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When it comes to saving money, anything that you can do to reduce your monthly recurring bills will have a compounding effect. You’ll be able to save each and every month, have more money to save or use for other things, and the impact on your life can be pretty significant.
One of the biggest bills in many homes is for electricity. Of course, the electric bill will always be there, but there are plenty of things that you can do to save money on electricity each month.
Make a few changes and you should see your bill decrease. You’ll probably even be encouraged to take more cost-cutting measures once you see that your efforts made a real difference.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things you can do to decrease the amount that you spend each month on electricity.
Want to see even more ways to save? Be sure to check out my article 101 Practical and Realistic Ways to Save Money.
→ Related reading How to Create a Budget That Works
Depending on where you live, you may be able to choose your energy provider. If you live in a deregulated state like I do (Pennsylvania), shopping for the best rate is an easy way to save money. You can use a site like EnergyRates.com to look for a good deal. Or, there may be a site specifically for your state. For example, I use PAPowerSwitch.com to compare offers.
When you’re comparing plans and companies, be sure to look at whether the rate is fixed or variable, and if you’ll be locked in for a set amount of time. In some cases, you may be charged a penalty if you wind up leaving the company before the term is up.
Appliances and devices that are not being used can still draw a significant amount of energy. In some cases, even if it’s turned off it can still be drawing some power. Things like TVs, video game consoles, and computers are common culprits of this phantom power.
Take a few minutes to walk around your house and unplug things that are not in use or not used on a daily basis. You may be surprised at how many things you can unplug without adding any inconvenience to your life.
Are you curious how much electricity your appliances and devices are using? You can make a small investment in an energy monitor that will show you exactly how much electricity something uses. Some appliances and devices use very little, and others use a lot. Once you know they energy hogs you can make an effort to minimize their use and keep them off and unplugged.
There are some inexpensive energy monitors below.
An alternative to unplugging is to use a smart power strip or a smart surge protector. They work by cutting off power to devices that go into standby mode and would continue to use electricity. There are different brands and models on the market, but many of them have specific outlets for items that you want to continue to get power all the time, and other outlets for things that you want to completely shut off when they are not in use.
Whether you’re a Windows or Mac user, your computer has power settings that you can adjust. You can set it to reduce energy usage and to hibernate quickly if you are not actively using it. If you’re not familiar with these settings, here are instructions for PC and for Mac.
One of the most common ways to waste electricity is to leave lights on when they aren’t needed. Get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave a room.
This is a big one in my house. My kids are good at turning the lights on, and not so good at turning them off. We’re working on that, but for now I feel like I walk around the house all day just turning off lights.
Your hot water heater may be gas or electric, but either way, it costs a good bit of money to operate. Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees by default. To reduce costs you can easily lower the temperature to 120 degrees. At 140 degrees it’s probably too hot for showers and other normal uses. The setting of 120 degrees is hot enough, and will save you money each month.
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Download a free budget spreadsheet for use in Excel and OpenOffice, plus a PDF version that you can print.
Since showers are a big use of hot water, you can shorten your showers to spend less money heating water.
Heating and cooling accounts for a very big percent of energy costs in most houses. If you tend to leave your house at the same temperature all the time you are wasting money. With a programmable thermostat it’s very easy to set the temperature to be comfortable when you are home, and then reduce heating or cooling costs when you are not home or sleeping.
For example, in the summer you can program it so the temperature is a few degrees warmer while you’re sleeping and the hours that you are at work. In the winter, set it to be a few degrees cooler during those hours.
You can get a programmable thermostat on Amazon for a very reasonable price. Some options are shown below.
It’s estimated that increasing the temperature in your home by just 1 degree during the summer can reduce your costs by 3%. Of course, change it by 2 or 3 degrees and the impact is even greater. You may not notice a two-degree difference in the temperature, but you may notice the impact on your utility bills.
If the filter in your HVAC unit is dirty, the unit will not be operating efficiently. Get in the habit of checking the filter regularly and changing it when needed. Different filters will last for different lengths of time. Some are intended for only 30 days of use, and others might be intended for 6 months of use.
The size of your home will also impact how much it costs to heat and cool it. I learned this first hand a few years ago when we moved to a bigger house. I knew it would cost a little more, but I was surprised just how much it adds up. If you’re considering moving, be sure that you are factoring in these types of expenses and how much impact it will have on your budget.
LED light bulbs are more expensive than older, traditional light bulbs, but they are more efficient and they have a much longer life. Instead of replacing light bulbs all the time, you probably won’t need to replace them for several years. As the light bulbs in your house burn out, replace them with the LED variety.
Most of the energy needed by a washing machine involves hot water. If you wash clothes using cold water you can significantly reduce the amount of energy needed for the use of the washing machine.
