Consumer energy conservation strategies are the methods and practices by which some consumers attempt to reduce the amount of energy needed for daily life. This is a type of energy conservation focused on the residential and transportation energy sectors. Most strategies involve minimizing the transfer of heat between two areas or objects, upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment to reduce inneffectual energy expenditure, and operating equipment in a more efficient manner.
- 1 Household conservation
- 2 Transportation conservation
- 3 Other conservation tips
- 4 Typical energy usage rates
- 5 References
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
When an appliance is designed to create heat, such as with a furnace, water heater, stove, or clothes dryer, the type of fuel used has a significant impact on efficiency. Heat created by burning natural gas, for example, is much more efficient than creating heat through electrical impedance because of the energy losses involved in the manufacture of fossil fuel-based electricity. If the electricity used is produced from renewable energy or locally-available fossil fuels, however, electric heating might be preferable because of the energy used to transport the natural gas.
Energy-efficient home appliances, which have been designed with energy conservation in mind, are commercially available. In the United States, Energy Star is a government program to promote energy-efficient consumer products. The EU energy label is a similar European Union program.
Thermal insulation is any material used to minimize the heat transfer from heated to unheated spaces by conduction. Fiberglass, for example, is commonly used to prevent heat transfer through walls and ceilings, and windows made of insulated glass are generally more efficient than single pane windows or glass block. Exterior windbreaks and other energy-efficient landscaping methods can protect a home from cold winds.
Weatherization is the process of sealing air leaks to reduce heat loss by convection. Leaks are common at the intersection of different types of building material, such as the frames of exterior doors and windows.
- Operating a forced-air furnace efficiently
- Installing a programmable thermostat and setting it properly can result in a home not be heated as much (or at all) when the occupants are away or asleep.
- Checking the furnace's air filter frequently, and replacing or cleaning it as recommended by the manufacturer, can raise fuel efficiency. If there is a lot of dust or pet dander in the air, or during periods of heavy use, the air filter must be replaced more often.
- Having the furnace inspected and tuned up annually keeps it in top condition.
- Keeping heating and air-return vents clear, and avoiding obstructing and close heating or air-return vents by placing furniture or other items in front or on top of them.
- Furnaces more than 15 years old might be worth replacing with a modern, high-efficiency model.
- Insulate people
- Use thick blankets or electric blankets so you can keep your home's air temperature lower at night.
- Wear several layers of clothing.
- Heat smaller spaces
- If you live alone and/or in a large home, it may be more efficient to keep your overall house temperature low (55 to 65°F) and use an electric space heater to heat the areas you use most often. For example, if you work from home, keep a heater near your desk.
- Sealing off rooms that are not in regular use and closing heating vents can save energy.
- Rightsize by choosing the smallest home that meets your needs. Eschewing unnecessarily high ceilings reduces the amount of space your heating system will have to heat.
- Choose an apartment or condominium rather than a free-standing house. These dwellings usually share walls and therefore have fewer exterior walls for heat to escape from.
- Keep closet and cabinet doors closed so those spaces are not heated unnecessarily.
- Operate your water heater efficiently
- Turn down the temperature on your water heater to the lowest setting that provides sufficient hot water. Check your dishwasher owner's manual to find the minimum incoming hot water temperature needed for proper sanitization. Many dishwashers heat their own water.
- Insulate your water heater with a specially-designed water heater blanket. Insulate both the hot and cold water pipes leading into your water heater.
- Turn the water heater temperature down to the minimum setting or turn it off when you'll be away from home more than two days. Turning off the water heater will necessitate re-lighting the pilot light when you return.
- Insulate the accessible hot water pipes in your home using specially-designed wrap-around foam pipe insulation.
- When replacing a tank-type water heater, properly size it to the minimum "First Hour Rating"  needed for your houshold peak demand. Acquire a model with the highest efficiency rating. Consider a tankless water heater, which heats water on demand, thus eliminating standby heat losses.
