The Worst Home Energy Wasters

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Conserving energy and living a green lifestyle is high on the list of important activities for most people, and saving on energy costs is of interest to everyone.

If you are like most homeowners, your house is full of energy vampires that are wasting energy and money day and night. Ranging from large items such as refrigerators to small accessories like your cell phone charger, if you replace, update or unplug these energy guzzlers, you can save about $700 per year on your electricity bill, according to the Energy Star division of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Older Appliances

  • Outdated appliances, especially refrigerators and heating/airconditioningunits, are near the top of the list of major energy wasters in most homes.
  • Not only will replacing these older units with new, energy efficient models save money, there are frequently rebates from local electric companies or federal tax incentives for doing so.
  • Savings can be significant. By updating your heating/air conditioning system to an efficient system, your heating and cooling bill can be reduced by as much as 50%. Look for a system with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of at least 14.
  • Energy Star is a government program that gives energy efficiency ratings to many appliances. When shopping for a new refrigerator, look for the unit with the highest Energy Star rating that suits your needs.
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Lack of Insulation

  • Your high efficiency heating/air conditioning unit is wasted if your comfortable temperatures are leaking out of your windows.
  • Drafty windows, doors, fireplaces, and lack of proper insulation, especially in the attic, leak energy out of your home, and send your energy costs skywards. Openings around pipes or wires entering the home are also energy wasters.
  • Add insulation to your attic if you live in a cold winter area, an attic fan if you are in a hot climate, and weather stripping doors and windows will help seal in energy.

Single Pane Windows

  • Many older homes have single pane windows, with just one thin sheet of glass between your home and the elements. This is one of the major sources of energy loss in a home.
  • Double pane windows trap a layer of air between two sheets of glass, providing a natural layer of insulation. More sophisticated windows have special coatings that reduce heat loss or gain, and can save considerable money on your energy bills.
  • Solar film applied to south or west-facing windows will greatly reduce the need for running the air conditioning unit, and is of particular value in areas with long, hot summers.

Cell Phone and Laptop Chargers

  • If your home has multiple cell phone and laptop chargers that are always plugged in even if no unit is connected to them, then you are emptying your wallet unnecessarily.
  • These chargers draw energy even when the cell phone or laptop has been disconnected. Luckily, the solution is simple; unplug chargers when not in use.

Incandescent Light Bulbs

  • Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs is a simple switch that can really add up to savings.
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs are now available for just about any standard bulb use, and by making the switch, plus turning lights off when not in use, you can save an estimated 7% on your electric bill.

Standby Power

  • Flick the on switch, and your TV,computer or video game system springs to life. You pay a price for that immediate response however, as these items are all drawing power even when not turned on.
  • Energy vampires require constant electricity to remain in standby mode, and account for nearly 5% of all power used in the United States. Leaving your Xbox 360 plugged in for the entire year will cost you around $120 in electricity.
  • Keeping devices that have standby energy requirements plugged into a power strip, and turning it to the off position when not in use will eliminate the wasted energy. Look for new "smart power strips", that sense when a main device, such as TV, is turned off, and automatically cut energy to all the devices associated to the unit, such as DVD players, video game consoles, etc.

Set-Top Box/DVR recorder

  • The set-top box provided by your cable service draws energy, even when your TV is not turned on. The non-profit Electric Power Research Institute estimates that this small device consumes around half the energy needed to power your refrigerator. When combined with a high-definition DVR, the energy consumption surges to more than is required to run the fridge.
  • While there are more energy efficient set-top boxes, most consumers are dependent on the device supplied by their cable carrier, and these are rarely energy efficient.
  • Ask your TV service provider about switching to energy efficient models. Consumer demand may inspire cable providers to update their devices.

Digital Picture Frame

  • You pay a price for enjoying the endless shuffle of your digital picture frame, approximately $9 in energy use per year. If every home in the US had one of these devices running round the clock, it would take five power plants alone to provide enough energy, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.
  • It's easy to cut the consumption of your picture frame, just shut it off when you are not actively enjoying the display.

Saving money and helping maintain the environment are compelling reasons to look for energy efficient appliances, shut off electronic devices that are not in use, and upgrade your insulation and major home appliances. Even small changes can add up to a big cost savings over the course of a year. If every household made just one or two energy-efficient switches, the combined savings in energy would be huge.

Last Updated: September 13, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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