Watt Does It use

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

Category: Energy Saving Strategies Page 1 of 3

Choose one of the best energy-efficient video game consoles to minimize your favorite gamer's impact on your electricity bill.

Game Time: The Best Energy-Efficient Video Game Consoles To Save Electricity & Money

When you buy one of the best energy-efficient video game consoles through links in this post, we may earn an affiliate commission. These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

From classics like Tetris and the Legend of Zelda, to newer best-sellers like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, and everything in between, video games are more popular than ever. Over 164 million people play video games in the United States, and three-quarters of all Americans have at least one gamer in their household.

When we read that statistic with our “energy consumption” filter, we translate as, “three-quarters of all Americans have a video game console in their home.” Given how energy-intensive these devices can be, that means it is critically important for you to select the best energy-efficient video game consoles for your home in order to minimize the impact of your household gaming on your electricity bill!

Not sure how to identify which console will prioritize energy efficiency and meet or even exceed the performance demands of your favorite games!

Gaming in Numbers

First things first, let’s get a handle on the amount of gaming in the US, because it’s probably more widespread than you think! With the wide selection of genres available, people spanning all ages, genders, and ethnicities are getting in on gaming.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, nearly 80 percent of gamers revealed that games served as a way to relieve stress, relax, and provide mental stimulation. Video games are also increasingly used for educational purposes and family bonding time.

The number of people playing video games in the U.S. is growing rapidly, making energy-efficient video game consoles essential to avoid significant stress on the electricity grid. Source: Grist

There is no doubt that the gaming industry is growing and will continue to do so in the years to come.

How Much Electricity Do Video Games Require?

As the prevalence of video games increases, have you ever considered the amount of energy that’s required to play these games?

Depending on the system you choose to play on, your price of electricity, and the intensity of your gaming, the annual electricity costs for your video game console can range from $5 up to about $400 per year. Globally, PC gamers alone use about 75 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year. That is equivalent to the output of 25 electric power plants and doesn’t even include video game console energy consumption. And since this post focuses more specifically on video game console energy consumption, you might be equally surprised to learn that game consoles in the US consume as much electricity every year as all the homes in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country! Consumers are paying more than $1 billion per year to operate these consoles!

Pretty staggering, right?! Wondering where that energy comes from?

Graphics

There are two primary drivers of electricity consumption when it comes to gaming. The first is graphics. Part of what makes gaming so enticing is the graphics. From the array of characters within a game, to its vibrant life-like storyline, a game’s graphics rely on high-quality, high-performance graphics cards. And these cards consume massive amounts of energy to provide that performance.  

A few years ago, a father and son team—Evan and Nathaniel Mills—researched just how much power these cards used. In fact, just one graphics card can draw 500 watts per hour of use! Shocked by their findings, the father-son duo started gaming a bit less and looked further into the energy usage required to run a gaming computer. This research wasn’t merely happenstance. Evan Mills was a scientist, energy expert, and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He earned a monetary grant and since then has expanded his research to further understand the energy requirements of video games on consoles and computers.

Other Features

The second driver of video game console electricity consumption is all the other features. From wireless controller charging, to voice control, to UBS ports, video game consoles continue to draw electricity even when they are not in use.

In fact, of the $1 billion that consumers pay to operate gaming consoles in the US, $400 million of that is consumed in the middle of the night when the console is in standby mode but still “listening” for voice commands (in the case of Xbox One) or using excess energy to keep USB ports active (in the case of PS4).

The Best Energy-Efficient Video Game Consoles

Let’s face it, video games have come a long way in the past 30 years and the pixelated, slow moving action of retro arcade games simply isn’t acceptable in the gaming world of today. Fluidity and high-resolution graphics are important components for immersing oneself into the game.

And the best energy-efficient video game consoles enable you to save money through minimal power consumption without foregoing performance:

  1. Sony Playstation 4 Pro 1TB Console
  2. Xbox One S 2 TB Console
  3. Xbox One 500GB
  4. Wii U 32GB
Choosing one of the best energy-efficient video game consoles will help you save energy, save money, and help save the planet while enjoying your favorite games. Source: Enervee

How to Minimize Your Game Console’s Energy Use

So you’ve selected one of the best energy-efficient video game consoles for your home. Great first step!

Even with these consoles, new industry options like wireless controllers, voice command, body gestures, internet connectivity, can require excess electricity. That said, there are many easy setting changes that you can change to minimize the energy consumed by your video game console. That way the weekly family game night isn’t costing you an arm and a leg in electricity bills!

Here are four tried and true tips to save electricity and money while still enjoying your favorite video games:

Activate Power Saving

Most video game consoles offer power saving settings that can improve their energy efficiency. For example, Xbox One comes set-up to listen for the “Xbox On” command to turn on. But with its “Energy-saving” Power Mode, you can disable this feature and drop the consoles standby power use by 98 percent! Similarly, the Play Station 4 (PS4) comes set to enter a low power “Rest” mode after one hour of inactivity, but you can reduce that period of time to save additional electricity and money.

Stay On Top Of Software Updates

As game developers and console manufacturers become more conscious of gaming’s environmental impact, they have begun to integrate energy-saving features in new software updates. So staying on top of these updates will help your maximize your console’s energy efficiency and, in turn, minimize your gaming-related electricity costs! For example, thanks to new software updates, PS4 now automatically drops the power consumption of USB ports once controllers are fully charged. This decreases the console’s standby power consumption by over 65 percent!

Stick To Gaming

It can be temptingly convenient to use your gaming console to also stream your favorite show on Netflix. But digital media players like Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire Stick use on average 15 times less energy than video game consoles to perform the same task! Better yet, if you have a Smart TV, that is even less energy intensive than using a separate streaming device to binge your favorite show, allowing to indulge that much more

Turn Off Accessories & Features

In addition to configuring your console’s settings to minimize energy requirements, set your controllers to turn themselves off when not in use. In the case of Xbox, turning off the “Kinect” accessory that recognizes body movements can save considerable energy costs over time. Follow these tips and you’ll quickly be able to reduce the amount of electricity your favorite games consume.

For additional energy saving tips, check out the results of the Mills’ research.

Get Your Game On

If you or your loved one has jumped on the game train, more power to you! We love a good game of Minecraft every now and then ourselves. By selecting one of the best energy-efficient video game consoles for your home and configuring it to optimize its energy-saving offerings, you can get your game on without a fear of an exorbitant electricity bill at the end of the month.

Curious about other major drivers of electricity consumption at home and pro tips to minimize their impact? Check out the power consumption of any device at WattDoesItUse and subscribe to the blog for weekly updates on all-things energy efficiency and energy conservation.

Create an energy-efficient home HVAC environment to keep your home cozy and utility bill low.

Crank Up the Heat, Part 2: 7 Steps To Creating An Energy-Efficient Home HVAC Environment

If you’ve read part of one of our Crank Up the Heat Series, then you’re basically a home heating pro, right? Well, even if that isn’t totally true, you do have a pretty good grasp on what type of energy-efficient furnace is right for your home. If you haven’t read, read it now for tips on how to pick the best energy-efficient heater to keep your home warm and your utility bills low this winter! But selecting the best heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to manage your home’s temperature is just part of the equation. For that, you’re going to want to read this second piece in order to create an energy-efficient home HVAC environment.

Energy Efficiency Goes Beyond the HVAC System Itself

As you probably already know, your HVAC system is a vital piece of your home’s basic functioning. It helps to monitor, regulate, and control the environmental conditions inside your home. It makes sense, right? HVAC does stand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—the main elements of your home’s environmental conditions.

The ideal balance for any HVAC system is that keeps your house comfy (warm or cool, depending on the time of year, and properly ventilated) without expending excess energy or costing you unnecessary money. But often, even the best energy-inefficient heater or air conditioner can waste huge amounts of energy and cost you an arm and a leg. This is because your home HVAC environment has holes in it (literally and figuratively!).

But here’s the cool thing: even tiny changes to your HVAC can make enormous difference in its energy efficiency. Which, leads to the most important question you’re going to ask for the rest of the yearhow can you ensure that you have a truly energy-efficient home HVAC environment?  

In this post, we’re going to break down the top seven ways youcan ensure an energy-efficient home HVAC environment so your furnace and air conditioner(s) produce maximum impact with minimal energy requirements.

Keep in mind, there are dozens of ways to ensure that you’re saving power, cutting costs, and increasing your HVAC energy efficiency, but we chose these seven because they are tried and true and will give you the best bang for your buck!

The Top 7 Ways to Create an Energy-Efficient Home HVAC Environment

Like we said before, these top seven aren’t the only methods to ensure that you’re running an energy-efficient HVAC environment. But in our experience, these tried-and-true strategies can provide the most return for your time and financial investments.

1. Insulate Your Home

One of the best things you can do to ensure that your HVAC system functions as efficiently as possible is to make sure that your home’s insulation is up to snuff. When you insulate your home properly (walls, windows, roof, and don’t forget the air ducts!), there’s less chance of warm or cool air escaping. So your HVAC doesn’t have to work overtime to keep a steady temperature in your home. Take a look at your walls, your windows, your pipes, and ducts—are you losing valuable air through these avenues? Seal any leaks so your HVAC doesn’t need to work double-time to do its job properly. At the end of the day, it’s possible that your HVAC is doing its job totally fine, it’s just the insulation (or lack there-of!) that’s foiling your energy conservation efforts.

