The average U.S. household spends just under $4,800 on utility bills each year. When it comes to budgeting, that number’s pretty hefty. For the most part, our utilities include things that we need, such as water, natural gas, and electricity. They also include trash and recycling collection, cable TV, and the internet, which are slightly more optional. But here’s the thing: Even if you cut out cable, that annual average is not a fixed number.
We have much more control over our water and energy usage than we realize. For instance, did you know that by unplugging your electronics and appliances when you’re not using them, you can lower your electricity bill by $100 each year? It seems pretty simple, right? And there are plenty of other ways to save money.
If you’re wondering how to save on electric bills along with natural gas bills and water bills, then look no further. And don’t worry, lowering your energy costs doesn’t have to be a life-altering event. In fact, finding energy savings can be easy.
How To Save on Electric Bills and Other Utilities
Sure, you could improve your energy efficiency by installing solar panels. But suppose you’re not quite ready to take a step that big. In that case, there are lots of other energy saving tips that renters and homeowners alike can incorporate to achieve energy conservation and save money on electric bills and other utilities. Follow these top tips to learn how to save electricity, natural gas, and water.
1. Install a Programmable Thermostat or Smart Thermostat
For the average U.S. household, nearly half of the electricity bill goes towards heating and cooling. Continually adjusting your thermostat is impractical as well as impossible to maintain appropriately since the ideal temperature is going to be different for everyone, and that frequently changes depending on the season. However, when used accurately, a programmable thermostat can save around $180 per year in energy costs.
Smart thermostats often have the ability to learn your temperature preferences. They can establish a schedule that automatically regulates by switching to energy-saving temperatures when you’re asleep or away. This takes the pressure off of you to keep up with thermostat adjustments.
Plus, a technology called geofencing gives your smart thermostat the benefit of knowing when you’re on the way home so it can automatically adjust your home’s temperature prior to your arrival. This smart technology ensures that your home is always at a comfortable temperature for you while not wasting energy when you’re away.
Most smart thermostats can be used with voice control through smart devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or the Apple Home Kit. It’s also easy to view your usage through an app. The app allows you to control your home’s temperature in a specific room or schedule temperature adjustments as needed regardless of whether you’re at home or on the go.
As an added bonus, you can even check to make sure you turned off the lights before leaving your house. If you forgot to turn them off, no sweat. With a push of the button on the app, you’ll be back to saving energy.
2. Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs With Energy-Efficient CFL or LED Bulbs
Would you like to save another $75 per year? When you replace just five of your home’s most frequently used light bulbs or fixtures with ENERGY STAR-rated models, you can do just that.
Traditional incandescent bulbs are the least energy-efficient of all lightbulb types. Swap them out for compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to use 25% – 80% less energy. Plus, CFL and LED light bulbs can last up to 25 times longer, meaning you don’t have to replace them as frequently.
If you’re one of the many Americans who feels that dimmable lights are essential, don’t worry. Most ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulbs work with a dimmer switch. Since not all light bulbs are compatible, those that are compatible with a dimmer switch will be marked as such on the label.
3. Keep Your Airflow Strong With Ceiling Fans, Clean Air Filters, and Sealed Air Ducts
If you use air conditioning, adding ceiling fans and having them spin counterclockwise will improve efficiency. Case in point: You can increase the thermostat setting during warm months by four degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort.
Ceiling fans are great for cold weather too. You can flip a switch to make your ceiling fan rotate in the opposite direction (clockwise) during the winter months. Run it at low speed to push the warm air that gathers around the ceiling back down to circulate it around the room. This air circulation will improve the efficiency of your heating system.
To make the most of your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system’s efficiency, check your filter every month. Clean or replace your filter a minimum of every three months. Dirty air filters slow down airflow and require the system to work harder, which wastes energy.
You can improve your HVAC system’s efficiency by as much as 20% or more just by cleaning and sealing the air ducts that move air through your house. This could be air from a central air conditioner, heat pump, or forced air furnace. You can seal your air ducts’ seams and connections with a special duct sealant or metal-backed tape.
When it’s time to replace your home’s old HVAC system, choosing ENERGY STAR-qualified equipment could trim your annual energy bill by over $115.
4. Install Energy-Efficient Window Attachments and Seal Air Leaks With Weatherstripping and Caulk
The U.S. Department of Energy reported that you could lose approximately 30% of your home’s heat through windows in cold climates. In hot weather, around 76% of sunlight enters standard double-pane windows as heat. You can choose from various window attachments, which include blinds, curtains, draperies, shades, and shutters. Window coverings can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. You can purchase a package of six blackout shades for under $30.
Cellular shades are one example of energy-effective window coverings. In cold climates, cellular shades can reduce heat loss by 40% or more. This reduction in heat loss offers 20% in energy savings on your heating bill. During hot temperatures, cellular shades reduce solar heat that seeps through windows by as much as 80%.
On sunny days during the winter months, keep your window coverings open in the morning to let the sun’s heat warm your home. However, when the sun’s not shining through your window, keeping the window coverings closed on cold days will help keep the draft out.
On hot days it’s best to keep your window coverings closed. If you’d rather let some natural light in, open the covering that doesn’t get direct sunlight. The location of the sun will change throughout the day. If you really love having your windows open while you’re home and can’t bear to keep them covered, make sure to close your blinds or curtains when you head out.
