11 Ways You’re Wasting Energy at Home (and How To Stop!)

Person fixing air leak to help reduce energy costs

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Person fixing air leak to help reduce energy costs
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Energy Zappers

With summer quickly approaching, it also means our energy bills are likely to rise as we crank up our AC systems to keep cool. But wasting electricity at home is an easy trap to fall into, especially when we're unaware of how everyday habits can drive up our energy bills. Common mishaps like underloading the dishwasher, not addressing air leaks, and always using hot water to run the laundry machine can greatly increase our water and energy usage. 

But don't worry, we won't leave you high and dry. Many of the most common energy-wasting practices can be rectified with just a few adjustments. By addressing the biggest culprits of energy use, you'll not just lower your electricity bill and protect the environment, you can also prolong the lifespan of your household appliances.

Full dishwasher

1. Underloading the Dishwasher

If your parents were anything like mine and made you believe that running the dishwasher half-full would completely bankrupt them, they weren't totally full of it. Running a dishwasher that isn't fully loaded can indeed lead to excessive water and energy use. This is because the same amount of water and heat is used, regardless of how many dishes are inside. 

To avoid this, wait until you have a full load before running the cycle. This simple step can help save water and energy. It may even help extend the life of your dishwasher.

Fixing the air duct

2. Ignoring Air Leaks

Small drafts from windows and doors can lead to significant energy loss from escaping air that pushes your AC system to work harder and longer. To prevent this, seal any cracks and gaps with weatherstripping tape or caulk to prevent heat or cooled air from escaping. This not only keeps your home more comfortable but also reduces the strain on your heating and cooling system. 

Shot of a beautiful young woman loading laundry into her washing machine
Moyo Studio/istockphoto

3. Using the Hot Water Cycle

Washing clothes in hot water every time consumes more electricity than normal. This is because most washing machines use a lot of energy to heat water. Switching to cold washes for most (or at least some) laundry loads can reduce energy use significantly, preserve your clothes, and still get them clean. 

For further ways to save, consider air-drying your clothes instead of using the dryer, which is one of the highest energy-consuming appliances in a home. Air drying not only reduces wear and tear on your clothing but also extends the lifespan of your garments and the dryer itself. 

Google Nest Smart Thermostat

4. Overlooking Programmable Thermostats

Without a programmable or "smart" thermostat, you may be overheating or cooling your home when no one is there, which can drive up your energy bill. By installing a programmable thermostat, you can set schedules to reduce heating and cooling when the house is empty. This way you'll be able to cut down on unnecessary energy use and have the option to control the temperature remotely through your phone. 

Related: 8 Genius Tips To Beat the Heat and Slash Your Electric Bill This Summer From Redditors

Fluorescent (CFL) bulb and new LED light bulb

5. Inefficient Light Bulbs

Still using incandescent bulbs? We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but these can use up to 90% more energy (yowza!) compared to their LED counterparts. LED bulbs are more energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan (about 25 times longer) than incandescent bulbs. 

Replacing them with LED bulbs can greatly reduce the amount of energy your home uses, which means savings on both your energy bill as well as frequent replacement costs.

For more savvy money-saving tips and other home advice, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Electrical socket overloaded on wall. Electric wires plugged into socket
Bill Oxford/istockphoto

6. Keeping Electronics Plugged In

Many appliances and electronic devices draw power even when they're turned off, a phenomenon known as "vampire draw." According to the Department of Energy, devices in standby mode can contribute to up to 10% of your home's electricity usage. Unplugging devices or using smart power strips to cut power when devices are not in use can lead to surprising savings. 

Related: 20 Ways to Upgrade Your Home That Will Save Money in 2024

Woman near full fridge

7. Using an Old Refrigerator

Older refrigerators and freezers tend to be significantly less energy-efficient than newer models. If your refrigerator is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more energy-efficient model. This could significantly cut down on energy costs. Investing in a new fridge means you'll also have improved features and better temperature regulation, which can help you save even more in the long run. 

Man installing thermal roof insulation layer - using mineral wool panels. Attic renovation and insulation concept

8. Poorly Insulated Homes

A home that's plagued with inadequate insulation like cracks and gaps allows heat to escape during the winter and enter during the summer, which can lead to higher utility bills. By adding insulation to ceilings, walls, and floors (especially in areas that tend to be draftier like garages and attics), you can help maintain your home's temperature and reduce the need for constant heating and cooling.

Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven

9. Misusing Kitchen Appliances

Using a large oven to heat a small meal is less efficient than using a smaller appliance like a toaster oven or microwave. These smaller appliances use less energy and take less time to cook or heat food, which helps to preserve energy. Since smaller appliances are designed to heat smaller areas, they also require less energy to reach safe cooking temperatures. 

Technician Repairing Heat Pump Unit

10. Ignoring HVAC Maintenance

An HVAC system that isn't regularly maintained has to work harder and longer to produce the same amount of heating or cooling. Routine maintenance, which should include replacing filters regularly and servicing the system at least once a year, can help identify issues early on to prevent costly repairs and prolong the unit's lifespan. 

Shower head with boiling water and steam in the bathroom

11. Setting Water Heater Too High

Unless you like to take scorching hot showers (I am one of these people), most water heaters are set higher than necessary, often around 140 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Lowering the water heater temperature to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit provides comfortable hot water for most uses while reducing energy consumption. 

Lowering this temperature can also help "prevent mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes," according to the Department of Energy.