2. Retrofit Your HVAC

If you’re already dealing with a large, antiquated, and energy-intensive system that’s otherwise running well and has been aptly maintained, consider retrofitting that old HVAC system to transform its efficiency. When you retrofit an HVAC system, you’re essentially installing new technology into an older, well-functioning system.

In a way, it’s like replacing an engine in a car—the new engine is going to save you a ton of money on gas but won’t cost you as much money as totally replacing your car. When you replace pieces of your old HVAC system (like the air condenser fan or the compressor, etc.) with new parts that are far more energy-efficient, you can optimize and extend the life of your old system without shopping for and financing a new one (depending on how well your old unit is functioning, your wallet will probably thank you).

3. Outfit Your House with Smart Thermostats

A huge contributor to an inefficient home HVAC environment is—that’s right, we’re gonna go there!—human error.

Come on, we’ve all done it—you leave the house and forget to adjust the thermostat, leaving it way too hot (or in the summer, too cold) and wasting a ton of energy when no one’s even in the house to enjoy it. We’ve done it, too! We can empathize!

But a smart thermostat in your home that links up directly to your HVAC can remove human error from the equation. With a smart thermostat, you can automate temperatures settings and schedules to ensure you never waste more energy than necessary again. Bonus points: you can usually connect most smart thermostats with your smart home hub, LED bulbs, and other smart appliances and devices to help with your overarching energy management.

4. Preserve Airflow By Regularly Cleaning Your HVAC

The more debris and dust clogging up your HVAC, the less efficiently it’s going to run. Believe us, we don’t love cleaning any more than you do, but these are the facts. If you’re looking to keep your energy efficiency high and your utility costs low, we suggest that you preserve your airflow by cleaning out all the gunk in your HVAC on a regular basis. While you’re at it, assess your furniture, rugs, and décor to make sure you’re not blocking your HVAC vents—that will also detract from an energy-efficient home HVAC environment.  

5. Invest In Energy-Efficient Equipment

Don’t be afraid to put your money into quality, energy-efficient equipment. Like we told you in Part 1 of Crank Up the Heat, not all equipment is created equal. The fact of the matter is, even though virtually everything uses energy, there are some systems that are specifically designed to reduce the amount of energy they use to do the same job of comparable models. That’s the type of equipment you want to invest in.

If you do replace your HVAC that’s at least 10 years old, you’re likely going to get a system that’s way more energy-efficient. Newer models have a higher SEER rating, which means more HVAC energy efficiency—today’s SEER ratings are around 14-18 (which, compared to the old days, is a big deal). And, of course, with any energy-efficient equipment, we suggest looking for the ENERGY STAR logo!

6. Be Conscious About Maintenance

A functional HVAC doesn’t happen magically. You’ll have to put in the work to ensure you’re scheduling the necessary maintenance to get everything taken care.

Regular maintenance will ensure that your equipment is running smoothly and even prevent larger issues from arising. Schedule your appointments at the end of both heating and cooling seasons to ensure everything is functioning properly. Even though the maintenance costs can feel unnecessary. But we can guarantee it’s a lot cheaper than having to pay for huge repairs and higher-than-necessary utility bills down the line.

7. Don’t Overlook Your Air Filters

As we mentioned above, a clean HVAC is an energy-efficient HVAC. Like we mentioned with cleaning your HVAC, clogged air filters can get in the way of an energy-efficient home HVAC environment. Replacing your air filters regularly can make a huge difference in your system’s energy-efficiency.

Don’t Just Heat Your Home, Create a Heating Environment That’s Energy Efficient

Dropping a ton of cash on the best energy-efficient HVAC elements — furnace and central air conditioning system — can certainly achieve some of the energy savings you’re looking for this year and beyond. But if you don’t create an overarching energy-efficient environment, you won’t realize the full possible savings. With these seven straight forward steps, you can create a comfortable home this winter, spring, summer and fall while at the same time lowering your utility bills. So jot ‘em down, take action, and then share them with your friends!

Have a tip that you’ve learned from your energy-efficient home HVAC environment that we didn’t include? We want to hear it! Share the love in the comments below—your fellow energy efficiency aficionados will thank you!

If it’s advice on other ways to cut energy costs you’re after, like ways you can conserve more energy in your daily routines or energy-efficient gifts for an upcoming birthday, our blog is the perfect place for you to be! Subscribe here to stay in the loop for weekly updates!

Implement new year's resolutions for energy savings to save money and help save the planet in 2020. Source: Jamie Street

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Energy Savings in 2020

When you buy products through links in this post to support your new year’s resolutions for energy savings, we may earn an affiliate commission. These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

2020 is coming, and we’ve got just one question for you—are you ready? Even if you’re not totally on board with the whole “new year, new you” mantra (and hey, we don’t blame you), it is undoubtedly one of the best times to refresh your personal goals. No matter what you’re looking to improve, it’s likely you’ve got something on your list for 2020 new year’s resolutions.

Some people are trying to tone up, others are looking to achieve new career goals, others might be looking to commit to their mental health or personal relationships. But you know what else you should add to that list? New year’s resolutions for energy savings!

Why Make New Year’s Resolutions for Energy Saving?

2020 is a brand-new opportunity. We might argue it’s even an energy-efficient light shining amongst the darkness of energy waste!

Sure, it might sound intimidating—all new year’s resolutions do. But together, we’ll take it one day a time to make better, more energy-efficient choices as we charge forward into 2020. If you’re looking for a little inspiration to put energy conservation at the forefront of your year, you’re in the right place. We’ve gathered new year’s resolutions for energy savings to save energy, save money, and help save the planet in 2020.

Without further ado, we present you, the six best new year’s resolutions for energy savings in 2020.

I Resolve to: Audit My Home & Understand Key Drivers of Energy

One of the best ways to really kick your 2020 energy conservation efforts into gear is to gift yourself a home energy audit. Reading this and wondering, “What the heck is a home energy audit? Don’t worry, we’re not going to just drop this on you and move on.

Essentially, a home energy audit is a professional inspection of your home that analyzes your energy usage and identifies where energy is being wasted. We’ve got an entire article with all the details here. A home energy audit is this perfect first step if you’re looking to get your energy conservation on lock.

If you’ve already checked this important box, we suggest going back to the results and checking out our little 101 guide about key drivers of energy in your home. This might help you better understand where you’re wasting energy and how you can improve. And while you’re at it, we suggest you resolve to get a firmer grasp on how to read your energy bill. This way, you can have a clearer picture of all the inputs and outputs—where you’re losing money and wasting energy and how you can adjust it!

As a new year's resolution for energy savings, invest in energy-efficient LED bulbs!
As a new year’s resolution for energy savings, invest in energy-efficient LED bulbs!
Source: Skye Studios

I Resolve to: Swap For the Best Energy-Efficient Lighting

If you’re looking to take a very, very small step that can add up in a big way over time as one of your new year’s resolutions for energy savings, we absolutely suggest you start with your lighting.

Switching out your light bulbs and light fixtures for more energy-efficient lighting is one of the simplest ways to conserve electricity overall. Opting for lights like LEDs might seem like an insignificant change, but it can actually make an enormous difference.

Think about it this way—the average American home has about 50 lightbulbs in it. Let’s say all of those are incandescent. When you switch from incandescent bulbs to ENERGY STAR certified bulbs, which use about 79-90 percent less energy and will last about 15 times longer, you’ll end up saving about $80 in energy bills per bulb over the course of that bulb’s lifetime. See? These things add up!

We’ve got a whole blog post on LEDs and how they can make a significant difference in your energy efficiency. Check it out here.

unplug to kill vampire loads
Invest in smart strips or power strips to eliminate phantom load in your home in 2020. Source: Steve Johnson

I Resolve to: Stop the Phantom Load

No, we’re not telling you to call Ghostbusters, Inc. to rid your home of spooks—we’re just talkin’ about phantom loads (although they are spooky!). Phantom loads are electric loads drawn from appliances or electronics when they are plugged in but not in use. They are undoubtedly around your home, wasting energy and adding to your electricity bill.

We devoted a whole piece to helping you tackle this issue—check it out here! In short, the best way to eliminate phantom loads is to use power strips with an on-and-off switch—then make sure you’re regularly switching that power strip off when it’s not in use. Smart strips now make this job even easier!

I Resolve to: Give my HVAC System a Good Inspection

It’s possible that your HVAC system is wasting energy and costing you more money, and there are plenty of ways to remedy this!

We’re not going to dive too deep into this new year’s resolution to save energy, because we could honestly talk about it for hours. But as we discuss in our previous post, inspecting your HVAC system to ensure your home’s walls and ducts are properly insulated and your HVAC appliances are properly maintained will go a long way towards saving energy, saving money, and by extension, helping to save the planet.

