By Meagan Lyles
Not too long ago, we lived in our parent’s home where saving energy seemed meaningless.
Now as college students, we have full schedules and stretching our dollar is one of our top priorities.
Instead of the hearing the redundant, “Turn the lights off” speech from your parents, you’ve probably repeated it to yourself multiple times while living on your own.
However, being energy-efficient has become much easier with new products, such as “green” light bulbs.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are four times more efficient than normal light bulbs because they use 50 to 80 percent less energy. They also last up to 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, which drastically reduce home lighting costs.
Whereas incandescent light bulbs have an average lifespan of 750 to 2,500 hours, CFLs last between 6,000 and 10,000, according to the Interior’s website.
“If every American home replaced just one light with a light that has earned the [Energy Star certification], we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent nine billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars,” said Kaitlyn Shields, member of Western Michigan University’s Facilities Management conservation department.
When shopping for electrical products, look for ones that include the Energy Star label, which will give you a description of how much energy is consumed by that model compared to others.
“The Energy Star information sticker is a very valuable comparison tool since it is not created by the manufacturer,” Shields said. “It is produced by the U.S. Department of Energy.”
Perhaps one of the most energy-consuming appliances is the refrigerator. Older models can be costing you up to an additional $150 per year in electricity; however, there are certain programs that exist that will help you get rid of this problem.
Consumers Energy and JACO Environmental are currently promoting a program in which they will recycle your old refrigerator and send you a $30 rebate in six weeks, according to their websites.
Also, if you live in a small space, you want to make sure that you’re making the best use of the available energy.
If you live in a residence hall, you have a minimum amount of free space available. Make the best use of this space by bringing appliances that are combined together like a 3-in-1 microwave or a refrigerator and freezer. It takes less energy to plug in one appliance, rather than three.
Another habit to get into is unplugging an appliance when it’s not in use. As students, we sometimes leave our laptops charging when we go to class. However, if they’re already fully charged, that’s valuable energy that is getting wasted.
According to Consumers Energy, using less electricity is helpful in many ways. Not only does it help reduce power plant emissions, but it also stabilized energy prices and helps to boost energy security.
But energy is not the only thing to be conscious of.
Reducing water usage is just as important and can be applied to many daily tasks and chores. Instead of waking yourself up in the morning by taking a 45 minute shower, try reducing it to five minutes.
Also, check for leaks in washing machines, pumps, water valves, faucets or spigots, which can waste valuable water levels.
“A leak in a water pipe, a sticking ‘flapper’ in a toilet tank, or any other type of leak can waste thousands of gallons of water in one month,” Shields said.
There are also other elements of the household that can waste energy, which students need to be aware of.
Consumers Energy recommends that if you are not in your apartment or home for more than five hours, you should turn your thermostat down to 60 degrees. It also helps to keep a steady temperature of 70 degrees when you are in your apartment.
“Many students pay for their own heating or cooling,” said Peter Strazdas, associate vice president of Facilities Management at WMU. “This is huge cost for many students. While they can’t change the furnace to an energy efficient unit, they can lower the thermostat at night or when not in the apartment.”
Many people believe that buying small heaters instead of turning up the thermostat will decrease their usage. However, that is not the case.
“Electric heaters are not cost-effective to heat an apartment,” Strazdas said.
This is due to the fact that the smaller unit must work harder to heat the large space, which in turn wastes more energy.
To help keep your living space as warm and draft-free as possible, try using preventative measures, such as insulation.
Weather stripping has proven to be an effective way to keep your home insulated because it is easy to install and it keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Students should also be mindful that there are natural resources, such as the sun, that prove the most energy-efficient. Not only does it provide natural light, which cuts lighting costs, but it also heats the living space.
Paying for utilities is not cheap. But through the new energy-efficient products that are on the market, you can be an eco-friendly college student and save money at the same time.