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Resolve to Save Energy in the New Year

December 30, 2008 - 4:00am

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What are your New Year's Resolutions? It's that time again to make your list and decide how January 1st will be the day you start your new and improved life! [end the infomercial voiceover] In all seriousness, it seems that most New Year's Resolutions are abandoned sometime around mid-February, in spite of our best intentions. But it doesn't have to be that way. I know and you know that your resolutions are important, as shown by USA.gov's list of popular New Year's resolutions.

My guess is that one of the most popular resolutions this year will be to save money. If saving money is one of your resolutions, have you considered working energy into your savings plans? If not, you should! A few simple strategies can help you stay on track to save energy all year long. One great way to set goals that stick is to make them SMART:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Timely

Here's how you might set SMART goals to save energy:

Specific
Think about exactly how you want to save energy. Is your electric bill too high? Maybe it's your heating bill that's getting you down, or you want to save on fuel and transportation costs. Identifying your specific goal can also help you identify specific strategies for saving. For instance:

  • To save electricity, you can read about ways to reduce your electricity use. Maybe you'll decide to change all of your incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or simply to turn off the lights each time you leave a room (make a sign to remind yourself!).
  • If you want to save on your heating bill, you might resolve to turn down your thermostat when you're away or asleep. You might even install a programmable thermostat and set it to lower temperatures.
  • To save on fuel and transportation costs, maybe you'll make an effort to walk, combine or reduce trips, ride a bicycle, or take public transportation.

Measurable
Measuring your progress on energy saving goals is relatively easy because so much of our personal energy use is tied to bills! If you have last year's bills, dig them out now and write down your energy use (not just what you paid, since costs may have changed) for each month in 2008 on a 2009 calendar. When you pay bills each month, it will be easy to compare your current energy use to last year's.

To make your goals even more specific, you could estimate your current energy use and determine which appliances you want to use less or remember to turn off. Figure out your potential savings each month, write it down, and then compare your goals to your results when you pay your monthly bills.

Write down your goals and track your progress whenever you can. Put your goals and reminders somewhere you know you'll see them—like a calendar or on a sign on the wall. If you regularly use a computer or mobile device, set a reminder for yourself; a pop-up saying "Turn off the lights!" or "What's the temperature?" will help ensure that you regularly think about your energy-saving goals.

Attainable
Be realistic about your goals. Everyone's situation is different; think about what kind of savings are realistic for you and set a plan to reach your goal.

Relevant
Set goals that are important to you. There are many reasons to try to save energy. Whether your reasons are related to finances, the environment, comfort, or some other reason entirely, be sure to define why you want to make the effort. Write it down and remind yourself regularly why saving energy is important to you.

Timely
Your strategies for saving might be very different in January than they are in July. Be sure to adapt your energy-saving strategies to the season.

For example, in the winter, resolve to keep your blinds open on sunny days to let in the sun and heat; in the summer, close them to keep your home cooler. Similarly, keep your thermostat set at a low temperature in the winter and a higher temperature in the summer, to save on both heating and cooling. Note your year-long, seasonal strategies in a calendar now so you don't forget your resolutions come July. Tracking your progress month-to-month will also help ensure that your efforts are timely.

What are your energy-related goals for the new year and how do you plan to reach them? Share your ideas in the comments.

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