Whether out of a desire to save the planet or just to save a few bucks, everyone wants to use less energy.
Most of us have heard that we can achieve this by changing the ways we heat and cool our living spaces, but many of us are reluctant to try this approach. The reason? It sounds so terribly uncomfortable, evoking images of poor college students shivering in their own apartments, wishing they had the funds to turn their thermostat up a few more degrees.
It turns out, though, that saving energy on heating and cooling doesn’t have to equal uncomfortable living conditions. In fact, by employing these simple tricks, you can reduce your energy use by 10% without forgoing the wonders of living inside. As a bonus, during the cool fall weather coming up, you can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 100% by opening your windows and taking advantage of the beautiful fall temperature.
Optimal Summer Thermostat Setting: 78°F
How to get equivalent energy savings without sweating yourself to dehydration…
1. Block the Sun
As you were probably taught in 3rd grade science, the Sun is a star and is made of massive amounts of burning gas, which is what makes it so bright (and consequently causes what we call “day”). It is also really hot—spewing out enough radiation to heat our planet and even your living room. As such, if you are trying to keep your room cool, you are going to want to keep as much sun out as possible. This can be achieved by hanging curtains or blinds that block direct rays from the sun. If you still want to let the light in while blocking the heat, try hanging light colored curtains, which will let much of the natural light pass through.
2. Use the Auto Setting
If you have ever looked at your thermostat, you’ve probably noticed it has two settings for the fan: Auto and On. The “On” setting keeps the fan of your air conditioner (shockingly) on. This means that even if your house is at the set temperature, the fan will continue running and gobbling energy. The “Auto” setting, conversely, will run the fan only when the temperature needs correcting, using way less energy overall.
3. Keep the Doors Open
For an air conditioning unit to run most efficiently, it requires good air flow throughout the living establishment. In other words, closed doors are an air conditioner’s nemesis. Keeping the doors between the rooms you want cooled open increases the air flow, making it easier for your AC system to regulate the temperature.
However, if you have rooms in your house that you rarely or never use, you can cut down on your energy usage by taking them out of the loop. Close the vents to those rooms and shut the door connecting it to the rest of the house. This will keep you from wasting energy maintaining the atmosphere of a vacant room.
4. Use Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are an efficient way to keep cool. They only use as much energy as a standard light bulb and can make you feel several degrees cooler than the room actually is. Just make sure you only use them when you are in the room. The fans only cool people; they don’t actually change the temperature of the room, so leaving them on when no one is there is just a waste of energy.
Optimal Winter Thermostat Setting: 68°F
How to get equivalent energy savings without losing feeling in your fingers…
1. Use the Sun
As mentioned above, the sun is hot. Unlike in the summer where we generally try to keep that heat out, in the winter we can actually use the heat of the sun to our advantage. Letting direct sunlight into your room can make things much warmer. Keep the blinds on your south facing windows open during the day to capitalize on this natural heater.
2. Bundle Up
If you’re a bit chilly inside, instead of hiking up the temperature on your thermostat, throw on a jacket. I know this is old news, but it’s still the best advice for a good reason: putting on a jacket will actually make you feel warmer than heating the room. The jacket insulates your body, trapping your own body heat to keep you warm. If you think about it, putting on a jacket is basically like converting your own body into a furnace for free.
3. Cool Off At Night
While it may not be practical to cover yourself in blankets during your daily activities, there is one period of each day that is completely conducive to burying yourself in insulation—while you sleep. An easy way to cut back on your energy costs is to drop the temperature of your home while you sleep, and just pile yourself with coverings to make up for the extra chill. It turns out that blanket burritos are not only amazingly comfortable, but energy efficient.
4. Use Ceiling Fans
“What?” you may be thinking, “I thought you said ceiling fans were good for keeping me cool? Why are you telling me to use them to stay warm?” Believe it or not, ceiling fans are useful for both. The secret is in a little switch found on most ceiling fans that allows changes the direction the fan turns. Counter-clockwise pushes hot air up, making you feel cooler. Clockwise, however, traps hot air and pushes it down, making you feel warmer.
Use these tricks to keep your energy use low while keeping your comfort level high.
Click here to learn how to more efficiently use your fridge.
Click here to read tips for a more sustainable semester.