Do you dread opening your electric bill in the peak of summer or the gas bill after a super cold month? Your utility costs may consist of a sizable portion of your monthly expenses. And it may seem like there’s not any way to change this.
After all, you have to have your home heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, right? I mean, you could suffer through sweltering heat without air conditioning. Or keep your thermostat unbearably low in winter in order to save money on utilities.
However, suffering through incredibly uncomfortable temperatures isn’t your only option for lowering your utility bills. You do have some options for saving money on utility bills you can live with.
How to Save Money on Utilities
It may seem as if your utility bill amounts are out of your control. However, there are things you can do to lower your monthly utility costs. Read on to discover 11 ways you can spend less on utilities and see if you can implement these money-saving tips in your home.
1. Adjust Your Thermostat
Lowering your thermostat in the winter or raising it in the summer can result in noticeable money savings. According to energy.gov, the Federal government’s energy information website, you can save serious money by doing so.
“You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” If your heating and cooling bills run $150 per month on average, that’s a savings of up to $180 per year.
Does changing your normal thermostat setting by 7 to 10 degrees seem like a big leap? Try a gradual journey to that 7 to 10-degree change. Adjust your thermostat a degree or two and allow your body to get used to the change.
Then, when you’re used to that small change, adjust the thermostat down (or up) another degree or two. Simply commit to keeping your home a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter. Help your body adjust to the change by wearing sweatshirts or sweaters in the winter or adding an extra blanket to your bed.
In the summertime, dress cooler and drink lots of cold water. Have the windows open if there’s a breeze.
2. Get a Programmable Thermostat
If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, I recommend getting one. I have mine set to the most comfortable temperatures for only during the times I really need it.
When I’m asleep, I have the thermostat programmed to use less heat (or A/C) so I can save money. I generally don’t notice temperature changes when I’m sleeping. I make sure to have the thermostat programmed to resume more comfortable temperatures a bit before I wake up.
Another tip: Don’t pay to heat/cool your home when there’s no one in it!
When you’re not home, set your thermostat to a higher temp (summer) or lower temp (winter). For example, I keep my thermostat at about 66 degrees in the winter (bedrooms upstairs are even cooler) when I’m at work. I’ll have it set to warm up about a half hour before I get home.
In the summer I have the air conditioning set to a higher level than I like when I’m not home. I program the system to start cooling the house down about a half hour before I get home.
If you’re going somewhere for the weekend or on an extended vacation or business trip, you could raise or lower the temperature more significantly. Just be sure you don’t lower it too far during the winter months if you’ll be away long-term. Doing so could result in a risk of frozen/burst pipes.
3. Don’t Waste Heating and Cooling
Sometimes energy waste can be a bit hidden. For instance, is it really hot outside? Avoid running the oven and heating up your home even more. Hot days are a great time to be using the crockpot, toaster oven, or stovetop for meals.
On the flip side, an oven baked meal on a cold winter day can help you warm up the house. Don’t forget about the windows. Keep the windows covered to keep that warm sun out in the summer and open the blinds in the winter to let the warm sun in.
Close vents and doors in rooms that aren’t being used to help with wasted heating and cooling costs. Be sure the kids know not to stand in front of an open refrigerator for long periods of time, wondering what to eat.
By keeping an eye out for hidden energy waste, you can save money on your utility bills.
4. Save Money by Conserving Electricity
Little changes such as turning things off when you leave a room can also save money on utilities. And don’t forget to teach your kids to do the same. Many electronics will continue to drain power, even if they are off but still plugged in.
For convenience purposes, you could also use a power strip for devices and turn the entire strip off. Some of the more common ways people waste electricity include:
- Leaving lights on after you’re done in a room
- Leaving outside lights on during the daytime or at night even when not needed
- Forgetting to unplug devices and appliances when not in use
- Keeping the television on when no one is watching it
- Having devices or appliances running when no one is home
By becoming more mindful of electricity usage, you can save money by powering devices down and unplugging items when not in use.
5. Use Less Water to Save Money
Many urban dwellers have to pay for water usage. Here are some tips for saving money on your water bill.
