Watt Does It use

The go-to blog to save energy, save money, help the earth.

Author: Sarah

The kitchen holds significant opportunity for energy efficiency savings.

12 Ways Save Money Through Energy Efficiency in the Kitchen

The kitchen is the central hub in most homes. It is the place where families gather for everything from meal preparation and craft making, to grabbing a quick bite, to helping kids with homework. So often, we prepare and cook meals without considering whether or not the tools and appliances we use for these tasks cost us more than they need to. By merely observing your habits and understanding the amount of electricity used in these acts, a few simple alterations can help you achieve energy efficiency in the kitchen. This will help you not only save electricity, but also save money on the utility bill and help the environment.

One Room, Many Ways to Save

The stove, refrigerator/freezer, and dishwasher are the most electricity-intensive appliances in the kitchen. On top of that, if these items are used haphazardly or are not regularly maintained, their efficiency levels rapidly decrease. In this post, we present 12 expert tips to help you embrace energy efficiency in the kitchen and enjoy energy savings.

4 Ways to Save with Your Refrigerator

#1 Allow for Air Circulation

The condenser coils in a refrigerator work best with ample air circulation. So, make sure your refrigerator is not pushed into an extra-tight space in the kitchen. If possible, leave at least 2-inches between your fridge and the surrounding walls. 

#2 Clean the Coils

The condenser coils are generally located either on the backside or underneath your refrigerator. In these locations, they can attract dust and debris, which reduce their cooling ability, requiring them to work harder.

Make it a habit to clean the coils every quarter or at least twice a year. A quick sweep with the vacuum hose will capture the accumulated dirt and enable the condenser coils to move air more freely.

#3 Promote Consistent Ambient Temperature

Maintaining consistent temperatures inside and out of your refrigerator will help it work as energy efficiently as possible.  Here’s how to achieve that:

  • Avoid positioning the refrigerator in heat-generating areas, such as near the dishwasher, oven, or where it is exposed to heat from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid leaving the refrigerator door open for extended periods while searching for items. It will have to work harder to keep the temperature down.
  • Before placing hot items inside your fridge, allow them to cool down as much as possible. The moisture produced from hot, or even warm, foods and liquids will lead to the same result as leaving the door open. The compressor will need to work overtime to maintain the interior temperature of the fridge. Feel strongly about refrigerating items immediately to maintain a safe temperature? At the very least, cover them up tightly to prevent releasing warm moisture.
  • Note that these tips also apply to your freezer!

#4 Stay Up To Date

If your refrigerator is 15 years old or older, it could very well use twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR refrigerator. A new ENERGY STAR-rated fridge can save you over $250 over the next five years in addition to significantly reducing your carbon footprint. So consider an upgrade. It could be a big boost to your energy efficiency in the kitchen.

WattDoesItUse will provide recommendations and purchase tips when it is re-launched in December—stay tuned! Until then, you can find the energy consumption of your specific refrigerator using WattDoesItUse.

5 Ways to Save with Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are generally more cost-efficient to use versus washing dishes by hand. On average, households spend about $50 per year on the electricity to run their dishwashers. Implement the tips listed below to ensure you’re using the dishwasher as effectively as possible.

#1 Use Appropriate Settings

Most newer model dishwashers have an “economy” or “energy-saving” setting. This reduces both the temperature and amount of water used, saving you money on not only your electric bill, but also your water bill!

#2 Cycle Duration Matters

Make the most of the dishwashing cycles by running it only when it is full and always choose the shortest cycle possible to reduce energy usage.

#3 Check Temperature Settings

As we mentioned in a previous post, heating water can account for 14-25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Verify that the temperature setting on both your water heater and dishwasher is no higher than 120-degrees Fahrenheit.

#4 Clean the Drain and Trap

The drain and trap located at the bottom of dishwashers can both accumulate food and debris. By cleaning these areas weekly or monthly, you’ll avoid having to re-wash dishes and help your dishwasher will run more smoothly.

