Simple ways to cut back on your energy, water use at home

utility costs
Posted at 12:33 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:14:09-04

Many of us are spending a lot more time at home these days, which can mean higher utility costs.

News 3 anchor Erica Greenway spoke with Consumer Reports’ home & appliances reporter Dan Wroclawski to learn some simple ways you can cut back on your energy and water use.

Q: What can we do to reduce our energy costs at home?

A good place to start is in the kitchen. When you’re cooking on the stovetop, always match the size of the pan size to the size of the element or burner. For example, a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner will waste over 40 percent of the heat produced by the burner.

Also, once dinner is over, let your leftovers cool a bit before putting them into the refrigerator so it doesn’t have to work harder cooling hot food. Just don’t leave food out for more than two hours because bacteria can start to grow. And cover any liquids you put into the refrigerator so they don’t release moisture into the refrigerator, which also makes the appliance have to work harder to maintain the temperature.

Lastly, If your electric company offers lower rates at night, take advantage of that by timing your dishwasher to run when rates are lower.

Q: What can we do in the laundry room to save money?

The best way to save energy in the laundry room is to use the highest spin speed available on your washer, according to CR’s testers. That shortens the drying time by removing more moisture.

To make your dryer more efficient: Clean the lint screen before every load to improve air circulation. And wipe off the dryer sensor periodically, especially if you use dryer sheets, which can leave a residue that interferes with performance.

Always use the moisture sensor to tell when a load is dry, rather than setting a time. They are better at detecting dryness, and they promptly end the cycle, which saves energy and is also easier on fabrics.

Q: What about reducing water usage. What are some easy ways to do that?

One of the easiest things you can do to save water is to check for leaks and fix the simple ones. There’s a video at that actually walks you through how to do this yourself.

For example, Faucets: Old and worn washers and gaskets are frequently the cause of faucet leaks. This is a simple fix but before you get started, turn the water off under the sink. Faucet washers cost pennies and you can buy them online. If you’re not sure what to do, you can find how-to videos on YouTube.

Also check your toilets: Typically, toilets begin leaking when the toilet flapper or valve seal becomes old or worn out. To check, put some food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 15 minutes to see whether color shows up in the toilet bowl. Another tip: don't use your toilet as a garbage can for tissues or dental floss, etc. You waste water flushing them down (plus things like wipes can seriously clog your pipes).

Q: Can you cut back on water use outside in the yard without harming your lawn?

  • You don’t need to water your lawn a lot to keep it looking lush. An established lawn needs only 1 inch of water per week during the growing season, including rain. Over-watering can actually harm your turf because the roots of the grass don’t grow as deep; too much water also encourages weed growth.
  • Also, consider keeping your grass longer. Taller blades of grass help shade each other, thereby reducing evaporation and keeping moisture in. Raise your lawn mower cutting height to keep your grass between 3 and 4½ inches tall.
  • Other outdoor tips: Don’t use water to clean off your driveway, steps, or deck. Sweep them instead or use a leaf blower. And instead of hosing off your car, wash it using a bucket of water and a sponge.

Q: How important is it to change filters in your appliances?

You definitely want to make sure all the filters in your appliances are clean so they run as efficiently as possible. A dirty filter can interfere with optimum performance by, for instance, blocking air flow. You can wash filters for room air conditioners, over-the-range microwaves, range hoods, dehumidifiers, dishwashers with manual filters, and some vacuums. But the filters on refrigerators, water filters, air purifiers, gas furnaces and most vacuums need to be replaced. Check your manuals to see when it’s time to replace these filters.

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