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Bicycles Image Credit: Solar Options for Homeowners via RMI

Published on October 7th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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14 More Ways To Save Energy

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October 7th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
 

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

Following up on Friday’s article about ways to save money using the sun, below are some energy saving solutions that are not related to “going solar” or using the sun’s energy in other creative ways.

Energy Saving Solutions

Using the heat and light of the sun to cut energy use from other means (e.g., fossil fuels) is obviously an important energy saving solution (or even 10 solutions). However, there are also many other energy saving solutions that focus on actually conserving energy. Let’s run down a few of those, starting with the ones the Rocky Mountain INstitute (RMI) highlights in the solar energy infographic that we shared on Friday (also included at the bottom of this article):

Plant Deciduous Trees: Trees are amazing things. Human society probably couldn’t exist without them. And, for centuries, humans have used them not only for the food many of them produce but also for protection from heat and light. Deciduous trees planted on the western side of your home are especially useful, as they block summer sunlight and heat (saving energy) but then let winter sunlight and heat in (again, saving energy).

Apply Low-E Window Films: Windows are awesome. Who doesn’t love windows? But they let a lot of energy in and out, often in the opposite direction than we want. Low-E window film is useful for blocking 90% of the heat hitting your window while still letting the light in. Pretty awesome in the summer and especially in warm or hot areas of the world, such as the southern US. As RMI notes, the financial savings on such window film is 2 to 5 years, a very intelligent financial investment.

Install Awnings & Blinds On Windows: These are another great way to block the heat of the sun. The excellent average payback tie on such an investment is 1 to 4 years.

Install Efficient Windows: Aside from window film, window awnings, and window blinds, simply installing more efficient windows (if you haven’t already) is an intelligent investment for the large majority of people. It’s commonplace now on new buildings, I think, but if you have an older building, the retrofit is one of the first energy saving solutions you should consider.

Don’t Turn Your Home Into The Tropics In Winter & Don’t Turn It Into Canada In The Summer: It’s easy to simply turn up the heat in winter when we get cold, or turn up the air conditioner in summer when we’re hot, but before you tap the button on your thermostat, consider saving a bundle of energy by bundling up or undressing a bit. A warm sweater, warmer clothes, socks, and so on can go a long way in saving you enough money to visit a real tropical paradise. And simply taking off some clothes in hotter months can have the same effect.

Unplug: We have a lot of gadgets and electronic entertainment systems these days. Most of them are out of use most of the time. Unfortunately, even if they are turned off, if they are still plugged in, your out-of-use electronics are probably still sucking energy from your electricity socket (and money from your pocketbook). Simply unplug devices when they are out of use, or get a smart plug that you can turn off with the click of a switch (perhaps even remotely) to turn off multiple electronics at once.

Get a Smart Thermostat: A number of companies are now selling smart thermostats that adjust the heating or AC in your home based on your regular schedule. For example, they can learn when you like to turn the heat up or down, and then start to automatically do so without you even thinking about it. A popular smart or “learning” thermostat is the Nest thermostat, design by people who were core to the design of the first iPhone. It’s a pretty cool, and cute, device.

Ride A Bike: The bicycle is the most efficient (common) transportation option on the planet. Furthermore, the energy used to move it forward comes from you, which helps you to get or stay in good shape and good health. Bicycling is also a lot of fun. People ride bikes for recreation all the time. Why not try bicycling for transportation and cutting your fuel use. It would save the average American over $10,000 a year. Pretty tantalizing, eh? In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting energy saving solutions out there.

Get An Electric Car: Electric cars are much, much more efficient than gasmobiles. In many cases, they will save you money over the life of ownership. They also don’t pollute your local environment, likely boosting your health tremendously. They allow you to never stop at a gas station again (which, aside from being a relief, can save you a boatload of time). They are also very quiet, which is a relief on our nerves in an increasingly noisy world, and have a ton of spunk (i.e., torque), which is fun for those who like to jet off the starting blocks. I recommend that you help the world, boost your health, and save money by switching to an electric cars. Combined with home solar panels, the financial, health, and energy savings are even much greater.

Get An Electric Scooter Or Motorcycle: Oh yeah, want to save even more energy and money? Go for an electric scooter or motorcycle rather than an electric car. Just be sure to ride safely!

