Winter in Indiana can get harsh. Between the snow, ice, and below freezing windchill most Hoosiers are only concerned about staying warm during the winter months and not thinking about green at all. No matter what month it is, though, it’s always a good idea to keep your environmental impact in mind. Especially during the winter months heating and electricity bills can skyrocket, so not only is thinking green during the cold good for the environment, it’s also good for your wallet.
Depending on who you ask, the kitchen very well may be the most important room. Most of us have fond childhood memories set in a mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen, or at the very least the kitchen is important because that’s where the food lives. However, the kitchen can also be where the carbon footprint lives. For example, up to 25% of your electric bill may be going towards your refrigerator if it’s not running efficiently. To make sure it is efficient it’s best to keep your fridge and freezer packed as full as possible so the cold items can work to keep everything else cold instead of making the machine work more. You should also clean the coils and fan at the back of the fridge every few months, as dust can cause the motor to run harder and put unnecessary strain on the appliance.
Another important item to keep an eye on in the kitchen is water usage. If you wash your dishes in the sink make sure not to let the water run the entire time, but instead fill one basin with warm soapy water to wash and the other with clean water to rinse. If dishwashers are more your style don’t rinse the dishes first, but instead scrape any food particles into a trash or compost bin before loading them into the dishwasher. Also make sure to only run full loads of dishes instead of more smaller loads.
If you’re more into takeout than cooking the living room may be where you spend the majority of your time. When thinking about energy efficiency you should first take a look at the layout of the room and where your furniture is placed. For example, is anything blocking any air vents? If so, that will make your heater and A/C work even harder to warm or cool the entire room. By arranging your furniture to promote airflow you’ll cut down on heating and cooling costs.
While you’re looking around the room take note of what electronic devices you have. If you have a cable box, gaming system, smart TV, or a number of other newer electronics you could be using way more electricity than you realize. By design those types of devices enter into standby mode when you turn them off. This allows them to power back on at a moment’s notice, but it also means they’re never fully off and always using at least a little electricity. An easy way to combat that is to plug the devices into a power strip and turn them on and completely cut the power instead of just using the on/off button on the device itself. It may take an extra second or two to power up, but overall you’ll be saving the environment and your utility bill.
Before leaving the living room you should also think about maximizing the efficiency of climate control. You’re already using your furniture to promote airflow, so why not go even further with a couple easy steps? First, program your thermostat so that your heater or A/C isn’t running during the day when you’re not home. Simply have it turn down when you usually leave for the day and turn back on 30-45 minutes before you usually get home. You won’t notice the difference, but your heating and cooling bills will. Second, use or don’t use drapes and blinds. In the winter when you want to keep the inside a little warmer, open your drapes and blinds to let the warm sunshine in. Conversely, in the summer keep them closed during the day to keep the heat out and the cool in.
Once you have the kitchen and living rooms optimized for energy efficiency you’re almost set, but there are a couple other areas in your apartment that can most likely do a little better to save energy. For example, by being a little more conscious about your water usage in the bathroom you can end up saving quite a bit of the precious resource. Don’t let the water run while you’re brushing your teeth, and consider shortening your showers to 10 minutes or less (each minute in the shower uses on average 2.1 gallons of water).
While doing laundry always use cold water unless absolutely necessary. Also, like the dishwasher it’s better to wait to do one big load of laundry rather than a bunch of smaller loads. With the dryer, make sure to clean the lint trap before each and every load, and consider cleaning the vents once or twice a year. You should also utilize your property management to save energy, for example they should be able to schedule a time to clean the vents if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself. Also, make sure to notify management for any leaky faucets or running toilets that could be wasting water on a daily basis.