#5 Forego the Drying Cycle

You might be surprised at the amount of electricity (and money) you can save by merely allowing your dishes to air dry, rather than using the drying cycle. Crack the door open and let the residual heat dry them, and your savings on dishwasher-related electricity use could amount to up to 15%.

4 Ways to Save When Preparing Meals

#1 Invest in the right appliances

It’s easy to fall into the habit of comparing only price tags when considering a new appliance. But house—and especially kitchen—appliances are an investment. They add to (or detract from) the value of your home. And they can continue to save (or cost you) money when you operate them. Take, for example, the oven. Should you go with a convection style or traditional style oven? You may not be aware that convection ovens are designed to be much more energy efficient. In fact, they require approximately 20% less energy than a standard oven.

Another major opportunity for energy efficiency in the kitchen—and in the other rooms of your house—is lighting. Of course, everyone prefers a kitchen that has plenty of light. Even if you are taking advantage of the many benefits of natural light in your kitchen, additional lighting is often required. Be sure to use energy-efficient LED bulbs. LED lights may cost a bit more upfront, but they are bright, longer lasting, and use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs. Opting for these bulbs can help you save even more money and electricity in your kitchen.

Take the time to research the relative power consumption of particular products and/or technologies before making a purchase. It’s also a good rule of thumb to look for the ENERGY STAR logo as an indicator of a product’s energy efficiency.

#2 Use the Right Appliance

Most homes have a variety of cooking appliances, including traditional ovens and stovetops, microwaves, toaster ovens, and crockpots. The energy requirements for each vary. Here are average electrical costs to expect per hour of use:

  • Oven – $0.25 per hour
  • Stovetop – $0.15 per hour
  • Crockpot – $0.03 per hour
  • Microwave Oven – $0.12 per hour
  • Toaster Oven – $0.12 per hour

Whenever possible, opt for a smaller appliance if it can still handle the job and produce the results you want.

#3 Choose Appropriate Cookware

Using high-end cookware will help food cook more evenly and require less energy. Ceramic and glass dishes are not only durable; they are conductive, so they need less heat and reduced time in the oven. The best options for stovetop cooking include glass or copper bottom metal pots and pans. When preparing food on the stovetop, select the right size cookware and use lids, while also choosing the best size burner to get the job done. Even these minor changes can help you make the most of your time in the kitchen and save energy costs.

#4 Cook Less Often

When you are cooking meals, consider cooking in larger batches to make the most of a heated oven or burner. Not only will this cut down on energy costs, but the convenience of preparing additional meals ahead of time will also free you up from cooking over the week and allow you to spend more time with the family—something we’re certainly eager to have! 

Whether it’s replacing your old appliances with new energy-efficient ones, adopting new methods and tools, or simply embracing better habits, there are many ways to improve your energy efficiency in the kitchen. Whether you love cooking or do it out of necessity, the recommendations in this post will help you minimize your electrical (and financial) waste. Think we missed one? Tried one of the tips with great success? Let us know in the comments below!

Energy conversation is a powerful way for you to reduce electricity consumption and save money on your utility bill.

8 Most Effective Energy Conservation Strategies at Home

In our previous post, we discussed the important role of energy efficiency in reducing your energy consumption and utility bill. In this post, we share energy conservation strategies to pair with those energy efficiency efforts. Combining the two, you can minimize your energy footprint and power-related spending.

Energy conservation tends to require behavioral change. And you certainly already have enough on your plate with the current daily to-do list. So we have done the homework for you to identify the most effective strategies to implement to enjoy electricity consumption—and cost—savings.

Adjust your day-to-day

Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off your lights or appliances when you don’t need them. You may not have energy efficient devices. However, even using energy-intensive devices less by integrating manual tasks into your routine presents significant potential for utility savings. Two big changes you can make: 

  • Hang dry your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer. Or at the very least, leverage automatic cycles that sense when clothes are dry versus relying on the timed cycle.
  • Wait until your dishwasher is fully loaded to run it. This way you’ll get the most cleaning power for every dollar you spend on water and electricity). Run it during off-peak times for added cost savings.
  • Turn off the heated dry option on your dishwasher and crack the door to allow your dishes to dry on their own.

