Take a look at your bank account or your budget and see what your biggest monthly expense is.
Odds are, after your actual housing expense (if you have a rent or mortgage 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 is 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.
While some methods we’ll discuss are only options if you own the home, there are plenty of ways to reduce your utility bills even if you are renting a home.
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 television 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 8, 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) that 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 [on utility bills] 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.
Close Doors & Flip The Power 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 ways to 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, 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 for 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 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 savings you planned on seeing on your utility bills!
Reducing Utility Bills In Extreme Weather
When summer or winter approaches do you pay more attention to your utility bills?
It’s natural since it costs more to stay cool during this hot (often sweltering) period as well as the frigid winters many regions face.
You probably notice that media outlets do the exact same thing.
There really isn’t very much difference across the different articles, blog posts, and news reports.
The old standards of saving money on your monthly utility bills always take center stage:
- Turning off lights and accessories when not in use
- Using digital thermostats to automatically regulate indoor temperatures
- Using ceiling fans to reduce the reliance on air conditioners among various other tips
- Layer up to avoid turning on the heat
- Unplugging items that are not in use
Believe me, I have no problem with several different sources reporting the same information in similar ways.
There are, after all, only so many topics for an entire niche group to speak on, and there are bound to be some topics that get repeated.
However, it surprises me that I’ve never read about this one simple way to reduce utility bills significantly during those extreme weather months.
Power Cycling & Appliance Shut-Off Programs
Everyone can attest to the fact that the summer and winter months are the most draining on their finances.
First-time home buyers will learn it soon enough as well.
Stopping just short of walking around the house naked, there is only so much you can do without an air conditioner to escape the heat.
Sure, you can sit in a tub of ice water or take a cold shower, but continually doing so will increase your water bill, and you really can’t get very much else done while doing so.
In the winter, you can walk around with 7 layers on to the point that you can’t even bend at the knees and elbows.
But that is just stupid–why should you be uncomfortable in your own home?
There is a way to get some help with those extreme weather-related energy bills.
Did you know that your residential utility company can help you reduce the costs of your utility bills?
It shouldn’t cost you a single penny to do while taking a minimal amount of time to set up.
Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such a deal?
Really, all you have to do is sign up with your power company for their energy reduction program.
Each company calls it something different, and the savings also differ across the companies, but the premise is relatively the same.
You call the power company and tell them you want to be part of the energy savings program.
They schedule a technician to visit your home and install a remote switch in line with one of several types of high-energy usage appliances.
The technician leaves, and you’re all set.
What happens once the switch is installed?
For the most part, nothing.
Many times, you won’t even notice that the attached appliance isn’t being run.
Most of the time this is just a convenience fee that you get paid to make yourself available for these programs.
The only time you will be affected is in times of energy emergencies, which don’t occur very often, if at all.
I have my home set up with Florida Power and Light.
The installation took all of 10 minutes, and on my bill each month, I can clearly see the credit being given to me.
Some companies give a flat amount, while others give a percentage paid monthly; some have high dollar value incentives, while others pay less.
It all varies depending on who services your home and the program they offer.
Here’s a look at an electric bill of my very own:
New: Peak Time Alerts
There’s even a new way to save on utility bills during high-load times like the summer.
The rules vary widely, from free to monthly subscription services, but the concept is relatively similar.
For some, companies, ahead of predicted times, you will get some sort of alert: text, email, or phone call.
This will tell you when the peak times are during which you reduce your energy consumption and earn credits.
For others, you will receive steep discounts to use electricity at off-peak times.
It’s not as widely available as the power-cycling programs are, but if you can stack these two programs, you can be in for some serious savings on those utility bills!
These are just a sampling of some of the companies in the bigger markets in the United States.
You need to call or go to the website of your own provider to see if you’re eligible for anything like this.
If you are, you may be in for some sweet savings on your utility bills:
Entergy Summer Advantage Program (Arkansas)
PG&E SmartAC program (California)
SCE Summer Discount Plan (California)
AC Saver (Summer Saver) (California)
Xcel Energy Savings Plans (Colorado)
Delmarva Power & Light Energy Wise Rewards (Delaware)
FP&L OnCall program (Florida)
Duke Energy Florida EnergyWise Home (Florida)
Georgia Power Power Credit (Georgia)
MidAmerican Energy Summer Saver (Illinois)
Duke Energy Indiana Power Manager (Indiana)
Indiana Michigan IM Power Rewards (Indiana – South Bend)
AES Indiana CoolCents (Indiana)
Alliant Energy Smart Hours (Iowa)
CenterPoint Energy Smart Cycle (Indiana/Western-Ohio)–No longer available so call to see what they are offering in its place to save some money.
Duke Energy Power Manager (Kentucky)
LG&E/KU Demand Conservation (Kentucky)
Delmarva Energy Wise Rewards (Maryland)
Indiana Michigan IM Power Rewards (Michigan)
Xcel Energy Savings Plans (Michigan)
Xcel Energy Savings Plans (Minnesota)
Xcel Energy Savings Plans (New Mexico)
PNM Power Saver (New Mexico)
Dominion Smart Cooling Rewards (North Carolina)
Duke Energy Power Manager (North Carolina)
Xcel Energy Savings Plans (North Dakota)
Duke Energy Power Manager (Ohio)
Idaho Power A/C Cool Credit Program (Oregon)
PECO Central A/C Cycling program (Pennsylvania)
Duke Energy Power Manager (South Carolina)
MidAmerican Energy Summer Saver (South Dakota)
Xcel Energy Savings Plans (South Dakota)
Reliant Degrees Of Difference (Texas)
Excel Energy Savings Plans (Texas)
Dominion Smart Cooling Rewards (Virginia)
LG&E/KU Demand Conservation (Virginia)
Alliant Energy Smart Hours (Wisconsin)
Xcel Energy Saver’s Switch (Wisconsin)
Additional Assistance Paying Utility Bills
You may need even more help than a few dollars of statement credits to make your utility bills affordable.
If that describes your situation, you may be in luck in that department as well.
A large number of power companies have plans to make it easier to anticipate and budget for energy costs.
One such example is FPL Budget Billing, where the company does a 12-month look-back to get a base and then adjusts it based on actual activity.
The plan is to make utility bills more similar month-to-month rather than varying wildly which helps with managing money on a tight budget.
Another program that energy companies have implemented is payment assistance plans.
Naturally, it’ll vary from company to company and region to region.
In general, there are programs in place to help based either on foundation grants, community outreach, or governmental intervention.
Do yourself a favor and find out about what plans you may be eligible for.
What is the worst that can happen: your power company may not have an energy-saving program?
The alternative is being able to save a few (or a few hundred) bucks on your utility bills by doing nothing other than allowing your energy company to regulate some of your energy consumption in order to keep full power in your area.
Sounds like a win-win to me!
There may be “myth busters” out there who 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 A Month On Your Utility Bills”.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
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.
We’re looking to reduce your energy bills here, so do what you need/want to do in order to save money!
If you’ve already done all of this, let everyone know of your experience in the comments! Do any of these things actually help to reduce utility bills? People love to know that it actually works and that it’s not something a random dude on the ‘net made up for clickbait hahaha!