Much of the energy we waste in our homes can be saved by simple changes in behavior. One example: Dress for the weather—lightly in summer, more heavily in winter.
When the weather is nice, open windows and doors instead of running your A/C. In some hot climates, you can keep the house open mornings and evenings, then close it up as the temperature rises. Use ceiling fans to keep you cool. (Note: They only help when they’re blowing on you, so don’t waste energy running them when you’re not there.) Keep curtains or blinds closed when sun is shining in, particularly on west-facing windows.
To stay warm in mildly cool climates, it might help to keep the house closed during the morning and evening, and open it up in the middle of the day to let in warm air. Opening blinds to let in the sun’s heat will help keep the house a little warmer.
Turn off lights when you aren’t in the room. Turn electrical equipment and appliances off when you’re not using them. TVs use about half their lifetime energy when they are off, just so we can use a remote control to turn them on. You can use a power strip (manual or smart) to turn off any electronics that use a remote control or have a digital display that’s always on.
Don’t keep an extra freezer or refrigerator unless you really need it. If you do, keep it full—these appliances use more energy when they are empty because it’s harder to cool air than to cool a solid. (If the refrigerator is only partly full, fill the rest of it with jugs of water to reduce energy use.) If you replace an old freezer, don’t keep the old, inefficient model running just because you have it. Turn it off when it’s not needed or buy a smaller, more-efficient model.
How About a No-Budget “Addition”?
Homeowners often feel that their home is too small, and that they need to add space to live more comfortably. While this is sometimes true, just as often there is underused space that can be repurposed or reorganized to make a house work better. You can rearrange furniture to use a room more efficiently, making it feel larger and more comfortable. There may be doors you don’t use but keep open, cutting down on useful floor area; try keeping them closed and see if your rooms feel bigger.
You may have a formal living or dining room that you rarely use—turn it into a TV room, office, or extra bedroom. The right piece of furniture, such as an armoire, can turn a dining room or office into a bedroom.
Finally, look at the stuff that’s in your house. What can you get rid of to free up space? You may have a whole room’s worth of things you can sell or give away to give you the floor space you need. For more ways to better use the space you’ve got, see Chapter 6.