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10 Energy-Saving Ideas for $10 or Less, Part 1

cheap-ways-to-save-energy.jpgThere are plenty of expensive ways to save energy in your home, including things like installing solar panels, a tankless water heater or energy efficient windows. But if you’re on a budget or don’t want to spend a bunch of money on home improvements that might take years to show some real savings, there are several ways to cut energy costs on the cheap.

To help, here’s part one of our list of 10 energy-saving ideas that cost $10 or less. For our first installment of affordable energy-saving ideas, we shed some light on upgrading to CFLs, using weatherstripping to seal air leaks around windows and doors, turning off the lights when you’re not using them, investing in power strips and using low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.

1. Upgrade incandescent light bulbs with CFLs

Incandescent light bulbs may be cheaper than energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) but they’re also wasteful (90 percent of energy used by incandescent bulbs goes to producing heat, not light) and they burn out a whole lot faster. These days, you can get several CFLs for under $10. Each CFL will use about 75 percent less energy and last at least 6 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Just one CFL will save about $6 a year in electricity costs (more than the price of the bulb) and more than $40 over its lifetime.

2. Seal your windows and doors with weatherstripping

Heated and cooled air that escapes your home through gaps around windows and doors can have a big-time effect on your energy bills. In fact, more than 20 percent of all the heated and cooled air that escapes your home sneaks out through gaps around windows and doors. Thankfully, using weatherstripping to seal the leaks is not only effective, but it’s something you can do for less than $10. Make sure to measure the perimeters of the doors and windows to be weatherstripped, total them up and add about 10 percent to that number to make sure you have enough weatherstripping.

3. Turn your lights off when you’re not in the room

What’s better than an energy-saving idea for $10 or less? How about one that won’t cost you a single penny? Since lighting accounts for about 10 percent of a typical household’s electricity bill, turning off your lights when you’re not in the room is a great way to save some money off lighting costs, whether or not you upgrade to CLF light bulbs.

To find out how much money you can save simply by turning off lights when you’re not using them, just take the Watt rating of a light bulb and divide by 10. This will give you the amount of electricity in kWh that the bulb uses when it’s on. If you have a 60 Watt bulb, the bulb will use 0.06 kWh of electricity in one hour. To find out how much one hour of operation costs, just multiply the bulb’s hourly kWh consumption by the amount you pay per kWh of electricity. In this case, if you pay 10 cents per kWh for electricity, a 60 Watt bulb running for one hour will cost you 0.6 cents. While that doesn’t sound like much, if you turned off five light bulbs for four hours a day when you weren’t using them, you’d save 12 cents a day, or over $43 a year. Now we’re talking some real money.

4. Slay energy vampires with power strips

Modern electrical devices — TVs, computers, stereos, coffee makers — never really turn off. Most of the time they sit idle in something called “standby mode,” ready to receive a signal from a remote control or run on a schedule, like making coffee at a certain time. Problem is, these devices are like energy vampires, feeding on your electricity when you’re not using them and costing the average household $100 a year. To make sure your devices are really turned off, use a $10 power strip. Just plug your devices into it and flip the strip’s power switch on when you want to use your devices and off when you don’t. Make sure not to use power strips with devices that have to run in standby mode to operate, like DVRs.

5. Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators

Installing inexpensive low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators can help reduce the amount of hot water you use in your home. This improvement can be a big source of energy savings since about 73 percent of the water used in a typical shower is hot water. Using low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators can reduce your home’s water heating costs by as much as 50 percent.

Now that you’re done checking out part one of our list of 10 energy-saving ideas that cost $10 or less, check back for part two for five more tips on saving energy for $10 or less.

Got any affordable energy-saving ideas of your own? Let us know what you did for $10 or less that helped cut your energy costs.


Energy Savers, “Lighting Choices to Save You Money.”

Energy Savers, “Weatherstripping.”

Energy Savers, “When to Turn Off Your Lights.”

ENERGY STAR, “Light Bulbs.”

ENERGY STAR, “Standby Power and Energy Vampires.”

Flex Your Power, “Showerheads.”

2/8/2012 9:39:00 AM