Celebrate Energy Awareness Month With These 9 Tips to Help You Save All Year

Celebrating a goofy, made-up holiday can reap benefits all year long. With just a few changes, you can save on your energy bill every month.

Electricity meters.

The less electricity you run through your electricity meter, the better for you.

Akeem Ranmal/EyeEm/Getty Images

Spooky season is upon us and the real scare is high energy bills.

October marks National Energy Awareness Month and, while its almost over, you can still celebrate by locking in lower energy bills for years to come. Learning about how much energy your home uses and how to cut back can save you money every month on electric bills.

Below we've got tips on saving energy from the quick and easy to a 25-year investment. While it's not an exhaustive list of the things you can do to save energy, it'll get you started or thinking about what you can do next.

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What's energy efficiency and why is it important?

If something uses energy efficiently, it does the same job using less energy than a less efficient alternative. An LED light can produce as much light as an incandescent or fluorescent one, using much less energy. A heat pump can warm your house using less energy than other options.

Energy efficiency is important for a couple of reasons. One is that, as the world shifts away from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of generating electricity, efficiency can make that transition easier since there will be less electricity needed overall. A speedy transition is needed, scientists say, to avoid the worst effects of climate change, which is driven in large part by burning fossil fuels for energy. 

Watch this: Easy Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills and Save Money

Energy efficiency is "the least expensive, fastest way to meet our energy needs, reduce consumer bills, and cut pollution," according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The other important reason to pay attention to your home's energy efficiency is to reduce your home energy bills. The less energy you use, the less you'll pay. It's an obvious and simple fact, but one that could save you hundreds.

How do you improve energy efficiency at home?

The good news is that there are many simple ways to improve energy efficiency. See below for a short description and links to more information on some things you can do to improve energy efficiency around your house.

Learn about your devices' appetites for electricity

Knowing how much electricity you use each month is useful, but it doesn't give you any insight into how you can cut back. Easy-to-use meters such as the Kill A Watt can tell you just how much electricity your devices are using. Plug your device into the wall using the Kill A Watt and see just how much energy it's using.

Read moreHow I Used This Simple Device to Hack My Home Energy Consumption

Install LED light bulbs

Light bulbs have gotten even more efficient in recent years thanks to the spread of LEDs (light emitting diodes, for the curious). While these bulbs are pricier, you'll save in the long run. Not to mention it's going to be hard to get your hands on incandescent lightbulbs in the near future. And before you head out and buy more, make sure your utility doesn't have a marketplace where they sell them at a discount or a program where they'll come and install them for free.

Read more: Buying LED Bulbs? Good. But Here Are 5 Things to Think About First

Get a smart thermostat

A smart thermostat lets you keep your room at a comfortable temperature when you're around and an energy-saving one when you're not. Setting your thermostat to a higher temperature in the summer and a lower one in the winter for eight hours a day can save you 10% on heating and cooling costs each year. Do so when you're sleeping or away at work and you won't notice a difference.

Changing your air filters regularly will keep your heater and air conditioner running efficiently, too.

Read more: Lower Your Heating Bills by Setting Your Thermostat to This Temperature

Here Are 23 Ways to Save On Your Electric Bills Right Now

See all photos

Use cold(er) water

Even if you're not up to taking cold showers (though you can get clean without using the energy to heat the water), you can wash your clothes with cold water to save money there. Washing your clothes cold can eliminate 90% of the energy used for a load of laundry, do a better job cleaning and keep your clothes from fading. 

You can also save some money by lowering your water heater temperature. In most cases, you won't notice a difference.

Read more: You're Doing Your Laundry Wrong, and It's Costing You Cash

Choose the smaller device

Anytime you can use a smaller device instead of a larger, more energy-hungry one, you're employing energy efficiency. For example, using an air fryer instead of your oven can help reduce your overall energy consumption. In the summer, you'll also save a bit by not letting your oven heat up your entire house.

Read moreAir Fryers Use Less Energy Than Big Ovens. Here's How Much You Can Save

Consider EnergyStar appliances

With all the devices that use energy in your home, the prospect of tracking down the best option in each category is overwhelming when it comes time to replace it. Thankfully, there's a shortcut: looking for the Energy Star logo. Energy Star is a program of the Environmental Protection Agency. A device with its blue logo uses less energy than its nonefficient counterparts (how much more efficient varies by category). 

Read more: Yes, Energy Star Appliances Save You Money. Here's How

Unplug devices when you aren't using them

You need electricity to run your television, but you might be using some when it's not in use too. Devices that use power on standby, sometimes called power vampires, can waste energy. If you have convenient access to the outlet, just unplug devices when you're not using them. If not, consider a smart plug or a smart power strip, which can be put on a schedule, so you don't pay to power things while you're sleeping or at work. Unplugging devices could save you $100 a year.

Read more: Best Smart Plugs of 2023

Use weatherstripping to keep the heat in

Using some sort of weatherstripping (padding or tacky putty used to fill in small gaps in windows or doors, for example) can help keep you warm through the winter. Excluding drafts keeps the cold out and the warm inside. You can plug quite a few holes for just a few dollars.

Read moreWeatherstripping Can Lower Your Utility Bills This Winter

Consider solar panels

This isn't a quick (or cheap) fix, but it can pay off in the long run. By generating your own electricity, you'll be using and paying for less from your utility. Adopting solar panels doesn't necessarily mean you're being more efficient, but you're certainly taking your electricity use into your own hands.

Read more: CNET's Best Solar Companies

There's more than one way to be energy efficient

Whether you're unplugging devices on standby or finding a tool to do the same task with less energy, there's something on this list you can put into practice immediately. This is by no means an exhaustive list. You could also put in a heat pump when it's time to replace your gas furnace, insulate your pipes to cut down on heat loss, get an energy audit and have a professional tell you where you can improve and save money. Starting this year, you're able to get some money from the government to help make some of these improvements. Depending on the ones you choose, you could get $14,000 of support. It shows that, while treating Energy Awareness Month as a holiday may be silly, efficiency itself can mean serious money.

Article updated on October 30, 2023 at 4:17 AM PDT

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Andrew Blok
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Andrew Blok Editor I
Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a focus on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make smart energy decisions. He's a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
Expertise Solar providers and portable solar power; coffee makers, grinders and products Credentials
  • Master's degree in environmental journalism
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