How to save money on utilities
Last updated: January 1
If your family is like most American households, your average utility bill is well over $100 a month. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Department, the average family spends nearly $1,400 a year on utilities. Any amount of savings on utility costs each month means more money in your wallet. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to trim your utility bills. Here are some ideas.
Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
Change air filters regularly
Every furnace and air conditioner has a filter that is used to keep dirt, dust, and other pollutants from being recycled in the air throughout your house. According to Better Home Guides, most experts recommend that filters be changed every 60 to 90 days.
A clogged filter not only makes it more expensive for your HVAC system to run, but it's not good for the air quality in your home either, says SecondNature.com. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), indoor air can be worse than outdoor air — particularly if anyone in your family has allergies or asthma.
Keep air vents open and clear
When vents are closed or blocked, your furnace or air conditioner has to work that much harder to distribute air around your home, according to the Department of Energy. They also recommend that you make sure all of your vents are opened and avoid putting large furniture or other items in front of working vents.
Replace old appliances
According to Consumer Reports, trading in your old appliances for new ones will not only save money in utility costs, but it can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing appliance efficiency standards mean homeowners can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year. New washing machines that have the Energy Star label use 25 percent less energy and up to 75 percent less water than machines did just 20 years ago, says Consumer Reports.
Use a programmable thermostat
With a programmable thermostat, you can set the times you turn on the heating or air-conditioning according to your schedule. According to Energy.gov, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat down 7º to 10ºF from its normal setting for eight hours a day.
Turn off lights and "vampire" electronics
This money-saving tip might seem obvious, but it's easy to overlook. Get everyone who comes into your home into the habit of turning things off when they are not using them, including lights, appliances, fans and electronics. Energy.gov points out that electronics that are plugged in and not being used still continue to use a small amount of energy just by remaining connected to the outlet. They recommend unplugging electronics or using a power strip to avoid "vampire" loads for items such as DVD players, TVs, stereos, computers and kitchen appliances. Unplug battery chargers when they are not in use.
Seal air leaks around doors and windows
Check for air leaks around your doors and windows by looking for damaged caulk and weatherstripping. Caulk and weatherstripping only last a couple of years, reports Energy.gov, so you should do this routinely to keep cold air and hot air out.
Use appliances wisely
According to Consumer Reports, rinsing dishes before putting them into the dishwasher is a waste of time and money since modern dishwashers work better on un-rinsed dishes. It's also a good idea to wait until the dishwasher is full before running it.
The same is true for running your washing machine: Wait until you have a full load. Wash clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot. Almost 90 percent of washing machines' energy consumption is spent heating the water, says EnergyStar.gov.
Be sure to clean the lint trap in your clothes dryer after each use. This helps ensure proper air flow, which can improve the dryer's efficiency, according to BobVila.com. Take the energy savings one step further by purchasing a drying rack and letting clothes air dry whenever possible.
Each of these cost-saving measures might not seem like much on their own, but the savings can really add up. For more ways to save, check out the Department of Energy's website.