Home improvements like solar panels and energy-efficient windows can be great energy-saving upgrades, but most people will probably have to dip into their savings or take out a loan to pay for them. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of 10 energy-saving ideas that cost $10 or less. These ideas will help you save money using only the cash in your pocket. Some of the ideas are even free.
If you read part one of our two-part list of affordable energy-saving ideas, then you already know how much you can save by upgrading to CFLs, using weatherstripping to seal air leaks around windows and doors, investing in power strips and using low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators. For part two, we’ve got the scoop on five more ideas, including lowering your thermostat, lowering your water heater temperature, sealing air leaks in your basement, changing your air conditioner and furnace filters and using ceiling fans.
6. Lower your thermostat temperature
One of the best ways to reduce energy costs is completely free. Just set back your thermostat at least 10 degrees while you’re at work, sleeping, or not at home and you can save around 10 percent a year off your heating and cooling bills. On average, you’ll save about one percent on energy costs for each degree of setback as long as the setback period is at last eight hours a day. If you have a programmable thermostat you can easily set it up to run an automated schedule for you. If you have a manual thermostat, it’s easy to just adjust the dial (warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter) when you leave for work and adjust it back when you get home.
7. Lower your water heater temperature
Another free way to reduce energy costs is to reduce your water heater temperature. As we’ve said before, heating water plays a significant role in driving up the cost of your energy bills. While some water heater manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 degrees, most households usually only require that water heaters be set at 120 degrees. For every 10 degree reduction in your water heater temperature, you can save between three percent and five percent in energy costs.
8. Seal air leaks in your basement
Air leaks in your attic or basement can really suck the money right out of your wallet. To minimize the amount of cooled and heated air that escapes, seal leaks in your basement with caulk for gaps or cracks that are a quarter inch or less, or expandable spray foam for gaps or cracks from about a quarter inch to three inches. Anything wider and you’ll probably need professional help, which won’t cost less than $10.
9. Clean or change your air conditioner and furnace filters
Air conditioner systems work most efficiently when they get steady flow of clean air. But when your AC’s air filters get clogged, dirt can be carried directly to the evaporator coil and hurt its ability to absorb heat. As a result, your AC has to work harder to cool your home. That’s why keeping your AC’s air filters clean is great energy-saving idea for under $10. Some reusable AC filters can be taken out every two weeks and cleaned. Other types of disposable air filters, such as fiberglass filters, cost less than $10. And that’s a bargain, considering the fact that keeping your AC filters clean can reduce your AC’s energy consumption by five to 15 percent.
For folks in the north who use furnaces more than air conditioners, replacing your furnace’s air filter may be a better energy-saving idea for under $10. Clean air will not only help protect your furnace’s equipment by preventing dirt buildup on its heater exchanger, but keeping your furnace running efficiently will also save you money. And remember, if you have central AC, your furnace’s blower is used to distribute cooled and dehumidified air during the summer months, so it’s a good idea to keep your furnace’s air filter clean year-round.
10. Use ceiling fans
If you have ceiling fans, using them to cool you off during the summer and circulate warm air in the winter can save you money for pennies on the dollar. During the summer, for example, ceiling fans can allow you to increase your thermostat by four degrees with no reduction in comfort, which can save you about 14 percent on your electricity bill (ceiling fans cost about two or three cents an hour to operate, compared to about 50 cents an hour for central air conditioning). Just remember to make sure the fan is spinning in the right direction and that you don’t forget to turn it off when you leave the room.
Bonus energy-saving idea: water heater blankets
Your water heater is constantly heating the water in your hot water tank, which means you’re constantly spending money to heat water you’re not using. But you can insulate your water heater with a pre-cut water heater blanket or jacket that can help keep the water in your tank warm and reduce the workload of your water heater. Although you can’t find a water heater blanket or jacket for $10 or less, you can find one for a few bucks more so we thought we’d include it as a bonus energy-saving idea. Since using a water heater jacket will allow you cut standby heat losses 25 percent to 45 percent and will result in savings of around four to nine percent off your water heating bill, those extra couple of bucks will pay for themselves soon enough.
We think these energy-saving ideas are a good start but we know some of our readers probably have some affordable energy-saving ideas as well. If so, let us know what you did for $10 or less that helped reduce your energy costs.
Energy Savers, “Ceiling Fans and Other Circulating Fans.”
Energy Savers, “Insulate Your Water Heater Tank for Energy Savings.”
Energy Savers, “Lower Water Heating Temperature for Energy Savings.”
Energy Savers, “Maintaining Your Air Conditioner.”
Energy Savers, “Thermostats and Control Systems.”
ENERGY STAR, “Sealing Air Leaks: Basement.”
Hanson Wholesale, “How Much Electricity Does a Ceiling Fan Use?”
TLC, “How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient.”