Amy Miller, AFC®
Each year, January 10th is National “Cut Your Energy Costs” Day. It is a day dedicated to encouraging individuals to find ways to reduce the amount of energy they use, improve energy efficiency, and save money while helping the environment.
For many, their monthly utility bill is the second largest living expense after their rent or mortgage payment. Finding ways to cut back, save, and work toward more efficient energy consumption can benefit your bottom line and help you stay on budget.
There are several simple, free, or low-cost things you can do around the house to improve your costs. Not all will significantly reduce your bill; however, implementing several of these together can result in some savings. We’ve outlined some below:
- Get rid of Phantom Electric Cost
Unplug unused appliances, lamps, and electronics & use smart strip surge protectors that turn the power off to appliances when not in use. Unused but plugged-in devices cost around $165 per household per year, according to the National Resource Defense Council.
- Turn off the Lights/Change your Bulbs
Turn off lights when leaving a room, switch to fluorescent light bulbs, and/or use dimmer switches. The savings will vary depending on the bulb you use since each has a different efficiency or energy output. On average, you could save between $5-$6 per 1,000 KW hours.
Another cost saver is switching outdoor lighting to solar. Solar energy is free and could save up to $50 per year on your power bill.
- Maximize Appliance Efficiency
The refrigerator/freezer is typically the most energy-efficient appliance in your home. However, it must constantly run to maintain a cool environment. Empty freezers require more energy to maintain their temperature, which can add up to 20% to your annual electricity cost. When full, refrigerators and freezers do not have to run as much, therefore reducing your energy cost.
- Full Loads & Cooler Water
Your washing machine uses the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load, so running full loads can be a cost saver. Switching to warm water instead of hot can cut energy use in half and cold saves even more! Dryer balls cut down on drying time, saving you money on energy and disposable dryer sheets.
- Reduce Water Heater Use
According to the Department of Energy, tankless water heaters can save you anywhere from 8-34% on your hot water bills, depending on how much water you use. If a tankless is not in your budget at this time, turning the temperature down a few degrees on your current system, taking shorter showers, and installing a low-flow shower head can save as well. You can also insulate your heater or install a timer that controls when water is heated so it’s not working when hot water is not needed.
- Maintain your HVAC Unit
According to US Energy Information Administration, air conditioning accounts for about 12% of home energy costs and can be as much as 27% for some southern states with high heat and humidity. Maintaining your HVAC unit and regularly replacing filters is important. Dirty filters block airflow, reduce the unit’s efficiency, and raise your cooling cost. It is recommended that you change or clean filters every 1 -2 months during the summer – more frequently if you have pets or live in “dusty” areas. A few other tips to improve your cooling costs include planting shade trees near your home, closing the blinds to block the sun, using ceiling fans, and installing a smart thermostat.
- Improve your home’s overall efficiency
Making some energy-efficient home improvements can not only save on cost but can also improve your home’s value. Weatherproofing, sealing cracks, updating insulation, and replacing old windows can save up to an average of 15% on your yearly energy bill, depending on where you live.
Individually, these tips may not add up to much, but putting several into place at the same time can result in substantial savings. Start with a few small ones and work up from there.