- Flush accumulated sediments from your hot water heater tank at least once per year. 
- During cold weather, "reuse" heat
- Leave hot water in the bathtub or in cooking pots instead of draining it immediately. This allows the water's stored heat to dissipate into your home rather than being lost down the drain.
- If you have an electric clothes dryer, vent it inside occasionally. The vented air will be very moist, so track humidity levels; if the humidity is high for extended periods you may encourage mold and mildew growth. Never vent a gas dryer indoors due to toxic carbon monoxide present in the exhaust.
Household cooling comprises a large percentage of the energy usage of homes in the temperate and tropic climates. These methods are commonly used in these areas to reduce the amount of cooling required for comfort.
- Insulate your home as described above.
- When nighttime temperatures fall below 70 F and the relative humidity is low, open windows and use window fans to pull cool outside air into your home. Depending on the layout of your home, it may be best to only open certain windows and position fans so outside air is pulled in on one side of the house and interior air is pushed out on the other side of the house. It may be a wise choice to install a whole-house fan, which pulls air through your home and pushes it out through your attic. Choosing a whole-house fan.
- Create shade
- Install awnings over windows and close window blinds or curtains to keep direct sunlight out.
- Plant trees near your home. Choose locations that will shade your house during the afternoon. Even trees not directly shading your home will reduce local air temperatures.
- Minimize interior heat sources
- Install cool-burning compact fluorescent lamps to reduce the heat generated by lighting
- Choose foods that do not require cooking for meals during the warmest time of day, or choose microwaveable foods instead of oven- or stove-cooked foods.
- Hang clean laundry to dry instead of using a clothes dryer, or postpone drying until evening.
- Help your body cool itself
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Wrap a wet cloth around your neck or mist yourself with water.
- Use a fan to increase your skin's heat loss. Turn fans off when no one is directly in the air stream of the fan. Fans do not actually cool the air; they help your skin to evaporate water more quickly, which cools you.
- Air-condition efficiently
- If you operate more than two window air conditioners, it is usually more energy-efficient to install a central air conditioner.
- When purchasing a new air conditioner, choose one with a high SEER rating.
- Size your system properly. Calculate the heat loads using a load estimator.
- If you have a portable air conditioner, be sure that it is vented outside. If it is vented inside, you are actually heating your home.
Reduce lighting costs
- Take advantage of sunlight and leave lights off during the day. If possible, adjust your daily routine to align your waking hours with sunlit hours.
- Use compact fluorescent lamps in place of conventional incandescent light bulbs. A CFL uses approximately one-fourth the wattage of an incandescent bulb producing a similar level of illumination, and lasts eight to ten thousand hours of use. The savings in electricity typically amounts to over $30 per replaced bulb. In addition, fluorescent bulbs emit considerably less heat which can ease efforts to cool spaces lit with them. Replace your most-used bulbs first for maximum savings.
- Install motion-detection switches or timers for outdoor lighting rather than leaving lights on all night.
- Install dimmer switches for incandescent light fixtures so you can use less light when less is needed. Most CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs are not designed for use with a dimmer.
- Replace incandescent night lights with LED or electroluminescent (Indiglo™, Limelite™, etc.) lights.
- Don't use excessive holiday lighting.
- Dust light bulbs occasionally (with the power off) to increase light levels.
- Use limited, focused lighting when performing a task in a small area instead of lighting the entire room.
- Choose light fixtures that require fewer bulbs, or unscrew some of the bulbs in existing fixtures.
Reduce water usage
- Install water-saving showerheads, faucets, and toilets. When choosing a low-flush toilet do some research. A large number of low-flush toilets require multiple flushes due to poor design.
- Fix leaky pipes and plumbing fixtures in your home's plumbing system. Toilet tank leaks are easily detected by adding a few drops of food coloring to the water reservoir. If the water in the toilet bowl becomes dyed, water is leaking from the tank and the valve should be repaired or replaced.
