Utility bills are something that cannot be avoided, no matter how hard we try. During the winter months these bills can climb to seemingly impossible amounts, sometimes setting us back in our budget for months to come. And of course, the colder the weather, the higher the bills seem to climb. Fear not! We have compiled a list of things you can do to help reduce those pesky utility bills and help keep your budget in check through these cold winter months.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest wastes of electricity is water. According to a document provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource, “Water wasting wastes electricity. The biggest use of electricity in most cities is supplying water and cleaning up after it’s been used. Water heaters account for nearly ¼ of your home’s energy use, and water heating is usually the third largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for 13% of your utility bill.”
1. Use the Dishwasher
Contrary to popular belief, it takes more water to hand-wash dishes than it takes to wash them in the dishwasher. Don’t pre-rinse dishes. Scrape food from plates, and let your dishwasher do the rest. Only run the dishwasher when full. You’ll use the same amount of water whether you run a full load or a partial load.
2. Install a Faucet Aerator
Faucet aerator’s can be a very valuable money saving tool. They screw onto the bottom of your faucet to reduce water flow, without reducing water pressure. You can even get some that swivel to allow you to direct the water where you need it.
3. Heat Water on the Stove/ In the Microwave
4. Don’t Use the Garbage Disposal
Compost food waste or throw it in the trash. Both are water-free options.
5. Shower Instead of Taking Baths
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it takes 35 gallons of water to fill the average bathtub. Switch to a five-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead, and you’ll save 22.5 gallons each time you scrub up!
6. Turn the Water off While You Brush/ Shave:
Less flow time equals less water used. For shaving, fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water to rinse your razor. This will save 3 gallons each day.
7. Only Wash Full Loads of Clothes
You’ll save water, and wear and tear on your machine. Wear clothes more than once. Pants and outwear usually don’t get very dirty. Wear them twice before washing, and you’ll cut down on your water use and your housework. Now that’s hard to argue with!
8. Utilize Greywater
Save unused drinking water, capture water while you’re waiting for the shower to heat up and hang on to your cooking water – then use it to water your plants and grass.
9. Insulate Pipes
Cover your hot water pipes with foam insulation to prevent heat loss. The payoff: hot water faster and less water waste.
10. Collect Rain Water for Plants and Lawns
Another way to save water while not neglecting your garden is to attach rain barrels to the end of your gutter drain spouts to collect rainwater. Then, use it to water your plants or to wash your car.
11. Sweep Sidewalks
Some people still insist that the only way to get a clean walkway is to hose it down. This is not only wasting water, but also wasting money. A little sweeping action can save a lot of water – as much as 80 gallons a year, according to wateruseitwisely.com.
12. Wash Your Car Less Often.
Eartheasy.com, says it takes up to 100 gallons of water to wash a car. There are also a lot of waterless products on the market that work quite well.
13. Fix Leaky Faucets and Plumbing Joints
Another utility cost that can be reduced is your garbage service bill. In most cases, the less trash they have to pick up, the less your bill will be. So keep these items in mind for future savings:
14. Start Recycling
By recycling a few simple items, you should be able to cut the amount of trash you need to have removed by at least half. Plus, if you turn in your recyclables to a nearby recycling center, you can actually make some money off your trash rather than spending it!
15. Reduce Disposable Waste
One of the most expensive utility costs during winter months is the electric bill. Unfortunately, electricity is one thing we need to keep a household running. But fortunately, there are quite a few ways you can help lower the cost of that service:
16. Lower the Temperature on Your Water Heater
Not only does heating your water too hot create the danger of scalding, it can cost you cash. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a heater set higher than 140 degrees can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses to keep water at that temperature, and more than $400 to bring fresh water up to that high temperature. To save even more money, you can turn your electric heater off or turn your gas heater down when you go on vacation to save even more.
17. Change the Filter in Your HVAC System
Waiting a long time to change your filter makes your HVAC system less efficient and costs you more in electricity. According to a spokesperson for the EPA’s Energy Star program, dirt and neglect can even cause your expensive HVAC unit to die an untimely death.