Dryers also use a lot of energy (either electricity or gas, depending on your model) to heat. A cheaper alternative is to let clothes air dry. If the weather is nice you could use a clothesline in the yard, or use an indoor drying rack in your laundry room, basement, or bathroom. There will be times when you need to use the dryer, like when you need something dried quickly, but when it’s possible you can cut costs by air drying.
In order for your dryer to run efficiently, air needs to be able to pass through the vent easily. Every now and then you’ll probably need to clean lint out of the vent/duct in order to make sure that there are no problems with the air flow. If the vent gets clogged your dryer will need to work much harder, and it can even get to the point that it will shut off in the middle of a cycle.
Because dishwashers and washing machines can use a lot of energy, you don’t want to run them more often than needed. If you wait until you have a full load you can run them less often and save money.
Dishwashers will use heat to dry the dishes, but you can turn the heated drying cycle off if you want to reduce energy used by the dishwasher. Sometimes the heat helps to keep water spots off glasses and dishes, but as an alternative you can use something like Jet Dry.
Your windows can have a big impact the energy efficiency of your home and your heating and cooling costs. Good energy efficient, double pane windows will keep more of cool air or warm air in the house.
When it comes time to replace the windows, don’t forget this impact when you’re deciding which windows to buy. You’ll pay more for better quality windows, but you’ll save on heating and cooling costs for as long as you have the windows.
Check the area around your doors and windows to see if you find any air leaks or drafts. If so, fix it. These small air leaks can really add up since your warm or cool air will be constantly escaping to the outside.
During the summer when you are cooling the house, keep blinds closed to block sunlight. The sunlight that comes in through the windows will heat up the house and force your air conditioner to work harder.
In the winter when you are heating your house, open up the blinds to let as much sunlight as possible come in. The sunlight can help to naturally heat up the house a little, reducing the amount of work need from your heater.
Having grown trees around the outside of your house can protect the house from sunlight and lower the temperature by keeping it in shade. During the summer when you are running the AC this can help to save some money on cooling costs.
Make sure that your home is properly and adequately insulated. Attics and crawl spaces are common places to have problems with being under-insulated. Insulation is usually pretty inexpensive to add and can have a big impact on heating and cooling costs.
Refrigerators and freezers use more electricity than most appliances. If they are not properly sealed that cold air can be leaking out and you’ll be wasting money. Check around all the edges and see if you can feel any cold air escaping. If so, fix the air leak and you’ll improve the efficiency of the appliance.
Generally refrigerators should be set somewhere between 35 and 38 degrees, and freezers between 0 and 5 degrees. Setting them to the higher end of the range can reduce the expense of running the appliance. Check the temperature setting on your fridge and freezer to see if you should adjusted it. Of course, don’t go too high or your food will spoil.
Many homes have extra refrigerators. For bigger families this may be a necessity, but if not, consider getting rid of it. Since refrigerators use a good bit of electricity, having only one instead of two should make a noticeable impact on your monthly bill.
For about $10 – $20 you can buy a coil brush that will allow you to easily clean the coils on the bottom or back of your fridge. It is recommended that you clean off the coils about every six months to keep the fridge working efficiently.
Likewise, a toaster oven is another small appliance that is great for energy efficient cooking. Especially if you live on your own or just with one other person, you can probably use a toaster oven for many meals instead of the full oven.
Cooking more than one meal at a time is a great way to save energy, and to save your own time. Depending on the size of your family it may be very easy to cook multiple meals at one time, or you may need to be more deliberate about planning ahead if you have a larger family.
With smaller families you may be able to get multiple meals out of a larger slow cooker. Even if you’re using the oven, it takes less energy to keep the oven hot than it does to heat it up from room temperature. If you’re cooking multiple meals at once you can eliminate most of the pre-heating.
Most families use some outdoor lights for safety or convenience, but leaving them on all of the time wastes electricity. If you want them to be on all night you can use a sensor that will turn on when it gets dark, and off when it gets light. Or you can use a motion sensor to turn on the light when someone or something is moving in the area. If you have lights for landscaping, solar-powered outdoor lights are also very affordable.
When it comes time to replace any of your appliances, consider buying energy efficient models. You can look for Energy Star certified appliances to get something that will run efficiently and save you money each month.
Some energy providers have different rates for peak and off-peak hours. It’s worth checking with your provider to see if they have different rates, or if it is the same price all the time. If there are off-peak hours you can save money by doing laundry and running the dishwasher during these cheaper hours. For example, some companies reduce the rate at 8:00 PM, so you could run the dishwasher after 8:00 to save some money.
Read Next: How to Save Money on Gas
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I've been working in internet marketing full-time since 2008. I started VitalDollar.com to share from my experience and to help others who want to improve their own financial situation. You can read my full bio here.
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