- Lower the water level of your toilet's water reservoir. Be careful not to lower it to the point that it does not flush adequately. If your toilet's flush mechanism does not allow an easy way to lower the water level, place a glass jar filled with water into the water tank, clear of the flush mechanism, to displace water. Do not use a brick because they release grit into the water that can cause the flapper valve to leak. Bricks can also scratch the enamel lining of the toilet tank allowing water to seep through the porcelain.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Take shorter showers.
- Fill your dishwasher or washing machine to capacity. When washing a smaller load, be sure to select the appropriate setting.
- Use a dishwasher instead of handwashing your dishes.
- Use the "light" or "water miser" cycle when using a dishwasher on dishes that aren't extremely dirty. Try the same when using a washing machine.
- Install a water softener if you have hard water.
- Choose hardy outdoor plants and grasses that do not require frequent waterings.
- Water outdoor plants early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.
- During dry periods, increase the cutting height of your lawn mower and mow less often. Longer grass requires less water to remain healthy.
- Use a public swimming pool instead of purchasing your own.
Reduce household waste
- Do not purchase products with excessive or unnecessary packaging.
- Purchase products in the largest size practical so as to reduce the product:packaging ratio. However, do not purchase products in larger quantities than you will actually use, and be aware that having a larger quantity on hand may cause you to use more of the product than you would have ordinarily used.
- Use and reuse gift bags in place of gift wrap.
- Bring your own bags or boxes along when shopping to carry your purchases home.
- Put off purchases whenever possible. You will often find that you didn't really need the item.
- Use rechargeable batteries instead of conventional batteries. Be sure to recycle old batteries as they contain toxic substances and can contaminate the environment if thrown in the trash.
- Recycle. Recycling aluminum cans requires far less energy than making new aluminum from ore.
Reduce electricity usage
- Turn off all electric appliances (lights, computers, televisions) when they are not in use. Computer printers and photocopiers are typically high energy users.
- Set your computer to automatically shut off the monitor and switch to standby mode (if available) after a certain number of minutes of disuse. Choose a flat panel display instead of a conventional CRT since the former can use as low as 1/3 of the electricity of the latter.
- Use products with the Energy Star logo (or similar). In particular, recycling and replacing old refrigerators with an Energy Star-approved one can save a few hundred kilowatt-hours a year. Replacing old refrigeration and air conditioning units (even if they are still functional) with more efficient ones is often an economically and ecologically sound decision.
- Unplug appliances and other devices that will not be used for an extended period of time; many devices, especially consumer electronics, use a small amount of electricity even when they are switched off, due to indicator lights or listening for remote-control signals. Direct current converters, which are typically used to connect small consumer electronics devices to household power, lose a significant amount of energy as heat, even when the device is not plugged into the converter.
- Set your furnace/AC fan to "auto" rather than "on" so it will not run when the furnace/AC unit itself is off. The fan uses a significant amount of electricity.
- Clean condenser coils periodically to keep them operating efficiently.
- Reduce the number of trips you make to the refrigerator/freezer and do not leave the door open unnecessarily.
- Refrigerator/freezer configuration affects efficiency. Bottom-freezer models are generally most efficient. Top-freezers (the most common configuration) are reasonably efficient. Side-by-side models are relatively innefficient. Chest freezers are generally more efficient than conventional front-opening freezers.
- Small refrigerators may be less efficient than larger models because they usually have less insulation or a less-efficient compressor.
- Keep your refrigerator/freezer reasonably well stocked so that less cold air is lost when the door is opened. Do not overfill your freezer as this may prevent cold air from circulating effectively.
- Cover beverages and moist foods to keep the humidity level in the refrigerator lower. Dry air is easier to cool.
- Keep your refrigerator's temperature above 36°F and below 42°F. Keep your freezer's temperature at about 0°F. A good gauge of freezer temperature is ice cream. If the ice cream is too soft, lower the temperature; if it is very hard and difficult to spoon, raise the temperature. Be aware that the temperature near the door can be several degrees warmer than the back of the freezer.
