The arrival of autumn ushers in cooler days and less hours of sunshine. As much of the country turns its clocks back an hour, night descends that much earlier, prompting a greater reliance on artificial light and electricity. When the time comes to turn clocks back, eco-conscious men and women can employ various strategies to conserve energy.
* Change light bulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs are not the most energy efficient option available. The United States Department of Energy says incandescent bulbs use a lot of energy to produce light, but a significant amount of energy to produce heat as well. Ninety percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs is given off as heat, so it is more economical and efficient to use a bulb that cuts down on heat production. Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, qualified by ENERGY STAR use about one-fourth the energy and last ten times longer than a comparable incandescent bulb that puts out the same amount of light. Light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs are a much more energy-efficient option, and LEDs last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
* Turn lights off when rooms aren't being used. It can be tempting to turn on all of the lights on in a home when darkness arrives. But this wastes both energy and money. Turn lights off when you exit rooms. Try to gather the family in a centralized location that is full of ambient and task lighting in an attempt to concentrate lighting usage rather than spreading it out all over the house.
* Rely on timers or automated systems. Standard timers or more complex app-synced house management systems enable homeowners to turn their lights or even appliances on and off at key times. Those with a smartphone or tablet can log in and manage their homes from a remote location, turning lights on or off or adjusting their thermostats at their convenience.
* Turn down the temperature. The California Energy Commission says for every degree a person lowers the heat in the 60- to 70-degree range, he or she will save up to 5 percent on heating costs. Set the thermostat low at night when residents are under warm blankets and quilts, and lower the thermostat when the house is empty. Furthermore, homeowners can turn down the thermostat on hot water heaters and even dishwashers, which can help save as much as 11 percent on water heating costs.
* Look to alternative heat and lighting sources. A warm, inviting fire can light up a room and also provide supplementary heat. Pellet stoves, or those that burn a highly concentrated fuel source that is energy efficient and environmentally friendly, may prove a worthwhile investment. Many heating stoves continue to give off ambient heat long after their flames have been extinguished. And centrally located stoves can heat most of a home at a fraction of the cost of traditional forced-air systems.
* Put south- and west-facing windows to use. Place solar-powered devices next to an open window during daylight hours to charge when the sun is at its brightest. Use solar-powered lamps, radios and even phone charges once the sun sets. Windows that get a lot of warm sunlight can be draped in dull, black curtains to incubate rooms that need warming. The black fabric will absorb the sun's heat, naturally heating a room.
* Trim shrubs and trees. Make the most of sunlight when it's available by allowing the sun's rays to reach the interior of the home. Prune dormant trees and shrubs so that the home will get plenty of sunlight.
* Spend time outdoors. Make the most of daylight hours by spending as much time outdoors as possible. Read books outside or do homework at the patio table, reducing reliance on indoor lighting. Sunlight can make ideal task lighting for arts and crafts projects as well.
There are many ways to conserve energy and become less reliant on artificial light as daylight hours gradually dwindle.