Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy Usage

When I set my New Year’s Resolutions this year, I talked about my goal to reduce our energy usage at home by 10% and to reduce our vehicle costs. Meeting the second goal has been a real challenge and has mostly involved driving with more discipline and putting my mechanic skills to work.

Fortunately, we’ve met the first goal and then some. We’ve reduced our home energy usage by just over 2000 kilowatt hours this year. 

That translates into an improvement of 20%, or about $220, year over year from last year.

We’ve had a long streak of hot humid days. While we continue to dress for the weather and keep the thermostat in the 78-79 degree range, the cooling system still works almost nonstop.To meet our energy goal, I’ve had to continue my quest for easy inexpensive improvements to reduce our energy usage this summer.

The Home Report

First, I bought some open fiber E-Z Flow air filters for the AC system. While I change our air filters regularly, I tend to use high flow filters in the summer and pleated, more restrictive filters in the summer.

Once the weather turns cooler and the family is exposed to more colds and illness, I use the more restrictive filters to get more particles out of the air flow. In the summer, though, the high flow filters are better for energy efficiency. Less resistance from the air filters should flow more air and require less energy for the AC fan motor. It should reduce both our energy usage and the wear and tear on the HVAC system.

Second, I bought 2 more vent deflectors. Vent Deflectors are super easy to install. They have magnets, so the deflectors just attach to the metal registers on your air ducts. You can adjust them to fit different sizes of registers, and you can take them with you if you move.

I’m using the deflectors to change the flow of cool air so that it circulates into the room and away from the walls and sliding glass doors. Especially the walls that get hit by the afternoon sun. This should up the efficiency of the system and make the house feel cooler.

The total cost for 2 vent deflectors and 4 filters was a little over $12. They should pay for themselves this summer in energy cost.

A Few Other Options

Several months ago, we talked about several ways we saved energy with minor changes. Most of them were relatively small things, but some of them were projects that just don’t make sense unless you plan to be in your home for a while.

Not everyone is going to be in their home awhile.  Adding vent deflectors is the type of simple inexpensive money-saving project that makes sense even if you are a renter rather than a homeowner. They cost so little and reduce your energy usage so much that you recoup your cost in a few weeks.

There are some other things you can do too that are either cheap enough or portable enough to make sense even if you don’t own your home.

If your doors or windows don’t seal correctly, you lose a lot of cool air or heat to the outside. You can pick up a roll of adhesive weather stripping for $4 or $5.  Simply apply the tape around the doors and windows to close the gaps.

Fabric door insulators are a bit more expensive to buy, but they are portable. You can easily make them out of old fabric if you know your way around a sewing machine.

Curtains can also help insulate your home in both summer and winter. Some may be expensive (though you can find inexpensive ones). Fortunately, they can go with you when you move.

Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy Usage

Shopping Find

I lucked out this month and found LED light bulbs at Dollar Tree. If you’ve been dragging your feet on replacing less energy efficient bulbs or want to stock up on LEDs, you might want to check the Dollar Tree near you.

While we’ve switched all of the lights in the house from incandescent lights to lower energy LEDs or fluorescent lights, I’m glad to be able to cheaply stockpile a few replacement bulbs.

The Car Report

I made the car energy reduction goal a little more nebulous, and we have seen some cost reductions from a couple of products. (Lower gas prices have played their part as well.)

Last time I talked about my projects I mentioned changing my spark plugs. Since then I’ve road tested the 2002 Mercury Mountaineer with the new Bosch Platinum Plus Fours.

I also cleaned out my lifetime air filter. I bought this a few years ago for about $20. Every now and then I need to hose it out to make sure it works properly.

On a hundred mile trip with the AC off and driving around 60 MPH I was able to get my gas mileage up to 27 to 28 MPG. Changing the original plugs meant an improvement of 2 MPG. That’s around the same 6.5% increase I reported with my town driving.

Even I can’t always drive that slow, though, and sometimes you have to turn on the AC. Especially on 98 degree afternoons. Running with traffic at 65 to 70 MPH and turning on the AC drops gas mileage to the 22-23 mpg range. It’s still an improvement, but I’m not close enough to the 30 MPG I know I can get with this car.

