Utilities are the essential services that your home uses to function— electricity, water, and perhaps natural gas. The average U.S. household spends more than $2000 per year on utility bills, and up to half of that is spent on heating and cooling. With energy prices on the rise, you could save a lot of money by improving the energy efficiency of your home, and by cutting back on usage wherever you can.
By lowering your bills you will not only help your bank account, but the environment as well. Spending less on utilities means conserving water and energy, so you’ll do the planet a small favor by lowering your carbon footprint, polluting less, and lessening global warming impacts. Tiny actions add up to make a difference, so you can make a difference for yourself by saving money with these simple tips.
1. Install Energy Efficient Appliances
One of the best ways to lower your bills long-term is to run energy-efficient appliances. If an appliance is rated as energy-efficient, it’ll typically have the Energy Star logo. An Energy Star certification means the product uses less energy to do an equal or better job than average for the industry.
Although Energy Star appliances can cost more upfront than alternatives, they deliver savings in the long run. You can also find used appliances that achieved past years’ certifications, meaning they are still a good choice for shoppers on a budget.
Whether your appliances are new or used, it’s important to keep them maintained to ensure efficiency. A buildup of dirt or rust can lead to wasted energy, as can small leaks that go undetected. In the case of natural gas, leaks are especially dangerous, so it’s imperative to keep gas appliances serviced properly.
2. Clean Your HVAC
When it comes to heating and cooling, dust buildup and leaks will not only impact efficiency, but can negatively affect the air quality inside your home. Not to mention, a faulty HVAC system can lead to serious discomfort when the temperature changes outside. For all these reasons, it’s important to keep your heating and cooling systems clean and inspected periodically.
HVAC problems are most likely to occur with the changing of the seasons, so perform an inspection once per year, or perhaps twice a year for older units. This will allow you to prevent or deal quickly with any issues, saving you money not just on energy bills, but also on costly repairs or replacements down the line.
3. Temperature Control Your Home
There are ways to keep indoor temperatures more comfortable without using energy for heating or cooling. For example, you can open windows if it’s cool at night and close them as it gets hot during the day. Additionally, you can draw blinds or shades to keep out heat from the sun, or open them to let heat in.
Small efforts like these can help your home heat and cool on its own, so that your appliances don’t have to work so hard, and that saves you money on energy. In addition, you can maximize the efficiency of your systems by installing a smart thermostat. These devices adjust themselves based on the time of day and outside conditions — even when you are away from home.
4. Take Shorter Showers
Showering is one of the top uses of water in the home, and heating all that water also requires energy. That’s why reducing your shower time is one of the best ways to make a difference on your utility bill.
No need to switch to cold showers or limit yourself to two minutes every time — just be conscious of how long you keep the water running, and try to cut out wasteful habits, especially if you live in a drought-prone area.
5. Landscape With Native Plants
Lawn care and landscaping can require a lot of water, especially if you live in a dry climate. Keeping green grass and blooming flowers through the summer could cost a lot of extra money on your water bill, but you can reduce your water needs by landscaping with native plants.
Native plants are those which naturally occur within your region, so they are already adapted to the particular climate. These plants don’t need as much extra water in the dry seasons, and they can generally thrive with less fertilizing as well. If you learn what plants are native where you live, you might consider adding some to beautify your yard while also conserving water.
6. Use Natural Light
Natural light from the sun is not only free, but it also benefits your health by reducing stress and boosting essential nutrients. You can save electricity and brighten your home by letting sunlight in wherever possible.
For the corners of your home that just don’t receive much sun, you should light them with CFL or LED bulbs, which last longer and use up to 80% less energy than traditional incandescent lightbulbs.
7. Unplug Devices When Not In Use
Most appliances and small devices can still drain electricity even when they’re turned off. This so-called standby load can cost $100 per year for power you don’t even benefit from.
While it may not be practical to unplug all your appliances when you aren’t using them, you can save electricity by unplugging things like phone chargers, computers, TVs, and small kitchen appliances when not in use. This is an especially good idea if you know you won’t use them for a while — for instance when you go on vacation.
8. Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Washing machines are a big user of both water and energy, so limiting your loads of laundry can save a lot on your bills. When you do wash clothes, it’s best to use cold water. Up to 90% of the energy that a washer uses can go just to heating the water, so you can save a lot by setting it to cold.
If you’re worried about the effectiveness, rest assured that cold water cleans just as well as hot water for most types of fabric, especially if you use a cold-water-specific detergent. Cold water is better for preserving the fit, feel, and longevity of your clothes. For heavy soiling or stains, hot water may still be best, but for your average laundry loads, there’s no reason to waste the energy.
9. Seal Doors and Windows
Your home’s insulation makes a big difference in energy efficiency, determining how much climate-controlled air is allowed to escape to the outside. The building materials and design of your house have a lot to do with how well it’s insulated, and those aren’t easy factors to change. What you can do, however, is seal up doors and windows to eliminate drafts
Double-pane windows and insulated doors are best for energy efficiency, so you can have these installed if you have the budget. Otherwise, you can make DIY fixes by caulking leaky windows, hanging thicker curtains, and adding weatherstripping around doors.
Remember That Small Changes Add Up
If you just take the time to look around your home with these tips in mind, you’ll likely find plenty of opportunities for shifting your habits or making small fixes that produce a big impact in the long run.
After just a month of changes like shorter showers, cold-water washing, turning off lights, and unplugging devices, you’re likely to see a small dip in your energy bills. Add that to the long-term savings you can get from energy-efficient appliances, maintaining your HVAC, water-conscious landscaping, or sealing up drafts, and you could notice extra cash in your pocket thanks to the money you save on utilities.