The average American pays over thirteen-hundred dollars a year for electricity. This means that electric bills alone can take upwards of 5-10 percent of a person’s income. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of things involved in one simple bill. And figuring out exactly what to focus on is the most difficult part of lowering your monthly energy costs.
Every home, individual and family has its own unique energy profile. Let’s say you live in a 900 square foot apartment. In this apartment, you most likely have a fridge, oven, and HVAC system. If you’re lucky, you probably have a TV, a microwave, and dishwasher as well.
If you live in a 2,500 square foot single-family home, there are far more factors that go into your electric bill. For starters, you have more space, which comes with added lighting, heating and cooling. It’s likely that you also have more appliances and odds are you use all of them more often. In a single day, you could end up spending double or triple the amount of energy than the average renter of a one-bedroom apartment.
Fortunately, there are several universal ways people can save money on their energy bill, no matter where they live. Everyone knows to make sure their lights are off when a room isn’t occupied and to keep their heating and cooling to a minimum. But there are much more effective and strategic ways that you could be shaving significant money off of your energy bill every month. And, the best part - they don’t require you to sacrifice any of your daily comforts.
For The “Beginner” Saver
If you do not have a good amount of time to make changes around your home, these are the tips for you. Each tip should take a few minutes to complete. This way, you can complete several in a shorter period of time.
Raising your refrigerator temperature by a few degrees can save you hundreds of dollars a year. The fresh food section of your fridge only needs to be at 36-38 degrees Fahrenheit, and many times fridges are programmed at two to five degrees lower than necessary. As for your freezer compartment, you only need to set it to between zero and negative five degrees Fahrenheit.
**Turn off and unplug your coffee maker **before you leave for the day. Coffee makers, along with similar appliances, tend to have other features that run all day - such as a clock or timer. This means that even as it is plugged in, it becomes a “phantom load” where it uses energy even when it is not in use. Simply plug all of your kitchen appliances into a power strip to turn them off all at once.
Run your dishwasher instead of hand washing. Handwashing dishes uses over 9 times the amount of water than a dishwasher does to clean an entire load. This means your dishwasher can save you over 5,000 gallons of water a year, which means big bucks off for your energy bill.
**Run your dishwasher at night **rather than during the day because it helps minimize energy demand during peak hours. This helps reduce your environmental impact and will likely save you money, depending on your utility and home thermostat.
**Pack your dishwasher **with as many items as you can. Having a full dishwasher saves you water, energy, and money because you will run it fewer times and its water-to-dish ratio will be much lower.
**Keep your fridge and freezer full. **When you completely stock your fridge and freezer, they require far less energy to keep cold. It helps regulate the temperature inside and requires much less energy to maintain. If you cannot keep them full, put bags of ice or pitchers of water in any open spaces to make sure the fridge stays efficient. You can even reorganize your fridge to make it more energy efficient.
Turn off heat dry on your dishwasher. You may not notice, but your dishwasher is using over 15 percent more energy than necessary to heat dry your dishes. Air dry your dishes instead to save hundreds of dollars a year.
Let your food thaw before you cook it. It will require less time and energy for it to cook, saving you additional money on your electricity bill.
Cook with lids on. Using the lids to your pots and pans will cook your food properly and will often cut your cooking time in half. Lids keep water vapor in while you cook, ensuring that you do not lose any heat while cooking.
Avoid using your broiler. Instead, set the exact temperature for the task at hand and go from there. The broiler requires large amounts of energy in a short time to function. All other functions in an oven are much more gradual and efficient.
Keep your dryer’s exhaust clean. You should clean your exhaust with a lint remover kit every month to increase the airflow through your exhaust duct. This helps your dryer run more efficiently and your clothes will dry much faster.
Use dryer balls every time you dry your clothes. The dryer balls help put the wet clothing in contact with the hot air created in the drying chamber.
Do your laundry at night. Just as you should run your dishwasher at night, you should also avoid doing your laundry at peak hours during the day. You can save energy and money by choosing to clean your clothes after dark.
Wash your clothes in cold water. The temperature in your washer does not matter when it comes to getting your clothes clean. Technological advances have made washing your clothes in cold water just as effective, if not more, than in hot water. If you are worried your clothes might not get as clean as they would with heat, you can easily switch to cold water detergent.
Line dry your laundry. Of course, the best and most energy-efficient way to dry your clothes is to air dry them. It is more useful to use a dryer for larger items. Smaller items, and quick-dry items such as your gym clothes, can easily be line-dried. Line drying also saves you about $1.08 per load, which is a cost that can quickly add up.
Change your light bulbs to LEDs. Switching one of your lights to an LED light uses upwards of 80 percent less than traditional incandescents. They also cost you over 4 times less. This means that if you change every single lightbulb in your home to LEDs, you will start saving energy and money immediately.
Use Smart Power Strips. Smart power strips allow you to separate energy loads based on how often you use a device. This way, you can turn all of your devices off at once when you leave the house instead of having to unplug everything individually.
**Use your window shades in the summer **to help block out heat that comes in through the windows. The Department of Energy says that covering your windows in the summer can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent.
**Clean your windows in the winter. **Removing any residue or oils from windows allows more sunlight to enter your home and heat it naturally. Sunlight coming into the home can increase heat gain at upwards of 70 percent, without you having to manually up the temperature.
Put more plants around the windows. Plants can help naturally shade the inside of your home. Not only do they fit well in windowsills and brighten up the room, but they can help cool the house by providing extra blockage from the sun.
