Every night before I go to sleep, I go through a pretty straightforward routine. I start at the bottom of the house in the laundry room, the farthest place from our bedroom, and head upstairs slowly, doing lots of little things along the way.
This routine takes about three minutes. Most nights, I estimate that my actions during that routine save me about three dollars or so, all told. That’s $60 take home per hour of effort if you want to think of it in terms of wages. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
What does that routine encompass?
I check each faucet and showerhead to make sure it’s not dripping. This involves sticking my head into each bathroom and listening for a second for the sound of dripping or running water. If I hear it, I turn off whatever is dripping.
A faucet that drips one drop of water per second will waste two gallons of water overnight. Not only that, the continual dripping of the water is a noise in the house that can easily disturb sleep. Yes, it’s not a huge savings, but with the minimal effort required, it’s well worth turning the tap off.
I flip all switches that have electrical devices wired to them. For example, all of our entertainment center (save the DVR) is set to a single switch. Flipping that switch means that none of the devices are eating standby power, which is an energy savings.
If I have six devices hooked up to a single switch and each device eats twenty watts in standby mode, I save about ten cents during the overnight period by flipping that switch. Wouldn’t you happily take a dime in exchange for flipping a switch as you exited a room, particularly if it were a dime that magically just appeared in your checking account?
I turn off all lights. Yep, this is an obvious one, but it’s a vital one. Lights left on but unused are nothing but a financial drain; flipping them off when you’re leaving the room (especially when you’re leaving the room for many hours) is well worth it.
Every sixty watt light bulb that you turn off for an eight hour overnight period saves you about five cents in energy costs. So, if I’m standing in the kitchen and I go back to the laundry room, where there happens to be four light bulbs, and make sure the light is turned off, the savings is about twenty cents for about ten seconds of effort. That’s about $72 per hour in after tax money.
I check the thermostat and adjust the temperature if needed. Yes, we now have a programmable thermostat, but this became such a part of my routine that I still do it in the evenings. I make sure that in the winter, the thermostat is quite low. In the summer, I usually turn it up and make sure that the air conditioning is turned off.
Remember, when an electric furnace kicks on, it’s using somewhere around 15 to 20 thousand watts in a typical American home. That means for every hour that a furnace is running, it eats between $1.50 and $2. If your furnace kicks on every fifteen minutes and runs for fifteen minutes on a cool night, it’s running for four hours during an overnight period. If you can lower the temperature, you’ll not only give your furnace a period of not running, you’ll also reduce the frequency with which it needs to run. Then, the next day, when it’s warmer outside and there’s less temperature differential, the furnace won’t have to run as much to bring your home back up to the temperature you want. My estimates were that by lowering the thermostat five degrees Fahrenheit on a cold night, we were saving about $2 for the night and it didn’t make a whole lot of difference to us as we were cuddled under warm blankets.
I shut down my PC. The only service that might be useful to have on overnight is Skype and, to be frank, I don’t want to receive business-related calls in the middle of the night.
Shutting down the PC is just a pure energy saver. I have everything in my office hooked up to a “master-slave” power strip, which means that when the PC shuts down, everything else loses power, too. No phantom energy to my printer, my monitor, my speakers or anything else like that. Over a typical overnight period, this saves about thirty cents in energy, according to my math.
Yes, it does mean that I have to wait for it to boot up the next time I want to use it. But, as before, it’s on a power supply with the master controlling everything else. I just hit the button to power on the PC, then go downstairs with the kids. Then, when my work routine starts, everything is ready to go.
All of this takes about three minutes as I’m going to bed. It saves about three dollars. This means, over the course of a month, my bedtime routine takes about an hour, all told, and it results in about $60 in post-tax savings.
If $60 post-tax isn’t worth wandering through your house a few times, you’re a far richer man than I am.