I thought I knew what energy conservation was about, at least when it came to my house. I am always the one to turn off the lights, I unplug everything, I make sure to recycle and I certainly don't mind reducing the number of showers I take. The other day, however, I picked up a great brochure put together by the CU Environmental Center and the City of Boulder's ClimateSmart program and read some rather surprising facts. I thought perhaps if I was unaware of some of these great ways to save money and reduce energy consumption, probably many others were, too.
Though this is a more commonly known one, it is easy to forget: unplug your vampires! Vampires are things such as your laptop, cell phone, and iPod that magically make you forget about them once you plug them in. The cords to these devices will still "suck" electricity from the outlet even if there is nothing plugged into them. To solve the irritating problem of having to unplug multiple things, you can get a power strip and with one easy switch drive a stake right through those vampires' hearts. The average power strip costs $15-$20.
Set your refrigerator to a low or medium setting, say a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 8. You can check if your refrigerator is closing tight enough by putting a dollar bill in the door, if it falls when you close the door on it you must have a loose seal. This means cold air is escaping, but never fear. This, too, is fixed easily enough with parts from any appliance store.
I try to do laundry as infrequently as I can get away with, but if you need to wash clothes on a weekly basis, try to use cold water. Lucky for us, detergents are now made to get clothes just as clean with cold water as with hot. (Did you know that washing clothes in hot water instead of cold uses 85 percent more energy?)
When you jump into the shower and accidentally turn the nozzle all the way up do you yelp in pain from the heat? If the water is too hot for you when it's turned all the way up, you are wasting energy. Fortunately you can adjust the settings on your water heater tank until the maximum temperature of the water won't scald the skin right off your body. You can also insulate your water heater tank with a thermal blanket. This will keep the water hotter for a longer period of time, reducing the amount of energy the tank itself uses to keep the water warm. Such blankets usually go for $18-$25 at any hardware store.
Also, as a quick reminder: change your furnace filters at least once every three months for maximum heater efficiency (filters cost $20-$30), make sure to seal gaps in windows and doors with inexpensive weatherstripping tape ($20), and replace conventional light bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) which Home Depot sells at $12 for 12.
Alrighty, folks ... ready, set, conserve!