10 Ways to Slash Your Utility Costs

by Kailey Hagen | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on June 2, 2020

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Think you can't do anything about your utility bills? These tips will change your mind.

Think you can't do anything about your utility bills? These tips will change your mind.

These tips are useful at any time, but they're especially helpful right now, with so many people out of work and looking for ways to cut costs. Try some of these tips to see what kind of a difference they can make for you.

1. Adjust your thermostat

You can save roughly 10% on your heating and cooling costs every year by adjusting your thermostat by seven to 10 degrees for eight hours each day, according to the Department of Energy. An easy way to do this is to turn your thermostat up or down when you go to sleep or leave for work, and then change it again when you wake up or arrive home. You can also invest in a programmable thermostat, which will change the temperature automatically according to the schedule you set.

2. Make sure windows and doors are well insulated

Windows and doors that aren't well sealed let warm or cool air to seep out of your home, forcing your HVAC system to work even harder to keep your home at the ideal temperature. Replace old weather stripping around the exterior doors and add extra insulation around drafty windows to prevent this. You can also try drawing the blinds or curtains to keep some of the extra sunshine out during the summer to reduce air-conditioning costs.

3. Replace your HVAC filters regularly 

Dirty HVAC filters force your system to work harder than normal, and that brings higher energy costs, not to mention an increased likelihood of costly problems. Consult your user manual and figure out which filter type your system uses. If you can, purchase some in bulk to have on hand. Change them out as often as the manufacturer recommends to keep your system running at an optimal level.

4. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances

Energy-efficient appliances and LED light bulbs do the same jobs as their traditional counterparts, but require less electricity. It probably doesn't make sense to throw out perfectly good appliances just to replace them with new, energy-efficient models, but when you're in the market for a new appliance, keep this in mind when comparing options.

5. Unplug appliances you're not using

A lot of appliances and other items plugged into an electrical outlet continue to use some electricity even if you're not actively using the device. This is known as phantom power. A simple way to avoid this is to unplug devices when you're not using them. If that's too cumbersome, you can plug several items into a power strip and unplug or turn off the strip rather than dealing with each item individually. You could also invest in a smart power strip, which eliminates the phantom energy issue without needing to unplug devices or turn off the power strip.

6. Turn down the temperature on your water heater

Your water heater has its own temperature setting. Turning this thermostat up will result in hotter water, but it'll also require more energy to get your water up to the new temperature. If you find your hottest water temperature is a lot hotter than what you require for bathing and washing dishes, you can save a few dollars by turning your water heater temperature down. Check your user manual to find out how to do this.

7. Use cold water for laundry

Consider using cold water for some or all of your laundry loads. If you normally wash some of your clothing in hot water, try switching to warm water. The savings here depend in part on how often you run your washing machine. Someone who does several loads a week will, of course, notice more of a difference than someone who does laundry every other week. For bonus points and extra savings, try drying your clothing outside on a line when the weather is nice.

8. Use a low-flow shower head

Low-flow shower heads are designed to use less water. Federal regulations now limit shower head flow rates to help conserve water, but if yours is older, it may not meet current guidelines. Consider purchasing a new shower head if you'd like to save a little on your water bill. Most of them are pretty simple to install, so you can do it yourself even if you're not that handy.

9. Take shorter showers

If you don't want to invest in a new shower head, another option is taking shorter showers. Less time in the shower means less water going down the drain, and that's good for your wallet and the environment. You can even turn off the faucet while you're lathering up to conserve even more water.

10. Talk to your utility company about more money-saving opportunities

Some utility companies offer discounted rates on electricity for appliance use during off-peak times. See if your company offers anything like this and try to plan around it to save yourself a few dollars. You could also ask your utility company to conduct an energy audit of your home to help you identify areas where you could save even more.

These ideas probably won't all appeal to you, but incorporating just a few of them can free up a little extra money for you to spend or stash in your bank account every month. Plus, you can feel good about doing your part to help the environment at the same time.

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