Utilities aren’t getting any cheaper. Each year the cost of oil, gas, electricity, water and phone service goes up. Yet, there are simple things you can do to help lower your utility bills
1. Get an energy audit.
A home energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes, and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An audit will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time. During the audit, you can pinpoint where your house is losing energy. Audits also determine the efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling systems. An audit may also show you ways to conserve hot water and electricity. Check with your local electric, gas and/or oil company to see if they offer a free or low-cost energy audit for your home. Get an estimate of how much you could save here.
2. Replace light bulbs.
The new LED bulbs use over 80% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs, providing 100 watts of illumination for only 16-20 watts of power. What’s more, they last so much longer – as long as 20 years. And unlike incandescent bulbs that just go out, LED’s simply lose intensity and grow dimmer but do not actually leave you in the dark. Check them out.
3. Lower the thermostat.
Lowering your thermostat by about 10% for eight hours a day can shave 10% off your heating bill. If piling on extra layers of clothing doesn’t appeal to you, close off most of the house and use portable electric space heaters in the rooms you are using. Turn down the thermostat at night and sleep better in a cool room. Best of all, install a programmable thermostat and let it automatically adjust your home’s temperature according to your lifestyle.
4. Lower the temperature on your water heater.
Dropping the temperature on your water heater from a scalding 140 degrees to a plenty-hot 120 degrees can save you nearly $50/year. To save another 10%, wrap the tank in an insulating blanket (not recommended for gas heaters and those with automatic vent dampers). And avoid using the hot water heater when doing the laundry by washing in cold water.
Adequate attic ceiling insulation is the mainstay of a cheap-to-heat house. Most homes built prior to 1990 have inadequate attic ceiling insulation. Take a ruler up to your attic, and if the insulation measures 6 inches thick or less, you are under-insulated. Insulating to at least 12 inches thick could lower your heating and cooling costs a whopping 25% in a single year. You can have insulation blown in which is usually done by a specialist in this field, or you can purchase insulation batting and install it yourself. The cost can be offset by the federal home energy tax credit of up to $500 for making your home more energy efficient. Insulating may also qualify for certain state incentives.
6. Ditch the electric gadgets.
In addition to being expensive, they take up too much space and most of them are hardly time savers. Yes, you can keep your electric hair dryer, iron, blender or food processor, coffee pot and hand mixer; but get rid of the electric can opener, knife, blanket, rice cooker, juicer, espresso maker, shoe polishers, coffee grinders, crepe makers, tea kettles and fry pans among others. Simpler really is better and you’ll save a few dollars of energy to boot.
7. Dry clothes outdoors (weather permitting).
A clothes dryer is one of the most energy-draining appliances in the home. It can add as much as $0.40 to $1.00 to your gas or electric bill for every hour that it runs. Think about drying your clothes on a clothes line –indoors or outdoors. On nice days, dry clothes outside even when it’s cold. On rainy days, dry them in the garage, basement, or any room that isn’t being used like that formal living room that mostly collects dust. As Americans we are so spoiled. We have more clothes dryers in the USA than in the rest of the world combined. If you must use your dryer, keep the filter cleaned, make sure the vent isn’t obstructed, don’t overload the dryer, don’t under-load the dryer, and don’t over-dry the laundry. All this will at least help you get the most from your money.
There are numerous ways to save on your water bill. Here are only a few:
Limit the time to 5 minutes, but take a shower instead of a bath.
Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or shave.
Only wash full loads of both laundry and dishes.
Install low-flow shower heads and low-flow toilets.
Fix leaky faucets as soon as possible.
And if you really want to get stingy, keep a bucket around to capture all that water that goes down the drain just to get to the hot water. That’s gallons and gallons that could be used for watering plants, washing dishes, mopping the floor, or washing the car. You could even store all the water you save in a large, clean, plastic garbage can.
Outside, never water your lawn or garden in the heat of the day; water early morning before the sun comes up or in the evening when the sun is going down and it has cooled off.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, set it to water everything at night, but make sure you turn it off when it rains.
9. Cable TV
More and more people are simply cutting the cord on cable television and it’s easy to understand why. There is simply an overload of things to watch, so much so that it can be overwhelming. Why pay for all those programs that never get watched at the expense of just a few. With a rooftop or digital antenna, you can now get all of your basic channels for the one-time cost of the antenna. What you miss by only having basic cable, you can make up for by streaming programs, movies and so much more on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and a host of individual channels that stream their content. This, too, can be overwhelming, but at least it’s a whole lot cheaper.
10. Telephone/cell phone.
Is there anybody that still has a land line. Many people have opted to disconnect their land-line phone and use only a cell phone for all their calls. Since wireless carriers offer free long-distance, call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, voicemail and more, it can do the same job as a regular phone but for less since taxes and fees that can be fully 1/3 of your land-line phone bill are significantly less. Internet phones (VOIP) have also replaced many land lines. Google Voice is a free service that only requires the cost of a device to connect a portable phone to the Internet.