After coming off of some strange times (COVID-19, anyone?), we’re all looking for tweaks to make in our budget to save extra money right now. Maybe you’ve lost your job and are trying to cut back on any possible expenses, or maybe your kids are spending a lot of time circling your fridge and you need to make up the downturn in your food budget. Sure, you’ve been doing your best to keep the purse strings tight, but you’re stumped trying to find more ways to cut back. Well, here’s something that might not have crossed your mind yet . . . your electric bill.
Check out these tips on how to lower your electric bill and still beat the heat with major summer savings.
1. Do an electricity audit.
Don’t let the word audit scare you. Basically, this just means going through and reviewing the electric usage at your home. For the best (and most in-depth) electricity audit, you might want to call in an expert from your local electric company. The best part: A lot of electric companies offer this service for free!
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So, what happens during the audit? You can expect the pros to ask you about what you’re looking to accomplish and what concerns you have. They’ll run tests, inspect your home for air leaks, and check the quality of your insulation. Then they’ll give you their best recommendations on how you can fix any big issues.
But if you’re the handy type, you might consider doing the whole thing yourself using a simple online audit tool (type in your zip code, and the energy calculator will take it from there with your personalized results). If the audit causes you a lot of head tilts, don’t worry. Go through and see what changes are actually worth it to you. Make sure you budget for any home improvements you need to make (with your zero-based budget). Then sit back and watch that electric bill go down month after month!
2. Turn off the lights.
Sounds simple, right? For a lot of families, forgetting to turn off the lights is already a hot topic of conversation (to put it lightly).
But there’s good reason: Keeping the lights on when they’re not in use is a real drain on your electricity—and your budget. For every 40-watt lightbulb that runs for an hour, 0.04 kWh of energy is used up. So let’s say your electric company charges 10 cents per kWh of electricity. That means every hour the light is turned off, you’ll save $0.004.1 That might not sound like a crazy savings, but if you switch off just five lights in your house for 10 hours a day, you’ll save $6 a month right there. The more lights you switch off (and the higher wattage they are), the more you’ll save!
So get in the habit of turning on the light only for the room you’re currently using. And if it’s sunny out, use that natural light to your advantage. Not only is it easy on the eyes, it’s free!
3. Change your lightbulbs.
You rolled your eyes at your spouse when they brought home those new, energy-saving lightbulbs. After all, a lightbulb is a lightbulb, right? Wrong.
Your partner in crime knows what they’re talking about. While these bulbs will cost a bit more up front, you can save big bucks (over time) just by switching out the lightbulbs in your home! (Talk about saving money the easy way!)
Next time you’re at your favorite home improvement store, take a hard right turn down that lighting aisle and stock up on compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Be on the lookout for the green Energy Star logo when you’re shopping too. It’s the government symbol for energy-efficient products.
A typical Energy Star-certified CFL lightbulb will pay for itself in energy savings in less than nine months. After that, it’ll continue to save you money each month!2 If you think that’s good news, check out those LEDs too. Most LED lights use only 20–25% of the energy of those old incandescent lights and last 15–25 times longer!3 Say what?
4. Check for air leaks.
Ask yourself these questions when checking for air leaks: Are the windows whistling? Can you hear air coming in from under the front door on windy days? Do the doors actually seal shut when you close them? Is the fireplace damper working? Hopefully, you discovered a few of these easy-to-miss energy wasters when you did your energy audit.
Listen, it might sound lame, but keeping your windows, doors and appliances sealed properly makes a big difference . . . especially in the peak heat of summer.
If you have doors and windows that aren’t sealed right, you’re letting warm air in and that cool air out. And when you’ve got an air leak in your home, you might as well have a leak in your wallet.
Air sealing your home is a cheap and easy money saver! Just pick up some weather strips for your doors and windows. You’ll also need some caulk to seal those leaky areas in your plumbing, air ducts and wiring. Buying weather strips, caulk and a caulk gun will cost you less than $15, but it can save you up to 20% on your energy costs.4 Talk about a return on investment!
5. Replace the air filter.
We know, it’s kind of a drag to replace these things throughout the year. But guess what? It’s a simple fix that can prolong the life of your HVAC system and make it run more efficiently (that will save you money in the long run). So just bite the bullet and remember to swap out the air filter every three months—you’ll be glad you did.
6. Shut the door.
You remember it well as a kid. You were having the best summer ever, racing in and out of the backdoor playing with the neighbor kids (and leaving the door wide open). After a few times in and out, your mom would shout, “Were you born in a barn? Close the door!” Ah, sweet childhood memories.