- Position your refrigerator or freezer away from heat sources such as an oven, or place additional insulation between them.
- If you live in a warm climate, keep your chest freezer in the basement where the heat it generates will make less of an impact on your air conditioning. If you live in a cool climate, consider keeping your freezer in an unheated area, such as a garage, to minimize the temperature difference between the freezer's interior and the ambient air.
- Cook efficiently
- Turn off your electric oven or stove shortly before the end of the required cooking time; the heating element will still be hot enough to finish the cooking process.
- Cover pots to reduce heat loss.
- Do not heat a small pot on a large burner.
- Microwave foods when possible. However, microwaving liquids or foods with high moisture content is usually less energy-efficient than heating it on a stove.
- Thaw or partially thaw frozen food in the refrigerator prior to cooking.
- Replace drip pans periodically. Dirty drip pans are much less reflective than new pans and cannot reflect as much heat back up to the pan being heated.
- Avoid opening the oven door unnecessarily. Instead, view the food through the door's window and use a probe thermometer or a timer to help you determine when the food will be fully cooked. Most foods are fully cooked when the fragrance of the food begins to fill the room from within the oven.
Moving from one place to another uses a lot of energy. These strategies will help consumers to reduce the energy and cost associated with transportation in general, and driving in specific. The first priority is to reduce driving where possible. When driving is necessary, you should try to drive lighter, more conservatively in a fuel-efficient vehicle using renewable fuels, if possible. 
- Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation whenever possible.
- If practical for your job, ask your employer to let you telecommute on occasion to save trips to the office. Or, if your work hours are flexible, consider working four 10-hour days a week instead of five eight-hour days, to save a commute each week.
- Choose a home near your workplace if possible.
- Spend some time planning your errands to reduce the number of trips needed.
- Choose routes that have fewer stops and less congestion. A slightly longer freeway route is usually more efficient than a street route. If possible, avoid driving during rush hour so you aren't wasting fuel in slow-moving traffic.
- When purchasing or renting a vehicle, choose a smaller, lighter one:
- Acquire a car with a four-cylinder engine with an EPA rating of 30 MPG or higher in city driving.
- A hybrid or diesel vehicle will usually give the best mileage.
- If acquiring a gasoline-powered vehicle, make sure that it normally uses regular-grade fuel.
- Look for a vehicle with a good crash safety rating.  SUVs have higher centers of gravity and typically have greater risk of rollover accidents and fatalities.
- Forgo the extra weight and drivetrain friction of four wheel drive unless it is absolutely necessary for usual driving conditions in your area.
- Purchase a small, fuel-efficient vehicle and borrow or rent a truck or other large vehicle only when needed.
- Motorcycles or scooters usually get very good gas mileage. Consider taking a motorcycle safety training course and always wear a helmet when riding.
- Don't leave unnecessary items in your vehicle. The clutter may only amount to a few pounds, but hauling it around adds up over time. Consider also that there are around 200 million vehicles in the United States; if each of those carries just one pound of excess cargo, it amounts to 100,000 tons.
- Open windows create significant drag when driving at highway speeds. During warm weather, keep your windows up and use the air conditioner (if needed) when traveling at 45 MPH) or above. When driving at lower speeds, turn the AC off. However, do not continually turn the AC on and off. It functions more efficiently during longer periods of operation.
- Remove ski racks and other external carriers when not needed. Don't put flags or antenna decorations, or the like on your vehicle. These create added drag.
- Fuel economy usually decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 MPH. . Driving at 55 MPH instead of 65 MPH can result in a 15% increase in fuel economy. 
- Accelerate slowly. Getting your vehicle "up to speed" quickly is hard on your vehicle and uses more fuel than a slow start.
