College is a nice transition bubble from being a kid living at home to being an adult in the real world. As people love to tell us, with this added freedom comes added responsibilities, and for some of us that includes paying bills. This is a crash course in energy efficiency. Whether your vice is blasting the A/C year-round or leaving the bathroom light on at all times, college students live to save money. It’s why we wait in long lines for bad T-shirts.
Unfortunately, washing your clothes is a must, especially during these brutally hot months. Please don’t skip out on cleaning your clothing because you’re trying to save money — try these tips to reduce your bills instead.
The first setting to change, if you haven’t tried this already, is to wash all your clothing in cold water. Otherwise, 90% of the energy your washer uses will go to heating the water used. By switching to cold water the only energy being used is the kWh it takes to run the machine itself.
As for drying, the first choice is to eliminate using the dryer completely. Instead, try air drying your clothing. It’ll help your clothing keep that brand new look, and save those precious dollar bills.
If you choose to use the dryer, there are steps to take to make it energy efficient. First, clean the lint catcher before each use to increase efficiency (and decrease the chances of starting a fire, yikes). Second, separate your clothing into batches of similar density and material. It’ll take longer to dry thick, wet towels in the same load of thin tank tops. In fact, you can throw in a dry towel to a wet load to help decrease the drying time. However, for this to work you have to take the towel out 15 minutes into the process so the towel doesn’t contribute moisture.
You might have heard this new rumor floating around that running a dishwasher is more efficient than hand washing dishes. This is only true if you have a brand spanking new ENERGY STAR rated dishwasher, fully pack the dishwasher, stop pre-rinsing, run it on the proper settings and turn off heated dry. Yes, stop pre-rinsing. Newer dishwasher models are designed to break down stubborn food particles, eliminating the need to pre-rinse. Those with trust issues can scrape off food bits instead of washing them off. If you’re going to be using the dishwasher, be sure to hand wash large pots and pans, as they take up a lot of room, forcing you to run the dishwasher more often.
Student housing typically offer outdated washers, and in that case it’s best to stick to hand washing. To be efficient while hand washing dishes, be stingy with water. Scrub all the dishes first, and only run water to rinse off soap from the all the dishes at once. If you like to leave the water running the entire time, you might as well stick everything in the dishwasher.
A/C and Fans
This section is super relevant for Floridians. If you’ve heard it before, it’s because it’s true: turn down the heat in the winter and the A/C in the summer to save big bucks on your bill. While you’re away for long periods of time turn off the A/C. It’s a total myth that turning it on and off makes you spend more. Your A/C works best if it can cool down the house in one go instead of at various points throughout the day. And if you think that leaving your ceiling fan on during the day won’t hurt anyone, FPL estimates that just one ceiling fan running constantly will add an extra $7/month to your electric bill. That’s not the only reason you should keep you fan off while you’re away. Ceiling fans recirculate already present air. That means fans only cool your skin, not the room!
Food is life, and if you’re cooking, be strategic. It takes a lot of energy to heat up your oven, so when cooking small batches, use a toaster oven. It takes less time to heat up and less energy to maintain the desired temperature. You can use your toaster oven for everything you use a regular oven for, including baking!
Hopefully this tip is obvious and something everyone does, but TURN OFF LIGHTS WHEN YOU LEAVE THE ROOM. Seriously. If you’re not in the bathroom, who is the light benefitting? Your pet cockroaches? Just be courteous to the environment (and your wallet) and only turn on lights that are directly benefitting you in the moment. The same goes for appliances that go into standby mode. Unplug those printers and coffee makers, as they are still drawing electricity.
If you believe you’re being as efficient as possible, but your bill each month seems suspiciously high, contact your energy provider to schedule an inspection. Make sure there are no leaks, broken appliance parts or excessive drafts.
When it comes to being energy efficient, scrutinize the way you handle everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth. Do you keep the water on while you brush? Do you run half a load of laundry on a full setting? You don’t have to go as far as only flushing for number 2 to save money! It’s okay to be stingy as long as you don’t let it control your life.