Keeping the lights on isn’t cheap — never mind the air conditioning, furnace and hot water heater. In fact, the typical family spends an average of $2,200 per year on utilities, according to the Energy Department.
Tweaking your usage can lower your electric bill by as much as 25%. Keep reading for ways to reduce your energy costs and increase your monthly savings.
Heating and cooling
Home heating and cooling are 10 of the biggest culprits behind hefty utility bills — and the best places to look for cost-cutting opportunities.
- Check seals on windows, doors and appliances: Make sure your fridge and freezer are well sealed to keep the cold air where it belongs. Same goes for your doors and windows. A bad seal allows energy to seep out, draining your wallet in the process.
- Fix leaky ductwork: Improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems by repairing leaky heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts.
- Give your thermostat a nudge: Set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees when you’re asleep or away from home. Doing so for eight hours can lower your annual heating and cooling costs by around 10%. A programmable thermostat will do the work for you.
- Adjust your fridge and freezer temperature: Set your fridge to 38 degrees and your freezer to 5 degrees. This will keep your food fresh, but your fridge and freezer won’t need to work as hard to maintain the temperature.
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Hot water is the second-largest expense in powering most homes, according to the Energy Department. Cutting back on your hot water usage — in the shower, laundry and dishwasher — can make a sizable dent in your overall energy bill..
- Take shorter showers: Trimming two minutes off your shower time can cut your water usage by 10 gallons.
- Replace your showerhead: An efficient showerhead can reduce your water usage by 2,700 gallons per year. Look for one with the WaterSense label, which is certified to meet efficiency criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Don’t wash clothes in hot water: Cut your per-load energy usage in half by sticking to warm or cold water when you do laundry.
- Fix leaky faucets: That drip, drip, drip isn’t just annoying, it wastes gallons of water.
- Adjust the temperature on your water heater: The default temperature setting on water heaters is typically 140 degrees. Lowering it to 120 degrees can reduce your water heating costs by up to 10%. Leaving town for a few days? Turn your water heater to the lowest setting to conserve energy usage.
- Purchase energy efficient appliances: If you’re in the market for a new washer, dishwasher or water heater, buy an energy efficient model to yield long-term savings. A dishwasher with the Energy Star label is required to use 5.8 gallons of water or less per cycle, compared to the more than 10 gallons used by some older models. Prioritize appliances that run most often, like the fridge, HVAC system, water heater, dehumidifier, television, washer and dryer.
- Ask about discounted rates: Some utility providers offer cheaper rates during certain times of the day, making laundry and other energy-intensive chores 5% to 25% less expensive during off-peak times.
Power and lighting
Keeping the lights and electronics on accounts for roughly 12% of a home’s energy usage.
- Swap out your light bulbs: Save $75 per year by swapping out the bulbs in your most used light fixtures with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs that bear the Energy Star label.
- Install dimmer switches: Dimmers let you set the brightness in a room to suit your needs, setting the mood and saving electricity..
- Use smart power strips: Some electronic gadgets never truly power off; instead, they sit in standby mode using a trickle of power that can add up over devices and time. These are usually — but not exclusively — items with a remote control, because the remote sensor needs power while waiting for your input. Plug these electronics into a smart power strip, which cuts off the current when the devices aren’t in use.
- Do an energy audit: Utility providers will often conduct a home energy audit, sometimes for free, and can identify additional ways to reduce your energy usage.