Home & Garden Home 5 Effortless Ways to Save Energy at Home Curb your household's energy consumption to help the planet. By Katherine Martinko Katherine Martinko Twitter Senior Editor University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated April 19, 2021 02:32PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Getty Images / Design by Josh Seong Share Twitter Pinterest Email Home Green Living Pest Control Natural Cleaning DIY Family Thrift & Minimalism Sustainable Eating In this edition of Small Acts, Big Impact, learn smart tips to reduce your energy usage around the house. Homes need energy to function, from heating and cooling to running appliances to lighting indoor spaces. It's important, however, not to use too much energy while serving these important purposes and to conserve energy wherever possible, as its production comes at a cost to the climate. Here are some simple steps for saving energy at home. Small Act: Swap Out Your Light Bulbs Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs, as these use far less energy and last longer while providing the same quality of light. Big Impact LED bulbs typically use about 25% to 80% less energy than traditional incandescents, and can last 3 to 25 times longer. An incandescent bulb generates 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in a year, compared to a low-energy bulb's 90 kilograms CO2e, so it's a good idea to go around your house and upgrade light bulbs wherever you can. LED, or light-emitting diode, technology has come a long way and it's now possible to get a range of brightness and colors at an affordable price. Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs do not contain mercury. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts the widespread use of LEDs will result in annual savings of $30 billion by 2027. Also, make sure to turn out the lights when you're not using them! Small Act: Wash Clothes in Cold Water Thanks to modern detergents, cold water can do just as effective a job as hot water when it comes to cleaning dishes. Big Impact Between 75% and 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes to heating water, so switching to cold water leads to significant energy and cost savings. It's also better for your clothes, preserving the fabric and getting rid of stains. Modern detergents have enzymes that work effectively at temperatures below 60 F, but you can buy detergents that are specifically geared toward cold water use. Go the extra step and hang-dry clothes to save even more energy. Small Act: Turn Down Your Thermostat If you live in a place where you have to heat your home, adjust the temperature to be cooler at night than it is during the day. Big Impact Turning down the thermostat by just a single degree can save a household in a northern climate around 40 kilograms of carbon emissions every year, writes Paul Greenberg in "The Climate Diet." You'll also save about 1% on your energy bill per degree you turn it down. Make this easier by using a programmable thermostat that changes temperature based on a daily schedule or a smart one that you can adjust with your phone. If you're out of the house all day, don't keep it as warm as when you're around. Small Act: Unplug Appliances That Are Not in Use If you're not using small home appliances or devices, unplug them from the wall to avoid sucking up both network and vampire power. The former refers to the power required for an ongoing Internet connection, the latter to power that keeps an item in standby mode. Big Impact The power that continues to be drawn when items are not in use can add 10% to your energy bill. According to the Department of Energy, when added up across all U.S. households, around 26 average-sized power plants are needed to produce that energy. Network power, however, is a new and growing issue as more connected devices with both wired and wireless network functionality enter the "smart home." These could be security systems, smoke detectors, lighting, heating, ventilation, and appliances, among others. Natural Resources Canada writes that "network-enabled devices can draw as much power in their standby mode as when fully activated," so be sure to buy efficient products, unplug whenever possible, or use an advanced power bar that may have a timer feature. Small Act: Remove Window Screens During the Winter Take out window screens on south- and east-facing windows during the winter months so that more sunshine can enter your home. Big Impact Removing screens on certain windows — while ensuring the glass is clean — can boost solar gains by up to 40%. The interior of your home will be slightly warmer and more brightly lit, which means less energy required to heat and light it. You can, however, leave them in north-facing windows to add an extra layer of protection against cold winds and blowing snow. 5 Easy Ways to Save a Lot of Water 5 Satisfying Food Swaps to Help the Planet View Article Sources "6 REASONS TO COLD-WATER WASH—AND 3 NOT TO." GE Appliances. "The surprising benefits of hanging your clothes to dry." BC Hydro, 2019. "Turn Down the Temp, But Don't Let Your Pipes Freeze!" Energy Saver, 2009. "Bush Administration Takes the Lead on Energy Conservation." White House Archives, 2001. "Standby power and “smart” devices." Government of Canada. "USING THE SUN: USING WINDOWS WISELY." Home Energy Saver.