Thinking your furnace might not make it through the winter? We recommend giving our blog a read to identify the best energy-efficient heaters on the market.

I Resolve to: Upgrade Appliances to Energy-Efficient Models

We’re not going to sit here and pretend that it’s entirely feasible for every single reader out there to just get up and swap their appliances for more energy-efficient models. We understand that appliances can be expensive (especially when it comes to high-tech, energy-conserving ones), but if you’re in the position where you need to replace one or more of your older models this year, we absolutely recommend doing your research to invest in an energy-efficient model.

The WattDoesItUse site will be getting a makeover and is a great place to compare the power consumption of any appliance or device you could be wondering about. Definitely take advantage of that resource! In addition, look for the ENERGY STAR logo on devices as an additional guarantee that you’re getting an appliance or device that meets strict energy efficiency standards.

The initial cost will be a bit higher, we’ll just tell you that now. But the savings (both energy-wise and currency-wise) will leave your mouth hanging open for years to come—in a good way! Whether that means you want to switch out your TV, your hot water heater, or other types of appliances (like your kitchen ranges), there are tons of options out there! Subscribe to the WattDoesItUse Blog stay on top of the latest product reviews.

As a new year's resolution to save energy, prioritize energy efficiency in how you do your household chores
Energy efficiency improvements at home allow you keep your behavior the same while using less money and saving money on the utility bill. Source: Jason Briscoe

I Resolve to: Re-evaluate How I Do My Household Chores

Sometimes, the simplest solutions can make the biggest differences. This year, resolve to rethink and re-evaluate your everyday routine, including your household chores. By simply engraining good habits and making more energy-efficient device purchases,  you truly can cut down on your energy bill and conserve more energy, it just takes a little extra thought and consideration. With genuinely easy solutions like meal prepping, swapping out the vacuum for a broom, using colder water temps to wash clothes and dishes, and using the high-spin cycle, you can make a sincere difference in your energy conservation efforts.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for Energy Savings?

At the end of the day, even small changes—like switching light bulbs or checking for leaks in your windows—can make an enormous difference in your 2020 energy bills. So what are you waiting for? Will you take on some of our recommended new year’s resolutions for energy savings above? Or do you have some of your own? Share the wealth in the comments below!

In 2020, we’re planning to do everything in our power to conserve energy. And we’re committed to do everything in our power to provide the resources and knowledge that you need to maximize your energy savings, too.

If you’re looking for even more ways to kick your energy efficiency efforts into high gear this year, you’re in the right place. At WattDoesItUse, we’re all about providing you with the power consumption of every device in your home as well as year-round tips, tricks, and advice to put that information to action and get your energy efficiency on lock.

Consider us your go-to blog for saving energy, saving money, and helping to save the earth! Subscribe here to stay in-the-loop on ways you can better understand electricity (and how it works), change your energy consumption, and even change the world for the better by using less power in your daily life!

A few strategic changes can help save energy in your household chores and reduce the monthly electricity bill. Source: Chloe Skinner

Pro Tips To Save Energy In Your Household Chores

Household chores are a part of our daily lives. They may not be the highlight of our weeks, but they contribute to creating a safe, clean, healthy, and desirable living environment. And let’s be real. Who doesn’t love that fresh, lemon-y post cleaning aroma? Or those crisp, freshly washed sheets?

Today there are more electronic devices and appliances available than ever to help us check off that household chore to-do list. However, the new ease of completing chores can come at the cost of higher power consumption. And as a result, a higher electricity bill.

It can. But it doesn’t have to. By engraining good habits and making informed energy-efficient device purchases, you can achieve the same spotless home while minimizing the financial and environmental cost.

In this post, we provide tried-and-true strategies to save energy in your household chores.

Using Less Energy with Household Tasks

From the physical energy required for vacuuming, scrubbing, and mopping, to electrical energy necessary when using the various the appliances that make life easier,

Oftentimes, we are so accustomed to our routines that we fail to consider if we are doing things in the most efficient way. This can be true physically—you know the muscle power necessary to scrub and mop every surface of a home! It can also be true in the context of energy consumption—from vacuuming, to dishwashing, to laundry!

In our fast-paced worlds, it is all too easy to hit the “start” switch without considering how it might be affecting our utility bills. Yet, simple adjustments to this habit can be a game changer to save energy in your household chores. The most effective examples of this are:

Meal Preparation

In the U.S., people typically prepare meals on a daily basis. But this comes at a cost when it comes to cranking up the oven every night. You can reduce energy use and save money by cooking multiple batches of food at once, making the most of those oven temperatures. Plus, this allows you to spend more time with the family over the dinner hour over the rest of the week! If you and your family prefer variety every day, consider dishes where you can prepare a base (like rice or potations) and then use it in different, creative ways to build up a unique meal each night.

Floor Cleaning

Vacuum cleaners are a necessity for keeping carpets clean. But vacuuming also requires quite a bit of electricity. To ensure your vacuum cleaner is working as efficiently as possible, keep its filters and brushes clean. Otherwise, the vacuum doesn’t will have to work overtime to pick up dirt and debris. If you don’t have a lot of carpet, consider a manual carpet sweeper can get rid of pet hair and small messes. For hard floor surfaces, consider using a traditional broom for the pre-mopping step rather than a vacuum.

Clothes Ironing

No one wants to walk around in wrinkled clothes. But the clothes iron is an energy hog in your home, and believe it or not, there are other eco-friendly options available to you! For example, keep track of the clock and remove clothes from the dryer as soon as the cycle is complete. If you hang or fold them immediately, you’ll be surprised at how crisp they are. If you are using a dryer, consider using the “steam” cycle for the appropriate items. If you would be using the dryer anyway, might as will kill two birds with one stone! For air-dried items, giving a good shake and even smoothing them with your hands or a cold iron before hanging them up to dry will remove those unwanted wrinkles. Lastly, you can also hang slightly wrinkled clothes in the bathroom when you take a hot shower. The steam will further release any lingering wrinkles before you put them on for the day.

How to Save Energy & Money in the Laundry Room

Doing laundry is probably not a favored chore on anyone’s list. Yet it is one of the most frequently completed task. Washers and dryers are among the most used household appliances. And believe it or not, they are among the most costly appliances to operate.

According to ENERGY STAR, the average household in America washes approximately 300 loads annually. For Americans using washers that are ten or more years old, the average annual associated electricity cost is $185. Americans using newer high-efficiency models use 25 percent less electricity and 33 percent less water.

Since we realize you might not be in a position to go out and buy a new washing machine today, here are seven tips to also help you save energy in your household chores in the laundry room:

Use Colder Water Temperatures

Washing laundry in hot water requires a lot more energy than using warm or cold temperature settings. With the exception of cleaning items that are heavily soiled or require sanitization, the milder temperatures typically get the job done. Fabrics will also last longer when you avoid washing in hot water. This one change can significantly reduce your energy costs per laundry load. If you are still concerned about getting your clothes clean, you can use one of the many detergents specially formulated for cold water!

Use the High Spin Cycle

Opting for the high spin cycle helps extract as much water as possible from clothing, thus requiring less time in the dryer. When items are extremely wrinkled afterwards, simply shake them out and your dryer will take care of the rest.

Separate Loads

Most everyone separates laundry loads by color, but it can also be wise to separate by fabric weight as well. This is especially true when using the dryer. For example, heavier fabrics like towels and jeans take significantly longer to dry than thinner shirts, lightweight linens, or underwear. Likewise, you’ll also avoid over-drying thinner fabrics that not only wastes energy, it can also lead to shrinkage and fabric damage. Note: this might not be energy-saving for everyone. If most of your clothes are a similar weight or fabric and you only have a couple items that are different (aka not a full load). Best to keep everything together!

Do Full Loads of Laundry

Wait until you have a full load of laundry to run a load. This will save money and energy by taking advantage of the set resources required per cycle. For additional savings, try to run several loads back-to-back. Particularly when it comes to drying, this will enable you to take advantage of the dryer’s internal temperature being already raised.

Skip the Dryer

Whenever possible, take advantage of line-drying clothes. This will not only help elongate your fabrics’ lives but also save electricity on clothes drying..

Use Dryer Balls

Dryer balls help reduce drying time by separating the clothes and thus improving air circulation. Available in rubber and wool, the wool dryer balls also help reduce static electricity so you can even reduce your waste by doing away with the dryer sheets. 

Keep the Dryer Filter Clean

We’ve all been there. We loose track of time and all of a sudden the lint filter is overflowing with pillow-y fluff! Avoid this situation by removing lint from the dryer filter after each load. On top of that, clean the filter monthly with warm water and a gentle scrub using a toothbrush. This will improve the dryer’s air flow and remove waxy buildup that dryer sheets can leave behind (if you use them).

How to Save Energy & Money Dishwashing

A dishwasher simplifies kitchen chores immensely and most of us couldn’t imagine living without one. Are you cringing thinking we’re about to discuss how much energy it uses? Well, today’s you’re lucky day!

In addition to making our lives easier, dishwashers are in fact more energy-efficient and use fewer gallons of water than dishwashing. This is especially true if your dishwasher is less than ten years old.

