When looking for ways to cut costs and save money, reducing your utility bills is a great place to start. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. residential utility customer uses 10,766 kWh per year, or an average of 897 kWh per month. That means average residents are spending more than $100 per month on electricity alone. Add an additional $100 per month for water, gas, and the average homeowner is spending well over $2,000 per year on their bills.
Be more mindful about your energy use to save money and help the environment.
“You have the power to save money and energy in your own home,” says a white paper from the U.S. Department of Energy. “Saving energy reduces our nation’s demand for the resources needed to make energy, and improving your energy efficiency is like adding another clean energy source to our electric power grid. The result is reduced utility bills and money in your pocket.”
Reducing utility usage begins with a conscious effort to make a difference. Here are a few places to start:
1. Join an Energy Savings Program
Clogged air filters, blocked vents, thermostat connections, sluggish fans, dirty coils, low refrigerant levels, and an obstructed condenser unit are all common problems with your HVAC system that can cause it to work overtime, driving up your utility bills.
Many HVAC contractors offer energy savings programs designed to keep your system in top condition. They offer cleanings, inspections, free diagnostic fees, discounted service charges, and priority on service calls. It’s one of the best ways to stay on top of all maintenance problems before they cost you big.
2. Have an Energy Audit
With a home energy audit, an assessor will evaluate the current use in your home and make personalized recommendations for cutting back. A professional will come to your home and evaluate a number of factors like electricity use, miles-per-gallon on your car, and water use.
You can also do an energy audit yourself using a Home Energy Saver tool. Most hardware stores carry these, or you can order one from Energy.gov.
3. Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Most people wash their everyday clothing in warm water and their whites in hot water. However, unless your clothing is extremely soiled, it will come clean using cold water from the tap, especially if you use a cold-water detergent. You can save more than $60 a year by making this simple switch.
4. Replace Faucets and Showerheads with Low Flow Units
The average household uses about 100 gallons per day per resident. That means a family of four consumes about 400 gallons of water in a 24-hour period.
You might not be able to cut down on the activities that require water (you still have to use the toilet and shower, after all), but you can reduce the amount of water that comes out. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets to cut your water consumption in half.
5. Install Smart Thermostats
Today’s thermometers do much more than simply set the temperature. They also allow you to program the settings, and many even learn your habits so that you can enjoy a more comfortable environment.
You might enjoy the AC set at 72 degrees when at home, but it doesn’t need to be that low when you’re at work. However, many people forget to change it before they leave. A programmable thermostat will adjust the temperature automatically so that you can save money without thinking about it.
6. Adjust the Lighting
Your home’s lighting can contribute significantly to your utility bills, but it doesn’t have to. Old, incandescent light bulbs use more than twice the energy of new, LED light bulbs and they don’t last nearly as long. You’ll save money on both your utilities and the cost of new bulbs.
Additionally, natural lighting doesn’t cost anything at all. In rooms with plenty of windows, let the sunshine light the room as often as possible.
7. Be Careful with Appliances
Appliances are a huge contributor to energy use in the home, but they don’t have to be. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the cost of operating your appliances:
- Buy Energy Star rated appliances when replacing yours.
- When possible, use your microwave or a slow cooker rather than your oven.
- Set your refrigerator and freezer at the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Don’t open the oven door when baking or cooking.
- Keep your fridge and refrigerator full so it can operate more efficiently.
- Don’t let the ice build-up in your refrigerator get thicker than ¼ inch.
- Avoid placing appliances that give off heat near your thermostat, TVs, or lamps.
- Turn your oven off a few minutes before you’re done cooking. The food will continue to cook, but you’ll stop using electricity.