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how to save money on utilities

How to Save Money on Utilities


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When you are figuring out your budget, utilities is one of the hardest categories to figure out. Generally, you want to keep the cost of utilities below 10 percent. Because of its variable nature that changes due to the seasons and weather, which you can’t control, how can you save money on your utilities?

If you had parents who hounded you to turn off the lights when leaving a room to save electricity or shut off the faucet while brushing your teeth to conserve water, you probably can guess what actions to take to save on your utility bills.

Or if you had parents who paid little attention to energy and other utility usage, the same could be said for you. Now that we’re all in this health and economic crisis together, saving energy and money in difficult financial times is probably a smart move.

You don’t have to go crazy by going completely green to save some green. Here are a few steps you can take to lower your utility bill.

Simple ways to save on utilities

Pay attention

This may seem obvious, but many people don’t give a thought to leaving every light in the house burning, the TV running while they’re gone and the porch light on all day long.

However, once you start turning off lights in empty rooms, stop wasting water, and adjust your thermostat by even a few degrees, you should see a decrease in utility bills.

Check on non-peak energy discounts

Your electricity provider may offer time-of-use discounts if you wait until after 8 p.m. to run the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or other large appliances. [1]

That’s because it costs the utility company less to provide electricity during non-peak times, so the savings get passed along to you if you sign up for a time-of-use program. [2]

Air ducts

The air duct system, which carries air from the furnace and air conditioner to rooms in your house, could be responsible for high heating and cooling bills. In fact, an air duct system that leaks heated air into unheated spaces can add “hundreds of dollars a year” to your heating and cooling bills, according to Energy Saver, a consumer website for the U.S. Department of Energy. [3]

Energy Saver recommends insulating ducts in unconditioned spaces and checking whether existing ducts may be blocked or need upgrades. [4]

Waste less hot water

Did you know that water heating can comprise around 12% of your total utility bill, coming in second after heating and cooling costs? [5]

The U.S. The Department of Energy recommends fixing leaks in faucets, showerheads and pipes and installing low-flow fixtures. [6] You can save even more by purchasing an energy-efficient washing machine or dishwasher.

Take short showers instead of baths

As relaxing as a hot bath can be, taking short showers can use a lot less water. While it’s tempting to stay in a hot, steamy shower as long as possible, keeping your shower time short will save money on both water usage and water heating costs.

Don’t leave water running

There’s no reason to leave water running while brushing your teeth, grabbing something from a kitchen cabinet or setting out work clothes in the bedroom while shower water heats to the perfect temperature.

Turn off the water when you’re not using it to prevent wasting this valuable resource and lower your water bill.

Be strategic with dishwasher loads

Unless you have a family, you probably don’t need to run a half-empty dishwasher every day. Even if your dishwasher fills up fast, load it as full as you can before washing a load.

To save even more, check with your electric company to find out if you can get a discount for using the dishwasher and other appliances during weekend and nighttime off-peak hours. [7]

Unplug unused electronics

Energy.gov recommends unplugging electronic devices you aren’t using or the extra TV in the guest room when you don’t have guests to avoid wasting money on “energy vampires” that continue to use electricity when plugged in, even when not in use. [8]

Clean your dryer vent

You know that long aluminum, plastic or vinyl tube sticking out the back of your dryer and blowing hot air outside? If that vent gets clogged, you have two big problems. For one thing, your house could burn down, since dryer vents clogged with lint can ignite fires.

The second issue is less extreme but still crucial when trying to cut your gas or electric bill. That’s because a clogged dryer vent causes clothing and heavy items such as towels to take forever to dry. So what typically dries in one cycle may take three or four times instead.

Clean your dryer vent at least once a year for safety and lower utility bills. [9]

Appliance maintenance

Out of sight, out of mind is a bad approach when it comes to keeping expensive appliances in your home clean and maintained.

Whether you’re ignoring dust bunnies on the back of your refrigerator or leaving your HVAC system to chug along without regular maintenance, you may pay for that negligence later with repair bills or appliance replacement.

1. Refrigerator

If you pull your refrigerator away from the wall, prepare to be disgusted by all the pet hair and dust bunnies clinging to its back and clogging the vents. A dirty refrigerator backside isn’t just messy, though.

Dust and pet dander can clog refrigerator coils so the appliance doesn’t cool properly. Brush the back off, sweep under the fridge and clean vent openings with a vacuum attachment regularly or pay for repairs or a new refrigerator later.

Find out: 5 Tips to Increase Your Home’s Value

2. Washing machine

Just think of all the stuff that comes from dirty clothes to settle inside your washing machine. Hair, dirt, grass, bits of cloth, pet hair, shredded tissues, and other debris can mess up this machine over time if you don’t keep it clean and maintained. Leaving wet clothes in the washtub can also cause mold and mildew.

Deep clean your washing machine by running an empty load with a small amount of vinegar and warm water. For complete cleaning and maintenance, hire a professional to clean your washer annually.

3. Clothes dryer

Who knew clean clothes could be so dirty? Lint and pet hair build up on your dryer’s lint screen as well as inside the lint trap and even in the vent hose that blows outside when the dryer runs. Maintaining your dryer can extend its life and may even keep your house from burning down due to a clogged vent.

You’ll also spend more money on utilities with a lint-clogged dryer, which is less efficient, using more gas or electricity and taking longer to dry clothes. Clean the lint screen after every use and vacuum out the dryer vent every six months or hire a professional for maintenance.

4. Computers

Dust and fine pet hairs sift into laptops, tablets and desktop computers, causing electronic devices to overheat, run more slowly, sustain component damage and require expensive repairs.

To avoid pricey repairs or buying a new laptop or other electronic device, clean dust from the inside of your computer regularly. Dust off devices often and keep areas around electronics vacuumed and dusted.

5. HVAC system

You can save lots of money on your HVAC system by scheduling annual maintenance checks for furnace and air conditioning units. For one thing, maintaining these appliances decreases the chance of repair costs for a surprise breakdown on the hottest day of the year or during a January snowstorm.

Furnaces on average last only 15 to 25 years, according to home enthusiast site This Old House. Air conditioners have an even shorter lifespan, 10 to 15 years. Keeping your HVAC system clean and maintained can extend the life of your furnace and air conditioner, delaying purchase of expensive replacement units.

6. Dishwasher

Calcium deposits can clog your dishwasher sprayer arm. Food particles can plug the drain. However, hiring a plumber or appliance repair technician to fix a poorly maintained dishwasher doesn’t have to be a yearly ritual with a few proactive cleaning measures.

Consumer Reports recommends pulling out and clearing the bottom filter weekly. Deodorize and sanitize your dishwasher by placing a bowl of vinegar on the bottom rack during a normal wash and rinse cycle.

Save more with these energy-efficient strategies

Save Electricity & Fuel

Consider upgrading your appliances to energy saver models.

  • Lighting
  • Toilets
  • Dishwashers
  • Washers and dryers
  • Thermostats
  • Heat Pumps
  • Water Heating

Weatherize your home

Air and money could be leaking out of cracks. Hiring a professional could pay for itself over time. Home energy audits can find where you’re losing your cool and suggest fixes to your weather woes.

  • Air Sealing
  • Insulation
  • Moisture Control
  • Ventilation

Design for Efficiency

If you’re feeling really ambitious and are considering a bigger investment make sure you design for efficiency.  Whether you are building a new how or are making improvements think about the financial impact of design on your future utility bills.

  • Landscaping
  • Windows, Doors, & Skylights
  • Cool Roofs
  • Passive Solar Home Design

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