Actions to Save Energy
“While we cannot remove ourselves from the necessity of using energy, we have a moral obligation to work toward protecting our environment. There must be a sustainable alternative to how we live now.
“The need to address our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our energy security has become central to our time. Although international commitments and legislation in Washington are critical in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy independence, our challenge is not to passively wait for policymakers to finally make their next moves. We need to bring our communal, institutional and personal strengths to bear now.”
– Sybil Sanchez, Director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
Energy Saving Actions
1. Assess Energy Use in my Home
Knowledge is power. The first step in any large undertaking is to find out where you are now!
Set aside an hour to walk around your home and make note of areas where energy may be wasted. Look for drafts, leaks, old appliances and light bulbs, and things plugged in that are not being used.
Online tool: For more ideas, see this “Do It Yourself Home Energy Audit.”
By taking this action you will save “1 shtickel of energy wisdom,” by which we mean, you are well on your Jewish way to saving energy! Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
Trade in your old light bulb for a spiral! You’ll save energy, save money, and reduce carbon emissions.
How do CFLs work? CFLs produce light differently than incandescent bulbs. In an incandescent, electric current runs through a wire filament and heats the filament until it starts to glow. In a CFL, an electric current is driven through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapor. This generates invisible ultraviolet light that excites a fluorescent coating (called phosphor) on the inside of the tube, which then emits visible light. CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving, use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
Older CFLs used large and heavy magnetic ballasts that caused a buzzing noise in some bulbs. Most CFLs today — and all ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs — use electronic ballasts, which do not buzz or hum.
If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that’s earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.
Online tool: Wondering which bulb to purchase? Download this great Bulb Purchasing Guide from Energy Star.
By taking this action you can save approximately 238 lbs CO2 in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
CFLs are hazardous waste. When your CFL burns out, EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local options for recycling CFLs, fluorescent bulbs and other bulbs that contain mercury, and all other household hazardous wastes, rather than disposing of them in regular household trash. Learn more: http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/recycling-and-disposal-after-cfl-burns-out
CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. If a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described on this page: http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl-detailed-instructions
3. Tighten Your Home
Is your precious energy slipping through the cracks? According to EPA estimates, homeowners can typically save up to 20% of heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% of total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists.
Online tool: Want to learn more about the process of insulation? This handy website provides good information and tips.
By taking this action you can save approximately 1038 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
4. Make Friends with the Trees
Let the trees do the work! Landscaping can be a natural and beautiful way to cool your home in summer and reduce your energy bills. Trees and shrubs can provide shade, break the wind, and reduce your energy bills. A well-placed tree can save up to 25% of the energy used in a typical household! And daytime air temperatures in the summer can be 3°–6° cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods than treeless areas.
Online tool: Learn more about landscaping! This handy website provides good information and tips.
By taking this action you can save approximately 2820 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
5. Just How Much Difference Do 2 Degrees Make?
During the heat of summer, it can be tempting to set the thermostat to “arctic freeze.” But there is a cost to constantly running the energy-intensive air conditioner, and by keeping the temperature slightly higher, you can reduce your electricity consumption and lower your energy bill. Try raising the temperature setting on your AC by 2 degrees this summer.
Need extra cooling? Instead of lowering the temperature setting, use a fan to circulate air, a more efficient choice.
Online tool: EPA’s “Reducing Energy Use” page is full of ways to cut energy expense, encompassing both heating and cooling.
By taking this action you can save approximately 115 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
6. How You Get There Matters!
Carpooling and taking public transportation reduces the need for more cars on the road. By catching a ride on the bus, or sharing a ride to work or school, you can really reduce your carbon footprint!
- Option A: Carpool to school or work with one other person.
- Option B: Take the bus or other public transportation to work or school.
Online tool: Learn more about carpooling and taking public transportation! Designed for students, this handy EPA website provides good information and tips for everyone.
By taking this action you can save approximately 315 kWh (carpool) or 632 kWh (public transport) in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
7. Use Efficient Appliances
Action: Replace my dishwasher with an ENERGY STAR model
Saving more than just the time you would spend washing dishes by hand, ENERGY STAR rated dishwashers are 20% more water efficient and 10% more energy efficient than standard models. They use sensors to determine how much food is on dishes and adjust the washing to increase water efficiency.
To increase the water saving, here are some “best practices” suggested by ENERGY STAR’s website:
- Scrape food off dishes rather than rinsing before putting dishes in the dishwasher.
