of energy-intensive appliances

Some appliances in your home consume more energy than others, including:

  • Electric space heaters
  • Refrigerators
  • Air conditioners
  • Water heaters
  • Small appliances that remained plugged in while not in use

Below are some specific measures you can take to help reduce both the amount of electricity these appliances consume and your monthly electricity bill:

Electric space heating systems

Your heating systems may run on electricity or may rely on other fuels, such as oil or propane, which would be billed separately.

  • If your home is heated with a heat pump or electric baseboard, keeping the coils and filters free of dust and dirt will improve the efficiency of heat transfer, using less electricity to maintain the same level of comfort 
  • Clean or swap out filters once a year to maintain high efficiency

Space cooling/AC

Cooling appliances vary in efficiency: window units are the least efficient and therefore consume more electricity than central A/C; air- or ground-source heat pumps outperform all at cooling spaces efficiently.

  • To improve efficiency, keep outdoor condensing units free of dirt, dust, and debris to ensure efficient heat transfer (same principle as electric heating systems)
  • Clean or replace filters annually to prevent dust buildup in distribution systems

Refrigerator

After heating and cooling systems, your refrigerator is one of the more energy-intensive appliances.

  • To ensure efficient operation, be sure to clean the condensing coils, typically located at the back of the appliance or behind the front grille
  • When accessing the fridge, try not to leave the doors open too long

Water heater

Electric water heaters can account for up to 13 percent of your annual electricity consumption.

  • To improve efficiency, wrap the unit in an insulation jacket to mitigate heat loss
  • If you’re upgrading your system, consider a heat pump water heater, which uses less electricity than a traditional electric water heater

Small electronics and countertop appliances

Small electronics and countertop appliances continue to draw electricity from the outlets they are plugged into, even when we are not using them. (Fun fact: while in school studying energy efficiency and climate change, we referred to this as “phantom energy” or “vampire energy.”) You still pay for this unused electricity!

  • Consider unplugging countertop appliances like blenders, toasters, and mixers when not actively using them
  • Use a power strip for items like standing lamps, phone and laptop chargers, and simply switch off the strip when you’re not using those electronics. This will prevent them from drawing any power from the outlets

Additional EnergySage resources for understanding electricity

If you’re looking for more ways to save on electricity bills, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few additional resources to check out:

zip code entry solar calculator

Find out what solar costs in your area in 2020

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About Anna Hagadorn

Anna is an Energy Advisor at EnergySage, where she provides homeowners across the country with expert advice on their solar + storage and clean heating and cooling projects. Prior to EnergySage, Anna spent two years with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center administering downstream incentive programs for renewable energy technologies. Anna holds degrees in Environmental Studies and Geology from Northeastern University. When she’s not in the office, Anna attends dance classes and teaches group fitness around Boston, or stays home to pet her cat, DeeDee.

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