Is your utility bill killing you? Costs for gas, oil, water, and other natural resources rise steadily. In great parts of Europe, Australia, and Japan the worst price driver is electricity.
Who would have thought that Reddit is a source of wisdom that can help you counter-balance these developments. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s not so surprising. Reddit is a haven for geeks, nerds, and intellectuals, interested in all sorts of niche topics, including energy efficiency and saving money. Moreover, Reddit is a community where everyone can contribute, regardless of education, status, or rank. And most importantly, contributions are evaluated by the community. In other words, Reddit is crowd wisdom at its best and a great resource for solving everyday problems, like gigantic utility bills.
I dived into this article thinking I would hammer out a list with tips & tricks sourced from Reddit. To the detriment of my Saturday evening and Sunday morning, I found much more than the expected conventional wisdom and urban legends. Reddit supplied me with a great selection of articles and discussions, which in turn provided significant depth to this topic.
Depending on where you live, electricity can be expensive. Most importantly, it is a significant factor on your utility bill, especially if you heat your house, heat water, and cook with electricity. Let’s see what Reddit’s wisdom is on cutting those costs!
- If you have the freedom to switch your energy provider, try to get a better price. You might even be eligible for reduced rates based on your household income.
One of the biggest insights was found in a link to a survey. Researchers at The Earth Institute of New York’s Columbia University conducted a survey and published their results on how clueless consumers are in regards to saving energy. The study noted that switching to more efficient technologies was more effective than behavior change, something few consumers realized.
In other words, switching the lights off will save very little energy. Making the right buying decisions when purchasing new appliances is far more cost-effective in the long run. That said, a little behavior change on top of that certainly won’t hurt.
Key lessons learned via Reddit:
- Households could reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent by choosing energy efficient appliances.
Using Appliances Efficiently
Choosing the most energy efficient device you can find makes sense when you have to get a new one. In most cases, however, it makes more sense to use appliances until they stop working. After all, replacing them costs money, too. Meanwhile, pick up all the motivation and discipline you can get hold of and try to change your behavior.
To be honest, these savings will only amount to a significant sum, if you are consistent and manage to address as many points as possible. Hence, I grouped the most effective behavior changes for each item under one action point.
This is what Reddit has to teach you:
- Your fridge and freezer consume electricity 24/7. Relax the temperature and go only as cold as you really need. Your fridge or freezer will be more energy efficient when full because air doesn’t retain temperature very well. Fill empty space with water containers or other dense materials. If you never need all of the space in your fridge or freezer, consider getting a smaller one next time. Meanwhile, vacuum the coils of your old fridge and freezer to help them cool more efficiently.
- Up to 90% of energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating water. Modern detergents, however, work miraculously well at lower temperatures. So try washing your clothes with cold water to cut your electricity bill. Generally, try to wear your clothes more than once before washing them, this will reduce the amount of laundry. No, I wasn’t talking of your underwear, silly!
- Retire your dryer and hang up your clothes on a drying rack. They will dry for free. If you are forced to use a dryer, make sure the vent pipe and lint trap are clean, so it works at maximum efficiency.
Reddit has surprisingly little practical advice on how to make computers more energy efficient. Possibly because there isn’t much potential. My colleague Matt did the math and found that while you can save energy with your PC, it’s indeed very little. He later followed up with an energy saving masterclass for computer users and a piece on how to build an energy efficient gaming PC.
This appears to be the most sensitive topic, although it only affects people during part of the year. If you live in a country that gets real winters and snow, heating is very likely the biggest item on your utility or electricity bill. Here is what Reddit recommends:
- Don’t heat more than you have to! Shut the doors of the rooms that you’re keeping warm. Insulate your windows with window film or bubble wrap and lock them to reduce drafts.
- Let the sun in during the day and close the drapes to keep the warm air away from the windows when the sun is gone.
- Put on socks, wear slippers, and extra layers of clothes to stay warm.
- Turn the thermostat down at night or when you leave the house. Ideally, get programmable thermostats and have an expert help you set them up.
- Keep your bedroom cool all the time. Use a thick duvet to keep you warm. Put a bottle filled with hot water into your bed before you go sleep.
- If the humidity in your place is very low, try to get it up to 40 – 50 per cent. Dry air will suck moisture from your skin, which will make you feel chilled, even at warm temperatures. Put a pan of water on your heater or dry your clothes on a rack indoors. Be careful with moisture though, it can also promote molding.
- When cooking or boiling food on a stove, use a lid. This decreases cooking time as food is steamed as well as boiled or cooked.
Most Reddit users appear to worry more about heating than cooling as I could find only very little on this topic. The few discussions I did find, however, were very fruitful.
- Insulate your windows as described above for heating to reduce drafts of hot air.
- Try to reflect sun that is shining into your room. Solar screening needs to be applied directly onto the window pane, ideally on the outside.
- Make sure your central AC is clean and check whether it works properly. Ask the landlord to look into it if it doesn’t.
- Use window AC units to cool a single room rather than a central unit that cools the entire house.
- Lower your AC, i.e. increase the target temperature when you leave the house. It’s important to keep the AC running to continuously remove humidity as it is harder to cool humid air than it is to cool dry air.
What You Should Not Do!
Reddit is good for debunking myths. Here are the two best ones when it comes to saving energy:
- Heating your room with candles: Don’t do it! It is not that cheap and it’s bad for your lungs.
- Unplugging unused chargers to save electricity: Not worth the effort, unless the charger is warm to the touch.
By no means are the tips above the best ones or sufficient. They are what I found on Reddit and nothing more. So can you help us build a more comprehensive list? Please contribute in the comments!