Your mom had a point. Keeping the outside doors open while the A/C unit—or furnace—is running is a bad idea. Not only are you letting that precious (and expensive) air escape, you’re also making your unit run harder for longer. Just visualize your dollars sailing out the door . . . right alongside your coveted cool air. Yikes.
7. Program your thermostat.
Did you know dialing down your thermostat by 7–10 degrees for eight hours a day can save you 10% on your electric bill each year?5 You can do this the old fashioned way: Just change the thermostat when you wake up and adjust it again before you go to sleep. It sounds like a pain, sure. But hassle or not, there’s no denying the fact that it will save you money.
If you want to save your sanity (and it’s in the budget), you can buy a programmable or smart thermostat. It’ll save you the hassle of remembering to turn the temperature up or down morning and night, and they’re not that expensive either (some start at just 20 bucks).
If you’re tech obsessed, investing in a smart thermostat could be the right move. These savvy devices allow you to change the temperature of your home from your smart phone—simple as that! And some devices even have a little something called geofencing (fancy). Geofencing uses your smart phone’s location to track when you’re home and adjusts your temperature automatically. This definitely isn’t your grandma’s thermostat.
8. Don’t run your appliances unless they’re full.
Yep. We’re talking about things likes your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. If your kid comes home with super dirty/smelly/stained pants (you know the ones), you might be tempted to go ahead and wash those (in your hazmat suit) on their own. Believe it or not though, one of the biggest money wasters is running your washing machine for just a few pieces of clothing.
The average washing machine uses 590 kWh, and the average dryer uses 769 kWh.6 That means each load of laundry you wash and dry costs about 70 cents. It’d be a shame to spend that amount when you’re only washing a few socks and the shirt you want to wear tomorrow. So wait until you have a full load of clothes in your hamper before you declare it laundry day.
And when it is time to toss a load in the wash, there are two super simple ways to cut back on the amount of energy you use up: using less water (fewer loads) and using cold or warm water.7
When it comes to the dryer, the rules are the same. Don’t use the dryer on anything but a full load, make sure not to over-dry the clothes, and try to dry similar items at the same time. There’s nothing more obnoxious than spending two hours drying your towels and T-shirts only to find out your towels aren’t even close to dry. Pro tip: Use the automatic cycle instead of any timed settings to make sure those moisture sensors do their job.
If you want to dig a little deeper, use this handy home energy use calculator to estimate just how much your appliances are costing you. And if you really want to lower your electric bill, try cutting out the dryer altogether and line dry your clothes—sometimes you’ve just got to go back to the basics.
9. Check phantom energy.
No, we’re not talking about ghosts here. We’re talking about phantom energy—a little something that happens when appliances use up energy even when they’re turned off!
Yep, start unplugging those devices and appliances when you’re not using them. You’ll be surprised by how much money you save just by pulling the plug. Phantom energy costs the average family up to $100 per year on their electric bill—for nothing.8
10. Adjust your refrigerator.
This is another one of the small fixes that makes a big impact. Take a look at your settings on the refrigerator. A good rule of thumb is to keep your fridge set at about 35–38 degrees.9 Adjusting the setting like this will keep your food fresh and frozen but will make sure your unit isn’t zapping extra energy by working overtime to try to keep everything too cold.
11. Lower the hot water heater temperature.
Most people don’t ever stop and wonder if their water temperature is too high. You turn on the tap, the warm water comes out, and you go on about your business as usual. But if your water temperature is set too high, you could be wasting $36–61 each year.10
Setting the water heater to 140 degrees is high and can even result in dangerous scalding hot water, but setting it too low to 120 degrees can mess with your dishwasher’s bacteria-killing ways. Play around with the temperature settings and see what works for you.
12. Ask about discounts and incentives.
We all love a good discount, right? So check with your local electric company to see if there are any special savings available. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know!
Some companies give discounts for going paperless. Others might give you rebates based on any energy-saving home improvements you do to your home. Not only that but when you sign up for newsletters, they share tips and tricks that can help you save even more.
Wouldn’t it be great to start seeing more money in your wallet and less flying out the window (or leaky crack in your door)? We thought so. Try out a few of these tips to keep that electric bill low and see how much savings you can rack up along the way. Just remember to keep track of your budget and newly saved cash with our free budgeting app, EveryDollar. That way you can sit back and feel accomplished when you see the savings roll in.