- Try cutting back and being more conscious of your water usage. Remember to turn the water off when brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, and only run the dishwasher when you have a full load of dishes.
- If you have kids, don’t fill up the tub with so much water. When you multiply a full bathtub times multiple kids and multiple times per week-it adds up to a lot of water!
- Consider installing a low flow shower head, as this can cut water usage in the shower by as much as half. A low flow aerator for your other faucets will also reduce water usage.
- Be mindful of water usage when you’re doing dishes. Keep the faucet turned low and don’t use any more water than you need.
- Don’t over-water your lawn. Only water it when necessary to keep it healthy.
By taking many small steps to use less water, you should see a decrease in your home’s water bills.
6. Switch to LED Bulbs
LED bulbs are incredibly energy-efficient compared to incandescents. Adding one LED bulb alone will save you $60-$80 over the life of the bulb.
But while people have long known that LEDs save on the utility bill, the problem with them was their up-front cost. Just 5 years ago, you could expect to pay anywhere between $20-$40 for one LED bulb! With incandescent bulbs typically costing around 50 cents, it would take homeowners several years to make up that big of an up-front cost difference through monthly energy savings.
Thankfully, prices on LEDs have steadily dropped. Today, if you keep an eye out for deals, you can find them for as low as $2.00 a piece. At these prices, switching to LEDs in your home is virtually a no-brainer.
However, keep in mind that it will take you much longer to make up the up-front cost of an LED bulb that is only used 30 minutes a day compared to one that is used 6 hours a day. Invest in upgrading your most-used bulbs first (like the living room, kitchen and bedroom lights) before upgrading the lesser-used bulbs (such as reading lamps, bathroom and garage lights).
7. Upgrade to Smart Lights
If you’ve already been planning to make the investment to move from incandescent to LED bulbs, this may be the perfect time to go ahead and make the slightly farther jump to smart lights.
Smart lights connect to your home internet via wi-fi. Being internet-connected opens up a wide range of energy-saving possibilities that normal lights simply can’t match.
Do you ever forget to leave the lights on after heading to work?
Do you have the tendency to fall asleep at night with various lights still burning bright (and wasting money) around your home?
Smart light timers can help with this. In our home, we have upgraded about 80% of our lighting system to smart lights and we take full advantage of timers.
The question I asked about falling asleep with lights on was born out of our personal experience. We would find ourselves doing this all the time. Now, every smart light in our home is set to turn off at midnight. We don’t ever wake up in the morning and realize that we’ve been lighting an empty room all night, and we love that.
Adding motion detectors to the smart lights in your home can again save you money. They can be programmed to automatically turn off when they haven’t detected any motion for a certain period of time—say 30 minutes or an hour.
Smartphone App Control
Most smart lights can be controlled via an app on your phone, even when you’re away from home.
Taking a day-trip and realize you left a few lights on in the house? No problem with smart lights. Just pick up your phone and turn the lights off remotely.
Dimmer controls are a great way to squeeze even more energy-efficiency out of LED bulbs (they actually use MORE energy when used with incandescent bulbs), but they cost money and usually require wiring work on your light switches.
The dimmers on smart lights can be controlled simply by picking up your phone and using the same app that you use to turn them on and off. Or, if you have a smart voice assistant like a Google Home or Amazon Echo, dimming your lights is as simple as issuing a voice command.
When we began upgrading to smart lights in our own home, we didn’t have any dimmers on our incandescent bulbs. So, for us, installing smart lights was like adding LEDs AND dimmers in every room at the same time.
This is an added benefit that many don’t consider when choosing smart lights but could definitely save you money on your utility bill over time.
8. Seal Up the Leaks
Air conditioning and heating cost account for nearly 50% of energy use in a typical U.S. home. It’s far and away the biggest energy expense for most homes.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that air isn’t escaping from your home, making your HVAC unit work longer and harder than it should, and spiking your utility bill.
For small cracks and gaps, all you need is a tube of caulk to take care of sealing them up. For areas like doors and windows, adding weather stripping is a great idea.