Moving Forward

I’m not out of tricks up my sleeve yet. I am setting new goals of getting 30 MPG with the Mountaineer and using less than 1000 Kilowatt hours per month at home. So I will probably be driving slowly and wearing warm clothes this winter, but I’m also going to be thinking about more simple and inexpensive projects to reduce our energy usage.

Have you done anything lately to reduce your energy usage? What are things that you think make sense even if you don’t plan to stay in your home very long?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Racing Towards Retirement*

10 thoughts on “Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy Usage

    • Hi Brian,

      The EZ-FLow filters make a difference, and with the vent deflectors the HVAC system seems to run less this summer. We have also added a small oscillating “fan on a stand” to make the “living room” seem cooler.

      Will try a few more changes to go meet that goal of averaging less than 1000 kwh per month for the year! A warm winter will help! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,
      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy UsageMy Profile

  1. We’ve replaced bulbs and even though it is 92 here again today – we don’t run air conditioners at all until the evening (we’re not used to this weather at all!!) We run the pool pump only a few hours a day and it does fine too (because we know how to balance the chemicals really well – unlike those in the diving pool in Rio!!) Little changes mean a lot but I know we could do better too!
    Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions recently posted…One More First Day of SchoolMy Profile

    • Hi Vicki,
      Replacing old 100 watt incandescents with 5 watt LEDs can make a tremendous difference in the summer just from the amount of heat that the incandescents produce.

      We have had a hot summer with a higher than average “Heat Index”.
      Some days we have even lowered the thermostat to 75 degrees in the evening after the sun goes down, to really cool off! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,
      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy UsageMy Profile

  2. Great minds think alike – I have a post scheduled soon on how we’ve reduced utilities (specifically electric/gas) at our house. The LED light bulbs have mad e a huge difference for us. I need to look into the vent deflectors – and the spark plugs really made a difference in your fuel efficiency! Great ideas for savings and I love how you set very specific goals.
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Weekend Money Tip: Have a No Spend Weekend (and what I did on mine)My Profile

    • Hi Amanda,
      Everybody likes to save money on energy costs, since we don’t really have to do without anything, when we increase our energy efficiency.
      Got the Vent Deflectors at Home Depot for less than $4 each. Also got the “Flanders” EZ-Flow air filters at Home Depot for about $4 for a 4 pack.
      The plugs on the Mountaineer really needed to be replaced, so not everyone will probably see that much improvement. Also have an old
      1988 Ford Ranger pickup truck and recently changed the spark plugs,
      made it run alot better! Calculation on the gas mileage in a future article. The plugs in that vehicle may have been almost 20 years old! Grins! Tune-ups on older vehicles can really make a difference in gas mileage.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy UsageMy Profile

    • Hi Gary,
      Got the “Flanders” EZ-Flow air filters at Home Depot for about $4 for a 4 pack. I am told that you can actually measure the difference in amperage that the fan motors for the HVAC systems use between more and less restrictive filters. I have not been in the attic this summer to put the amp meter on the wiring and test this theory out! Grins!

      The LED bulbs are supposed to last 25,000 hours, so with 3 hours usage a day, they should last about 23 years! What a bargain!

      Thanks for the comment,
      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy UsageMy Profile

  3. Way to go! This way you can save energy without changing the way you live at all, it’s all minor measures that go a long way. Plus, they’re cheap! Good work.

    • Hi Mrs. CTC,
      We have been trying to make small changes in energy efficiency and they seem to be paying off. Our goal of averaging 1000 kwh per month will probably require us to “up” our “insulation” around the house. And require us to turn down the thermostat on some of those cold nights this winter when the efficiency of heat pumps is less.

      The programmable thermostat installation is still on the “to-do-list”, and that should help with our energy efficiency. I am waiting on moderate “Fall” weather to do the installation, just in case in takes me a couple of days to get it going! Grins!

      Thanks for the comment,
      Jon J.
      Jon Jividen recently posted…Easy Inexpensive Improvements to Reduce our Energy UsageMy Profile

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