Ride Transit/Trains: One more transportation option that will save a lot of energy, help the environment (which we are all a part of and reliant on), and save you a lot of money is mass transit. The average financial savings for an American who ditches the car for mass transit is approximately $10,181 according to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) July Transit Savings Report. The savings are no joke. Check out the assumptions used in that study and plug in your own numbers to see how much you’d likely save. Also, something not generally mentioned when discussing the transit or train option is that you are free to do what you please while riding in a bus, streetcar, subway car, or train. In the past, that may not have been a big deal. But with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, most of us can use that time to work (add in the value of your work hours to calculate the true financial benefit from switching to transit and trains) or play or relax or chat with family and friends. Transit and trains have a hugely negative stigma in much of the US, but I would encourage you to try them out and perhaps find out for yourself how much the stigma is off track.

Use Energy Saving Settings On Your Electronics: I think it’s rare these days for computers, TVs, phones, and so on to not have energy saving settings. But you have to go and activate those in many cases. Don’t neglect the clear financial and energy savings that come with checking out the energy saving section of your settings and being a responsible electronics user.

Cut The Apps: Apps are huge energy suckers on smartphone and tablets. Cut your energy use by removing apps you don’t use and by turning off or closing apps when you’re not using them. This will not only save you energy and money, it will extend your battery life considerably. You know you want more battery life!

Unplug Yourself: Take more time out of your life to actually unplug from the electronics most of us are now addicted to. Hang out with friends. Take a walk in the park. Watch a sunset. Go for a bike ride. Take a stroll around your neighborhood or city. Meditate. Play a sport. Do yoga. Go surfing. Find the “real-world” activity you are missing and incorporate it into your life more.

I’m sure there are more energy saving solutions out there. Drop us a note if you have more good ideas to share! Below is RMI’s infographic, again, and be sure to check out the 10 ways to save energy using the sun that I wrote about on Friday (mostly from the below infographic, but also a few others).

energy saving solutions

Naturally, the #1 energy saving solution we recommend is putting solar PV panels on your roof.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Jason McKee

    Anything to save energy is good, and window film is a great place to start!

  • Peter Stelling

    I’m sorry, but I have to take issue with the advice that new windows should be one of the first energy efficiency upgrades you should consider for your home. Insulation and air-sealing (especially in your attic) should be the first thing you consider. With relatively low (compared to windows) upfront cost, the payback based on energy savings is one of the fastest of any upgrade. Windows have a very high upfront cost, and based on payback via energy savings, it should be pretty low on your prioritized list of energy efficiency upgrades. There are, however, plenty of other reasons to upgrade your windows. Comfort, aesthetics, and resale value are just a few.

  • NRG4All

    In the winter we use a combination of insulated, accordion-style window shades and venetian blinds. The insulated shades are mounted next to the glass (dual pane) and the blinds are closed on the room side. The temperature difference between the glass temperature and the “blind” side is remarkable. In the morning on the south side we open them to get solar gain. Also, I’ve made removable insulating panels out of foam board and plastic sheet that you can get in 4′x8′ sheets at Home Depot or Lowes for our “glass wall” sliding doors.

  • JamesWimberley

    And get a sense of priorities. Deleting an app from your smatphone will save a few watt-hours a year; unplugging your TV and stereo a few kilowatt-hours a year. A single bike ride to work saves more.

  • mikgigs

    i do not get the advice “unplug”. if you turned off a device, you have turned it off same as unplugged one

    • Bob_Wallace

      Some devices continue to use electricity even when turned off. The power bricks for laptops, etc. used to be very bad. Instant on TVs use power to “stay ready” while switched off.

      I think most devices are much better than earlier models, but if you really want to minimize your electricity use you should check out your stuff. Perhaps purchase a meter like a Kill-A-Watt (about $20) and see what might be creating a phantom load. (Share the meter with friends and family. Let that $20 do multiple household good.)

    • Mustafinho Nazario

      Perhaps you should search the web for “Phantom Power” and it might shed some light into this unplug thing for you. :)

  • Ivor O’Connor

    “Ride A Bike: The bicycle is the most efficient (common) transportation option on the planet. Furthermore, the energy used to move it forward comes from you, which helps you to get or stay in good shape and good health. Bicycling is also a lot of fun. People ride bikes for recreation all the time. Why not try bicycling for transportation and cutting your fuel use. It would save the average American over $10,000 a year. Pretty tantalizing, eh? In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting energy saving solutions out there.”

    It is tempting.

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