As with washers and dryers, you might not be in the market for a new dishwasher. Again, totally understandable! Although, even if your dishwasher is working, if it is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it for significant operational savings. For even more savings over time, all with a swipe of your smartphone, opt for a smart dishwasher when it comes time for a replacement.

Take advantage of your dishwasher to save energy in your household chores.
Take advantage of your dishwasher to save energy in your household chores.
Source: Catt Liu

In the meantime, integrate the pointers below to save energy in your household chores in the kitchen:

Wash Full Loads

Dishwashers generally require the same amount of detergent, water, and electricity regardless if you’re washing a full or partial load. So doing full loads will enable you to get the best bank for your buck.

Use the Energy Saving Cycle

The energy-saving, also known as “eco-friendly,” cycle uses a lower temperature and lower volume of water but still cleans a normal load of dishes well. Make sure you have this setting turned on for energy savings that will add up over time.

Allow Dishes to Air Dry

Consider skipping the heat-dry setting and allow dishes to air dry. Simply prop the dishwasher door open after the cleaning cycle and the residual heat along with air circulation will amply dry the dishes, not to mention prevent damage to dishes from excessive heat temperatures. Some new dishwasher models even pop open the door for you so you can enjoy these energy savings without having to keep track of the cycle.

Avoid Peak Hours

Utility companies routinely charge higher rates during peak usage hours. Take advantage of the “delay cycle” feature so your dishwasher runs when rates are low: late at night or in the early morning hours.

Skip the Pre-Rinse

Many of us are tempting to pre-rinse dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. However, this can quickly consume several gallons of water and take time. Yes, you want to make sure that large food particles are off the plate. But new dishwashers are strong enough that scraping residual food particles into the garbage and putting the dishes directly into the dishwasher will achieve the sparkling clean results you want. All without the unnecessary water and energy consumption.

Final Words

By using these simple, straightforward tips, you’ll save time and save energy in your household chores. And, over the course of a year, the reduced cost in your utility bills will be undeniable. We bet those crisp sheets will feel even crisper, that fresh lemon-y smell even fresher! Any other tips that you use to save energy in your household chores? Let us know in the comments!

For additional energy saving strategies and essential electricity intel, subscribe for weekly updates from the WattDoesItUse Blog!

Taking steps to improve your windows' energy efficiency can save you heating and cooling costs.

Through the Looking Glass: 5 Ways to Improve Your Windows’ Energy Efficiency

When you buy products through links on this post to improve your windows’ energy efficiency, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

Windows account for more than 30 percent of a typical home’s heating losses, regardless of their age. This means that they can be the key to improving your home’s comfort and lowering your energy bills.

Given that, if your home is feeling a bit draftier than usual as winter weather settles in, you might be thinking, “We need to replace our old, drafty windows stat!” In fact, the first thing many people do in a renovation is to replace all the windows. And it’s true that there is really neat, effective smart window technology coming to market (stay tuned for a future post on that!).

However, study after study shows that conventional window replacements have just about the worst bang for your buck when it comes to home energy efficiency investments. On the other hand, you can enjoy significant payback through energy savings if you simply improve your windows’ energy efficiency.

Whether you are a do-it-yourself homeowner or rely on professional contractors for your home improvement projects, take note of these five simple steps to make your windows more energy efficient.

5 Ways to Improve your Windows’ Energy Efficiency

Prepare Your Existing Windows

Are your windows are in fairly good condition? Is there any missing glass, rotting wood, or air/water leakage? If so, a little rehabilitation can go a long way. There are three primary ways to  “rehab” your windows.

Window Frame Upgrades

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers a helpful Wood Window Repair, Rehabilitation & Replacement Guide. Along these lines, we love the “Indow window.” This frame insert has a compression tube that holds it in place and seals tightly to the frame to eliminate any air leakage.

Caulking & Weatherstripping

Caulking and weatherstripping are also key steps to deal with unwanted drafts. The U.S. DOE provides helpful step-by-step guides for window caulking and weatherstripping.

Purchase Upgraded Window Coverings

A low-cost way to effectively improve your windows’ energy efficiency is through window coverings, like blinds and curtains. While they don’t actually make your windows more efficient, they can make a dent in your energy efficiency efforts. In the winter, heavy curtains (or even thermal curtains) can block drafts to help your home stay warm. In the summer, they can block sunlight from heating the room.

To ensure that your curtains do their job effectively, make sure that they fall below the ledge of the window. This will enable them to trap as much of a draft as possible. Also be mindful of when you open and close the curtains. As an example, during the winter, close your curtains at night when the temperatures are the lowest. Then open them during the day to welcome in those warm rays of sunshine!

Install Storm Windows

Once you’ve rehabbed your windows, or if they are already in good condition, the next step is storm windows. In particular, low-emissivity (also known as “low-e”) storm windows can boost energy efficiency at low cost. The low-e coating, which is nearly invisible, reduces conduction and radiation heat losses and can improve energy savings by 10-15 percent as compared to standard storm windows! In fact, a U.S. DOE study found that low-e storm windows have an average payback of two to four years, regardless of climate.

While you can find low-e storm windows at big-box retailers, we recommend custom ordering them in order to make sure that it perfectly fits the measurements of your window.

Look for Utility Incentives

Interested in purchasing low-e storm windows but operating on a tigh budget? Some regional utilities offer rebates and incentives for their customers to purchase and install storm windows. The U.S. DOE provides a database of such opportunities. Check it out to see if there are any programs that could help you with your window energy efficiency projects!

Install Window Films

Window films provide another layer on your window itself, which reduces convection and conduction. This not only provides energy efficiency, but also “solar control” window films can protect your skin by blocking infrared and ultraviolet rays. Win-win!

Keep Your Storm Windows Up Year Round

You can remove storm windows and panels during times of the year with more mild weather. But it’s even better to keep them in year-round. Just as low-e storm windows can help hold heat in during the winter, they can keep heat out and hold cool air in during the hot summer months. In fact, across the four seasons, low-e storm windows can save 12-33 percent in combined heating and cooling costs.

Taking steps to improve your windows' energy efficiency will ensure they provide beautiful views, not higher electricity bills! Source: Gabriel Tenan
Taking steps to improve your windows’ energy efficiency will ensure they provide beautiful views, not higher electricity bills! Source: Gabriel Tenan

Keep It In Perspective

It is important to remember that if your concern is maintaining your home’s temperature, windows are not the only place to focus your attention. Unfortunately, with energy efficiency, there is not one silver bullet. Most of the heat loss in older houses is, in fact, through the roof. So proper insulation of your home’s walls and attic is an important area to invest, as well.

That said, the investments set forth in this post help you improve your windows’ energy efficiency and enjoy reduced heating and cooling costs. So if you’re walking around your house in your winter jacket, don’t wait! It is definitely worth taking the steps above before expensive window replacement.

Let us know how they work for you in the comments! For more electricity essentials and energy saving strategies, subscribe to the WattDoesItUse blog for weekly updates on the latest and greatest!

Tweaks can help you save electricity and money on holiday lights.

Deck the Halls: 4 Ways To Save Electricity and Money On Holiday Lights and Decorations

When you buy products through links on this post to save electricity and money on holiday lights, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

December is finally here. As we all welcome the chilly, winter month while sipping hot cocoa, and crossing Black Friday gifts off our shopping list, we begin a much-loved and ever-joyous process that each of us has likely been awaiting since last year. Holiday decoration time!

Who doesn’t love the lights, décor, dreidels, and trees?! They’ve become fundamentals of the holiday season. Holiday decorations are so pertinent, in fact, that for my family it is honestly not the holiday season without rounds of the neighborhood to judge who has the best lights.

Holiday Lights Bring Cheer… And Utility Bill Spikes

But for as much as we love holiday lights and décor, there’s a harsh reality that comes hand-in-hand with the inflatable, lit-up snow globe or the house that’s ever-so-carefully lined from top-to-bottom with antique Christmas lights. Holiday lights can suck up a ton of energy. And whats more, they can spike your utility bill like you wouldn’t believe!

Yes, we feel that drain on our wallets. But it also doesn’t exactly align with the energy consumption consciousness that we work so hard throughout the year to establish!

That being said, we’d never tell you to stop the holiday decorating tradition dead in its tracks.  

In fact, we come to you today to share some good news: as with all things energy efficiency, there are smarter ways to decorate your home so it’s just a beautiful and cheerful but requires a fraction of the energy (and associated cost).

Know what that means? This holiday season, you can rock around the Christmas tree and light your Menorahs without running up an insane electricity bill.

How? We’re glad you asked.

4 Ways to Save Electricity and Money On Holiday Lights & Decorations

We’re all about holiday decorating, but we’re also pretty darn invested in conserving energy, too. As holiday light lovers, that often presents us with the dilemma of balancing our love for holiday décor and our passion for conserving energy.

We’ve identified tried-and-true ways to win the decoration game without losing the energy conservation one. Here are the four most effective ways to save electricity and money on holiday lights and decorations.

