As a way to introduce users to new artists, the Apple online store offers "essentials" collection. They begin with "the basics" and move to "next steps" and "deeper cuts." This kind of graduated approach works well in personal programs to curb electrical use. If you've already changed out your incandescent light bulbs for low energy light bulbs, raised your thermostat, and unplugged your vampire devices, it's time to consider the "next steps."
Track Your Energy Usage
Track your kWh (kilowatt hour) usage by writing down the figures from your electric bill each month. Science tells us that the act of observation changes that which is observed. Compete with yourself (or make it a game for your kids) to drive those numbers down.
Devices That Monitor Your Energy Consumption
Use devices like the Kill A Watt by P3 International to measure energy use in specific devices over a 24-hour period. Ask your electric company if they have a program to install meters that will show your home's total energy use at any give time. When you're aware of how much you're spending as you're spending it, cutting energy use is much easier. Also, put in a programmable thermostat that will raise or lower the temperature automatically while you're not at home.
Take Advantage of Off Peak Hours
Electrical rates can vary dramatically in relation to the current load on the grid. Do certain energy intensive tasks, like washing clothes, during the off-peak hours of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on week days or any time on weekends. (And remember, wash in cold water.)
Consider installing Solatubes in key areas of your home (think living areas, home offices, and bathrooms) to make maximum use of daylighting. Simply removing your window screens will let in approximately 25% more light.
Install Motion Sensors On Outdoor Lights
Install motion sensors on outdoor lights so they only come on when needed. If you are using outdoor lights as a security device, you can pair the motion sensors to alarms. You can also consider installing solar powered lights to maximize your savings.
Replace Worn or Missing Weather Stripping
Get on top of all potential air leaks that force your climate control systems to work harder. Make sure your weather stripping is in good shape or install stripping if it's not currently present. Caulk around drafty spots like the chimney or older windows. (Don't forget the energy advantages of double pane windows.) Use insulating foam around pipes and in electrical wall outlets.)
Clean Your A/C Unit
During the hot summer months, turn off and wash out your air conditioning system's compressor to make sure collected debris (like grass clippings or leaves) aren't stopping airflow and preventing efficient operation.
Solar and Wind Power
When you're ready to move to "deeper cuts" in your personal energy-saving program, there are many directions you can take ranging from installing a residential solar system to investigating wind power. Personal energy savings programs build on prior successes. The more you save, the more you want to save.
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