UPDATED: 06/30/11 | Originally Published: 07/14/09
We're about to celebrate Independence Day with parades, fireworks, and barbecues, but first, let's celebrate a different kind of independence — energy independence!
In a perfect world, you could live off the grid. In other words, you'd be completely energy independent with electricity from solar panels or wind turbines mounted on your roof, hot water heated with solar power and geothermal-powered heat and air conditioning.
Alas, going totally off the grid may not be realistic, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer under the weight of big power bills in the meantime. Follow these tips to save money and energy without spending a lot.
Let's start with energy vampires. (Sorry, these vampires have nothing to do with Twilight.) Energy vampires are things like televisions, computers, microwaves, and cell phone chargers that use power even when they're turned off. You can kill these energy suckers for free by unplugging appliances when they're not in use. Plugging and unplugging can be a pain in the butt, especially if electrical outlets are in hard-to-reach places. If that's the case, plug everything in one area (e.g. an entertainment center) into one power strip. Then, you just have to remember to flick the switch off when you're not using the appliance. This simple step will save you energy — and those savings will show up on your power bill. If you want to know how much energy you'll save, buy or borrow a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor, which will tell you exactly what you want to know.
In the summer, power usage spikes with air conditioning usage. Is your home comfortable enough for a polar bear? It shouldn't be in the summer (unless you live with a polar bear, which is definitely illegal). To save money (and the polar bears in the arctic), try cutting yourself off from AC for a couple days. Open the windows. Use a ceiling fan to circulate air throughout your home. If you can't take it, try keeping your thermostat between 78° and 80°, or only cool one room — or look for an Energy Star-rated AC unit.
If you haven't already, switch to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights). A CFL lasts 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb and uses 75% less energy. One CFL will save you about $30 over the course of its life, and yes, CFLs contain mercury, but they're now easy to recycle and easy to clean-up.
If you're itching for even more independence, there are a few gadgets that will let you take part of your life off the grid for a lot less than the price of a solar panel. Solar backpacks and messenger bags provide enough juice to power up your laptop, mp3 player, or cell phone, or, for less than $50, you can get a personal wind turbine that can charge your electronic devices. The options are aplenty, so pick one and try it out.
What do you do to exercise your energy independence? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below.
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Written by Kelsey Abbott . Jun 30, 2011
Is power — the electrical kind — weighing you and your wallet down? Don't fret. By following these simple tips, you can break free from humongous power bills and reduce your impact on the environment.