How to Save Money on Utilities

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How to save money on utility bills
Image Credit: Clark.com

Between turning the lights on in the morning, taking a hot shower, washing your clothes and a million other daily habits, it’s impossible to avoid racking up a few utility bills each month.

Because these bills can add up quickly, this is a great category to look at when you’re hoping to reduce your monthly spending.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 15 steps you can take to reduce your monthly utility bills.

15 Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills

The cost of your monthly utilities can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle, the time of year, which appliances you have and tons of other factors. In any case, you can lower your energy costs by making a few simple changes to your home and habits. 

To get started, make sure your utility bills are listed on your monthly budget. If you aren’t sure how much you typically spend on things like water and electricity, you can most likely view your past bills and usage online through each provider’s website. 

While you’re looking at your average utility costs online, check to see if there are any suggested tips for lowering your bill. The company may provide these based on your past usage. You can also try to identify any patterns, problems or usage spikes in your history that need to be corrected.

Once you have an idea of how much you currently spend on utility bills, follow these tips to reduce your usage and lower those expenses!

1. Set Up Zoned Heating and Cooling

Zoned heating and cooling

One great way to lower your utility bills is by cutting down on your heating and air conditioning use. You can do this by dividing your home into zones that allow you to focus on heating or cooling the rooms or areas that are being used. 

You can control each zone of your home with individual thermostats, or you can take a simpler approach for less upfront cost. Simply close all of the doors and vents in rooms that aren’t being used to reduce wasted energy. You can also set up fans throughout your home to increase or redirect airflow. Lastly, don’t forget to close off your fireplace when it’s not in use to prevent air from escaping.

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2. Change Your Filters and Keep Vents Clean

Check your vents

Another way to ensure your heating and cooling systems aren’t being overworked is by changing your filters regularly and keeping your vents clean. 

Make sure that your indoor and outdoor vents aren’t blocked by anything. There should be at least a foot of space to allow for proper airflow. That means that furniture in front of a vent should be pulled away from the wall, and any trees or decor should be trimmed back or moved away from outdoor vents.

For the same reason, it’s important to change your filters regularly. Filters can quickly become clogged with dust, pet hair, dirt and other debris. Once a filter is clogged, the airflow is blocked. To prevent this, change your filters at least once a month. In between changes, you can use a handheld vacuum or vacuum extension to clear dust from filters and vents. 

3. Insulate The Attic, Floors and Walls

As you know, if it’s colder outside, heat will always leave your house without a proper barrier to block its departure. For that reason, it’s important to insulate as much of your home as possible. 

According to Energy Star, “EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs (or an average of 11% on total energy costs) by sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joists.”

Your attic, floors and walls are great places to start. Additionally, be sure to check your ceiling fans, chimneys and ducts. Outlets and light switches can even be sources of air leaks, especially if they’re attached to an outside wall. You can typically find inexpensive specialized outlet and switch plate seals designed to insulate electricity-sensitive areas and prevent fires at local hardware stores . 

For more information, check out the sealing and insulation guide on EnergyStar.gov.

4. Seal Drafts Around Doors or Windows

Find air leaks

In addition to adding more insulation, be sure to check that drafts around doors and windows are sealed so that air isn’t escaping throughout the day. If you can feel air coming in from around your doors or windows, you may need to apply weatherstripping or caulk to stop the airflow.

These are both projects that you can do yourself with cheap weatherstripping or caulk from your local hardware store. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have leaks that need to be sealed or you aren’t able to seal them yourself, you can always hire a qualified contractor to complete the task for you. The money you’ll save over time from this quick fix will be worth any initial investment.

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5. Use an Electric Blanket

Adjusting your thermostat too often or setting it to extreme highs and lows can cause a huge spike in your electricity bill. Instead of cranking up the heat too soon, reach for an electric blanket instead. They’re perfect for keeping your bed warm throughout the night without having to heat your entire house. An electric blanket won’t be pulling nearly as much energy.

In addition to an electric blanket at night or over your lap throughout the day, consider other ways to adjust your body temperature instead of turning on the heat or air conditioning. Reducing the use of your thermostat is a great way to save on utility bills. Changing into something warmer or cooler, getting your heart rate up by moving around or turning on a fan are other great ways to do this.

6. Cook Strategically

Cook smart

When you use your stove top or oven, a lot of heat is being put off into your home. In the summer, that means your air conditioner will have to work even harder to keep the space cool. In the winter, the extra warmth could be a great way to help give your heater a break. Keeping this in mind, try to cook indoors during the winter and outdoors during the summer

Alternatively, if you’re cooking something small, you may be able to use a toaster oven, air fryer, Instant Pot or microwave. These appliances use much less energy than an oven or stove top, which means you’ll see savings on your electricity bill.

7. Use Your Dishwasher Wisely

Dishwasher tips

When it’s time to wash the dishes, use your dishwasher if you have one! Many dishwashers use less than five gallons of water, whereas washing dishes by hand can use up to four times that amount. 

Try not to run the dishwasher until it’s completely full. Also, wash bigger pots and pans by hand to maximize the number of dishes you can fit into a single cycle. 