9. Add More Insulation
If you live in an older home, there’s a good chance your attic may not have an adequate amount of insulation. Adding some could save you a lot of money.
Of the various ways to insulate your attic, the best, but most expensive way, is to use spray foam. Foam is so effective because it fills the cracks or leaks that you may have in your roof or attic. If you decide to go with foam, you’re probably going to need to hire a professional.
After foam, there are a variety of less expensive options, including blanket-style foam that you can lay yourself, or blown-in insulation (cellulose or fiberglass).
With blow-in insulation, you could choose to hire someone to do the job or try to handle the job yourself by buying the materials and renting a blower from a home improvement store. Just make sure if you choose the do-it-yourself route that you wear gloves and a mask!
No matter which type of insulation you use, you’ll want to check the R-value per inch. This indicates the insulation’s resistance to heat transfer.
- The bigger the number on the R-value rating, the better.
- Insulation will typically cost more as the rating goes up.
- If your attic has a large enough space, you can save money by simply putting down extra layers of lower-rated insulation.
If you do decide to add insulation, make sure to visit DSIREA.org (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) first to see if your state offers any reimbursement incentives.
10. Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances
We live in a much more energy-conscious world today than ever before. Because of this, appliance manufacturers have made consistent improvements over the last decade to make their products more energy-efficient.
Appliances that could save you a significant amount of money by using a more energy-efficient alternative include:
- Hot Water Heater
Hot water heaters use the largest percentage of our home’s energy after cooling and heating, so this provides the greatest opportunity for money saving.
The government has built energy-efficiency standards and awards all appliances that meet or exceed those standards with an Energy-Star certification. Make sure to look for the Energy Star logo when you are shopping for your new home appliance.
Manufacturers are also required to provide an accurate estimate of how much you can expect to save in utility cost throughout the appliance’s typical lifespan. This helps you determine how realistic of a chance you have of making up the extra up-front cost of the energy-efficient appliance through utility savings. This number is usually displayed prominently on the appliance inside stores.
11. Shop Around For Energy
Did you know that many states allow you to choose your energy suppliers? In most cases, you’ll still pay your bill through the same company, but you can shop around for a gas or electric supplier.
With energy choice and deregulation, you choose what company you’d like to supply your energy. If you live in a state that will let you choose your supplier, you might even be overwhelmed by all the choices (my area has 85 choices just for electricity).
Be sure to read all the details of the cost-prices may be variable or fixed, they may require a contract term, and some charge a cancellation fee. You may have options like locking in a fixed rate, a variable plan that takes advantage of the market’s fluctuation, or even a green plan that supplies energy from renewable sources.
Bonus Tip: Use a Budget Billing Program
Do you struggle with utility bills that fluctuate? It can be tough budgeting for high energy bills in the winter or during hot summer months. Check and see if your utility company offers a budget billing program.
A budget billing program will help you be better able to budget your costs from month to month. Varying usage can make budgeting for utilities difficult, especially if you don’t have wiggle room in your budget.
For example, my gas bill fluctuates by almost $100 during the course of the year it might be just $25/30 during the summer and run up to over $125 during the cold winter months. And my electric bill does the opposite, peaking in the summer when I’m running the air conditioning.
If you can get on a budget billing program, your energy company will estimate an average monthly bill by assessing your prior year’s energy usage. If at the end of the year, you’ve paid more than you should have, you’ll get a refund.
Although it may not save you much money, this type of program will help ensure you have a fixed energy bill amount each month, making it easier to budget.
Yes, most of us do have to use utilities to some extent. Unless you live totally off the grid, you’re probably paying for electricity, gas and other utilities. However, by using the tips above you can spend less on the utilities you use.
It will likely take some time to implement the suggestions given here. You may have to train yourself – and your family members – to be more mindful regarding energy and water usage.
If you have kids, there may be a trial period in which you’ve got to help your kids remember to use less water or power down devices. However, doing so will have many benefits.
Not only will you save money, but you’ll also help preserve our earth’s precious resources. That means you’ll be helping everyone over the long term.
How do you work to save money on utility bills? What are your biggest struggles in terms of saving money on utilities? Let us know on Facebook!