Odds are, after your actual housing expense (if you have a mortgage or rent payment to make) it’s probably your utility bills.
(Sure, you may say your credit card statement if you put everything on plastic but that’s not really an “expense” but a combination of expenses for this discussion)
And boy, can those utility bills get high.
Some people I’ve spoken to have electric bills that are as high as a car payment!
Or the combination of their electric and gas bill are if they have split systems.
The only real way to escape the costs is to live with your parents and leech off of them.
That’s probably not an option for most of you.
The good thing is there are ways to keep those utility costs manageable, and that is what we’re going to be addressing below…
Dealing With Energy Vampires
This is perhaps the most argued point when it comes to conserving energy and reducing your electric bill.
First, let’s define what an energy vampire is:
An energy vampire is a device that continues to use energy and drain power, even when it is turned off…These phantom energy suckers can account for as much as 20% of your monthly electricity bill.Duke Energy
Ok, so now that we have that out of the way, what items qualify as energy vampires?
Well, going back to Duke Energy, power bricks are constantly drawing power which makes them the most common energy vampires.
Other examples include:
- Cable televison or satellite set-top boxes
- Video players (DVD, VCR, LaserDisc)
- Video game consoles
- Anything with a clock or backlight (oven/stove, microwave, audio dock, tv, etc)
- Mobile devices
- Remote-ready devices (those that are in standby mode but not completely off)
There are 3 pretty simple ways to deal with these energy vampires:
- Unplug items–power cannot be drained if the items aren’t plugged in! You can unplug them individually, but that’s a pain in the butt. You can, however, buy one of those wall adapters that turns one outlet into 3, 4 or even 6 and then you unplug the adapter, and magically everything gets unplugged all at once!
- Use a power strip–Many power strips have a switch that you can use to cut off power. There are also smart or advanced power strips (APS) which prevent idle devices from receiving power.
- Use sleep mode–for computers, instead of allowing the monitor and hard drive to be continually active you can change the power settings to have the items “sleep” after a certain period of inactivity. For televisions you can set the sleep timer to automatically turn the tv off if you are using it for background noise to go to sleep.
Major home appliances drain energy when not in use.
They are also the most costly components of your electric bill.
It’s impossible to unplug them or even set them up on a power strip, so another option would be to…
Choose Energy Star Appliances
You’ve seen the label before but probably didn’t realize what it meant.
ENERGY STAR is the simple choice for energy efficiency, making it easy for consumers and businesses to purchase products that save them money and protect the environment.
To put it in plain terms, products that are Energy Star certified and carry this label are going to cost less to run than their non-certified counterparts.
We’re talking about a wide array of consumer products, too:
- Major appliances
- Home theater equipment
- Light bulbs
- Ceiling fans
The increasing majority of consumer products hitting the market as time goes on makes the increased cost of certification less of a factor.
That means the initial investment in these products isn’t going to be as great which is always nice.
Granted, Energy Star product savings will vary by the type of device, your usage and energy costs in your area.
If you can save even 5% on your utility bills, that’s less money you are paying to the utility company and can go toward your emergency fund, or retirement savings or something fun!
Close Doors & Use The Power Button/Switch
I’m sure you’ve heard this one a million times before:
Shut the lights when you leave the room!Almost everyone’s parents
What about this one:
Stop standing in front of the fridge with the door open!Those same parents
And there’s good reason for so many parents to keep shouting those lines.
Wasted energy leads to wasted money.
And wasting money on your utility bills is stupid because it’s so easy to control.
So here are a few way s keep that money from flying out the door:
- Close refrigerator & freezer doors
- Turn lights off when you leave a room
- Don’t leave the television on when not watching
- Close windows and doors to keep hot/cold air in
It’s a simple step that will keep your utility bills low and more money in your pocket, so why not practice these steps even if it’s just pennies, because everything adds up! 🤷♀️
Reduce Lighting Energy
Some people will bristle at the idea of replacing their traditional light bulbs with more modern options like LED light bulbs.
One argument is the investment factor–yes, LED light bulbs can have rather expensive upfront costs comparatively speaking.
Another reason is that they have no patience.
The savings on your utility bills due to reducing your lighting energy won’t be huge and/or immediate, but rather slow, steady and reliable savings.
But over time, those savings add up!
Then there’s a second reason for the change.
Put your hand up to a regular light bulb.
Feels warm, if not freakin’ hot, right?
Next time you have the chance, try touching an LED light bulb.
It’s cool to the touch even if it’s been on for a while.
After having your old lights on for a while, it can actually make a room’s temperature rise.
Or, at the very least make it feel like the room is warmer which is essentially the same thing.
That, in turn, will probably make you turn the air conditioner on.
You know what that means, right?
Exactly, even higher utility bills!
So updating to a more modern option like LED light bulbs will give you double-savings: the reduction in lighting energy usage as well as the need not to run your air conditioner.
Install A Programmable Thermostat
Installing a programmable thermostat on its own won’t directly save you money on your utility bills.