Fiber Optic Décor for the Win

One of the greatest parts of decorating for the holidays is stringing up all of your favorite décor on your holiday tree. But strings upon strings of lights hung up on your Christmas tree can be a real energy suck.

That’s where top-of-the-line fiber optic décor—like fiber optic Christmas trees!—can be a huge lifesaver. With this kind of décor, products typically use a single bulb located at the bottom of the unit to light up the entire decoration. Ultimately, that conserves quite a bit of energy and saves you some serious money in the process!

Upgrade Your Lighting Technology (Go LED!)

Did you read the last tip and think, “No way am I giving up my Christmas tree!” We get it! There is still a ways to get the same classic look and save money and energy on holiday lights: LEDs!

LED lighting is the way of the future—especially when it comes to decking out your house for the holidays.

LED bulbs are more efficient. They use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also generate less heat, which helps reduce the risk of burns and fires. And they can last up to 10 years longer than your traditional bulbs!

Even though those classic, incandescent lights you’ve been hanging up on your house gives off the traditional, vintage Christmas look (which, hey, we love too!), they’re unfortunately super inefficient. Even worse, they’re delicate and a lot less durable, which means no matter how well you take care of them, they likely will end up shattered or halfway lit, and meet their end in a landfill somewhere (which is an entirely different problem, for another time!).

By replacing those dated lights with LEDs (especially ENERGY STAR-qualified LED strands), you’ll be able to conserve energy, save money, and you’ll even be able to do away with the worry of breaking filaments and glass (because LED holiday lights don’t have any).

PRO TIP LED HOLIDAY LIGHTS

If you’re still looking for that incandescent light look without the inefficiency, look for LED lights that say “warm” on the label. Technology has advanced significantly such that LED lights no longer only give off the harsh bright light that they once did.

Set Timers & Create a Schedule

We’re not being a Grinch when we say this, we’re just being realistic. You don’t have to leave your holiday lights running around the clock.

Seriously, we promise we’re not Scrooging it up here—we’re all about holiday lights. But, take a moment and think about it: do you really need to run your holiday lights during the day when no one can see them? Or at 3am when everyone is asleep? Probably not.

By setting timers and schedules during the holiday season, you can seriously cut back on the amount of energy you’re using up to run your lights. Set your timer based on when you want your lights to be on display—even if you’re just running it from the time it gets dark to the wee hours of the morning, you’ll save a bundle compared to running them non-stop.

Reflective décor is a great strategy to save electricity and money on holiday lights. It can be as dialed up or toned down as your heart desires. Source: Nick Fewings
Reflective décor can be as dialed up or toned down as your heart desires, all the while ensuring your utility bill doesn’t get out of hand! Source: Nick Fewings
Get Creative With Reflective Décor

If you’re really looking to switch up your holiday decorations and save electricity and money on holiday lights this year, consider a reflective decorating strategy. This beautiful but minimalist approach leverages actual lighting to enhances your decor. Honestly, a lot of them are pretty darn cool. Whether you’re into wreaths, ribbons, bells, garlands, or otherwise, take advantage of the opportunity to get creative with reflective décor!

Let’s Talk Watts: Why the Type of Lights You’re Decorating With Matters 

Remember when we talked about LED lights a minute ago? SPOILER ALERT: We’re not quite finished yet.

Sure, it makes sense that LED lights are a more updated technology, so they’re likely more efficient—but just how much more efficient are they?

LED lights are designed to draw less power than traditional fluorescent and incandescent lights. In fact, they are about 80 percent more efficient (while we’re talking holiday lights here, the same applies in almost every other lighting scenario).  In fact, a typical 84-watt fluorescent bulb can be replaced by a 36-watt LED to give off the same level of light. (Need a little watt refresher? Check out our What is a Watt 101 article here learn about watts, kilowatt-hours (kWh), and more fun essential electricity terms).

The best part? They’re way more efficient because of how they each transform their energy.

Traditional lights typically convert 95 percent of their energy to heat and only five percent of their energy to light. LED lights are basically the opposite.

So, how exactly does this apply to Christmas lights?

While LED lights might cost a bit more upfront, they’ll last longer and ultimately end up saving you money on your electric bill during the holidays. Even better, you can count on them conserving a substantial amount of energy. Doesn’t that prospect make you feel all warm inside?! It does to us!

If you’re interested in quantifying the exact savings that you could enjoy by switching out holiday lights, check out this super visual, very cool calculator from Duke Energy. Here, you can actually add up the types of LED lights you’re using (or want to use) and calculate not only how much energy you’ll be expending, but also how much money you’ll be saving by substituting LED holiday lights.

LED lights can provide the same ambiance with a fraction of the energy consumption of traditional bulbs. Source: Paul Gaudriault
LED lights can provide the same ambiance with a fraction of the energy consumption of traditional bulbs. Source: Paul Gaudriault

Let There Be Light!

If you’re ready to get your stunning (and shockingly inexpensive) holiday decorations up and running, we hope you utilize a few of the tips and tricks we shared to save electricity and money on holiday lights. Remember, your holiday décor can be just as bright and festive as always. But with a few little tweaks, you can save a bundle on your electricity bill and help the planet by conserving more energy than you probably thought possible. Have another energy-saving holiday décor solution that we didn’t mention? Let’s hear it! Drop us a line in the comment section so you can share with your fellow energy conservers.

Looking for even more holiday electricity insight? Check out our energy-saving holiday gift-guides (we’ve even laid out some 101 shopping guides for energy-efficient TVs, stoves & ranges, and more)!

Throughout the year, WattDoesitUse also shares helpful blogs that can guide you toward a better understanding of your electricity at home, including how to decode your electricity bill (trust us, we know it can be confusing). Subscribe to our regularly updated blog for the latest and greatest!

Contrary to EV myths, EVs can save money and help the earth with reduced GHG emissions. Source: Andreas Dress

The 5 Most Common EV Myths, Debunked

Ah, the holiday season! Sleigh bells are ringing, carolers are singing, and road trips to family gatherings abound. Like many, you might be looking at your driveway thinking, “It’s time for a new car.” This time of year is certainly a great one to consider biting the bullet. As new models come to market, the previous year’s models go on sale. There are great deals to be had! But which car to choose? It might not surprise you to hear that we are bullish on electric vehicles (EVs). With an EV, you can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—thus helping the planet—and save money at the same time!

2019 survey from Consumer Reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that 63 percent of prospective car buyers in the U.S. are interested in EVs. However, even with interest levels rising, another recent study by AAA finds that most Americans still aren’t ready to buy. Not yet.

Why is this? EVs present several new, sometimes intimidating, considerations for drivers. Along these lines, there are a number of EV myths that cause people to hesitate. These concerns may have been true at one point but no longer need to be.

We want to help you sort through the facts. So in this post, we present and de-bunk the five most common EV myths.

Myth #1: EVs Are Low-Performance Vehicles

One of the most common EV myths is that they are as slow as golf carts. In fact, they are generally quicker than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

Electric motors generate 100 percent of their available torque instantly. This means that when an EV presses the accelerator pedal, the transition from stationary to speed is almost instantaneous. The top version of the Tesla Model S is one of the quickest cars in the world, with a 0-60 mph time of only 2.1 seconds. Of those who have test-driven the Tesla and decided to buy, many note that they made their purchase because “it was fast, and it was fun to drive.”

The Leaf SL Plus is a bit slower to accelerate, at 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds. However that is still extremely competitive as compared to conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Takeaway

EV technology has advanced to the point where it can compete with that of comparable ICE models. You can absolutely save money and reduce environmental impact while maintaining all of your performance expectations for your ride.

Myth #2: EVs are more expensive than conventional vehicles

Also among the most common EV myths is the concern that EVs are more expensive than their conventional counterparts.

It is true that the upfront price of an EV is still higher on average than that of a comparable conventional vehicle. However, the upfront costs of EVs are continuing to decrease over time.

And on top of that, the true price of a vehicle includes the lifetime costs of owning and operating it. EVs become very competitive when you incorporate subsidies and the ongoing savings that drivers enjoy over the life of their EVs. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute, which examined lifetime costs of the electric Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, showed that EVs consistently performed better than conventional vehicles due to lower fueling and maintenance costs.

On top of that, many EVs qualify for the U.S. Federal government tax credit of up to $7,500. We should note that the exceptions here are Tesla models. Credits phase out during the calendar year after an automaker sells 200,000 full electric and/or plug-in hybrid models. Tesla hit this milestone in 2018. Credits on Tesla vehicles are now $1,875. They will likely be eliminated on December 31, 2019 (so act fast if you’ve been eying one!). General Motors is likewise hitting the 200,000-unit mark and will see its subsidies shrink moving forward.

Several states offer their own subsidies to EV buyers in addition to the Federal tax credit. In Colorado, EV purchases are eligible for a $5,000 state income tax credit. And California residents can receive a cash rebate of $2,500-$4,500 from the state, depending on their income. You can find a full list of Federal, state, and private EV incentives that apply to you on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) EV Laws and Incentives website.

