home with solar panels

More than 30% of electricity in the United States goes towards houses, to power the convenience and comfort that we enjoy as a part of modern life. While much of these are comforts that you shouldn’t have to go without, there are many things that you can do to make your residential energy usage more efficient.

For example, much of residential electrical use is drained while appliances are on standby mode. Even if they’re not doing any work, they’re still consuming energy. Major perpetrators of this are your microwave and your cable box. Other appliances (like your cooler) might need to be in constant use, but you can still make them run more efficiently and save a lot of energy every month.

Here are some of the biggest energy-consumers in your home, and what you can do to reduce their impact:


Is your refrigerator running? Of course it is! It ALWAYS is, which is why it takes so much energy. However, newer models of refrigerators don’t have anywhere near the same consumption level of energy as new, energy-star rated models. So, if you’re looking to reduce your energy use, one of the smartest things to do might be replacing a really old refrigerator. You can also check the seals on your refrigerator to keep air from leaking in and out.

Set-Top Box

Do you have a box connected to your television that allows you to connect in everything you need? It probably has the DVD player, cable box, and anything else all connected into it. It might even record your favorite programs when you’re gone. Well, these boxes seem unobtrusive, but they are almost always running at full power. So, consider plugging yours into a power strip that you can turn off when you’re out for the day, unless there’s something in particular that you want to record.


Sure, your microwave needs a lot of energy to heat up your leftovers. However, it’s also taking in energy when it’s in standby mode. Most microwaves that are more than 3 years old consume about 75% of their energy just from being left in standby mode. You can reduce this by looking for the newest models, which aim to reduce this problem, or by always unplugging the microwave when it’s not in use.


Your laptop, your smartphone, and your tablet all rely on rechargeable batteries to run. Few of us realize that rechargeable battery technology is still quite wasteful today. Only about 60% of the energy that your charger pulls from the grid actually makes it to your device. New standards are making this number better, but remember that number next time you plug in your phone.

Heating and Cooling

Almost half of your household energy goes towards heating and cooling the home itself. If you add in the energy that goes to your water heater (which takes up about 12% of the energy in American homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy) that’s the majority of your monthly power bill just regulating temperature. Here are some simple steps to significantly reduce energy use in your home:

  • Change the temperature on your water heater and insulate it. Most of us are running much hotter water than necessary through our taps. You should never need your water heater to be set to more than 120 degrees. Insulating your furnace with a blanket can reduce energy waste by 10%.
  • Get weather stripping throughout the house and update your insulation every few years. These moves will help you reduce your bill in both the summer and winter.
  • Have a professional come check your furnace and air conditioner every couple years; they can make sure that it’s running efficiently.
  • Install a programmable temperature control unit. This is especially helpful if you’re gone during the day. There’s no need to have the house at 72 degrees when you’re out at work, or when you’re bundled under the covers at night.
  • Change your air filters regularly so your air conditioning unit can run efficiently.