The savings will come from how you use it.
A tool is only useful if you use it in its intended purpose.
The purpose of the programmable thermostat is to manage your heating and cooling.
You need to program it.
And that is where you will see the benefits on future utility bills, especially if you keep to a regular schedule.
You see, when you have a manual thermostat and you want the temperature in your home to be at a certain point when you get home from work, you need to have it set at that point all day long.
That leads to the air conditioner turning on for no reason throughout the day.
And that wastes energy…which wastes money.
A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature higher at the time you leave so it doesn’t kick on.
Then you can set it for a cooler temperature–say 30 minutes before you get home–so that you walk in the door to comfort.
You can set it to do the same thing before going to bed if you prefer to sleep in a different setting.
Then have the temperature set again at your wake up time.
You can even have different settings on weekends.
Of course, if you don’t have a regular schedule it becomes a little bit harder to manage the settings.
In the general sense, you will be able to gain some savings on your utility bills just by making a few changes to the settings and taking advantage of automating your heating and cooling needs.
HVAC Preventative Maintenance
As one of the biggest components of your utility bills, this is pretty much common sense.
Just like your car, your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system needs regular maintenance.
And just like your car, if you regularly maintain your HVAC system, the better and more efficiently it will perform.
That means when your HVAC system isn’t tuned and maintained it has to work harder to produce the same results as when it is in good working condition.
Working harder to produce the same results leads to an increase in your utility bills.
Your air conditioner and clothes dryer are prime examples.
If your dryer vents aren’t clear, what will normally take one cycle to dry will maybe take an additional few minutes.
If your air conditioner isn’t well-maintained it can take longer to cool your home.
Both of these situations require additional energy usage which means higher utility bills.
Some ways of maintaining your HVAC system include:
- Changing AC filters every 90 days
- Having the air conditioner tuned up before every summer
- Having the furnace checked before every winter
- Keeping the outdoor units clear by landscaping
- Cleaning vents of dust/lint build-up
- Flush drain lines
- Maintain adequate coolant levels
Some maintenance can be done on your own, while other tasks will require a professional.
You always want to make certain you hire a licensed and bonded HVAC technician or company.
Never cheap out and hire a “handyman” for appliances as important as these.
Getting the wrong person to do the work will end up costing you much more to fix than you will ever be able to save on your utility bills!
Consider Solar Tint & Window Coverings
We just spoke about checking your window and door seals for leaks but is there anything else you can do with these items to conserve energy?
Why yes, there is! 😄
Have you considered applying solar tint on your home windows and doors?
You read that correctly, you can tint more than just your car windows!
The benefits are two-fold when it comes to your energy costs:
- The window tint blocks some of the warming effects of solar rays in the summer to keep your home cooler
- In the colder months, the window tint provides and an extra layer to keep the warm air in the home
Adding solar tint to your windows and glass doors is a cheaper option than replacing them outright.
Similar energy savings can be attained using window coverings such as:
- Insulated cellular shades
- Roman Shades
- Fabric drapes or curtains
Depending on the type of window covering you use the effects will be different.
According to the US Department Of Energy:
- Insulated cellular shades can reduce heat loss by 40% or more which equates to approximately 20% in heating cost saving
- Curtains dyed a “medium color” with white plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33% in warm weather and in colder weather can prevent heat loss by up to 10%
Installing fabric window coverings is a cheaper, easier method relative to the film or cellular shades.
As always, you should consider your comfort level when attempting DIY projects, as sometimes it is indeed smarter to call in a pro right from the start.
After all, if you mess something up, it will cost more to fix it and then there goes any saving you planned on seeing on your utility bills!
Bonus Tip For Saving On Your Electric Bill
One thing I see lacking from any write-up about saving money on utility bills is one of the simplest things possible.
You only have to call the company supplying your electricity (I’m don’t think this is a thing with gas companies) or visit its website.
You will be able to find info about seasonal energy savings programs.
These programs wary in how they work, but the general idea is that they can cycle your power off in peak times in exchange for billing credits.
For more in-depth coverage you can read this article about how to lower your electric bill in summer.
I am part of my electric utility’s power-cycling program and I never even notice if/when my fridge or air conditioner is being turned off.
In exchange, I get $5.50 off in off-season months and $10.50 off during peak season months (for context, my pre-credit bill is usually between $65 and $85 a month so the savings is pretty good).
There may be “myth busters” out there that will say that energy savings techniques don’t work as well as you are led to believe.
That is true when you read headlines like “Save Hundreds On Home Energy Costs”.
The truth is you won’t get rich off of the savings provided by these techniques.
All you need to know are these two facts:
- Any savings will help, and
- One of these methods may save a little, but by combining a few, the savings add up quicker and higher.
Do what you need/want to do in order to save money!
Questions For You
Do you even think about your utility bills other than when you get the bill and curse the power company? Are you the type to say “the time/cost isn’t worth the return” when considering these ideas?