As of the summer of 2018, the average US household spends $183 a month on their electric bill alone, and prices are steadily rising, according to the US Department of Energy.
The first step to demystifying your electricity bill, and hopefully reducing it, is to take stock of where you use the most energy. You can find a professional energy auditor to help you assess your home’s energy use, potentially for free, through your electric company or the Department of Energy’s website: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver. If you follow their efficiency upgrade recommendations, you could reduce up to 30% off your energy bill.
Here are their top tips:
Heating and cooling takes up the largest chunk of your monthly energy bill, but these tips can save you money while staying comfortable.
- Clean your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit every 30 days to keep the system running efficiently.
- Keep the blinds open in the winter and closed in the summer to minimize the need for running the air conditioner.
- Using a ceiling or floor fan instead of your air conditioner can help to keep temperatures and costs lower in the summer.
- Seal leaks, doors and windows. Weather-stripping and sealing leaks can reduce energy use by 15% to 30% a year, estimates the Department of Energy.
- Buy a programmable thermostat. For as little as $20, you can automatically set your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day. Doing so can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling costs
Water heaters are typically large energy consumers. The Department of Energy suggests lowering the temperature on your water heater from the standard 140°F to 120°F. This can reduce water heating costs by 4%-22% annually, without any noticeable difference in water temperature.
One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of saving money is to use LED bulbs, which last as much as 50 times longer and are 90% more efficient than traditional bulbs. Replacing your five most used lights with Energy Star approved LED bulbs can save you $75 per year.
Washing your clothes in cold water can substantially cut costs, since about 90% of the electricity used by washing machines is used to heat the water. The average household can save up to $40 per year using this tip. Also consider air drying your clothes when possible. Dryers are the most energy-hungry appliance in the average home. A typical dryer can consume as much energy per year as an energy efficient refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher combined.
When it comes time to replace your old appliances, consider an Energy Star efficient unit. While it might cost more for the initial investment, an Energy Star certified refrigerator will yield an average savings of $270 in energy costs over five years.
A typical American home has 40 products that are constantly drawing power, even if they’re not in use. Energy vampires like your phone charger, computer, television and coffeemaker, are responsible for 10% of your electricity use and can cost the average household $100 a year, according to the Department of Energy. Use a “smart” power strip and keep everything plugged into this single source, making it easy to turn off everything at once when these appliances are not in use. Smart power strips also automatically cut power to devices that are in standby mode.
It is also worth contacting your utility company about potential senior and low-income discount programs, energy-efficiency rebates and off-peak rates which can provide up to 30% discounts on standard rates.
By Caren Parnes