No matter what kind of home or apartment you live in – standard, near-zero or zero, – there are simple, low cost, steps you can take to significantly reduce your energy use on the path to zero net energy use. Then you can share the steps you have taken with friends, co-workers, and family and become a genuine advocate.
If you live in a certified zero energy home and your energy use is average, you will probably have zero net energy expenditure. If your energy consumption is below average, it may become a positive energy home. Or if you typically use more energy than average, it may no longer be a zero energy home. If your energy expenditure is above average, a few small changes in habits and strategies can ensure that your home remains a zero energy home in practice.
Those same changes may even help move your home towards positive energy production, allowing you to save energy for other uses or “sell” energy back to the grid. If you live in a standard home or apartment, these changes will put you on the path to zero. These simple steps do not require any large sacrifice, extra time or effort. In fact, living sustainably will enhance your life.
Simple, Sustainable Zero Energy Living Strategies
that will help ensure you use less energy no matter what kind of home you live in:
Unplug all electronics when not using them, so that phantom loads are eliminated. Smart strip surge protectors are readily available at local hardware or home improvement stores and can make this an inexpensive and easy change.
Purchase energy efficient electronics to help reduce plug loads and use them wisely.
Turn off the lights when you aren’t in the room, even if they are CFLs or LEDs.
Put your home in vacation mode when leaving for more than a couple of days. Unplug electronics and flip the breaker on your water heater. Heat pump water heaters come equipped with a vacation setting that allows you to bring the water back up to temperature before your return.
Replace all light bulbs in your home with LED bulbs. To reduce the upfront expense, do this gradually as older bulbs burn out. Not only are LEDs more energy efficient, they last years longer than other bulbs.
Minimize use of energy intensive appliances such as hair dryers and irons.
Take shorter showers. Faucets should allow water flow no greater than 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) and showerheads no more than 2.0 gpm. Lower is better.
Turn your water heater down to below 120 degrees and turn it off during vacations.
Use your microwave for as much cooking as possible, as it is considerably more energy efficient than an oven or stove top. In some cases, it’s also healthier.
Use the energy-savings features of your dishwasher, especially the air-dry setting that prevents use of the electric heating element to dry dishes. At the end of the wash cycle, simply open the door slightly and allow the moisture to evaporate.
Use task lighting and natural lighting wherever possible rather than full room electric lighting.
Install insulated shades inside to keep the cold out on winter nights and keep the heat out on hot summer days.
Bring outdoor temperatures and breezes indoors. On hot days, close the windows to keep the summer heat out. But when temperatures are pleasant, usually in the evening, open up the house.
Operate outdoor shade screens and awnings to block unwanted heat during warm weather and capture valuable solar heat during the cooler months.
Keep cool with portable or ceiling-mounted fans rather than air-conditioning.
When washing clothes, use cold water and choose the high-speed spin cycle to get as much water out as possible before drying. This is especially helpful with a high RPM washer.
Dry clothes on a rack or clothesline outside after a high-speed washer spin.
Hang clothes on hangers directly from the washer. They can dry on their own and will take less handling than if you use a dryer.
Monitor indoor humidity with a simple indoor/outdoor thermometer and humidity meter. Then adjust your home’s ventilation for comfort.
Install an energy monitoring system on your electric circuits so you know where energy is being wasted.
As they need replacement, trade in less efficient appliances for more efficient, Energy Star models. Click here for more information.
Purchase an energy efficient heat pump condensing dryer and reduce the energy you spend on drying clothes compared to a standard drier by 50 to 60%. Although they are more expensive than standard dryers, they will pay for themselves in about 5 years due to their extraordinary energy savings.
Purchase a washer with a high RPM spin cycle of 1300 or more, which spins out much of the water. A high RPM washer with a fluff cycle further air dries the clothes to minimize the use of the dryer or shorten the drying time if hanging clothes on a line.