Energy Efficiency for the Family: A Room by Room Guide

There’s more to getting your family to save energy than just telling them to turn off the lights when they leave a room. In your home, different rooms require different energy uses.

energy efficient family

Consequently, there are different ways to save energy in each room. By learning and applying these frugal tips you can show your family how to adopt energy saving habits to improve your home’s energy efficiency. So, let’s go through the six most common rooms in a home and see where you can show your family how to save energy.

Kitchen

Kitchens tend to be one of the rooms with the most intensive use of energy at thermal extremes. Some food is baked at 425 °F while only a few feet away foods are kept frozen at -2 °F. But it’s really easy to save energy here. Some tips seem pretty obvious. Avoid holding the refrigerator door open because it lets all the cold air out. Clean the door gaskets regularly. Dirt and dust collects to prevent the gasket from sealing properly when the door closes. In time, mold and mildew grows and lets moisture-laden air inside. To keep your kids from taking too long to root inside for snacks, post a list (or map) of what’s inside on the door. This way, they can go right for what they want ¦or complain about what you’re out of. Avoid baking in hot weather but if you need to, run your kitchen’s ventilation fan. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full and at night when the house isn’t as warm because this will save energy.

Here are few other tips to help you save energy in the kitchen. When preparing food for more than 2 or 3 people, it makes sense to use your food processor. But, using a good, sharp knife when you are cooking for only one or two people saves energy by not turning on the food processor and not having to clean it afterwards. Clean your automatic drip coffee pot out with vinegar every after every 40 pots. Not only will this dissolve lime deposits in the heating elements, but it will brew your coffee faster, save time, and save energy. If your refrigerator has an ice maker and you don’t use it often, turn it off and make ice in ice cube trays, instead. Lastly, always keep the area on top and behind your refrigerator free of anything that may block air from circulating. This allows its compressor and condensing coils to function at their peak efficiency.

Family Room

Family rooms have become the home’s family entertainment center featuring lots of electronics including TVs, computers, cable boxes, gaming consoles, and home theatre systems. One sure fire way to save energy here is to turn them OFF when when they are not in use. Now if your teen is playing a video game and gets interrupted for something that will take longer than 15 minutes, there is a way that they can save energy. Tell them to pause their game and keep the console running but have them turn off the TV. There’s two very good reasons for this. First, TVs tend to use more energy than the game console. Second, turning off the TV avoids the problem of paused game images getting burned-in to the TV screen ”particularly with plasma TVs. Your TV will be able to produce a better picture and last longer.

All these electronics use standby power modes so that they are ready to receive a remote control signal to switch ON. That means, too, that they are never truly OFF. Over time, this kind of  energy consumption  can add to your bill. Luckily, smart power strips can easily take care of this problem by shutting down its outlets when power consumption falls to standby levels.

Bedroom

Another place people have electronics is in their bedroom. Most of them are limited to TVs and gadget chargers. The problem here is that people leave battery chargers for their cell phones, laptops, tablets, mp3 players and portable games plugged in. Similar to standby power, battery chargers always draw a small trickle of energy when they are plugged in. It’s not very big until you start adding up how much electricity the family’s gadget chargers are actually eating. The tip here is an obvious one: if the charger is done charging, unplug it, and put it somewhere safe (I recommend kids using their sock drawers because there’s usually not a lot of activity in there). People also have TVs in their bedrooms. These are usually small to mid-sized sets not hooked up home theatre systems. All the same, they use standby power modes for use. Plugging the TV into a simple power strip lets you cut the power when you’re away at work or asleep.

Kids don’t respond well to hearing “Pick up your room.” I know I never did. Keeping their bedroom clean means that there will be less dust clogging your home’s HVAC air filter and less likely of a chance that a pile of socks and “forgotten” homework will block one of the room’s ventilation ducts. Keeping the air circulating freely in your home means it will heat and cool more efficiently and stay comfortable.

Bathroom

Believe it or not, saving energy doesn’t end at the bathroom door. Next to the laundry, bathrooms use the most hot water and during the summer they can add to your home’s cooling load. Turning on the ventilation fan when anyone takes a shower exhausts steam and moisture out of your home’s living space and helps your AC system keep your home cool and dry. During the winter, however, you will want to keep some of that warm moist air in your home. You can do this by placing a small fan at the door way on the floor to blow cool dry air into the bathroom and blow the warm moist air near the ceiling out of the bathroom (it should also help control mold). Both these habits help improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Because water is so important in the bathroom, get your family to make sure the water is turned off when not in use. Letting the tap run while they brush their teeth, for example might seem normal but in reality this wastes 1 to 2 quarts of water per person each time they brush their teeth. This impacts the energy use of your water softener, water filters, and your water heater. For the same reason, stay on top of  repairing leaky faucets  and  bad flapper valves.

Getting dry after your shower is equally important because it involves one item that contributes significantly to your energy use. Yes, it’s your  bath towel. Consider that a busy family of five could easily use more than 15 towels a week. That’s 144 laundry loads a year just in towels. In terms of energy that’s 1296 kWh used to wash and dry towels ”enough to power an average Texas home for hot summer day. How do you cut down? Do one of the things your mom always told you to do: hang up your towel after you use it so it can dry. On sunny days, hang your towels on a clothesline outside so the sun's UV rays can kill bacteria.

Laundry Room

Laundry rooms are energy hogs. Laundry loads using hot water can use up to 500 watts per load. Dryers use 1800 “5000 watts. How do you cut back? First of all, most laundry detergents are formulated to perform well in both hot and cold water. You can save energy by using cold water. Second, because your washer uses almost the same amount of energy with each load, organize your laundry so that you are doing full loads. Thirdly, as mentioned, there are many benefits to line-dried laundry so take advantage of that whenever possible.

Garage

The attached garage is much like an airlock on a space station. It’s partly outside the living space yet inside at the same time ”which adversely affects their energy efficiency. Check that the garage door has an intact gasket running its entire width. This helps seal the door to the floor and keeps the weather out when it’s closed. You can improve this seal by installing a garage door threshold. The threshold is made of tough vinyl with a lip on one side. Cut to the same width as your garage door it is held in place with construction adhesive and forms a tight seal with the bottom of the garage door to keep out weather and varmints. The door from the living area to the garage is also important because it should seal snuggly enough to keep vehicle exhausts from entering the living area. Like any normal-sized door to your home, it’s best to keep the garage door closed to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Additionally, some homes have their water heaters in their garages. Most US water heaters are 40 gallon tanks that keep hot water standing by to be used ”whether you are asleep or at work or on vacation.  These consume about 18% of your home’s energy. However, you can improve this by adding a water heater jacket. Most water heater blankets at the home center tend to be about an inch thick and can be held in place around the heater with tape.

Being energy efficient means most people need to change their habits. Some family members will need to pick up their clothes some will need to stop loitering at the refrigerator with the door hanging wide open. You might get the feeling that getting your family to follow along with these tips and building habits may require begging and threats. Instead, try showing them how much money you can save when they all cooperate. Offer to use that amount to buy a reward (like a movie or a new video game) and you might be surprised!

 

About Bounce Energy

Bounce Energy is a full service retail provider of electricity in Texas and Pennsylvania. Find more posts on energy efficiency from Bounce Energy on the Bounce Energy Blog.

Thanks so much to Bounce Energy for providing this article just in time for the Texas winter and for being a sponsor of She is Dallas.

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