How Can I Save on Home Utilities?
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If your monthly electricity, gas and water bills are higher than you’d like, there are a number of ways you may be able to trim them. Unfortunately, shopping around for utilities isn’t an option in most places, as your home will be hooked up to whatever companies provide the services in your area. However, there are things you can do to cut down on your utility usage and save some money.
Quick fixes to lower utility bills
Are you looking to cut your costs immediately without investing in home upgrades? Give these ideas a try:
- Participate in rewards programs. Some utility companies offer discounts or rebates to customers who reduce their energy use during peak times, such as sweltering summer afternoons when most people have their air conditioning on full blast. Check with your utility providers to see if they have similar programs.
- Get an energy audit. Most utility companies offer free or low-cost audits that will point out opportunities to cut energy usage or make your home more energy-efficient.
- Do a nightly energy sweep of your house. You can save money by making sure all of your lights and electronics are turned off at night. You don’t want to waste electricity to power something you don’t need while you sleep.
- Keep your water heater set to 120 degrees. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lowering the temperature of your water heater just 20 degrees below the popular setting of 140 degrees can save you up to $400 per year heating the water and $36 to $61 per year maintaining that temperature setting.
- Wash your clothes in cold water. You could save up to $40 per year if you don’t have to heat the water used to clean your clothes.
- Air-dry your clothes. When the weather is nice, hang your clothes outside instead of using your electric- or gas-powered dryer.
- Shorten your showers. By spending less time in the shower, you’ll use less water, reduce the demand on your water heater and save money in the process.
- Wait to run your washing appliances until they’re full. Avoid doing half loads of laundry or dishes to decrease your water usage.
- Use window coverings during the day. Lowering your shades or closing your blinds before you leave the house will help block out the sun in the summer and keep in the heat during winter.
- Plant grasses and bushes that are native to where you live. Using native landscaping is especially beneficial in more arid areas, as your plants won’t need as much water to thrive and you can cut down on the use of sprinklers.
Long-term Energy-Efficient Home Upgrades
Sometimes it can take a small initial investment to cut costs in the long run. These upgrades can help you save significant money over time, and some utility companies even offer discounts and rebates for certain energy-efficient home upgrades.
- Buy reusable furnace and air conditioning filters. Disposable filters need to be replaced anywhere from once a year to every few months, but reusable filters can be washed multiple times to significantly extend their life.
- Buy a high-efficiency washing machine. Many energy-efficient models feature sensors to adjust the amount of water needed for a load of laundry.
- Replace your light bulbs. High-efficiency bulbs cost more initially but last longer and use less electricity over time.
- Install a programmable thermostat. There’s no point keeping the AC or heat on full blast while you’re at work all day. A programmable thermostat will allow you to save energy--and money--by heating and cooling your home less when you’re not there.
- Buy Energy Star appliances. Certified as energy-efficient by the EPA’s Energy Star program, these appliances will use less electricity and may qualify you for a rebate from your utility provider.
- Install weather stripping. You can easily and inexpensively install weather stripping around doors and windows to prevent air leaks that increase your heating and cooling costs.
- Upgrade your home’s insulation. Improved insulation will help keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer.
- Consider motion-sensitive light switches. Avoid leaving your lights on unnecessarily with motion-sensor technology that will turn on the lights when you enter a room and shut them off when you leave.
- Consider installing solar panels on your roof. Solar power is not only a clean energy alternative, but it will save you money in the long run. Many states even offer rebates to help reduce the high cost of installation.
- Install a low-flow showerhead. These efficient showerheads produce the same water pressure but require less water, meaning you’re heating and using less water for your showers.
- Buy a tankless water heater. These energy-efficient appliances heat water only when you need it, which will reduce the amount of money you’d spend to keep water hot in a traditional tank.
There are both short- and long-term fixes to a utility bill that feels unmanageable. The key is to find ways to scale back energy use and costs that also work for your budget and resources.