These resolutions don’t require you make big, expensive home improvements. Instead, they mostly require that you simply change your behavior. In fact, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that simple behavioral changes can account for up to 15 percent of all energy savings.
Here are seven New Year’s energy efficiency resolutions that, unlike some other New Year’s resolutions, are actually easy to keep.
1. Turn off lights when you leave the room
If you have incandescent light bulbs, you should turn them off to conserve energy whenever they’re not needed. If you have compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), you should turn them off if you’re leaving a room for more than 15 minutes. The way CFLs work, it’s more cost effective to leave the lights on if you’ll return to the room within 15 minutes.
2. Upgrade to energy-efficient lighting
Incandescent light bulbs are cheap, but only 10 percent of the energy they use actually produces light. The remaining 90 percent produces only heat. When your incandescent bulbs burn out, replace them with either energy saving incandescent bulbs, CFLs, or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Compared with incandescent bulbs, energy saving incandescent bulbs are about 25 percent more energy efficient and last three times as long, CFLs are about 75 percent more efficient and last 10 times longer, and LEDs are about 80 percent more efficient and last 25 times longer.
3. Install a programmable thermostat
You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 10 degrees for eight hours a day. And the easiest way to do that is to install a programmable thermostat. Once you install your programmable thermostat, or if you already have one, set your temperature to be 10 degrees cooler in the winter or 10 degrees warmer in the summer when you’re away at work. Set your temperature to return to where you want it right before you return home. For best results, set your at home/away temperatures to 68/78 degrees in the summer and 68/58 in the winter.
4. Use ceiling fans
Ceiling fans help circulate the air in a room and can help you stay cooler or warmer for pennies on the dollar compared with running your air conditioner or furnace. In the summer, run ceiling fans counter clockwise to force air down and cool you with a wind chill effect that can make the room feel 4 degrees cooler and save you 14 percent off of air conditioning costs over a cooling season. In the winter, run ceiling fans clockwise to force air up, which moves warm air at the ceiling down the walls and back to the floor where it does a better job of warming you.
5. Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use
Personal computers, especially desktops, can use a lot of electricity if they’re left on when not in use. Contrary to what you may think, a PC will reach the end of its “useful” life due to advances in technology long before frequent start ups and power downs affect their service life. Get in the habit of turning your computer and monitor off whenever you’re not using it. In case you forget, make sure to set your PC’s energy saving mode to put the monitor to sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity and your computer to sleep after 15 minutes.
6. Use power strips to slay energy vampires
Most home electronics and appliances continue to use electricity even when in “standby” mode or when you think they’re off. After all, anything with a clock — like a DVR for recording your favorite shows or a coffee maker for brewing a pot of Joe when you wake up — or an infrared receiver for receiving “on” signals from a remote control, needs continuous power to operate. To help slay the energy vampires that continuously feed on electricity, hook up all of the devices you can (minus maybe your DVR and coffee maker) to power strips that you can use to switch off your devices completely when you’re not using them.
7. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes
About 60 percent of the energy used by a dishwasher and 70 percent to 90 percent of the energy used in a clothes washer goes towards heating the water. To save money, make sure to only wash full loads of dishes and clothes (most people tend to under load their machines, which wastes energy and money). If you have an energy-efficient dishwasher or clothes washer, make sure to set the appropriate load size if you have to wash less than a full load.