Leverage natural light

A single south-facing window can illuminate 20-100 times its area. Consider using this natural light instead of a lamp. Just turning off one 60-watt bulb for four hours could result in up to $10 a day if you have incandescent bulbs. If you need a lighting boost, opt for task lighting instead of more energy intensive ceiling lighting.

Be Mindful of Your Thermostat’s Placement

Heating and cooling are typically the highest opportunity areas when it comes to energy conservation. Your thermostat serves as your HVAC’s brain, so be mindful of where it is location. In the summer, heat thrown off by electronics can cause the air conditioner to put in overtime. In the winter, if the thermostat is located in an area that catches a draft, your heater will respond accordingly. As will your utility bill.

Lower Your Thermostat

Adopt the habit of lowering the temperature on your thermostat while away from home. Dropping the temp by just three to five degrees will reduce your monthly utility bill and use less energy. According to Energy.gov, lowering your thermostat by 10-15 degrees during the work day will save 5-15 percent per year.

Get Smart

Manually lowering the temperature on your thermostat can yield significant savings. But it can be hard to remember to change it back and forth everyday. Smart thermostats can help you save significant energy and associated costs, minus the headache. Nest found a 10-12% savings on heating and 15% savings on cooling—about $131-$145—per year. Ecobee claims average savings of 23%.

The impact of a smart thermostat will depend on a number of factors:

  • The setting you currently keep the heat at,
  • Your cost of electricity,
  • Your home and HVAC system itself, and
  • Seasonal variations.

The ability to schedule heat settings based on your behavior and take control of your heating/cooling bill is quite powerful.

Water Heating

Water heating is a major contributor to your total energy consumption. In fact, heating water can account for 14-25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Consider turning down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You will not only save energy but also avoid a surprise scalding next time you run the faucet!

If you buy a new refrigerator, don’t leave the old one plugged in

Avoid the temptation to use the old fridge as a backup for party supplies and liquid refreshment. The extra storage space will cost you. You can expect an extra $50–150 per year in electricity to keep that older fridge running. In contrast, the new fridge may cost only $30–60 per year to run because refrigerator efficiency has improved so much in the past three decades. The savings will be especially noticeable if your new refrigerator is ENERGY STAR-rated. Under these circumstances, think about how much refrigeration you truly need. Is that extra capacity a must have? Or nice to have? Ideally, aim to have only one refrigerator sized to meet your real needs. 

Stay up to date on maintenance

Your appliances will work more effectively for longer if cared for, conserving electricity and saving money. When your air conditioner filters are clogged, you will have to turn it up to achieve the same air temperature. The same applies to dishwashers, clothes dryers, furnaces, the list goes on.

And, before we leave you, dare we say it again? Unplug! Unplug! Unplug! And do it smartly. In our posts on energy efficiency and on phantom loads, we provide specific guidance on smart strips and power strips. Check them out!

Combining these eight energy conservation strategies with energy efficiency efforts, you will be able to minimize your footprint and save money on your utility bill. Let us know how these changes go for you!

Energy efficiency improvements at home allow you keep your behavior the same while using less money and saving money on the utility bill

Winter is Coming: 10 Home Energy Efficiency Investments to Save Money & Electricity

For most of us, “fall back” marks the change in seasons—winter is coming! As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, snuggling up with hot chocolate and a good movie (or four!) becomes even more appealing! But while you relax, your appliances and electronic devices are working overtime to keep you cozy. This can lead to a shocker of an electricity bill! And this is where energy efficiency comes in.

When it comes to reducing energy use, energy efficiency tends to receive less attention than innovations like renewable energy. Although it’s often viewed as a less exciting topic, energy efficiency is a powerful way to reduce your energy consumption. 

