How to Save Energy (and Money)
Maybe what you don't know can't hurt you, but it sure can hit you in the pocketbook. So figure out how much electricity you're using and decrease it before the power company bleeds you dry.
It may seem counter-intuitive to spend money in order to save it, but if it works in business, why not try it at home? Picking up an energy meter like the Kill A Watt, which measures the output of appliances over an hour or a year, may motivate you to finally unplug that phone charger when it's not in use. If you see which appliances are really slurping down the juice, you'll know how best to adjust. That way, you don't have to go around unplugging everything willy-nilly, then stubbing your toes in the dark.
Eventually, you'll probably find what the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Energy Information Administration did: refrigerators suck down the most energy—14% of an average household's electricity usage, followed by lighting at 9%. So if all you keep in the fridge is ketchup, a six-pack, and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, you may think of downgrading to a dorm model. And by all means, save yourself easy money by switching all your bulbs to compact fluorescents.
Heating and cooling are also major electricity drains. Experts suggest balancing comfort and energy use by setting the AC to 78°F (an insistence on 72°F will cost you 39% more) and keeping the heat at around 68°F during the day and 60°F at night.
As mentioned in a previous column on "Going Green in Your First Apartment," certified Energy Star products can also shave change off your bill. A certified TV will use 30% less energy than an uncertified one, while Energy Star air conditioners save 10% and certified battery chargers use up to 35% less.
But the most important action you can take is enrolling in your power company's "time of use" program, which provides bargain basement prices for energy used in off-peak hours. Set your alarm for a 3AM shower and you can be swimming in money, Scrooge McDuck-style.
Check out the Dept. of Energy's Home Energy Saver for more tips.