5 Tips to Help You Save on Energy and Lower Utility Bills

Without a doubt, most homeowners can get behind the idea of saving money on their energy consumption. But when the dialogue turns to topics like shutting off the heat and wearing coats inside, most homeowners understandably grow cold at the idea. Paring back on energy consumption, though, does not have to be that difficult or painful. With the vast amount of energy waste found in most homes, owners don’t have to look very far for simple opportunities that will ease sticker shock when the energy bill comes due.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water

Surprisingly, washing your clothing in cold water can be beneficial to your clothing. EnergyStar estimates that 90 percent of the energy expended on a warm water wash cycle goes toward heating up the water. By going from hot or warm down to cold, your washer is immediately running at a scant 10 percent of its former energy consumption. Cold water ensures colorfastness and preserves fabrics. With newer washers running more efficiently than ever, cold water works better than ever for most loads. Plus, you can add baking soda or distilled white vinegar to drastically ramp up your washer’s cleaning power, without adding a single drop of hot water. However, there is a time and place for warm or hot water washes: very dirty clothing, soiled clothing, or clothing worn by family members who are sick. Save the hot water washes for these very moments only.

LED lights

One of the easiest ways to lower your electric bill is by switching to LED bulbs. LED lights draw much less energy than traditional lighting and are more cost-effective over time since they last much longer. Most LEDs have a 10-year lifespan, reducing the need to regularly replace your lightbulbs.

You may also use smart power strips: Some electronic gadgets never truly power off; instead, they sit in standby mode using a trickle of power that can add up over devices and time. These are usually — but not exclusively — items with a remote control because the remote sensor needs power while waiting for your input. Plug these electronics into a smart power strip, which cuts off the current when the devices aren’t in use.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

The USDE estimates you’ll save 10% off your utility bill just by installing a programmable thermostat, like this one from Nest.

The more you turn your thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, the more you’ll save. If your house is empty during the day, set the temperature to drop much further in the winter months and higher in the summer months while you’re away. You can program it to return to more comfortable temperatures just before you get home.

For a roughly $70 investment, installing a programmable thermostat is one of the smartest things you can do to reduce your energy bills.

Use Fans

If you have ceiling fans, take advantage of them! Your A/C uses one-fourth of your household energy – about .36 cents an hour.

That’s way more than any other appliance. On the flip side, a ceiling fan costs only about a penny an hour. Now, understand that fans don’t bring down room temperature, but they do make a room FEEL cooler because of the moving air. They can also reduce the humidity in your home.

You won’t feel a difference in temperature even if you set your thermostat 4 degrees higher as long as you are using a ceiling fan.

By using a fan and bumping up 4 degrees, you are adding a penny an hour with the fan, but cutting 40% with your A/C and over 8 hours a day for 100 days of summer, saving you $104 on your summer cooling bill.

However, remember to turn off the fan every time you leave the room for an extended time! The fan is only helpful if you are there to feel the breeze.

Energy-efficient appliances

Home appliances, including washing machines, dryers, refrigerators and dishwashers, account for roughly 20% of the average home’s electricity bill. Upgrading to Energy Star-certified appliances can save you hundreds of dollars every year. For example, Energy Star washing machines use 40–50% less energy and 50% less water than their less-efficient counterparts. Look for the yellow Energy Guide label attached to most appliances to compare energy use with similar models. The more energy-efficient, the lower the operating costs. As a bonus, rebates are often available when purchasing Energy Star-certified appliances.

By implementing one or more of these energy- and water-saving tips, you can blast away a large chunk of your utility costs. With a few changes and a little elbow grease, you can achieve much lower bills and a much more sustainable lifestyle.