Instead, spend a little more to get a reusable filter than you can simply hose off when it gets clogged up with dust and other particles. Using a permanent filter, you’ll save money in the long run, cut your utility bill and prolong the life of your HVAC unit. Disposable AC filters are around $4 each, you can recoup the $20 to $40 cost of a permanent filter in as little as 15 months.
It is also important to have your heating and cooling system serviced regularly. Roughly half of the average homes annual utility bill goes to either heating or cooling. It is definitely worth it to invest a little money into ensuring that your system is operating optimally.
18. Fill in the Cracks
When you add up the cumulative effect of all the small cracks in your home, it has the effect of leaving a window open all year long. To save money, you can use inexpensive expanding foam or caulk available at your local hardware store to seal cracks in the areas where cold or warm air typically escapes. Those places include: around windows and doorframes, around the top of basement walls where the cement or blocks contact the wooden frame (known as the rim joist), and around the holes in walls where pipes enter and exit your home.
19. Update to Energy Star
You’ve probably heard of Energy Star, the partnership between the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy that identifies energy-efficient products, especially as it relates to energy-intensive items like water heaters and clothes dryers. But Energy Star labels won’t just help you save money on big, expensive appliances. They also offer the energy and cash saving label on over 60 different kinds of things, such as lightbulbs, TVs, clothes washers, refrigerators, furnaces, fans and more.
Buying energy saving appliances can save $35 to $600 a year, and help you save on your electrical bill up to as much as 30%. You don’t have to replace out all of your appliances at once, but a gradual introduction helps too. Check with your local utility provider as well. Many of them offer assistance programs to help you get rid of those old electricity drains.
20. Program Your Temperature
Growing up, you probably had a frugal relative who enforced strict limits on how high or low the thermostat could be set. If you don’t have one now, a programmable thermostat can play this role for your home automatically. Based on your family’s schedule, you can program it to automatically set the target temperature higher in the summer and lower in the winter when your family won’t be home. Prices on the thermostats have come down so much — you can buy one at a hardware store for as little as $25.
21. Install Motion Sensors
Motion sensors are the perfect solution for left-on lights. They turn off automatically so you don’t waste electricity. They automatically turn lights on and off so you only get light when you need it. Using motion sensors can save you $100 per year.
22. Swap Out Those Bulbs
CFL bulbs will provide 10,000 hours of light and use $10.40 of electricity (at 8¢ per kilowatt hour). To get the same output with incandescent, you would have to use seven bulbs, which would cost less up front, but the electricity used to power them would cost $48.
Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is one of the quickest, easiest ways to save money—and a place everyone can start. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This can save you up to $35 in electric costs over the lifetime of each bulb.
23. Install Timers on Fans
Use timers to control bath fans so the fan will run for a preset time to air out the room and then automatically turn off. You can set the length of time you want the fan to run. Be sure the timer you buy is rated for motors, not just lighting (check the label).
24. Plug Into Power Strips
If you’d like to keep more cash in your wallet each month, unplug your electronics when you are not using them. You could also try plugging multiple appliances into a power strip, then turning off the strip when those items aren’t in use. Don’t worry about losing the settings on new computers and TVs. They have a memory chip that resets everything when you power back up. If you have an old VCR or other device that flashes after the power goes out, keep it plugged in.
25. Clean the Lint Screen
Clean your dryer’s lint screen after every use and you could save up to $25 a year. A clogged lint screen or dryer duct drastically reduces the efficiency of your dryer, whether it’s gas or electric. Clean the lint screen after each load and clean the exhaust duct once a year.
26. Vacuum Your Refrigerator
Save electricity by cleaning your refrigerator coils. Brush and vacuum the coils at the bottom or the back of the refrigerator. Your refrigerator uses more electricity than all your other kitchen appliances combined. Keeping it clean and running optimally will help you save more money.
Monitor your utility bills as you employ these simple practices to see what you save. It will be a pleasant surprise!