It’s also important to check your windows and doors for air leaks. Feel around for spots where hot air or cold air is getting in depending on the season. Seal any leaky areas with caulk and weatherstripping to keep your controlled air in and the outside air out. When it’s window replacement time, choosing ENERGY STAR-certified models designed for your area can save you up to $500 per year in energy costs.
5. Adjust Your Hot Water Heater’s Temperature Along With Your Laundry Habits
The number one way to minimize your water heating energy use is to set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dishwasher has a booster heater, this temperature should be hot enough to ensure your dishes get sanitized. A temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit will be enough to accommodate all of your other needs as well. As far as laundry is concerned, you don’t have to worry about the heat for sanitation. Using cold water is actually more gentle on your clothes and will get them just as clean.
Water heating is responsible for 90% of the energy your washing machine requires. Adjusting your washer’s temperature setting from hot to warm will cut that energy use in half. Using cold water will reduce it even more. One household can save up to $200 a year using cold water instead of warm or hot water for the same functions. Making the switch also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking a 1,000-mile road trip. Using an ENERGY STAR-rated washing machine will use less water than a standard washer, providing even more savings.
When it comes to drying your laundry, air drying is the cheapest and most energy efficient route to go. Eliminating the dryer altogether could save you $45 over an electric dryer and more than $170 over a natural gas dryer. Still, we realize that line drying every load of our laundry is not always ideal. Try putting dryer balls in with your laundry to keep space between your clothes and let the hot air flow through, allowing the dryer cycle to finish sooner. Cleaning your dryer’s lint trap before each load also helps with its energy efficiency.
6. Repair Leaky Showerheads, Toilets, and Faucets
A faucet opening as small as 1/16-inch can waste 100 gallons of water a day. Even just a minor leak of one drip per second can waste 1,661 gallons of water per year. Fixing it will quickly save another $35 when budgeting for your annual utility bill. Luckily, repairing leaky showerheads, toilets, and faucets can be reasonably straightforward as well as inexpensive. Most of the time, replacing a worn-out washer or a five-dollar flapper valve is all it takes.
Thousands of gallons of water a month are wasted by leaking toilets, causing your water and sewer bill to spike. Toilet leaks often go unnoticed because they can be silent, but you can check for toilet leaks by dropping one dye tablet into your toilet tank. These are usually free from your water utility company, or you can use 10 drops of food coloring. Put the dye into your toilet tank and wait about 20 minutes before flushing. If your toilet bowl water turns colorful, you have a leak. The recommendation is to do this test a couple of times per year.
While we’re on the topic of water use, another thing you can do to save money is to install low-flow showerheads and faucets. Older showerheads manufactured before 1992 use 5.5 gallons of water per minute. Newer showerheads use 2.5 gallons or less per minute. If you have an old fixture, replacing it can save a family of four 27,000 gallons of water and $260 each year. Low-flow fixtures can save even more and are affordable. High-quality, energy-efficient fixtures are often found for around $10 to $20 and use 25%–60% less water.
7. Use Significantly Less Energy and Water With Energy-Efficient Appliances
When the time comes, replace your old appliances, electronics, and office materials with ENERGY STAR-rated ones. The upfront cost might be slightly higher, but the return on your investment will more than make up for that. For example, ENERGY-STAR-rated dishwashers are 12% more energy-efficient than non-certified models.
Think you’ll save more money by skipping the dishwasher altogether and hand wash your dishes? Think again. When you have an ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher, washing one load of dirty dishes can use as little as three gallons of water. Handwashing those same dishes will take up to 27 gallons of water.
One more little trick related to your dishwasher is to turn off the heat dry option, which uses at least 15% more energy than if you were to air dry or hand dry your dishes. If you’d rather not take on extra work, look for a dishwasher that comes with a no-heat air-dry cycle. Many dishwashers made after 2011 have this popular energy-saving feature.
8. Turn Off Unused Devices With Smart Power Strips
Have you heard of something called a “phantom load”? A phantom load is when electricity is used by electronics or appliances that are turned off but plugged in. Computers, cell phone chargers, and televisions are some of the top offenders of using phantom loads.
This severe waste of energy is entirely avoidable. It may seem too time-consuming to worry about plugging and unplugging your devices all the time. In that case, you can simplify the process by using smart power strips and smart outlets. This way, you have fewer switches and plugs to worry about. Households in the U.S. spend around $100 per year on phantom load power. It’s a gigantic waste of energy and money that you can easily prevent.
9. Schedule Bulk Energy Usage During Non-Peak Hours
To find the most utility bill savings, schedule as much of your bulk energy use to occur during your provider’s non-peak hours as possible. Discounts for non-peak hour energy usage usually occur during late night, early morning, and weekend hours.
That said, peak hours vary from one utility provider to the next and can change from month to month. Contact your energy provider to learn when their current peak hours are and inquire if they offer any non-peak hour incentive programs.
It’s Time To Save Money on Your Utility Bills
If you’ve been doing the calculations, we’re well over $1,500 in potential savings just by following the energy saving tips in this guide. If that’s not enough, here’s one more tip: Consider getting an energy audit.
Many utility companies will perform an energy audit for free or for a small fee. They will evaluate your home and your energy use habits to help you find additional ways to save energy and lower your energy bill.
If you’re ready to learn even more about how to save on electric bills, natural gas bills, and water bills, check out the Energy Savings marketplace, where researching your energy options is made easier.
Brought to you by energysavings,com
All images licensed from Adobe Stock.