Takeaway

This is one of the EV myths that is partially true. However, though most EVs are currently priced at a premium compared to similar conventional vehicles, their upfront price tags continue to drop. EVs become even more competitive when you incorporate fuel and maintenance cost savings over the lifetime of the vehicle as compared to conventional models. To calculate your specific savings, use the U.S. DOE AFDC Vehicle Cost Calculator.

If you want to drive an EV but are currently on a tight budget, consider a used model. You can acquire a pre-owned EV quite cheaply. This is because the federal tax credit applies to a used EV’s resale value. Also, pre-owned EVs have fewer miles on them than conventional vehicles. This means they’ve typically endured less wear and tear than that of a used ICE vehicle.

Myth #3: There Are Not Enough Public Charging Stations

The third in our list of the most common EV myths is a lack of public charging station accessibility. In the aforementioned AAA survey, 63 percent of respondents cited “not enough places to charge” as a reason they were unsure or unwilling to choose an EV as their next car. 

As you can see from the U.S. DOE AFDC Charging Station Locator, there are a growing number of public charging stations available throughout the US. But in cities where EV penetration is increasing quickly, there is still a relative shortage of public chargers. State governments and private charging station manufacturers alike are working to address this issue. In fact, California, New Jersey, and New York have announced combined investments of $1.3 billion to build even more public charging infrastructure.

The private sector is also making it easier for EV drivers to access existing charging stations. For example, EVmatch is leveraging the sharing economy to increase access to reliable EV charging options in a similar way to Airbnb. Using the EVmatch app, EV drivers can find and reserve charging stations rented out by homeowners and businesses. This increases publicly available charging options by taking advantage of existing resources versus requiring new designated “public” charging stations.

On top of this, public charging is typically less of an important factor for EV owners than they expect. For people who live in apartment complexes and don’t have access to home charging, public stations are important. However, for the most part, EV owners tend to cover most of their charging needs with at-home and at-work charging.

Takeaway

There is still a shortage of public EV charging stations as compared to the gas stations based on the ratios of pumps/plugs to vehicles. So this is one of the EV myths that is also partially true. However, the number of public charging stations of all levels is increasing. And so are resources that empower EV owners to access existing (previously private) charging infrastructure at homes and offices.

EV owners may have to do initial research to understand public charging options for longer trips. But the infrastructure is robust enough that access is no longer a significant barrier.

Myth #4: EVs Will Run Out Of Charge While I’m Driving

According to the same AAA survey, 58 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t commit to EVs because of “range anxiety,” the fear that they will run out of charge while driving.

EVs have an average range of 194 miles for every charge, which is just under half the range of traditional vehicles (418 miles). They require 8-12 hours to recharge completely, compared to the few minutes it takes to refuel with gas. However, with increasing investments into and improvements to technologies, the driving range of EVs is continuing to increase. And as the range increases, the likelihood of running out of charge is diminishing. On top of that, more DC fast charging stations are becoming available for quick charging stops along major highways and in shopping centers around the U.S. 

On top of this, EV proponents counter that people drive less than 40 miles a day, on average. While this statistic is true, it can be a somewhat misleading statistic. People don’t necessarily drive a consistent, predictable number of miles each day. In fact, most people drive relatively few miles on a typical day. But they also take trips over that are more than 40 (or even 100) miles of driving. For these trips, EV drivers will still need to plan ahead. They can’t yet assume that they’ll have access to public charging access over their route, as they can with gas stations.

Takeaway

EV battery capacity has advanced enough that “range anxiety” is not longer a day-to-day concern for EV drivers, as it used to be. EV range can more than cover people’s typical daily driving needs and even the mileage of regional road trips. However, EV owners still have to conduct initial research to map out public charging options for longer trips.

Myth #5: They Aren’t Actually Greener

As with the first of our EV myths, the argument that EVs don’t offer environmental benefits couldn’t be further from the truth. Electric motors convert 75 percent of the chemical energy from their batteries to power the vehicle. By comparison, ICE vehicles convert only 20 percent of the energy stored in gasoline. What’s more, EVs emit no direct tailpipe pollutants. However, some argue that EVs aren’t actually greener than ICE vehicles because of the emissions associated with battery production and the indirect tailpipe pollutants that power plants produce when generating the electricity that fuels EVs.

EVs tend to fare best in emission comparisons when charged in parts of California, New York, and the Pacific Northwest. This is because renewable energy resources are more prevalent in these regions. Their impact is less in central U.S. states like Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. This is because the areas have greater dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity. However, the UCS has found that EVs are still responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles, regardless of region of the U.S. To understand the emissions related to your electricity source, see the U.S. DOE AFDC Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles website.

Some also worry about the environmental impact of battery materials. But according to a report by the California Air Resources Board, technology improvements have led to an EV development process that results in less than 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions than traditional ICE vehicles. On top of that, EV batteries have many reuse and recycling options. EV batteries can have second and third lives beyond their automotive use. For example, some new businesses apply used EV batteries as backup power in buildings. Some carmakers are even going into that business themselves to integrate reuse and recycle options.

Takeaway

The incremental environmental benefits of EVs vary as compared to ICE vehicles. This difference is predominantly driven by the fuel mix for electricity production in the region where an EV is charged. Regardless, the direct and well-to-wheel emissions of EVs are still less than those of ICE vehicles.

There are important concerns regarding the labor that is used to extract lithium. But fortunately, many automakers are committing to ethical lithium sourcing

Time To Hit The Road In An EV

There’s no question that EVs are gaining momentum. For the past several years, sales have consistently climbed year over year. And most recently, the first half of 2019 saw U.S. EV sales increase by 22% as compared to sales over the same period in 2018.

Many still hesitate to purchase an EV because of a few pervasive EV myths. As we have shown, while these myths have been true at one point, they are no longer the concerns they’ve been made out to be. Equipped with this piece’s information, give EVs a more serious look for your next vehicle! Whether you’re looking at new or used options, we’re pretty sure that an EV won’t disappoint.

For additional information about electricity consumption at home and how to save money on your utility bill, subscribe here for weekly updates from WDIU!

Office admin scene. Source: Nick Morrison

Electricity 101: Understanding Your Electricity Bill

Having trouble understanding your electricity bill? If so, you’re not alone. We hear from many people who think every month, “what are all these numbers and why is my balance due so high?!”

Or maybe you think you know how to read your electric bill? Even so, you might be like many Americans who make several inadvertent but key mistakes.

Either way, we’ve got your back! Electricity bills can have a dizzying amount of numbers strewn across the page with units we rarely give thought to in our day-to-day. In a previous post, we explain these units and where your electricity comes from.

In this post, our mission is to demystify the electricity bill and make sure you are reading it correctly.

What Bill Are You Looking At?

First thing’s first, when it comes to understanding your electricity bill: you must make sure you are looking at the correct bill!

In some areas of the country, the electricity bill can come bundled with other municipal bills, like gas and water. In others, each energy source is managed by a separate entity which will send its own bill. If you live in an area that bundles utilities, remember your units of measurement for each energy type as you read through your bill. That way you can be sure that you don’t mix up or misunderstand what you’re being charged for:

What Monthly Billing Plan Are You On?

Another critical step in understanding your electricity bill is to understand whether you are being charged for the electricity you actually use each month or are on what’s often called a “budget billing plan.” Here’s the difference:

Monthly Usage

If you have this billing set up, you receive a bill every cycle (typically every month) charging you for the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) your household used over that period at the utility’s stated rate.

Monthly Budget

If you have this billing plan, your utility takes the number of kWh you consumed last year, assumes that you’ll use around the same amount this year and charges you a monthly average based on that assumption. With this type of billing plan, your utility essentially spreads out the total costs you pay for power over the course of the year so in typically high-consumption months you pay less, but in typically low-consumption months you pay more than if you have a monthly usage billing plan.

What Charges Are Making Up Your Electricity Price?

Your total electricity charge is often broken up into the many services associated with the steps of generating and transporting electricity to your home. Additional nuances to your electricity bill will arise if your utility uses any type of tiered service. It’s important to understand these components in order to identify opportunities for savings.

Common charges & Services

Most utilities break down your electricity charge include a number of different components. Three common services include:

  • Generation Charges – these are the charges from your local utility company (such as PG&E, or Duke energy) for the cost to generate the electricity that you consumed in the billing period.
  • Transmission Charges – these are charges from your local utility company for the cost of moving high voltage electricity to the lower voltage of the local electricity lines in your neighborhood.
  • Distribution Charges – these are the fees that your local utility company charges you to deliver the electricity through local lines into your home.

If you need a refresher on the electricity generation, transmission, and distribution processes, check out a previous in our Electricity 101 series.

How Much Electricity Are You Using Each Month?

Most electricity bills will show you how your monthly usage changes over the course of the year. They may even break out your daily use. This can cause confusion if you look at your electricity cost per day versus for the month. If you are tracking your electricity consumption using your own energy monitor, such as CURB Home Energy Monitoring System or Sense Energy Monitoring System, make sure the period over which you are measuring and assessing your usage matches that of your bill. Otherwise you might be comparing apples to oranges, which will get confusing if you’re trying to assess the effectiveness of your energy conservation or energy efficiency efforts. For most, tracking your monthly usage will be the best bet.

