7 Ways to Save Money on Your Utility Bills
Renting an apartment versus owning a home can often mean you have less control over your environment. When it comes to energy savings, however, there are still plenty of steps you can take to help reduce the amount of money you spend on utility costs each month. Here are seven quick and easy ways to help you save money on your utility bills:
- Consider energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Switch to a programmable thermostat.
- Optimize your window coverings.
- Use low-flow fixtures.
- Make your appliances work smarter.
- Unplug your electronics.
- Contact your utility company.
1. Consider Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can be one of the most affordable swaps you can make to help cut back on energy costs. According to EnergyStar.gov, Energy Star-certified light bulbs use about 70 to 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs and can help you save between $30 and $80 per bulb. Start with your frequently used fixtures. You’ll be surprised at how infrequently you’ll have to replace the light bulbs once you’ve made the switch. Keep in mind, traditional incandescent light bulbs have an average lifetime of 750 to 1,000 hours, whereas CFLs have an average lifetime of 6,000 to 15,000 hours, says EnergyStar.gov.
2. Switch to a Programmable Thermostat
If you’re paying for your gas or electric utilities, but don’t have a programmable thermostat in your apartment, consider talking to your landlord about having one installed. Being able to set your thermostat based on your schedule means you won’t have to try and remember to turn the temperature down a few degrees every time you leave home.
If you do not have a programmable thermostat and your landlord will not allow you to install one, you might consider setting reminders on your smartphone to help you remember which times of day you want to drop or raise the temperature. According to Energy.gov, you may see annual savings of up to 1 percent per 8-hour period for each degree you turn down your thermostat.
3. Optimize Your Window Coverings
Depending on the season, there are a few tricks you can consider to help regulate the temperature of your apartment. In the winter, let the sun do some of the work for you by keeping your blinds open during a sunny day, says U.S. News and World Report. This can allow the sun’s heat to naturally warm your space throughout the day. This, of course, is not a substitute for keeping the heat on, but you’ll be able to lower the temperature setting on your thermostat without losing too much warmth. If you live in an area with especially cold winters, consider using temporary plastic window film to help block out the cold and wind, says Popular Mechanics. The clear window film is applied directly to your windowpane so you’ll hardly notice it’s there and you’ll still have full use of your blinds. This is inexpensive (usually less than $1 per window), will likely not cause damage to your windows and can typically be removed easily at the end of the season, says Popular Mechanics.
In the summer, help lessen the workload of your cooling system by keeping the blinds shut until you get home at night. By closing the blinds or adding heavy drapery, you can limit the amount of sunlight that can get into your apartment, thus helping reduce the amount of heat the sunlight can create within your living space. According to Energy.gov, if you completely close and lower your blinds on a sunny window it may help reduce heat gain between 33 to 45 percent.
4. Use Low-Flow Fixtures
Using low-flow fixtures may help reduce the amount of water you use and potentially lower your water bill. You can either replace existing fixtures or add an attachment to your shower head, bathroom and kitchen faucets to help reduce the amount of water used without sacrificing water pressure. Investing in low-flow fixtures can help you save between 25 and 60 percent on water usage, says Energy.gov. Make sure to ask your landlord’s permission before swapping out any fixtures and remember to switch them back to the original fixtures when you move out.
5. Make Your Appliances Work Smarter
Unfortunately, major appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers are typically outside of the control of the renter as they’re usually owned by the landlord and renters often are not allowed to change them out per their lease. There are, however, a few steps you can take to help make existing appliances work smarter for you. When using a dishwasher, skip rinsing your dishes ahead of time. Most new dishwashers can handle food residue without the assistance of a prerinse, says Energy.gov. This may help conserve water and reduce energy consumption. For older appliances, you’ll have to use some trial and error to see how little rinsing you can get away with. Another simple trick is to use the air-dry setting instead of the heat-dry setting for your dishwasher.
When it comes to your laundry, consider waiting to wash your clothes until you have a full load and always use cold or warm water (instead of hot) unless you’re dealing with a seriously stubborn stain, says Energy.gov. Remember, almost 90 percent of washing machines’ energy consumption is spent heating the water, says EnergyStar.gov.
Another simple, but often-overlooked, step you can take when doing your laundry is to clean the lint trap in your clothes dryer after each use, says Energy.gov. This helps ensure proper airflow during your drying cycle. Better airflow means shorter drying times, which, of course, means you’ll save on electricity. Take the energy savings a step further and consider buying a drying rack and let clothes air dry whenever possible. You can find a collapsible version in most department stores that won’t take up much room when it’s not in use.
6. Unplug Your Electronics
While there are certainly electronics that we use every day, there are plenty that stay plugged in constantly without being used for days at a time like an extra TV or video game console you rarely use. When electronics remain plugged in but are not in use, they still continue to use a small amount of energy (dubbed “phantom energy”) just by remaining connected to the outlet, says Energy.gov. Take the time to check each outlet in your apartment, then take note of which items could remain unplugged when they are not in use. In order to power-off multiple devices at one time, consider taking advantage of smart power strips so you don’t even have to think about switching it off — it manages power supply for you, says Energy.gov.
7. Contact Your Utility Company
Many utility companies have programs and incentives in place to help encourage their customers to cut back on energy consumption. Take a few minutes to visit your utility company’s website to see how you could save even more based on the energy-efficient measures you’ve already put into practice.
Each of these cost-saving measures may seem insignificant but can really add up quickly, and once you’ve put a few in place, you’ll soon see just how second-nature they can become. Soon you’ll be looking for even more ways to help cut back on your utility costs.
Originally published on May 23, 2016.