When your electricity bill arrives each month, do you heave a deep sigh of disgust? Are you irritated with yourself for not monitoring your output more closely? Or are you in the extremely rare minority of folks who gladly pay that bill knowing you’ve stewarded your power usage well? (Yeah… me neither.)
There is hope for us all. We can all make simple changes around our homes to save money on our electric bills! We’ve put together this list of 13 practical ways to save on electricity, plus a couple of tips for more involved future savings:
1. Turn lights and fans off when you aren’t using them. If you leave a room, you don’t need to have it lit. Alternatively, dimming lights and putting fans on lower speeds will conserve electricity as well. Turning off 4 bulbs for a typical workday duration saves 7.2 cents. Times 20 workdays per month, times 12 months in a year, is over $1,700 saved annually!
Automate — so you don’t have to think about it
2. Program your hot water heater so that you’re not using energy to warm it up in the middle of the night (or when you typically go for hours without needing it). The ideal setting is 120 degrees. If it’s set at 140 degrees, you’re wasting $36 – $61 per year for standby and more than $400 per year to bring fresh water up to that temperature. Plus, you can save even more by wrapping your hot water heater in a blanket, which costs about $20 and will keep it snuggly warm 24/7.
3. Program your thermostat. It costs about $25 to purchase a basic programmable thermostat, and can save you $180 per year if properly programmed. Boom.
4. Upgrade to energy efficient appliances. They perform the same tasks using less power (and less water, if applicable), and many times they run more quietly! Bonus: state incentives are in place to encourage you in upgrading. In fact, there are 55 financial incentives in Virginia.
5. Plant deciduous trees on the south or west side of your home. During the warmer months, they’ll provide shade (a natural coolant), and during the colder months, their leaves/needles will be shed, thus allowing sunlight to warm your home. This can reduce your air conditioning costs up to 35%.
6. Light colored houses and roofs naturally repel sunlight, so if you’re considering making an update to your curb appeal, perhaps go with a lighter color, which will keep your home cooler during those hot Virginia summers. A white roof can reduce energy usage by 20% in hot weather.
7. Insulate your house from top to bottom — seal your windows and doors, any drafty areas in the basement or around the foundation, around pipes (especially where they enter or exit the home), your attic and crawl space, and exterior walls. This will make a significant impact on your power bill!
Less work = higher efficiency
We’ve already stated that upgrading to energy efficient appliances will make a difference in your electric bill, but there are more ways to create efficiency in your home:
8. Change out the AC and furnace filters regularly, or go a step further and install reusable ones that you can hose off. Your HVAC unit will have to work less when the filters are clean, using less electricity. Also, get your HVAC system checked annually to maintain — and even increase — its lifespan. This will save you up to $60 per year.
9. Cut your laundry time with dryer balls, which speed up the drying process by creating more ventilation within the dryer. Plus, using dryer balls negates the use of dryer sheets, saving you even more money! This can cause energy savings of up to 25%. Additional ways to save in the laundry room: wash clothes in cold water (did you know that according to Energy Star, almost 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes to heating water?), keep the dryer exhaust system clean (so it doesn’t have to work as hard), or simply hang dry your garments and linens outside or on a drying rack.
10. Use smart power strips to reduce phantom loads, or, hey, unplug devices when you’re not using them. Roughly 10% of your monthly electric bill goes toward keeping those computers, TVs, and gaming devices running when they’re not in use. In fact, smart power strips (sometimes called advanced power strips) can pay for themselves in a matter of months with the amount of energy saved!
11. Of course turning off your lights (see #1 above) will improve energy savings, but when you need your lights on, there are ways to conserve energy. Install CFL bulbs. Okay, some people really dislike these because of their “fluorescentness,” but you can’t deny their efficiency. For instance, replacing a 100W incandescent light bulb with a 23W CFL will use 77% less energy and save you $10 – $20 per year… for just one bulb.
12. Your window shades can be considered power tools. Really! Keep shades drawn in south-facing rooms if you want to keep the house cool, and in north-facing rooms to keep it warm. This can save you 10% – 25% on your power bill.
13. Last, but certainly not least, to light up your landscaping and pathways outdoors, use solar lights. They only use energy from the sun, are inexpensive, easy to install, and provide very nice illumination. Because these require zero electricity, it’s a cost savings of 100%!
Tips for more involved future energy savings
- Get a home energy audit. Contact your local energy company to schedule one, and a professional will inspect your home, then provide you with a comprehensive report identifying ways that you can conserve energy throughout your home. They typically perform a visual inspection and blower door test, and recommend that you get the audit performed in spring or fall.
- More of a do-it-yourselfer? Lifehacker published “How I Cut My Energy Bill By a Third with Tech and Common Sense,” which outlines how to use some really cool technology to monitor your energy usage.
Sources used: energy.gov; my energy.com; programs.dsiresusa.org