Tiered Billing Structures

Understanding your electricity bill, particularly the breakdown of your charges, may be a bit more complex if your utility uses a tiered billing structure. One type of billing structure is based on consumption. In this structure, your first 500 kWh may be on price, and then your 501st hour is a different price. If your utility uses this type of structure, you will see a breakdown of the number of kWh that you use in each tier. Individual utilities may also have individual incentive programs or charges specific to your state/region.

In this sample bill from PG&E, you can see an example of a tiered electricity usage structure. Source: MCE Clean Energy
In this sample bill from PG&E, you can see an example of a tiered electricity usage structure. Source: MCE Clean Energy

Another type of billing structure that utilities might use is time-of-use pricing. In this structure, utilities charge different rates during different periods of the day.

  • Peak hours, also known as “on-peak” hours, are when electricity demand (and price) is the highest. In the summer, peak hours are typically 10am-8pm during weekdays. In the winter, peak hours are typically around 7am-11am and 5pm-9pm.
  • Off-peak hours are when electricity demand (and price) is the lowest. In the summer, this time is typically 11pm and 7am. In the winter, the hours are typically 9pm-7am.
  • Mid-peak hours that fall between on- and off-peak hours, when electricity demand (and price) is relatively average.  

Knowing whether your utility uses a tiered billing will be a powerful aspect of understanding your electricity bill and how to save on it. For instance, if your utility uses a consumption-based tiered structure, you can benefit significantly by decreasing your overall energy consumption. On the other hand, if your utility uses a time-of-use structure, simply adjusting when you wash dishes or run loads of laundry could result in significant savings.

Go Forth and Save Money!

Understanding your electricity bill is the first step to making changes at home that will enable you to conserve energy and save money. If you have additional questions about understanding your bill, let us know in the comments!

Devices with energy-saving technology can save money and the planet. Source: Simon Abrams

7 Must-Have Energy-Saving Gadgets for Your Favorite Techie

The 7 Energy-Saving Gadgets That the Techie in Your Life Needs

When you buy through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

It’s probably no secret to you that the go-green effort is in full effect. This movement is now touching almost every aspect of our lives—from the way we eat to the way we deal with waste to the way we drive our cars.

Because sustainability efforts have a hand in every part of our lives, the idea of helping the environment (and saving money) through energy savings plays a role in how many of us shop, too! Manufacturers of all kinds of products that touch our everyday lives are offering more energy-saving gadgets than ever before. Of course, being folks who are hugely invested in conserving energy and saving you money (because who doesn’t love saving money?), we’re all about this trend.

Still, it’s vital to point out that not every energy saving gadget is as useful as it sounds. So we’ve compiled a list of some of the most effective, must-have energy-saving gadgets on the market. They won’t just say they save energy. They’ll actually do it.

The best part? If you use them correctly and really embrace them, they’ll save you some serious bucks while saving the planet.

Even small savings add up when it comes to power consumption. Source: Aniek Wessel
Even small savings add up when it comes to power consumption. Source: Aniek Wessel

Why Does Energy Saving Matter?

If you’re reading through this blog post thinking, “sure, energy conservation is important, I guess. But what’s the big deal? Can I reallymake that big of a difference by switching a few things at home?”

The short answer: Of course you can!

The longer answer? That one’s coming at you right now:

Even small changes accumulate over time to have a significant impact. So the tiny stuff totally matters. Why? Because when you switch out your normal gadgets—i.e., old-school thermostats or lightbulbs—you’re doing just a little bit to change the way you use energy. But a little bit goes a long way here. Those small changes, well, they add up—and the more you conserve energy, the better off our planet—and everyone living on it—will be.

Sure, we know you might think the energy-saving gadgets are just part of the go-green hype, but there are tons of reasons (beyond the fact that it’s trendy) for you to consider shopping for energy-saving gadgets.

Save Money

Energy savings = financial savings on your electric bill! When you cut back on the amount of energy you’re using by investing in energy-saving technology, you can expect to see a steep decrease in your energy bill (potentially hundreds of dollars every year if you’re doing it right!). Less money spent in one area, means more can be spent in another! And with the holiday gift-giving season coming up, who doesn’t want little more cash to spend?!

SAVE THE PLANET

Because energy and electricity are produced (mostly) through fossil fuels in the US, the less energy we’re using means fewer emissions from fossil fuels. To put it into perspective, in 2018, about 64 percent of electricity generation came from fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Reducing the amount of energy you use (even small things in your everyday routine) decrease energy demand and production, which in turn reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

The Must-Have Energy-Saving Gadgets for the Techie in Your Life

Now that we’re all on the same page about why energy-saving gadgets are super important, we can move on to the good stuff.

 Whether you’re trying to find the perfect gift for the energy-conscious techie in your life or you’ve realized it’s finally time to hop aboard the energy conservation train (hey, welcome to the club, there’s plenty of room for everyone here!), you’ll definitely want to check out the items below.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats have long been a nuisance to homeowners, renters, landlords, and more. Why? Because they’re typically date and require manual adjustments. You know what we mean—that hassle of remembering to change the temperature setting with the change in season or time of day.

If you invest in one energy-saving gadget this year, make it a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats are powerful tools to reduce electricity consumption. Source: Dan Lefebvre

On top of that, as you may already be aware, the HVAC system which the thermostat controls is a huge energy suck—in fact, heating and cooling are the leading drivers of energy use (and bills!) in the home. Because of that, if you only install one new gadget this year, make it a smart thermostat. With smart thermostats, you can automatically change temperatures through the use of apps, pre-schedule temperatures for day and night schedules, and get a serious handle on your energy-savings in your household.

Looking for recommendations on which to choose or to get for your favorite techie this holiday season? You’re in luck—we devoted a whole blog post diving into the 7 best smart thermostats for energy savings and how to truly take advantage of them.

Smart Home Hubs & Energy Management Systems

We know what you’re thinking, and yes, these systems truly exist! There has been a major expansion of smart home devices and appliances available from various manufacturers. So streamlining the communication of these devices is more important than ever in order to leverage their energy-saving capabilities.

A smart home hub (or smart speaker) can serve as an energy management system that allows you to control your entire home (yes, you read that correctly) remotely with any smart device like your smartphone or tablet. We’re talking about lights, electric kettles, stereos, air conditioning—the works. It can all be controlled from one, single place. No longer will you have to suffer the energy consumption consequences of forgetting to turn the lights off when you leave the house—with an smart home hub, all it takes is the press of a button on your smart phone for all to be right with the world.

Amazon Echo is a family-favorite, voice-activated speaker that enables you to manage your home’s smart devices. But for full smart home management capabilities, we recommend Samsung’s SmartThings Hub.

LED Lighting

If you’re still using old-school regular fixtures and bulbs, you’re really driving energy bills and should switch to LED lighting ASAP! People used to hesitate about LED lights, complaining that they emitted harsh light. But they now provide much softer quality light. And in addition to running much more efficiently than incandescent bulbs, they have much longer lifespans and  can be dimmed, which gives you even more control over the lighting in your household.

LED light bulbs are becoming smart! Hence our categorization of them as must-have energy-saving gadgets.

Your techie will get particularly jazzed about Sengled LED bulbs, which are essentially high-tech appliances disguised as LED light bulbs. You can buy LED bulbs with a built-in Wi-Fi repeater, stereo system, or security camera, to name a few! And you can control Sengled bulbs from a smartphone app, which also measures your energy savings and allows you to track them.

Smart Windows

Most of us have heard about smartphones and smartwatches, but what about smart windows?! This is a super cool gadget that’s all the rage with energy conservationists, and something your favorite techie will love. Smart windows can help keep your home as energy efficient as possible year-round by using special filters. These filters activate when the exterior glass reaches certain transition points and tint the window to block unwanted solar heat and minimize glare. Smart windows therefore create cool space on the hottest days, saving you from cranking up the AC as much as before. And during cooler periods, they remain clear so your room takes in all the warming rays of light. The result? Less power required for temperature maintenance and a lower energy bill.

Smart windows are must-have energy-saving gadgets that help you manage the temperature of your home. Source: Adeolu Eletu
Smart windows apply filters to help you manage the temperature of your home. Source: Adeolu Eletu

Solar Power

If you’re trying to dramatically reduce your electricity and energy costs, consider solar chargers that can be stuck outside or in the window of your home to absorb the sun’s power. Then, use those solar rays to power your smart devices, charge your phones, and more!

We think your favorite techie will particularly love the Lumos unPlug Backpack to enable device charging throughout the day, even on the go! The Solio Solar Battery Pack and Charger is also super handy whether you’re at home, school or work.

Charging Stations & Smart Plugs

Have you ever heard of phantom load? It’s definitely spooky like it sounds, but not in the way you’re thinking. Phantom load is power drawn from the grid by electronics that aren’t technically “on” but are still plugged in (that’s right, the resulting energy use and increased cost are what makes this so scary). Phantom power pretty much sucks the power from your home for no reason whatsoever. But, there are some easy fixes.