- Brake softly farther from your intended stopping point and try to maintain a slow pace rather than stopping and starting in traffic. This will save both fuel and brakes.
- Use your cruise control because steady speeds are more efficient. Do not use cruise control in inclement weather, heavy traffic or in areas with large elevation changes.
- If you are parked for more than a minute, turn your vehicle off. A non-moving vehicle gets zero miles per gallon. However, stopping and starting your vehicle too frequently causes excessive battery drain and added starter wear.
- When approaching an incline, accelerate before reaching it to reduce engine load on the climb. Try not to accelerate while on the inclne.
- Pay attention to other drivers and anticipate their turns and lane changes as well as your own.
Keep your vehicle running efficiently
- Keep your tires inflated to the recommended tire pressure.
- Change spark plugs and get tune-ups when recommended by your owner's manual. Have the compression checked at every tune up.
- Check your air filter regularly; more frequently if you drive in dusty conditions. To check it, hold it up to the light: if you cannot see light through the filter, replace it.
- Always use regular-grade gasoline unless premium or mid-grade gasoline is specifically recommended by your owner's manual. Even then, most modern vehicles can compensate harmlessly when using a lower octane fuel than recommended. However, if you hear the engine knocking or "pinging", switch to the next higher grade of fuel to eliminate the problem as soon as possible.
- Calculate your vehicle's mileage regularly. If your mileage is unusually low or falls substantially from your average, consider having the vehicle tuned up or serviced.
Use Renewable Fuels
- Use renewable fuels to conserve non-renewable fossil fuels: If you drive a flexible-fuel vehicle and E85 (ethanol) fuel is available in your area, consider switching. Likewise if you own a diesel powered vehicle and biodiesel fuel is available.
Other conservation tips
There are many ways to conserve energy that will not economically benefit the consumer directly. However, many of these methods improve overall efficiency of the economy, which can lead to economic growth.
- Rent or borrow items you will not use very often. This eliminates the significant amount of energy that goes into the manufacture and disposal of an additional item.
- Check books out from your local library rather than purchasing your own copy.
- Purchase used items when possible.
- Donate usable clothing and other items to charity rather than discarding them.
- Use "disposable" items (such as paper and plastic dishware and cutlery, or disposable cameras) sparingly. Opt instead for the reusable version.
- Use a digital camera in place of a conventional film camera and get prints of only the best photographs. Use a printing service rather than purchasing your own photo printer.
- Use toilet paper, paper towels, and other products made of recycled materials.
- Ask your local energy utility about credits or rebates given for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances.
- Make an effort to defer electricity usage to off-peak hours. Reducing usage during peak hours (usually mid-afternoon to early evening on hot days) helps prevent the construction of additional power plants that would be required to keep up with demand during peak hours. Many electric utilities offer time-of-use electric meters and will charge a lower rate for power used at off-peak times. Contact your electric utility for details.
- If you plan to use air conditioning, cool your house early in the day and turn it off around noon, allowing the house to warm up throughout the afternoon.
- Do laundry early in the morning or late at night.
- Eat a cold meal (sandwiches, fruit, etc.) or cook outside during warm weather. This saves the energy needed for cooking and the energy needed by the air conditioner to cool the heated air.
Typical energy usage rates
Being aware of the energy usage of appliances you use will help you to know where to direct your conservation efforts first. This table lists appliances in descending order of the typical wattage used when operating on the highest setting. In general, appliances that use electricity to create heat will have the highest usage rates.
|Electric water heater||4500|
|20 ft³ manual-defrost refrigerator||650|
- Callaway Electric. Estimated Average Costs for Operation of Various Appliances. Accessed July 19, 2006.
- List of energy topics
- Energy conservation
- Environmental science
- 55 mph national speed limit
- French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management
- Appliance energy usage
- Apartment energy conservation tips for tenants
- U.S. Department of Energy
- Office of Energy Efficiency (Natural Resources Canada)
- Energyorbit :: Towards sustainable power and renewable energy