In this post, we show why this is. We also present 10 effective energy efficiency investments in your home to save electricity and reduce your utility bill. 

Energy Efficiency vs. Energy Conservation

First things first, it’s important to understand what we mean when we say “energy efficiency.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average US home uses around 914 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Assuming the national average electricity rate of $0.1319 per kWh, his results in a monthly bill of about $120. Energy efficiency and energy conservation share the same end goal: reducing this energy consumption.

On the one hand, you might say this is a case of po-tay-to po-tah-to; and at the end of the day, we believe in embracing both to minimize your footprint (and utility bill). However, we believe it’s important to differentiate the two: 

  • Energy conservation calls for a change in habits. For example, using the clothes dryer less often or layering up and turning down the heat in the winter. 
  • Energy efficiency, on the other hand, refers to ways that you can maintain your same “quality of life” using less energy. 

Knowledge Is Power

To get started with energy efficiency investments, you must first understand how much electricity your home draws from the grid; then you must know what that energy is powering. WattDoesItUse is developing a comprehensive calculator that will allow you to estimate just that. You will be able to use it to identify the best opportunities for energy savings based on your lifestyle. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a similar tool that can help in the meantime.

While these calculators are great starting points, direct measurement is ideal! We recommend either getting a professional home energy audit by a certified inspector or doing it yourself using a home energy monitor, like Sense. Sense slides into your breaker board, clamps around your mains, and reads the electrical current in real-time. It transmits that data to the Sense app via Bluetooth so you can track your home’s energy usage at any given point in time. 

10 Energy Efficiency Investments, From Low-Cost Strategies to Big-Ticket Items

Opt for Central Heating

Heating accounts for almost one third of the average American home electricity bill. Although electric and gas space heaters keep your feet warm and toasty, they are quite inefficient in heating your home. Many space heaters use 1,500 watts of energy per hour to run—as much as a microwave!—and can easily drive up your energy bill. If you insist, make sure your space heater is energy-efficient.

Energy efficiency investments in heating and cooling can provide significant return.
Because heating comprises about one third of home energy use, energy efficiency investments in this area can yield significant returns. Source: Energy Star

Alternatively, smart thermostats are great investments. They can adjust your home’s temperature based on different conditions and whether you’re home or not. They can therefore can save you money while ensuring you are still comfortable whenever you’re home. 

Wash With Cold Water

Did you know that 90% of your washing machine’s energy consumption comes from heating the water? Running the machine only accounts for 10% of the energy it uses. With this statistic in mind, it makes sense that washing your clothes in cold water can make a big difference. Worried cold water won’t get your clothes as clean? There are many detergents that are specially formulated for cold water! 

Maintain Your Dryer

Keep the lint screen and dryer duct clean to help your dryer run more efficiently. You can also decrease toss in a few wool dryer balls when you’re drying heavy sheets or towels. This will help agitate them, accelerating the drying process and allowing a shorter drying cycle. 

Replace Incandescent Bulbs

If you haven’t you switched your bulbs to energy-efficient light bulbs yet, then get moving! Halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are a couple more dollars to purchase than incandescents. But they are more energy-efficient and offer longer lasting light. In fact, a CFL costs about one third of a comparable incandescent bulb when you account for purchase price, longevity, and the cost to run each bulb. Over the average of 40 bulbs per home, savings from these greener bulbs will certainly add up!

Shut it Off… Smartly

While turning off your lights, electronic devices, and appliances is certainly better than leaving them on. Most electronic devices and appliances continue to pull electricity from the grid when they are plugged in, even if they are in “standby mode.” One of these “energy vampires” won’t make much impact. But collectively, they can be responsible for 10% of your energy bill! In our previous post, we provide strategies to address this “phantom load.” One easy, cost-effective solution is to invest in smart plugs and smart strips.

