Upgrade Your Lights to LED Bulbs

Known for their longevity and efficiency, LED lights have an estimated operational life span of up to 50,000 hours. This equates to 17 years of continuous operation, or 34 years of 50 percent operation. So if you were to use an LED fixture for eight hours per day, it would take approximately 17 years before it would need to be replaced.

LED lights are different from fluorescent and incandescent light sources, as LEDs do not contain a gas or filament of any kind. Instead, the entire LED is made up of a semiconductor, which is solid in nature and makes LEDs more durable. LED lights are small, packed electronic chip devices where two conductive materials are placed together on a chip (a diode). Electricity passes through the diode, releasing energy in the form of light. Unlike fluorescent lights that require a few minutes to warm up before reaching their full level of brightness, LEDs achieve full illumination immediately.

If you are still hanging on to your traditional or “analog” era lighting, your light bulb is operating at only 20 percent energy efficiency. Eighty percent of the electricity from the “analog” bulb is lost as heat. To illustrate how this inefficiency impacts your wallet, consider this. If you have traditional lighting and your electric bill is $100, then you are spending $80 to heat the room instead of light it. Using LED illumination with 80 percent efficiency, your electricity cost would be approximately $20, saving you about $80.


Appliance shopping? Compare more than price.  If you’re shopping for new or replacement household appliances, you need to compare more than just the prices of different models. That low-price washer, water heater, or refrigerator may be inexpensive because it will cost you more to operate. This is where you need to consider life-cycle costs — the total cost of buying and using an appliance over its lifetime. A less expensive freezer may use more energy and wear out faster; over time, the costlier model could end up saving you money. How can you tell what’s the best buy? Actually, it’s not hard, thanks to the Energy Guide information that comes with new major appliances. Energy Guide labels show the estimated annual cost of operating the appliance, and rank its energy-efficiency. So for washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and heating and cooling systems, check out those Energy Guide labels. Then you can compare price, features and all the other information and make a smart choice when you buy. If you can save $20 per year with a more energy efficient model, you should be willing to pay $50 or $100 more because you will save more in the long run.

Conserve water and energy with a few easy steps

Water heating accounts for the second highest use of energy in most homes, after space heating and cooling. Just keeping your family supplied with hot water for bathing, doing laundry and washing dishes can cost up up to $400 per year. And in many communities, demands for water are outstripping supply, making water itself a scarce and valuable resource. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to save water and money by using hot water more efficiently. Here are a few simple steps you can take:

Cut back the temperature on your water heater to 115 F. Many water heaters are set as high as 140 F. Because most dishwashers now will heat water to the temperature needed to ensure that dishes are sanitized, you can reduce the setting on your water heater. This not only saves energy but also helps the water heater last longer and reduces the risks of being scalded by hot water from your sink and tub faucets. Insulate your water heater tank, especially if it’s located in an unheated space such as garage or basement. This helps the water stay hot longer and reduces the amount of energy used.

Install low-flow showerheads and faucet controls. There are many types available at reasonable prices that provide the flow you need to shower and bathe without wasting water. Installing a simple aerator on an existing faucet will reduce the amount of water needed to provide a good, steady stream.

Is it time to retire your fridge?

Refrigerators are among the biggest energy-users in American homes. You might want to take a look at yours and decide if you should retire it in favor of a new, more efficient model. An old inefficient model can cost you more than $100 more per year to operate than a new one. The good news is that the most efficient standard refrigerators are less expensive. The bad news is that many of the features consumers want, such as automatic icemakers and on-door ice and water dispensers, make refrigerators less efficient. You have to consider your family’s needs to make the best choice.

Some points to consider if you’re refrigerator shopping:
Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers use more energy than top-freezer models.
It costs much less to buy and operate one large refrigerator than two small ones.
Piling things on top of the refrigerator can affect air circulation. Keep it clear.
Check the interior temperatures of your fridge and freezer with a separate thermometer. For maximum food safety and energy efficiency, the refrigerator should stay around 35-40 F, the freezer from 0-5 F.
Clean the condenser coils once a year to help the fridge run efficiently. Mount your refrigerator on a wheeled platform or slides to make access to the coils in the back simpler.

Running an efficient office: Computers and printers

Run an energy-efficient office — not merely an efficient office. Electronic office equipment is the fastest-growing source of demand for electricity in the United States. Although commercial businesses account for most of that  growth, the increasing use of home computers, fax machines and other office equipment also contributes to the growing demand. If you want to make the best use of electricity while taking care of your business — whether it’s a full-time job or just playing computer games with the kids — keep these tips in mind:
Laptop computers are much more energy efficient than desktop models.
Energy use varies greatly among the types of computers on the market today. So if you’re buying a new model, check out its energy consumption numbers. But generally, faster computers use more power than slow ones, and color monitors use more power than gray-scale.
It’s much more efficient to operate peripherals — such as CD-ROM drives, hard drives and modems — when they’re installed in the computer than to run external add-ons.
Laser printers use almost twice as much energy as inkjet and dot matrix printers. And with improvements in inkjet technology, the quality they produce is excellent, and they’re much less expensive to purchase.

Warm your house — with the dryer!

All that hot, moist air from the clothes dryer that you want to keep out of the house in summer can actually help keep you warmer and more comfortable in the winter. Check with your home center or hardware store for a simple kit that will let you vent your clothes dryer indoors during the winter, adding both heat and moisture to the air. Of course, you still need to check the lint filter after every load to keep the dryer working efficiently. And don’t run the dryer when you don’t need to, even with small loads. You’ll just add to your energy costs and add wear and tear to the appliance. But as long as you’re drying clothes, why not get the added benefit?

Time to turn on the fans?

Autumn may seem an unlikely time to think about using those ceiling fans but, in fact, when you turn on the heat, you should turn on the fans as well. Why? Because hot air rises. By switching the direction of your fan so that it pushes the warmer air near the ceiling downward, you’ll get that heated air where it’s most needed. Check your ceiling fans for a simple, small switch that reverses the blade’s direction. If the switch is at the top of the slot, press it downward. Now your fan will move warm air down from the ceiling, and help keep you more comfortable this winter.