For When You Really Need an Extra Buck
These tips take a little longer to complete but are worth the effort. If you are looking to dig deeper into your home to save more cash, these are the solutions for you. Each tip takes an average of about an hour or so to complete.
Heating and Cooling
Keep your thermostat at a level temperature. Make sure to increase your thermostat temperature during cooler seasons, and decrease in warmer seasons. The general rule is to turn your thermostat back about 7°-10°F from what you would normally set it at in that season for 8 hours a day. This way you can reduce your energy use enough to save upwards of 10 percent a year on heating and cooling. You can simply change the temperature before you leave for work.
Install a programmable thermostat. For even more convenience, you can install a thermostat where you can control the temperature changes via phone, like Nest!
**Use door draft guards **in all entryways. Covering any leakage points in entryways where heating or cooling can escape is extremely important in energy conservation. Revolving doors retain heat eight times better than swinging doors, which helps lower your electricity bill exponentially. Keeping air inside a space is extremely vital when saving money, so make sure to plug all potential leakage areas during all seasons.
Clean your refrigerator coils. This may seem like a daunting task, but if you do not clean your coils often, your energy bill could rise up to 35 percent. Simply locate where your fridge’s coils are and vacuum away all residue and dust.
Install or replace your kitchen faucet aerator. Aerators are simple, small devices and can be added to any sink you have. They help you use less water in the same amount of time you normally run water. You can save up to 40 percent of water by simply replacing an old aerator with a new one.
**Install or replace your bathroom faucet aerators. As previously stated, aerators can be installed or fit to any sink, even older models. **
Install efficient showerheads. Installing a newer, more efficient showerhead can save you upwards of $25 a year.
Install dimmer switches. Installing dimmer switches all around your home or apartment encourages residents to use them. Unlike what popular opinion tells us, dimmers actually save you money by elongating the life of your light bulbs.
For The Super Committed
If you are willing to get into every nook and cranny to find savings, these solutions can help you. Although they may take a few hours or days to complete, you can end up saving hundreds of dollars a year.
**Install a hot water heater timer with temperature controls. **Hot water heater timers are designed to schedule when to supply hot water to your home. This helps limit your consumption of hot water, and it could save you upwards of $200 a year if you decrease the temperature of your hot water as it is released. If you rent or live in an apartment building, ask your landlord if they use one and if they would be open to it.
Switch to high-efficiency toilets. Although it is a major investment to install newer, more energy efficient toilets, you can easily make the money back in time. An average energy efficiency toilet can pay you back $20 per year, whereas the older toilet was costing you $20 more for simply running, if not more.
Install ceiling fans. Yes, lowering your temperature in the winter and increasing it in the summer helps reduce your energy use via temperature change. However, ceiling fans can help distribute the air that may have risen to the ceilings of your home. The popular belief is that fans actually make the home cooler. However, fans simply help move the hot or cold air towards you.
Adjust your furniture to improve cooling efficiency. Sometimes your sofa is directly under or covering an air duct. Rearranging your furniture so it is in the ideal position for airflow will help lower your electric bill. When you cannot feel the air coming out of a vent, you will change the temperature on your thermostat unnecessarily. Moving the furniture from the vent will help prevent excess energy use and cut your monthly costs.
**Keep your home tightly sealed. **This is a more permanent solution to draft leaks. You can seal your windows and doors, and even the slightest gaps, with caulk or weather strips.
Heating and Cooling
**Replace your HVAC & furnace filters. **Most renters and homeowners overlook HVAC and furnace filters. However, when you take the time to look up at your vents, you are bound to see dust and residue building up in them. All you have to do is take off each individual vent cover and vacuum the vent and filter. If they look and feel like they need to be replaced, purchase new ones to help improve the air flow in your space. You could save $7-10 each month if you replace your filter regularly. If you rent an apartment, your maintenance staff should be doing this regularly for you.
Regularly check up on your HVAC equipment. This can be applied to both apartments and homes. If it seems like your HVAC equipment is not working as well as it should be, you can ask management to check up on your individual unit. If you own a home, look at the system as a whole to see if there are any improvements or replacements that can be made.
Use reflective roofing materials. For example, you can use white materials or paint your roof white so the sun reflects off of it in the summer, keeping your home cooler.
Improve your landscape skills. Place large trees and plants on your lawn and have the shade face your home. This will help protect your home from excess sunlight and extreme weather. With more shade, you will feel less inclined to decrease the temperature in the heat of the summer.
Install a green roof. Many new office buildings in big cities are installing green roofs as insulation to absorb the heat from the sun and keep in warmth during the winter. They also help deflect any excess sunlight that may unnecessarily heat the building on hotter days. Green roofs have an estimated lifespan of 40 years, and it is estimated that an average sized green roof could save the owner over $200,000 in this time.
Use solar lighting outdoors. Instead of having your outdoor lights run on dirty electricity, you could replace them with solar lamps. These gain energy from the sun during the day and shine brightly at night when you need them to. They are also very affordable. You can even buy motion sesnsored solar lights to expand their lifetime.
Install solar panels. This is one of the best ways to save the largest sum of money on your electricity bills. By installing solar panels, you can make upwards of $20,000 back a year on your utility bill. This is more than the average cost it takes to buy and install the panels themselves.
No matter what place you call home, there are dozens of ways to lower your monthly energy bill. By simply re-evaluating the inside and outside of your home, you are bound to save hundreds of dollars a year. And you will heavily reduce your carbon footprint along the way.