The fireworks are over, the heat is on, and President Obama has announced a $2 billion federal investment in major solar projects in Arizona and Colorado. But what can you as an individual do to become more energy independent? After all, if we’re going to get serious about our energy and climate security, we’ll have to tackle the problem at every level, beginning with what we have the most immediate control over-our homes.
Getting control of home energy usage involves quite a bit more than switching out light bulbs and buying a more efficient refrigerator. We need to look at our homes and lifestyles holistically, searching and finding every possible opportunity to use less and generate more electricity. Since the 12-step method is effective for overcoming alcohol and drug abuse, let’s give it a try here:
- Admit that you have a problem. Understand that, although you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution. Instead of saying, “I’m not going to be the one sucker to change my ways while everyone else lives it up,” try, “I’m going to become a role model to show others how to become more energy independent.”
- Adjust your comfort zone. When I was a teenager, I thought 70 degrees was too cold and 75 too hot. My dad called me a princess, and he didn’t mean it in a complimentary way. Since then, I’ve redefined my comfort zone-the thermostat in my home is set for 63 in the winter and I don’t use air conditioning (I live in Berkeley so that’s easy). An elderly neighbor of mine puts me to shame, keeping her heat at 55. If I can do it and she can do it, so can you. As President Carter advised, put on a sweater (or a parka). In the summer, better to lounge around in a bikini than to turn your home into a walk-in refrigerator. If you feel a little warm, think about how much hotter it’s going to get if you and everyone else keep blasting their air conditioners.
- Know the enemy. Use a Power Cost Monitor or common sense to identify your home’s energy hogs and vampires. Energy hogs are air conditioners, cordless phones and appliances that run all or almost all of the time or appliances like clothes dryers that run for short bursts but use insane amounts of electricity. Vampires are electronic devices like cell phone chargers and DVD players that suck power even when you think they’re off.
- Slay the beast. Replace energy hogs with more efficient models or do away with them altogether-how many cordless phones do you really need? How about that new digital photo frame you got for Christmas? If you live in a hot, dry climate, take a look at evaporative cooling systems which are orders of magnitude more efficient than conventional air conditioners.
- Maim the beast. If you can’t do away with it, get control by unplugging vampire devices when not in use and by programming heating and cooling systems to turn off while you’re not home. Make sure your home is properly insulated so that you’re not heating or cooling the air outside.
- Reprogram the beast. Remember how you reset your comfort zone in Step 2? Now it’s time to reprogram your thermostat to match your new and improved comfort zone.
- Use elbow grease and pedal power. There are so many things we’ve grown accustomed to letting electricity do for us that we could do for ourselves-sweeping instead of vacuuming, using a push lawn mower or a hand-crank blender, flashlight or phone charger, hanging our laundry to dry. Do enough and you may even be able to cancel your gym membership.
- Install a solar water heater and cut your natural gas bill by two thirds.
- Don’t use hot water unless you must. Cold water laundry settings are just as effective, and studies show that washing your hands with soap and cold water kills just as many germs as hot water. Keep your hot showers short, and be mindful about letting the hot water run while doing dishes.
- Install a solar PV system on your roof. As you know from perusing this site, Sungevity offers a zero-down home solar lease, so what are you waiting for?
- Check out these additional home energy smack down tips.
- Spread the gospel of home energy efficiency wherever you roam.
Congratulations, you are now a recovering Home Energy Hog and well on your way to becoming a lean, green Home Energy Miser. How would like an energy-independent world to go with your energy-independent home? Stay tuned throughout the month of July to learn more…