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You pay your utility bills every month, but you may not realize what they’re actually costing you. Would you be surprised to learn that, according to Energy Star, just heating and cooling your home likely runs you more than $1,000 per year? When you also factor in cooking, bathing, doing laundry and all of your other normal daily activities, your energy costs add up to more than a pretty penny. But don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to rein in these monthly expenses.
Here are ways to save money on your energy bill.
8 tips to saving on energy costs
Do an energy assessment at home
A home energy assessment will give you a baseline of how efficiently you’re using energy in your house, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Your utility company may offer you a free or low-cost assessment. Other companies offer this service, but be advised that it could run you hundreds of dollars to have it done.
If you go with a paid service, do your due diligence and check out the company’s reputation before committing to doing the assessment. If you’re interested in a more DIY option, Energy Star offers the online Home Advisor tool, where you enter in your home’s information, receive energy saving recommendations and have the ability to track your progress toward efficient energy use.
Flip the switch
As a child, you probably heard your parents yell “turn off the lights!” That’s because it works. Did you know that according to Energy Star, one light left on for eight hours per day costs you about $20 a year? For that reason, Energy Star encourages you to shut off lights, fans and other electronics when you’re not using them. Use dimmer switches, motion detectors and programmable thermostats to reduce energy usage without interfering with your needs and comfort.
Mind your windows
Uncovered windows let in up to 80% of the sun’s energy, according to Energy Star. This gives you free lighting and warmth during the day, reducing your need to use other power sources. Additionally, you can regulate the temperature inside your house using window drapes or blinds. They act as insulation, keeping more of the heated or cooled air where it belongs — inside your home.
Maintain your HVAC system
To keep heating and cooling costs in check, regularly examine your HVAC system air filter. Dirty air filters put a strain on your system, wasting both energy and money. You should always change the filter when it’s dirty and be sure to replace it at least once per quarter. It is also recommended that you have your system periodically tuned by an HVAC professional to keep it in tiptop shape.
Seal up leaks and insulate
You can save up to $200 per year on your heating and cooling costs by having proper insulation and door and window seals, says Energy Star. When you feel a draft coming from your windows or doors, use caulk or weatherstripping to make a tight seal around the edges.
When it’s time to upgrade, consider purchasing Energy Star-rated models for added efficiency. If you buy new insulation, the Department of Energy (DOE) advises you to look for a product with a high R-value, which indicates an insulation’s effectiveness.
Hack your laundry
Heating the water for your washing machine accounts for an astounding 90% of the energy it takes to run the load, says Energy Star. Washing your clothes in cold water will result in significant energy savings. To be even more efficient, only run full loads and take advantage of the extended spin cycle to cut down on your drying time.
To save on drying costs, be sure to clean the lint trap before each use, dry full loads and, if possible, utilize the automatic shut-off feature, which turns off the machine when it detects that clothing is dry. During warm weather, consider drying your clothes on an outdoor line. Indoor drying racks are also an option. According to Energy Star, your dryer accounts for 6% of your electricity bill, so it’s worth making some adjustments.
Lower the temperature on your water heater
Heating water for your home is your second highest energy-related expense, behind regulating the temperature in the dwelling, says Energy Star. To curtail this cost, reduce the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees. Your system won’t have to work as hard, rewarding you with a lower utility bill.
Ready to replace your water heater? Consider opting for a tankless model. This energy-saving option heats water on demand, rather than maintaining a continuous reserve of hot water.
Buy energy-efficient appliances
When you’re in the market for new appliances, the FTC encourages you to buy energy-efficient models. Just look for the EnergyGuide label on the appliance to see the amount of electricity it uses annually, the approximate yearly cost to run it and how that cost compares with similar models. If the label indicates that the unit is Energy Star-rated, the appliance uses less electricity than nonrated models, making it better for the environment and your wallet. The FTC advises you to multiply the projected annual kilowatt hours (kWh) the appliance will use by your current kWh rate to get the most accurate cost-to-run estimate.
Seemingly endless possibilities to save money
This article provides several ways for you to save money on your energy bill, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. You can optimize just about every element of your home if you have the time and means. Resources like this DOE Energy Saver Guide show you how to get quick wins and help you plan for longer-term improvements. You can also make small changes to your habits (like flipping the switch) to further increase your savings.
What to do with all of these savings?
Now that you’re saving money on energy costs, what should you do with the extra cash? You likely have several financial goals that you’re working toward, but you can’t go wrong with paying down debt or bolstering that emergency fund.