Seal The Cracks

There are a number of places in your home where small leaks can create big heating (and cooling) inefficiencies. It is likely not cost-effective to replace your windows just to save energy. But if they are drafty, consider caulking any cracks and installing window films to the pains. You can boost efficiency by installing storm windows. If you are replacing windows for other reasons, the additional cost of Energy Star replacement windows (~$15) is worth it!

Install a Storm Door

Even if you have an energy-efficient door, adding a storm door will provide an extra layer of protection from the elements. Storm doors are typically made with low-emissivity glass or a protective coating that can help reduce energy loss by up to 50%. Most storm doors last between 25 and 50 years, and you can get one for as little as $75.

Invest in Insulation

Proper insulation of your home’s walls, attic, and air ducts will slow the rate at which heat flows out of the house (or into the house in summer). This saves your HVAC system from having to work as hard. It therefore reduced the energy required to heat (or cool) your home. 

Properly installed fiberglass, cellulose, and most foam insulation materials can all reduce the heat conduction of a completed wall system. The key is that they are properly installed. For this kind of project, your contractor’s expertise is often more important than the insulation material you choose. Make sure that your contractor uses an infrared camera during or after installation to look for voids. It pays to do it right the first time.

Depending on your home, this kind of energy efficiency measure may require a bit more investment up front. However, the electricity and associated financial savings generated over the lifetime of an installment like this can more than offset the cost. Such an investment can also add value to your home when it comes time to put it on the market.

Tend to Your HVAC System

Insulating your home gives you confidence that your HVAC system won’t have to run any more than necessary. An annual tune-up on your heating and cooling system will do the same by ensuring that your furnace (and air conditioner) is running at peak efficiency. A home heating and cooling check-up improves efficiency by ensuring connections are tight, parts are properly lubricated, and coils are clean. Tuning up your HVAC system can also help you extend the life of your furnace. Who doesn’t want to avoid a $2,000 to $8,000 furnace replacement?!

Invest in Energy Star Products

Energy Star products meet energy-efficient specifications set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They use an impressive 10-50% less energy than standard appliances. It follows that they help reduce the cost of product operation and associated emissions of greenhouse gases. 

Any new electronic or appliance is an investment, so it can be hard to spend any more than you need to. Energy Star products do sometimes come with a higher upfront cost. But it’s important to view these purchases as investments that accumulate savings over their lifetime. The math is therefore different from a typical purchase that is evaluated solely on its upfront cost.

You can improve upon this investment even further by keeping product configuration in mind as well as you compare products. Take refrigerators/freezers. The refrigerator with a top-mount freezer will use 20-25 percent less energy than a comparably sized side-by-side model. It will often also offer more usable refrigerator and freezer space! Similarly, if your desktop computer is on the struggle bug, consider replacing it with a laptop. Laptops use up to 80% less electricity and run on less energy than their desktop companions.

When it comes to energy efficiency, the best fixes are ones that don’t require you to develop new habits. All the recommendations above will empower you to create a home that does the work for you. That way, you can get back to those weekend cat naps without nightmares of spiking electricity bills!  

unplug to kill vampire loads

6 Ways To Kill Phantom Loads at Home

This Halloween—and throughout the year—you likely have some “vampires” lurking around your home! They may look like everyday objects. But phantom loads (also known as “vampire loads”) are sucking energy from the grid and gouging your bank account unnecessarily. In this post, we share how to find and reduce phantom loads. Address these loads, and you will uncover significant energy (and cost!) savings.

What is a phantom load?

Many appliances and devices in your home rely on electricity even when they’re turned off for a variety of reasons. First, voice-activated devices continuously draw electricity in order to listen for your voice commands. Second, any device that is placed into “stand-by mode” — either to provide continuous displays or to start up more quickly — will continue to pull electricity from the grid. 

While this electronic readiness is convenient, it comes with a price tag, measured in electricity use. A phantom load is any electricity that an appliance or device consumes even when it’s turned off. 

How much electricity do vampires really draw?