After you’ve put in your dishes and detergent, look at your settings. Instead of the manual “heat dry” setting, consider letting your dishes air dry instead. This is a great way to reduce energy consumption, and if you run the dishwasher at night you’ll wake up to clean, dry dishes either way.

8. Cut Down on Energy Spent Drying Clothes

In addition to air drying your dishes after they’ve been washed, you can use the same trick on clothes for even more savings.

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Instead of using the tumble dry setting on your dryer, let your clothes air dry naturally. You can hang them on a clothesline if you have one, or create one yourself by hanging string across the balcony or a room in your home. If you do need to use the dryer, throw a wool dryer ball in with the clothes to reduce the necessary running time.

This is another chore that you should consider doing at night. Hanging up wet clothes to dry overnight ensures that everything will be ready to go when you wake up the next morning. This way, you can reduce energy costs from drying without ever feeling the difference.

9. Wash Your Clothes on Cold

Washing your clothes in hot or warm water takes a lot of energy. You can significantly cut down on this usage by switching to cold water. Try to only use hot water when washing soiled clothes. Aside from extreme cases like sickness or very dirty clothes, researchers at Consumer Reports agree that cold water is enough

Lastly, try to wash larger loads compared to smaller, more frequent loads. This is another great way to reduce the amount of energy your washer uses. That will, in turn, lower your next utility bill.

10. Use Less Water When Flushing

Flush your toilet

In addition to washing your clothes, the simple act of flushing your toilet uses more water than you’d expect. If you can reduce the amount of water you’re using per flush, you may be able to reduce your water bill as well. This is especially true if you have an older toilet.

If you’re ready to replace your current toilet, consider a low-flow toilet. To conserve water with your current toilet, you can put a plastic bottle filled with water into your toilet tank. This will cause the commode to use less water per flush. 

Be sure to also check for leaks periodically. To see if your toilet has a leak, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the food coloring appears in the toilet bowl without flushing, there’s a leak that needs to be repaired. 

11. Get Water-Saving Shower Heads and Faucets

Replace your shower heads

Replacing your shower head and faucets with more energy-efficient options will pay for itself over time. Low-flow shower heads put out less than half the amount of water compared to traditional, older shower heads while still providing comparable pressure. 

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On top of using less water in the same time span, the most efficient shower heads hold water until they’re fully heated. That means you’ll be saving water when it would otherwise be running and heating up. You’ll also be reducing your energy costs by heating less water.

12. Insulate Your Water Heater and Adjust the Temperature

Insulate your water heater

Another great way to reduce energy and lower your utility bills is by lowering the temperature of your water heater. It’s most likely set too high anyway.

“Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140º, most households usually only require them to be set at 120º,” according to the Department of Energy. “Set too high, or at 140º, your water heater can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses.”

If your water heater is five years old or older, you may also want to consider buying a hot water heater jacket to insulate it. The Department of Energy reports that this trick alone can help you save 7% to 16% annually on your water heating bill. You can find step-by-step instructions online to complete this project yourself.

13. Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances

You don’t have to invest in pricey new appliances just to cut down on energy costs, but when you are ready to upgrade, invest in energy-efficient options. If you aren’t sure where to start shopping, look for Energy Star-rated appliances. Products that earn this rating are certified to save energy and money over their lifespan.

If you are looking to upgrade your heating/cooling system, refrigerator or oven, take the time to research the best time and place to buy appliances. Also be sure to check out our guide on the best time and place to buy a washer and dryer, specifically.

14. Switch to Energy Saving Light Bulbs

Replace your light bulbs

A cheap replacement that will help you reduce your energy usage and lower your utility bills is light bulbs. 

The Department of Energy’s website says that switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills. They recommend that you replace your home’s five most frequently used lights with bulbs that have earned the Energy Star rating to save up to $45 annually.

In addition to using energy-efficient bulbs, consider setting up controls like timers and dimmers to reduce electricity usage. For more information on lighting choices, check out this video from the Department of Energy.

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15. Consider Home Automation

Taking things a step further, setting up home automation can help you save big over time when it comes to energy costs.

Home automation options include smart thermostats, lighting controls, smart power strips and more. Basically, it’s any technology that can remotely control and monitor your home’s systems.

Instead of having to worry about manually adjusting your thermostat throughout the day or remembering to turn off lights and appliances, home automation systems will monitor and reduce your energy usage for you. That means you’ll be saving on your utility bills without having to change your day-to-day lifestyle at all!

Of course, keep in mind that this option comes with the initial upfront cost of whatever home automation system you decide to buy. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, reducing your energy usage in any way possible will help you lower your utility bills. 

If you aren’t sure where to start, begin by taking a walk through your home, cleaning any vents and changing any filters that haven’t been replaced in a while. Next, seal any drafts you can find. Make an effort to start using cold water when possible and let your clothes and dishes air-dry overnight. Lastly, lower your water heater temperature to 120º. 

For more in-depth information on energy conservation and reducing your usage, check out the resources posted by the Department of Energy.

How do you minimize your energy costs each month? Let us know in the comments below!

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