Frugal Energy: Light Bulbs Are Not the Only Lights to Turn Off

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Sure, you may have trained yourself and your family to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but turn off the lights and look around the room before you leave. How many digital clocks are keeping time?  How many little red or green lights are glowing at you, showing that the power is on to that VCR or DVD or CD player?  Yes, the power is on, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  At least those culprits shed light on their power usage.  Other culprits lurk in the dark.

Instant-on appliances and televisions that displays a picture at the push of one button keep themselves prepared to perform with a small stream of current.  Any appliance that uses a touchpad instead of push buttons draws a small stream of current through the touchpad, waiting to sense a touch.  Small streams flow together into rivers and the rivers can swell to burst the dam of your budget.

Stopping the Stream: No Cost Involved

Even before you switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs, you can begin saving energy without spending money.

  • If you only use some of your appliances or electronic devices infrequently or don’t intend to use them for several hours, unplug them if it’s convenient.
  • Reduce the brightness level on your television and computer monitor.
  • Change the power management feature on your computer to put the computer on standby if it has been active for some time. You can access this feature in Windows from the Control Panel by choosing “Power Options” under “System and Maintenance. “
  • When you do your monthly check on the smoke detectors in your home, also check your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning filter, and clean or replace it.
  • Lower the setting on your hot water heater to warm (approximately 120°F to 130°F.
  • Keep your refrigerator set between 36°F and 38°F, and keep your freezer set between 0°F and 5°F. If you use a small 5 cubic-foot freezer, place it out of the way of heat from direct sunlight from a window.
  • Use energy saving settings on dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers. Only wash full loads of dishes and clothes, and wash clothes in cold water, especially if you have a washer that does not use energy efficiently or if you have a top-loading washer, which will require more water than a front-loading washer.
  • If you have a fireplace, close the damper when the fireplace is not in use. If your fireplace has glass doors, keep them closed as well.
  • If you have ceiling fans, use them rather than the air conditioner when possible. When the air conditioner becomes necessary, use the fans along with the air conditioner so the air conditioner has less work to do.
  • Dress for the weather, even indoors. Layer sweaters or wear a cardigan in cold weather and wear shorts and sleeveless tops in hot weather. In cold weather, use extra blankets on the bed and set the thermostat even lower.
  • If you have a waterbed, always keep it made during the day. The insulation provided by the bedclothes will conserve as much as third of the energy it costs to keep the water warm when the bed is left unmade.
  • Close window blinds, curtains, or drapes to the west, south, and east during warm months to keep out the heat. During the winter, let in the warmth of the sun unless you have a cold wind blowing. Close blinds, curtains, or drapes in the direction from which the wind is blowing.
  • When cooking during warm weather, keep the lids on pans. Use the microwave to reduce heat build-up from cooking. Whatever the time of year, match the size of the pan to the size of the burner.

Stopping the Stream: Low Cost Suggestions

  • Consider switching to compact fluorescent bulbs in the five light fixtures you use the most often, especially if you use 60 W to 100 W bulbs in these fixtures.
  • Install low-flow showerheads in the shower and aerators on other faucets.
  • Install weather-stripping on doors and windows and either purchase thermal drapes or, if you don’t want to replace your drapes, purchase thermal drape liners. Either one will insulate windows in warm or cold weather.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket, and add pre-cut pipe insulation to any exposed pipes leading to your water heater.
  • If you have a fireplace, in addition to closing the damper and glass doors, install a Chimney Balloon when you’re not using the fireplace to keep warm air from escaping in the winter.
  • If it’s not convenient to unplug your electronic devices, plug them into a Smart Strip with Auto Switching Technology. Devices plugged into the “constant hot” outlets receive power continuously. A device such as a computer plugged into the “control outlet” on the Smart Strip controls power to devices, such as a printer, plugged into the “switched outlets.” When the computer is turned on, the devices plugged into the switched outlets receive power. When the computer is turned off, power to the switched outlets is switched off. Do be certain your peripherals will not be damaged by using a power switch to turn their power source on and off.

Creating a Frugal Carbon Footprint

To find out how much energy you use in your home try the Carbon Footprint Calculator created by The Berkeley Institute of the Environment of the University of California, Berkeley. If you have your utility bills for the past 12 months, you can perform your own energy audit using the Energy Star Home Energy Yard Stick from When it’s released, the Google PowerMeter will read your electric company’s smart meter showing you your real time electric usage.

Use these tools and create a more frugal, energy efficient life.

To learn more about frugal living click here.


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