These phantom loads can be small for individual appliances. But they can quickly add up over the course of the month or year since they are pulling electricity 24/7.

It can be tricky to put a specific price tag on these energy vampires. The total cost to you depends on a few key factors:

  1. How many of them you have in your home
  2. How much each device or appliance pulls when on “stand-by”
  3. Whether you leave your “vampires” plugged in at all times
  4. The price of electricity in your area

However, a joint study between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other agencies put that price at a frightening 10 percent of your monthly energy bill. And according to NRDC, the average household spends $165 – $450 per year on plugged-in devices that aren’t in use. Yikes!

Most products listed on WattDoesItUse include this data (referenced as “Standby”). The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory also provides a useful table, which breaks down the power consumption in standby mode for common household electronics and appliances. You can estimate how much phantom loads cost you every year by combining data from these sources with your electricity rate.

As an example, say you leave your laptop computer charger plugged in all day, every day of the year. On average, that type of charger pulls 4.42 watts of power whether it’s actively charging your computer or not. This means it will use almost 40 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. Using the average cost of a kWh ($.1310), this plug alone adds about $5 to your annual electric bill. 

Now add in the phantom loads coming from TVs, computer monitors, cable modems and other phone/computer chargers. You could end up with a large enough phantom load to effectively add an additional month of electricity every year!

How can I eliminate phantom loads in my house?

Put your devices to sleep.

If you do nothing else and read no further in this post, put your devices to sleep. Contrary to popular belief, the screensaver on your computer does not save energy. If you’re leaving your work station for more than a few minutes, enable the “power-save” or “sleep” mode.

Find your worst offenders.

The best way to ensure an appliance or device isn’t a source of phantom loads is to unplug it altogether. But first, it might help to identify your worst offenders so you can start by addressing their vampire loads. WattDoesItUse can help with this. But we also recommend measuring power consumption directly. So invest in Kill-A-Watt and Belkin WeMo Insight, and start testing! This will enable you to understand which appliances and devices are drawing the most energy in an idle state.

Use power bars & smart strips.

Once you’ve identified the vampires in your home, you can group them together on power strips. These extension cords automatically shut off energy to plugged-in devices that are only pulling a passive load. They also have a switch so you can manually cut off electricity to all plugged-in devices at once, thus preventing them from continuing to suck energy from the grid. Flip the switch before you leave the house for the day to save electricity and money!

A newer type of power strip, called the “smart strip,” makes this process even easier. When you use a smart strip with your computer or TV, it will switch all peripheral devices (e.g., DVD players and streaming devices) on or off automatically. This means that when you turn on your computer or TV, the peripherals will all turn on, and vise versa.

Install LED lightbulbs.

Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LEDs can significantly reduce the amount of power your home consumes. While they still draw electricity when not in use, they sip rather than gulp. In addition, while LED bulbs cost more, they can last considerably longer. Many LED bulbs are also “smart,” meaning they can join your Wi-Fi network for automation and control. Some can even change colors!

Invest in smart thermostats

Smart thermostats enable you to easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, tablet or smartwatch. As an example, Ecobee3 now works with optional wireless sensors for room-by-room comfort. Many can even automatically optimize settings based on the weather and whether you’re home or not. According to Ecobee, smart thermostat users save an average of 23 percent per year on heating and cooling costs (compared to holding 72˚F).

Choose Energy Star-certified electronics and appliances.

The worst offenders of phantom loads in your house are typically related to entertainment systems (e.g. TVscable boxes and streaming devicesentertainment and video game systems). As we’ve mentioned, phone/device charges and other related equipment can also draw phantom loads. So in addition to taking steps to minimize unnecessary electricity draw, make sure to purchase Energy Star-certified products. These electronic devices and appliances are guaranteed to be more energy efficient while still providing the same performance.

By embracing these pro tips, you will keep your electricity bill from haunting you year-round! Let us know in the comments below which steps you take and how much you’re able to reduce your bill. We can’t wait to hear!

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