It’s that time when bills are due again. After you’ve suffered the pinch of paying your rent, it seems like what’s left of your paycheck is eaten up by utility bills. Fortunately, there are several ways to cut those utility bills by a significant amount and conserve precious energy in the process. You can save your check-book and save the environment all at the same time! Here are ten tips to get you started:
Change Your Light Bulbs
The new CFL light bulbs are unbelievable energy savers. They require much less power to provide the same amount of light for a much longer time. If you still have any of the old school light bulbs in your home or apartment, get rid of them! Making sure all your bulbs are CFLs can save you a ton on energy costs in the long run. Don’t worry if the room doesn’t brighten the second you turn the light on. Some of these bulbs can take a minute to fully power up.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs are lost each year by escaping heat and cold air in homes without proper insulation. Get some inexpensive insulation from your local home improvement store and cover up all those areas where heat or air conditioning might escape. Start with foam weather stripping for your doors and windows; it’s cheap and is extremely easy to apply.
It’s a big waste of energy to have your apartment or house heated when you’re not there. If no one is around during the day, get a thermostat that you can program to turn the heat off during the hours when no one is home, and program it to turn back on a little bit before someone gets home. Some thermostats allow you to program target temperatures for multiple times of day, such as morning, day, evening, and night. This level of control keeps you aware of your temperature-changing needs and usage and can help you monitor and adjust your habits to effect change to your monthly utility bills.
Energy-Efficient Appliances and Electronics
From washing machines and dishwashers to heating and cooling equipment to phones, computers and other electronics, you can really eat up the power, not to mention all the water. Replace them with Energy-Star labeled or other energy-efficient versions. Your retailer can help you find the appliances that are the highest rated for energy efficiency. According to Energy Star, a joint program between the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, the average home contributes twice the amount of greenhouse gases to the environment as an average car!
Fill up those appliances! Make sure the dishwasher is full before running a load, and try to wait until you have a full load of laundry to hit the washing machine. This method not only reduces your water and power usage but also ultimately saves you money on detergents. Also, when you run the washing machine, use cold water as much as possible. The large majority of power used by a washing machine is in heating the water – the motor itself uses very little.
Many appliances continue to draw power even when not in use adding unnecessary expense to utility bills. One solution is to unplug appliances when not in use but this is often not practical. Another solution is to use standard power strips to power down electronics hot-spots in your home when you’re not there or asleep. For example, by plugging your TV, stereo, DVD, DVR etc. into one power strip, you can simply turn off the power strip before you leave for work in the morning or when you go to bed at night. Alternatively, there are now smart strips; power strips that can sense when an appliance is no longer in use and automatically shut off the power being drawn from the wall socket.
Turn the Lights Off
A classic, easy solution to overwhelming energy bills. If no one is using a room, turn the lights off. Make sure your kids get in the habit of this, too. You can also take this one step further by applying the habit to all electronics: if you’re not using it, unplug it. This habit eliminates any passive electrical draw that your appliances and electronics might be responsible for.
Open a Window
Similarly, an easy way to save on cooling costs is to open a window instead of heading right to that air conditioner. Some days it’s just too hot to go without air conditioning, but a lot of times we power the AC up just out of force of habit. Alternatively, you might try a combination approach. Set your thermostat to 78 degrees, the recommended temperature to maximize energy savings. Then, use an energy-efficient fan or ceiling-fan to circulate the air for a cooler feeling.
If you have rooms that you never use, like guest rooms or large storage areas, you may not really need your central heating or cooling systems to reach those areas. Close and seal off the vents in those rooms to be more energy efficient and direct the flow of air to the rooms you use most. Also, make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house for safety.
Keep your eyes out for little things you can do every single day to cut utility costs. Whether it’s taking a shorter shower instead of a bath, not over-drying your clothes, or going into a room where someone else is to share light, if you’re looking, you can almost always find a way to save a little more.