Cutting Energy Costs

Whether you own your home or rent, doing what you can to reduce the energy costs around your house, apartment, or condo can save you more money than you might think. The Department of Energy (DOE) reports the average American family spends around $1,300 per year on energy bills, including electric, gas, and water. Meanwhile, new energy savings techniques can help you use less resources and save hundreds per year on your utility bills.

If you’re worried energy costs are costing you too much of your monthly budget, give us a call at . A financial professional can assess your budget and let you know ways you can save money to make your utilities more affordable. They can also offer ways to reduce your expenses, so you have more money to put towards energy- and money-saving renovations.

 

Tip #1: Keep cooling and heating costs low

According to the DOE, heating is the largest energy expense in most homes. Of course, if you don’t spend much on heating, you may very well spend more than the average American on cooling if you live in a warm-weather area of the country. Here are a few tips to help you reduce costs spent heating and cooling your home:

  • Use proper insulation. Having the right insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 30%. When buying insulation look at the R-value, as this measures how well insulation resists the transfer of heat. The higher the R-value, the better insulated your home will be and the lower your energy costs. You may also want to check with your electric company, as many provide rebates for adding insulation.
  • Keep your energy in. Cracks, holes, and even just shoddy weather stripping on your windows could be letting the money you spend on energy slip right out the window (or the door). Make sure windows and doors are sealed and that no air is leaking out. You can test for free by holding an incense stick up to each seal on a windy day; if the smoke moves any direction but straight up, you may have a leak. If you do find a crack, have it repaired, or use weather stripping or inexpensive spray insulation foam. Also make sure to keep the damper closed if you have a fireplace and it’s not in use.
  • Take advantage of free evaluations. Most electric companies now offer free energy evaluations or audits to customers who want to see if their home is energy-efficient. They send someone out, test for free, and offer recommendations on how to improve your energy costs and efficiency.
  • Don’t pay for heating and cooling you don’t use. Keeping your heater or A/C on when everyone is at work is a waste. You also might not need as much heating or cooling at night while you’re asleep. Keep your thermostat set where you need it at all times. This can be especially easy if you have a programmable thermostat that can be programmed for different temperatures at different times of the day. You may also look into “zoning” heating and cooling, so you’re not spending money on areas you don’t use often.
  • Reduce your heating and cooling dependence. Keeping the house at 70 degrees in the winter is nice, but it’s also a big expense. Consider buying blankets to keep you warm while you sleep and warm clothes to wear around the house to keep your heating costs down. For warm weather cooling, consider opening windows or using ceiling fans, as well as closing shades to keep the heat out.

 

Tip #2: Spend less on lighting

Energy-saving light bulbs are more efficient, last longer, and use less power so you pay less each month on your bill. Energy-saving light bulbs fit most standard fixtures, but if you have an old fixture that won’t fit an energy-saving bulb, consider switching the light to a lower wattage. While using a higher wattage than a light fixture allows causes a fire hazard, you are free to use lower wattage bulbs safely. Consider lower wattage bulbs or “soft white” in old fixtures to use less power. And as your mother always said, turn lights off when you’re not using them.

 

Tip #3: Don’t let appliances make you overspend

Large appliances are another place where you can save big on your energy bills. Here are some cost-cutting tips for your most expensive household appliances:

  • The Washer: Run clothing using the cold water cycle as much as possible. Make sure you’re not using more water than the load needs and that you use the right cycle to avoid washing for longer than your clothes require. Only wash towels once a week. When you buy a new washer, look for energy-efficient front-loading models designed to conserve power and/or water.
  • The Dryer. Clean your lint trap and vents often and check the hose to make sure lint isn’t accumulating—this will increase efficiency and extend the life of the dryer. When possible, consider hanging up clothes to dry. Always dry a full load, as drying just a few pieces actually takes longer and running an over-stuffed load may take two runs.
  • The Dishwasher. In almost any case, it’s actually cheaper to run a full load of dishes in the dishwasher than to wash the same amount of dishes by hand, so don’t avoid your dishwasher to try to save money. However, always run the dishwasher with a full load and avoid rinsing prior to loading unless absolutely necessary. If possible, run the dishwasher to wash only and then leave the door open to air dry or dry by hand.
  • The Fridge. Make sure your refrigerator isn’t draining power, as old fridges tend to waste a large amount of energy; if you do buy a new fridge, go for an energy-efficient model. Keep the door closed as much as possible and keep a full fridge as much as possible—a full fridge actually runs more efficiently.
  • The Water Heater. Make sure your water heater is not set to a higher temperature than your appliances require (check the manuals for your dishwasher and clothes washer). In general you can usually turn your heater down to 120 degrees. You can also wrap your unit in an insulation blanket to improve the efficiency. Replace old water heaters if you can as they  drain power; when you buy a new one, consider getting a tankless water heater; they tend to be more efficient.

 

Tip #4: Use water wisely

There are a number of ways to reduce your water usage, too:

  • Don’t water the lawn or wash your car at the hottest times of the day. Try watering your yard at night or early in the morning when temperatures are at their coolest. That way, you’re not wasting money on water that will simply evaporate before it’s really a use to your grass.
  • Let your grass grown longer. Taller grass actually retains moisture better, so consider mowing your yard with a higher cut setting on your lawnmower.
  • Use native plants and landscaping. Native plants tend to take less water to grow—especially drought resistant plants like cacti. (They also help you save by reducing other costs, like fertilizer and pesticide, because they are naturally suited to the area.)
  • Use low-flow showerheads. This is an inexpensive way to save money on water. The good low-flow showerheads generally cost around $35 and you want a good one to avoid going back to the store if you’re disappointed with a low-quality head.