Cut Your Energy Bill with Ease:
Earth Day (April 22) is just around the corner. And whether you’re most conscious of conserving energy every April, you’ve had a recent sticker shock, or conserving natural resources is always a priority, we all can do little things to cut back on energy usage. Bonus? When you lower your energy bill, both Mother Earth and your wallet will thank you.
Ready to get started? When added together, these tips will go a long way toward helping you lower your electric bill.
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill:
Monitor Your Tech’s Phantom Usage
Count how many TV’s, computers, and other pieces of tech you have in your home. Don’t forget to include printers and anything else that needs power to work. Now think about this: The cost to leave each one plugged in, in standby mode, is about $1 per week. Just five devices in this category will add an extra $260 dollars a year to your electric bill!
Want to cut back on some of this excess electrical waste? This list of the top phantom power draws is a good place to start. You’d be surprised at how many things are on the list, and how all of them together can really increase your electric bill.
Pulling the plug is the best way you can be certain an item doesn’t draw power when it’s not in use. From larger appliances to phone chargers, it all adds up. But I’ll admit, it’s a hassle to do this every time you’re done using (say) the microwave or the TV. So an alternative is to plug commonly-used-together devices into a power strip/surge protector with an on/off switch. This way, you can flip the master switch when you’re done with (for example) your computer for the day, and the strip will cut the power to ALL the connected devices.
And don’t forget about when you leave for vacation. This is a great time to unplug a bunch of appliances you know you won’t be using for the week. My mama has even gotten into the habit of unplugging the digital clocks in guest rooms when she’s not entertaining! Every little bit adds up.
Train Your Family
This is one of the least expensive, most challenging, and yet most effective things you can do. Teaching your spouse and kids to take all these little steps will really add up:
- Turn lights off in a room when not in use
- Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine unless you have a full load.
- Avoid those long hot showers; take shorter showers, and turn off the hot water when not in use (say, when you’re working the shampoo or conditioner into your hair). Bonus: this also conserves water!
If everyone does these things together, it can truly make a noticeable difference. I serve on the financial advisory board for my undergraduate alma mater‘s annual giving campaign, and they actually used this strategy to cut costs during the 2008-2009 financial downturn! They challenged all the students to trim their dorm’s energy usage, made a competition out of it among houses, and slashed electric bills campus-wide. Not only did this save them money that academic year, but it sparked a continued culture of being energy-conscious that has lived on among subsequent generations of students.
Change Your Light Bulbs
Think a light bulb doesn’t cost a lot to use? It depends on what kind you have. If you’re still using old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, you might as well be throwing money out the window.
You might think that a light bulb doesn’t cost a lot to run, but with research showing that the average American home has 40 if them the amount they are costing you soon adds up. You can help to reduce this if you have any of the old style incandescent light bulbs left. Swap them for Halogen or LED bulbs and you will save quite a bit of cash.
Not only are both these innovations cheaper to run, but they also last for a lot longer so do not need replacing so often. This is exactly why so many states are now using them to illuminate the roads in the US, as it means people are not constantly putting themselves at risk in the traffic just to change a bulb.
They are also more flexible in their uses. You can control them from an app on your phone and turn them on and off even when you are not at home. This is a great measure for security and is being used by more people all the time.
Monitor Your Thermostat
There are several things you can do in this area, from simple to more extreme. The more extreme measures include lowering your thermostat in the winter (65-70 degrees F) and raising it in the summer when using central air (76-78 degrees F will give you the biggest savings). At the very least, you should implement these changes at night and when you’re away from home (whether for the workday or on vacation).
One of the easiest ways to do this is to install a programmable thermostat. It’s not hard or expensive, and will make it easy to automate these changes so you don’t have to think about them.
We did this almost a decade ago now, and it’s really made a difference. You can set a different program for each day of the week, depending on your family’s schedule. And when you leave town on vacation, you can temporarily override the program. For example, if we are away visiting family during the winter, we drop our thermostat for that time to 55 degrees – enough to cut our electricity use while we’re gone, but not so much that our water pipes will freeze.
Want to take these savings one step further?
See if your electrical provider has a summer Energy Saver program, and sign up:
- Ours rewards us for cutting our energy usage during peak summer daytime hours. We try to run the dishwasher and washing machine/dryer only during evenings and weekends, when there is less demand on the grid.
- In addition, our electric company automatically cycles off our HVAC system for short cycles during the day – enough to lessen our load on the grid, but not enough for us to notice.
In exchange for participating in this program, besides seeing lower energy bills than we otherwise would during the summer, we get a rebate check at the end of each program year. Win-win!
Upgrade Your Appliances
As technology has advanced the quality and efficiency of many household products has improved, especially in the kitchen. From toasters to microwaves, common appliances are all now more energy efficient than they used to be. Furthermore, appliances tend to use more electricity as they get older – yet another reason to consider replacing some of them.
The two pieces of equipment that you should really look at are your dishwasher and clothes washer. If your dishwasher is more than four years old, chances are it’s using 60% more electricity than a newer model, and up to 10 extra gallons of water each week. The same is true of your washing machine.
This can also be true for dryers, TVs, and even microwaves. And think about this: If you’re considering replacing your computer, buy a laptop instead as they use 80% less power than a desktop computer. And if you’re considering an upgrade, keep in mind that many major household appliances go on sale around Memorial Day weekend, just over a month after Earth Day!
One more simple way to reduce energy usage with your washing machine is by washing clothes in cold water. Modern washing products are as effective in cold water as they are in hot, so there’s no need to pay the extra cost of heating more hot water. Likewise, setting your dishwasher to air dry vs. heated dry will use less electricity. So will using the auto-dry sensor mode on your clothes dryer. (Or even better yet, line-drying whenever possible.)
Upgrade Your Insulation
Proper insulation in your home can save a significant amount on your energy bills. You can lose 35% of heat through your roof and 20% through your walls. That’s more than half the heat you’re paying for, disappearing without your family feeling the benefit of it. Insulating your attic and exterior walls can reduce your energy bills dramatically.
Depending on where you live and your family’s income, you may qualify for grants that will help cover the costs of adding insulation to your home. This is because state and local governments recognize the benefits in energy saving and lower costs of well-insulated homes, so encourage people to take these steps to make their homes more energy-efficient. To see if your state has any such programs and whether you qualify, simply check out your state website.
Upgrade Your Windows
Another huge source of heat loss (and thereby wasted energy) is energy-inefficient windows. This is especially true in older homes, which often have only single-glazed windows. But even more modern homes (like ours) can have broken seals on their windows, an indication that their insulating properties are no longer working as well as they should. When seals fail, even double-glazed windows can be drafty and let cold air in though.
Although it can be pricey, it’s worth considering replacing all your windows if you find yourself in this boat. Depending on where you live, how many windows you have, and which company you choose, this could cost thousands of dollars, or well over $10,000.
Choose quality windows with a solid track record and a warranty to match; this is not the time to cheap out. New energy-efficient windows and patio doors can make your home much warmer in winter and cooler in summer, while helping to lower your electric bills.
What about you? How do you and your family conserve electricity around the home? What steps have you taken to lower your electric bills? Let us know in the comments!
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