7 Energy Tips Your Father was (Mostly) Right About
Dads get a bad rap when it comes to the free words of wisdom they offer us on money and finances, especially energy savings. As kids, we may have rolled our eyes when he reminded us to "Turn off the lights when you leave the room!" and "Close the front door! We aren't air conditioning the neighborhood!" After all, "money doesn't grow on trees!"
But as adults with our own homes, we learn these cliches are valuable tips that can help lower our energy bills. So, which of Dad's most popular suggestions are grounded in fact? Here are a few energy tips your father was (mostly) right about, and the stats behind the potential savings.
1. If you’re cold, put on a sweater!
Once a kid understands the thermostat controls the heat, it’s not long before the house is as hot as a rain forest. That’s when Dad suggests a sweater and dials the temperature down to a shivery 68 degrees.
Dad was right, though. Lowering the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees, eight hours a day, saves homeowners 10 percent on their energy bills annually, according to the Department of Energy. In fact, every degree dialed back saves about 1 percent on the electric bill.
2. Turn off the lights! Money doesn’t grow on trees!
What father hasn’t marched through the house counting the number of lights he has to turn off? Turns out, technology has made this a bit outdated. A 60-watt incandescent lightbulb left on three hours a day for a year would cost a homeowner about $8.89, dependent on kWh rate, and last about 1,000 hours before replacementi, according to home improvement site Den Garden. LED lightbulbs, on the other hand, would cost about $2.81 annually and last up to 50,000 hours.
Still, if you consider the average home has about 45 lightbulbs, costs can add up. Turn that into savings by comparing energy supply rates to ensure you’re getting the lowest cost per kWh. Enrolling in a fixed-rate plan can also help you balance the budget and possibly save over time.
3. Save some hot water for the rest of us!
There’s a pretty good chance Dad was sick of taking cold showers when he asked us to cut down on our shower time, but his instincts were right. Water heating systems are the second biggest consumer of a home’s electricity use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, gobbling up an average 18 percent of those costsii. A few quick steps can help trim a bit from your energy bill:
- Lower the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees F
- Install an insulation blanket around the tank
- Upgrade to an Energy Star-rated unit
- Consider an instantaneous water heating system
Find more tips for reducing your energy use.
4. Shut the front door! We’re not cooling the neighborhood!
There’s no time to close the door when you want to hang with friends. Every kid knows this, much to their father’s frustration.
Dad had a point, though. The energy escaping through drafty windows and doors equals the energy lost by leaving a window open 24 hours a dayiii, according to LSS Financial Counseling. In fact, drafty doors and windows, inefficient appliances and other “energy wasters” cost Americans more than $300 billion a yeariv, says FactRetriever.com.
Tell Dad you can show him how to conduct his own energy audit to secure the house from energy leaks or help him shop for a fixed-rate plan to potentially pay less for the energy he uses.
5. They don’t make them like they used to.
Whether it was battling the furnace or returning a malfunctioning TV, you knew Dad would start talking about how new technology didn’t hold a candle to the gadgets he grew up with. While armchair experts could debate the merits of Dad’s opinion all day, Dad’s clearly on the wrong side of this one when it comes to energy use. Older appliances really are energy leeches.
For example, a 20-year-old refrigerator might use 1,700 kWh of electricity annually, while an Energy Star-rated replacement might use 450 kWh or lessv, according to Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resources Team. The cost of maintaining the former versus the latter is significant when you consider how energy rates fluctuate. When shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label. When comparing energy plans, consider a fixed rate to help control unexpected bills.
6. Those screens are rotting your brain!
Dads have said this since the early 1940s, when televisions entered the American home. Today, they’re talking about all the smart devices kids cling to – about 11 per householdvi, according to Variety, including seven with screens to view content. They all require charging – and even when the chargers hang from the outlet without a device, they’re still using electricity.
Many other household electronics gobble electricity while in standby, like your DVR and, really, anything with a light that stays on while the main appliance is off. So, while they may not be rotting your brain, home electronics are affecting your electric bill.
The easiest way to save? Unplug chargers and use power strips with an off switch for uncommonly used electronics that go into standby rather than turning off. Look for products that carry the Energy Star label, too. They use little to no energy while in idle.
7. When you pay the mortgage, you can make the rules.
A true classic, used whenever teenagers argue about turning up the temperature, running the hot water tank dry, or leaving every device imaginable plugged into the wall and on standby. The old man’s got a point, though. Dad and Mom pay the bills, so they get to call the shots.
However, Dad may not know he calls the shots when it comes to energy choice. Energy Harbor makes it easy for Dad to choose the electricity plan that works best for his family. A simple fixed-rate plan could help Dad save money by making sure he avoids seasonal utility hikes by paying a predictable rate for the full length of his plan.
Better yet, show Dad you’re a chip off the old block when it comes to finding a good deal, and compare energy rates today.
i. DenGarden.com. Light Bulb Types: How Much Do LED Lights Save Per Year?. June 2021.
ii. Energy.gov. Everything You Need to Know About Water Heaters. April 2013
iii. LSS Financial Counseling. Winter is Here, and Your Window is Open. November 2012.
iv. FactRetriver.com. 53 Interesting Energy Facts. June 2017
v. Clean Energy Resource Teams, Minnesota. Is Your Old Refrigerator an Energy Hog?. June 2021
vi. Variety. U.S. Households Have an Average of 11 Connected Devices – And 5G Should Push That Even Higher. December 2019.