First, charging stations help to automatically turn off and stop phantom power in its tracks when devices are fully charged. They can also be programmed to turn off automatically after a specific length of time, too! Similarly, smart plugs like the Belkin Wemo work with your wi-fi router and allow you to turn any appliance on and off from afar, with any Internet-enabled device. It will eliminate phantom load from any device or appliance plugged into it. For more tips on how to eliminate phantom loads in your home, check out our previous post with recommendations!

Certified Appliances

Okay, we admit these aren’t necessarily “gadgets.” But no energy-saving product review would be complete without mentioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Program. If you’re looking to replace any appliance throughout your home, be sure to hunt down a product that sports the ENERGY STAR logo.You can find ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators, ceiling fans, toasters, coffee makers, and so much more (the list truly goes on and on). When you purchase these types of appliances, you know you’re getting up-to-date technology that puts energy conservation at the forefront—meaning energy-saving is a priority.

The result? You’ll cut your costs and do your part to conserve more energy without having to lift a finger.

Not a bad list, right? We thought so, too. Now comes the tough part for you: Figuring out how to convince your whole household you need every last one of these energy-saving gadgets on the list (we suggest showing them our blog post about how important energy conservation truly is! It also never hurts to mention you can cut your energy costs, just sayin’.)

If you’ve got any energy-saving gadgets that you think would be a perfect addition to this list, let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in other tips about how to conserve energy, insights on electricity and energy, or recommendations on ways to cut back your energy costs, keep up with our blog. The WattDoesItUse blog is regularly updated and overflowing with the need-to-know details about energy, electricity, conservation, and so much more! Don’t miss out!

Understand the drivers of energy use in your house to reduce power consumption and related costs. Source: Brian Babb

Electricity 101: Key Drivers of Energy Use At Home

Have you ever taken a long, sorrowful look at your energy bill, reached into your wallet for your credit card to pay it, and thought to yourself, where is all of this energy going? If you, like so many other energy consumers aren’t entirely sure what the heck is going on with your electricity bill, don’t understand your key drivers of energy use, or are simply overwhelmed by a high monthly electricity bill, then we’ve got some (hopefully) comforting news: you’re in the right place!

At WattDoesItUse, we truly get where you’re coming from. Knowledge is power, and our mission is to empower you with actionable information. So, what are the key drivers of energy and electricity use in your household? It’s not always easy to understand your electricity bill. But that’s precisely what we’ll seek to explain in this post.

More specifically, we will review some basics behind electricity consumption, followed by a room-by-room tour of your house to uncover the expected key drivers of energy use. Then, equipped with your enhanced energy literacy, we’ll take it a step further (you’re going to love this part) and brainstorm ways for you to conserve energy and whittle down your electric bill!

Now that we’ve established a solid foundation to get you going, let’s tackle the real reason we’re all here—discovering the energy hogs in your household! (No, we don’t mean your family members. We’ll handle the household appliances in this post; we’ll handle your family’s habits in another post!)

Who Uses Electricity?

To answer this succinctly—everybody! It’s pretty uncommon for commercial businesses or residences to not use electricity at all (that’s not to say some people don’t use it more efficiently than others, but we’ll get to that part later).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s make sure we’re on the same page about the basics.

Where does electricity come from?

We’ve got an entire blog post all about breaking down the logistics of electricity, but we’ll sum it up like this. Electricity is generated from sources like fossil fuels, wind, solar, and nuclear power. It is sent as a current through a transformer, which increases the voltage so it can travel a long distance. Then, that electrical charge runs through high-voltage transmission lines that run throughout the US. Eventually, the electrical current reaches a substation, which cranks down the voltage again so that it can travel through a smaller power line. The smaller power lines have built-in transformers that crank down the voltage further and help direct the electricity where it needs to go—to neighborhoods, businesses, apartment buildings, and more.

US transformer and electrical grid. Source: Sanna Linjos
Electricity travels through the extensive US grid to get from power generation plants to our homes. Source: Sanna Linjos

How do we measure electricity consumption?

If you haven’t read our electricity 101 guide about how we measure electricity (we definitely suggest it), you’ll need to know this: the amount of electricity a person uses over time is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kilowatt, which is a measure of power, is equal to 1,000 watts—it shows up as a kilowatt on your electricity bill because it’s far easier to measure large quantities of electricity in kilowatts.

If we’re using an 80-watt lightbulb in our home and run it for an hour, that means we’ve used a total of 80-watt hours—which means a total of .08 kilowatt-hours.

US Electricity Consumption Statistics

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are over 140 million customers of electricity in the United States. That huge number of customers is divided into three basic categories:

  1. Residential (122 million customers, about 37 percent of electricity sales)
  2. Commercial (17 million customers, about 35 percent of sales)
  3. Industrial (less than 1 million customers, about 28 percent of electricity sales)

How Much Electricity Does a Typical US Household Use?

Before we dive into energy saving opportunities, we think it’s important to first remind you that no one household is going to use the same amount of electricity as another. There are a ton of factors that drive energy use. For example, seasonality, geographic location, the actual foundation or structure of the household, and of course, the way the members of the household use their electricity can all play a role.

Despite all of these factors, we want to equip you with some basic statistics that are true of most households in the United States:

  • Electricity consumption will typically peak during the summer (think about how high you crank up your air conditioning when it’s blistering hot out).
  • On a more micro scale, electricity usage will also peak during the day, in the late afternoon, when people return home from work.
  • On average, the typical household in the United States uses 920kWh of electricity per month (11,040kwh per year). At the average national electrical rate, that translates to $1,468 annually.
  • The average breakdown of that consumption is as follows:
    • 29 percent – Heating
    • 17 percent – Cooling
    • 14 percent – Water heating
    • 13 percent – Appliances
    • 12 percent – Lighting
    • 4 percent – Electronic Devices
    • 11 percent – Other

Let’s Talk About Electricity: Where Is Your Electricity Really Going?

With those numbers providing perspective, let’s talk about the real reason you’re here: understanding the key drivers of energy use in your household. We already mentioned that heating/cooling and household appliances are the key drivers of energy use… and that utility bill!

Let’s take a closer look at these appliances:

Central AC

Though this number will likely vary for everyone, a central AC (that’s at least 2 tons) will use about 1450 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your AC Unit: don’t heat and cool the rooms you aren’t using, change your thermostat setting each season, and use “vacation” settings when you’re not going to be home for a while.

Water Heater Pump

For a 4-person household, you can anticipate that a water heater will use about 310 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Water Heater: consider scaling back the time you spend in a hot shower, don’t run water when you’re not using it, and consider replacing appliances in your home that can monitor your hot water usage.

Washing Machine & Dryer

A washing machine will use about 9 kWh per month while a dryer will use about 75 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Washer and Dryer: always wait for a full load before washing, clean your lint trap between dryer loads, and air dry your clothes outside during warmer months (if you can!)

Refrigerator

A refrigerator will use about 105 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Refrigerator: keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible!

Range & Stovetop

This will, of course, vary on the type of range or stovetop you use, but expect an oven range to use about 58kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Range and Stovetop: Keep the oven door shut as much as possible, cover your pots and pans to help trap heat, and keep your range and stovetop clean. Better yet, invest in a more energy efficient range or stovetop!

Dishwasher

Your dishwasher is probably using close to 30 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving electricity With Your Dishwasher: don’t do the dishes unless you have a full load and scrape excess food off your plate instead of rinsing!

Microwave

Your microwave likely uses about 15 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Microwave: Unplug it when it’s not in use but use it when you can (it’s a faster way to heat food up, which also requires less power!)

Television

A TV Will use about 27kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your TV: unplug your TV when it’s not in use, try using power strips that can detect when your devices are in standby mode, and try streaming through more efficient devices, like a tablet.

Lightbulbs

Depending on your wattage, you can expect to use about 50 kWh per month lighting a 4-5 room household.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Lighting: upgrade your lightbulbs to a more energy-efficient brand and remember to turn the lights off when you leave a room.

Additional Energy Conservation Strategies

Of course, the easy answer is to use your appliances less frequently, and when you do use them, be smart about conserving energy. But, there are plenty more tips out there that can help you conserve energy in every single room in your household. We’ve compiled helpful guidance right here:

  • Replace or cover drafty windows
  • Find and seal any leaks in your home (check spaces under doors, windows, and more!)
  • Make sure you’re scheduling regular service appointments for your AC and heating units
  • Unplug your appliances when they’re not in use or consider using a power strip that can cut all power to these appliances when they’re turned off.
  • Keep air moving throughout your house with efficient ceiling fans so you don’t have to use AC as much
  • Lower your water heating costs by scaling back your hot showers

Interested in learning more about electricity? Looking for ways to conserve energy, cut back on expenses, or be more energy conscious in general? Well, you’re in the right place. Our WattDoesitUse blog is all about sharing unique ways to conserve electricity, become more energy-efficient, and help you enhance your electricity literacy, too! Got a tip for our readers on how to conserve energy in their households? We want to hear it. Drop your advice in the comments below! Have questions or suggestions for new blog topics? Leave us comments about that, too!

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén