To begin to make changes, it is important to know how much energy you are currently using. If you don't save your gas and electricity bills, it is a good idea to start doing so now.


Kent Reed Swanson

To begin to make changes
To begin to make changes, it is important to know how much energy you are currently using.  If you don't save your gas and electricity bills, it is a good idea to start doing so now.
How to Monitor and Reduce Energy Consumption
By Kent Reed Swanson

According to the federal government, the average family in the United States spends about $1,300 a year on home utility bills. This is roughly 75% more energy per family than the developed countries of Europe.

We habitually pay our electricity bills each month, but do we ever really stop to consider why we use so much energy and where our money is going?  Do we ever take the time to look at how our energy use affects the environment?  Given that most of our energy comes from non-renewable resources, do we really think we can live at this rate of energy consumption forever?

In the U.S., many people live in very large and inefficient homes.  Even if you don't live in a large house, due to a lack of proper insulation and weatherizing, your money can literally "fly out the window."  Additionally, many of the appliances in our homes are extremely inefficient and antiquated.  If we simply take a little time to look at our habitats of energy use and make a few changes, we can have a dramatic effect on our personal energy consumption. 

To begin to make changes, it is important to know how much energy you are currently using.  If you don't save your gas and electricity bills, it is a good idea to start doing so now.  You can also ask your local utility company for records of your energy use over the past year or so. 

Next, you can consider monitoring the efficiency of each individual electrical appliance in your home with an electricity measuring device.  The "Kill A Watt" electricity measuring device is an excellent product that measures VA, Volts, Watts, Current, Frequency, and Power Factor so that you can determine which of your home appliances are using the most energy.  (Please see the resources list at the bottom of this article for information on where you can purchase the Kill A Watt.) 

Now that you have an idea of how much energy you use, you can begin to make a few simple changes.  For example, weatherizing and sealing the ducts of your home can have a huge impact on how much energy you use in heating and cooling.  Additionally, switching your light bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent lighting in the rooms your use most frequently is a simple way to save energy.

The kitchen is also a wonderful place to start making changes.  If your refrigerator is an antique that grinds and sputters with the door about to fall off, you're probably wasting tons of energy. Consider buying a modern, ultra-efficient refrigerator, which can be up to twice as efficient as ones made ten years ago.  Placing your frig in an appropriate place is also important.  The heat from a clothes dryer or water heater can make your frig work harder.  Most refrigerators come with recommended energy saving setting.  If you're not sure, 38 degrees F and 5 degrees F for the freezer are good settings.

Changing your cooking habitats can also help save energy.  For example, cooking with smaller appliances such as toaster ovens, crock pots, or electric grills is a much more efficient use of energy for cooking small batches of food than your stove or oven.  A pressure cooker is also a tried and true time and energy saver.

Washing and drying clothes consumes a huge amount of energy for the average family.  However, we should take a look at our habits and see if we can't make simple changes to save energy.  For example, clothes driers are wonderfully convenient, but if you take advantage of sunny days to hang out your clothes to dry, you can potentially save a significant amount of money each year on your electricity bill.  When you do you use your drier, make sure you dry full loads and don't overload your drier.  Converting to an efficient front-loading washing machine is also a good strategy for reducing electricity use.

As with all appliances in your home, you should make sure to maintain them regularly.  This includes cleaning the filter on your drier, regularly monitoring your air conditioning, and cleaning your refrigerator coils.

Other basic ways we can save energy include disconnecting electrical appliances that you don't often use, as they drain small amounts of power even when turned off.  For example, the T.V., VCR, computer, etc. 

After you've made some of these changes and improved the effectiveness of your appliances, go back and monitor your energy use by reviewing your electricity bills or checking out your appliances with your Kill A Watt.

You should notice some big changes.  However, if you still have doubts about how to save energy in your home, you can actually have a professional inspect your home to see just where your energy is going and if you may have other problems in your home design that are contributing to energy loss.  (See below for information on energy efficient home inspections.)

Kent Reed Swanson is a freelance writer who has worked extensively for Clean Air Gardening ( Aztec Gardens ( is his personal website dealing with the traditional plants and foods of Mesoamerica. 


U.S. DOE, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Website:

The Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor:

Information on compact fluorescent lighting:

Information on energy efficient refrigerators:

Information on energy efficient home inspections:


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