Easy Behavior Changes to Save Energy

If you can turn the temperature down a few degrees in winter and up a few in summer, you will save on energy costs. Photo by Mark Gilliland, Pioneer Utility Resources.
By Miranda Boutelle

Q: I want to lower my energy use, but I don’t know where to start. How can I find out how much energy I use? How can I save energy?

You can change your energy use by changing your behavior. When looking at electric bills, many people focus on the total dollar amount of the bill. When trying to manage your energy costs, I suggest changing your focus to energy use.

While you don’t have control over the cost of the energy, you can control how much energy you use.


Instead of thinking about your electric bills in terms of dollars, think about them in terms of kilowatt-hours. A kilowatt-hour is the unit of energy used for most electric bills. Review your monthly kWh use to get an idea of how much you use every month.

After you review your energy use, set a goal for the next month. Try to use fewer kWh than the month before and check your results on your next electric bill.


When looking for energy savings, remember that “off” is the most efficient setting. Turning off lights is a classic strategy, especially if your lighting is incandescent.

Computers and gaming systems use energy even when in sleep mode. The higher the wattage and the more hours the device is on, the more energy is used. Lower your energy use even more and plug devices into smart power strips, which cut power to devices that are not in use. Many electronics continue to draw power even when they are turned off. This could add 5% to 10% to your monthly bill, according to the Department of Energy.


When it comes to lowering your energy use, the settings on your thermostat are another great place for change. The closer you can keep the indoor temperature to the outdoor temperature, the more you can save. Make sure to protect your home from damage in extreme heat and cold — but turning the temperature down a few degrees in winter and up in summer will save on energy costs.

Understanding your energy use and making small adjustments to your routine will help you reach your energy use goals.

Miranda Boutelle is the chief operating officer at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon; she writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.