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Boost your home’s energy efficiency to save money (and polar bears)

By Zak Stoiber

September 2018
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Increasing energy efficiency at home wasn't something I often thought about – until I added up the numbers and realized how many board games and avocados I could buy with the savings. I rounded up the best research I could find in 4 areas of energy efficiency – including one myth – to provide you the most efficient advice on energy efficiency in one efficient article. (It's a shame I'm not writing this in an efficiency.)

Light bulbs

Light bulbs come in 3 types: traditional incandescent, CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) and LED (Light Emitting Diode). It takes money to make money, and in this case shelling out a little extra for an energy efficient bulb like an LED or CFL can pay off. 

The classic incandescent is the least expensive – but eats up way more energy, lasts only a little over a year on average and can get super-hot. The LED lasts 23 years and consumes one-sixth the amount of energy of an incandescent bulb, while the CFL falls in between. The Simple Dollar did all the hard math: Over 23 years, the operational costs are as follows:
  • Incandescent: $201
  • CFL: $48
  • LED: $38
Replace 10 incandescent bulbs in your house with LEDs and you’re looking at a savings of $1,630 over those 23 years (I did the math this time). And just imagine the incredible technology that will be available in 23 years; you can probably buy a 60” 4D TV or an actual Everlasting Gobstoppper with all the money you’ve saved.
 

Washing machines

Have you ever found $5 in the washing machine? That’s neat, but your washing machine could produce even more in savings. Switching from warm water to cold water cycles can save you up to $60 a year! And if you wash 4 out of every 5 loads in cold, you’ll cut out 864 pounds of CO2 emissions a year. You care about polar bears, don’t you? 

The best part is, your clothes won’t be any less clean! Advances in washing technology have essentially killed the need to wash warm or hot for most cases, and your clothes will even last longer – saving you even more money while increasing your energy efficiency.
 

Heating and cooling

“The best things in life are free” is a quote that likely originated from the musical Good News in 1927. I’m guessing air conditioning wasn’t as wonderful back than as it is today, because looking at my energy bill, it definitely isn’t free. Lucky for you there are ways to mitigate the cost.

Many factors are responsible for the costs of heating and cooling, from windows and insulation to air filters and ventilation systems. Quantifying their costs can be impossible. However, one smart upgrade (literally) is proven to save: a smart thermostat. Nest® and ecobee® both claim their smart thermostat saves the average household $131-$145 a year and 23% a year, respectively. A smart thermostat can learn from your routine and adjusts to what you like, and turn itself off when no one's home so it doesn't waste energy. It's an investment, but it can pay for itself within a couple years – and in the meantime, you get to impress your friends and family with your newly minted smart home.
 

The myth: outlets and phone chargers

Do you remember when we all had basic flip phones instead of smart phones and they could last days without being charged? Now I've lost track of the number of times someone has asked me if they can use my charger because smart phone batteries can't even last a full day. 

These days, most of us always have our chargers plugged in and at the ready. This convenience has a cost; your charger is using energy even when your phone isn't plugged in. But is it worth the extreme hassle of plugging and unplugging the charger every time you’re done using it every day for the rest of your life? Thankfully, no: Keeping your charger plugged in likely only costs less than fifteen cents a year.
 

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Zak Stoiber is a digital marketing specialist at MGIC and recently ditched his roommates to live in his own apartment, bringing him one step closer to full-blown adulthood. He enjoys reading books, some of which do not contain pictures, and is looking forward to owning a home one day so he can expand his board game collection – the dedicated shelf is already full.