- Load the dishwasher as full as possible for each load.
- Select the washer’s no-heat drying action.
In addition, there are federal tax credits available for many ENERGY STAR rated products. Learn more here.
NOTE: While this action focuses on dishwashers, of course it also makes a difference to buy all kinds of ENERGY STAR appliances. Learn more here.
Learn more about energy efficient dishwashers! This handy website provides good information and tips.
By taking this action you can save approximately 34 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
8. Turn off the TV
Action: Replace 2 hours of watching TV per week with an energy-free activity.
By replacing 2 hours of watching TV per week with an electricity-free activity (like going for a walk or reading a book outside), you can reduce your energy consumption. You’ll also get an extra two hours in your week! Try a hike—through the woods or around your neighborhood, playing tennis or basketball at a nearby court, a trip to the library, or other items on your to-do list. You are saving energy and improving your quality of life—enjoy!
Writer and activist Michael Bluejay’s online electricity saving guide provides a TV energy use calculator, as well as a guide to TV energy use:
By taking this action you can save approximately 15 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
9. Unplug Energy Vampires
Action: Unplug DVD player while not in use.
Think about how often your DVD player is technically on, but not playing a movie. All that time, it is using energy, just like many other appliances do in sleep mode. Your DVD player belongs to a class of appliances that draw “standby power” even when they are supposedly not in use.
A surprisingly large number of electrical products — TVs to microwave ovens to air conditioners — cannot be switched off completely without being unplugged. A great place to start is keeping your DVD player unplugged while you are asleep or at work. There’s no need for your DVD player to draw energy when you know you won’t be using it!
Want to learn more about the energy vampires in your home? Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s website provides a brief guide to measuring your home’s standby power use.
There are devices that will automatically turn off your DVD, VCR, Xbox, Wii, etc when the TV turns off. They look like a regular power strip but have energy efficiency technology. Here is the brand that I install in my customer’s homes during energy efficiency consultations. Check out this video.
Submitted by our friend Reuven Walder of EcoBeco
By taking this action you can save approximately 45 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
10. Cold Water Wash
Action: Wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot.
Washing machines typically have several water temperature settings for the wash/rinse cycles. Many people have different opinions about which clothes to wash on which settings, however, all but the dirtiest clothing can be effectively washed on cold. Switching to cold water can save the average household $30-$40 annually, depending on whether the home’s water heat is electric- or gas-powered.
Skeptical about whether cold water will get clothes clean? Try doing all laundry on cold for a week, and see if clothes are washed to satisfaction. Since cold water is gentler than warm or hot water, there’s nothing to lose. Give it a try!
Looking for more tips for how to save energy while doing your laundry? Check out this handy resource from Earth911.
By taking this action you can save approximately 355 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
11. Eat Less Meat
Action: Replace one six-ounce portion of beef with a plant-based meal each week.
While red meat is widely known as a cholesterol and high blood pressure culprit, it also has an effect on the health of our planet. The production of meat is much more costly in terms of energy than the production of plant foods.
Replacing one serving of beef with a plant-based food significantly cuts associated greenhouse gas emissions, due to the combination of the reduction in required input energy from fossil fuels to grow plants vs. livestock and the fact that cattle, unlike vegetables, produce methane gas as a consequence of enteric fermentation, a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Eating lower on the food chain means lower energy costs for food production. Beans or nuts make protein- rich alternatives to meat, as do quinoa, tempeh, and many kinds of vegetables, such as kale, broccoli or spinach.
*Thanks to the Jewish Vegetarians of North America for helping us think through this action.
For cooking ideas, check out Meatless Mondays’ recipes page, available free online. Meatless Mondays is an organization focused on helping people reduce their meat consumption by replacing meat meals with vegetarian meals one day per week.
By taking this action you can save approximately 423 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.
12. Save Energy on Heating and Cooling
Action: Save energy by turning back the thermostat by 8 degrees when you are away from home or at work.
You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting. You can do this automatically by using a programmable thermostat and scheduling the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning. As a result, the equipment doesn’t operate as much when you are asleep or not at home. Just like turning off the lights before leaving the house, turning the air conditioning or heating down when you’re on your way out will save you energy and lower your bills.
Important note: If you have a heat pump, don’t do this without a programmable thermostat.
By taking this action you can save approximately 415 kWh in a year. Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.