When you evaluate your budget, you’ll probably see that the utility bill is right behind the mortgage and car payments as your largest expenses. Since it’s a monthly payment that is never “paid off,” you might think there’s not much you can do about it.
It’s true that, as long as you need electricity, your utility bill won’t go away. But you don’t have to empty your bank account to pay it.
The Basics of Energy Conservation and Efficiency
With the global push to “go green” and save energy, there are plenty of ways to reduce your electricity consumption. Each of these methods falls into one of two categories: energy conservation or energy efficiency.
Steps made to conserve energy are things you do to avoid using it. For instance, anytime you have something plugged in, even if it’s off, it’s using energy. A way to conserve electricity would be to unplug any electronic devices when they’re not being used.
Making your home more energy-efficient means actually changing something inside (or outside) the home. You’re doing everything the same, but the energy is being created more efficiently.
An example of this would be caulking your windows to cut down on energy leaking out the cracks. In many cases, the home improvements that make your home more efficient will cost you a little out of your pocket, like getting better light bulbs.
Ready to start slashing away at your energy bill and saving some money? Try one or all of these 10 energy-efficient (or conserving )ways to reduce your utility usage.
1. Take Advantage of a Home Energy Audit
Your utility company wants you to cut energy costs almost as much as you want to slice them. Their energy consumption is monitored by the government, and they provide programs to help you cut your costs.
One of these opportunities is an energy audit. Someone will come to your home or read your usage online. They’ll use the results to tell you where each room could be more energy-efficient.
You can do this yourself, but the utility company is an expert on all things energy-related. Why not take advantage of the free service they offer? With their help, you can reduce your energy consumption and lower your bill.
2. Unplug, Unplug, Unplug!
Did you know that even if your appliances are unplugged, they can draw energy?
They don’t use much on their own, but how many devices do you leave plugged in? In many households, up to three-quarters of the electric bill comes from this unnecessary energy usage.
Think about all the things you leave plugged in throughout the whole day. Your toaster, TV, internet router, computer, phone charger … the list goes on and on.
To reduce the energy consumption they use, consider investing in a surge protector. Plug everything in one area into the protector, then turn it off when you head out for the day or go to bed.
Smart electronics are another great way to reduce your energy bill. However, unlike a surge protector, they won’t keep your electronics safe from a storm surge.
3. Check Your Windows
Damaged windows or those with cracks in the seals and weather stripping are costing you serious cash. Even the smallest air leak makes your HVAC system work harder to cool or heat the whole house.
Some window damage is minor enough that it can be fixed with caulk or new stripping. However, if the frames are warped or rotting, or the window is too hard to open and shut, it may be time for replacement windows.
The small investment is worth it with the money you’ll save on your utility bill.
4. Smart Thermostats
You know those energy drainers we were just talking about? Your HVAC system is one of the biggest culprits.
Your house doesn’t really need to be cooled or heated while you’re at work or on errands. But it can be a nuisance to remember to change the temperature every time before you walk out the door.
Smart thermostats let you preset the times when you want your room’s temperature to change. It can go up a couple of degrees during the day when you’re not home. Then, set it to go back to your optimal temperature an hour before you get back so it’s nice and cool (or warm).
5. Go Back to the Good Ole Days
Not too long ago, people had to make life happen without electricity. We’re not saying you have to go back to living exactly that way, although some cultures already do. However, you could use a few of their tricks to save money, like these:
- Get a hurricane lamp or use candles for ambient lighting instead of a lamp
- Hang your laundry outside to dry for a fresh air scent, or get an indoor rack
- Wash dishes by hand rather than using a dishwasher
We take a lot of what we have today for granted. If you can step back in time and try to do a few things each day in the old-fashioned way, you’ll save a lot of money (and it builds character, too!).
6. Pay Attention to Your Fridge
Do you stand in front of your wide-open fridge trying to decide what you’re in the mood to eat? This is a common behavior, as well as a major energy drain. The cool air leaves the fridge, forcing the compressor to use more energy to make the space cold again.
Another fridge tip is to keep it full. The more food you keep in your freezer and fridge, the better insulated the air is. Your refrigerator’s compressor won’t have to work as hard to keep everything cold.
While you’re filling the empty spaces, check out the coils behind the appliance. If they’re clogged up, the fridge is working harder to do its job. Not only can this cost you in energy usage, but it can burn your appliance out faster.
7. Invest in Fans
Ceiling and floor fans are helpful for cooling down the air. However, they’re important to use even if you’re not hot.
Your HVAC unit is using a lot of energy to circulate the right temperature throughout your home. Ceiling fans boost the spread of the fresh, cool (or warm) air, lightening the load on the HVAC system.
The attic can benefit from a ceiling fan, too. Since it’s so close to the roof, it gets extra hot in that space. In fact, the roof can be up to 60 degrees hotter than the temperature outside, and it shares that heat directly with the attic.
Keeping a ceiling or floor fan running in this space cools your whole house down, not just the attic.
8. Evaluate Your Bathroom Use
Most of us have our water company separate from the utility company. Still, your hot water usage impacts the electric bill nearly as much as your HVAC unit.
By cutting back on using hot water, you can slice your power bill significantly. Before you give up taking showers, though, try these tips to reduce your hot water utilization:
- Get a WaterSense showerhead. These are eco-friendly and use less water while still providing impressive pressure.
- Switch your laundry’s default setting to cold water. Change it when the load requires hot or warm, then swap it back to cold.
- Adjust the max temperature on the water heater to a lower number. A few degrees won’t make a big difference in your shower, although you’ll notice it on your power bill.
One more tip is to time your shower. Have you ever gotten lost in thought while taking a shower and suddenly you’re running late for your day?
It’s great that you enjoyed some peace and quiet for a while. Was it worth the extra time you’re rushing around now, or the hit to your electric bill?
Set your phone’s timer for 10 minutes or less, and use it to guide your shower time. Try to start shaving the time down a minute at a time until you find a comfortable range.
9. Keep Up With Your HVAC
Getting your HVAC system to run efficiently is a regular goal. Part of this effort includes changing your air filters once a month (depending on the type of filter).
When the air is flowing through the filter easier, your system doesn’t have to work as hard to run. As an added bonus, the air you’re breathing is cleaner!
Let Your AC Unit Talk to You
You know what your AC unit is supposed to sound like. You hear it running in the background, even when you don’t really notice it.
If you begin to notice sounds that don’t seem quite right, pay attention. If it doesn’t go away within a day or two, call a professional to check out your unit. There could be a problem starting that would be an easy fix if it’s caught soon enough.
Another smart homeowner HVAC tip is to have it checked at least once a year by a technician. They’ll be able to catch any signs of an issue before it happens.
10. Don’t Touch the Thermostat … Yet
Changing the thermostat if you’re hot or cold should be a last resort. Instead of wasting energy and running up your bill, run through this list until you’re cozy:
Tips for When You’re Cold
- Make a fire in the fireplace
- Put on a sweater or jacket
- Grab some blankets and cuddle in them
- Wear a couple of layers of socks
- Wear thermal or cotton clothes
- Drink a warm beverage or eat some hot soup
Tips for When You’re Hot
- Turn a ceiling or floor fan on
- Take off some layers
- Don’t wear dark or cotton clothes
- Drink cold, icy beverages or eat some fruit
- Sit with an ice pack on your neck for 10 – 15 minutes
After you’ve tried everything on the list, if you’re still hot or cold, then adjust the thermostat.
With these 10 tips, your household’s energy bill will quickly be slashed. What will you do with all the money you’ll save?