Ten ways to save money on your energy bill

KJ: It’s summer time, and we’re all looking for creative ways to save a couple bucks here and there, and one of the challenges we all face is our energy bill. With energy usage varying so much from month-to-month depending on weather conditions coupled with how often you’re actually home, it’s hard to see a noticeable change in the small stuff around the house, but here are a few ways to help cut your energy costs and consciously try to reduce your energy footprint.

Turn the A/C up and the heater down
One of the most obvious of energy savers is to turn up your A/C in the summer a few degrees – many experts recommend keeping it at 78 while you’re away and 74-76 while you’re home – and keep the heat low in the winter. We’re not as great with the summer temperatures since it’s uncomfortable to be sitting around – or sleeping for that matter – sweating, but we’re really good at keeping the heat down in the winter. We enjoy chilly temperatures in the home, so we can bundle up and wear sweatshirts, use blankets, and lounge, so we typically don’t turn on the heat above 63.

Turn off lights when not in use
There’s little to add to this one, but consciously thinking about turning off lights and fans when not in use can help. Every little bit adds up!

Purchase energy efficient lightbulbs
While there’s an initial up-front cost, the energy savings split out over the course of several years can be well worth the cost of replacing bulbs. Fortunately, technology is constantly changing in this area, so there are lots of options now that are low energy consumption choices that don’t take 45 seconds to actually warm-up and turn on. LED light bulbs not only use the least amount of energy, but they also don’t generate the type of heat that other bulbs do, so you pay even less on your A/C bills. The up-front cost can be high, so evaluate the use you will get out of them for how long you will be in your current residence be it apartment or house.

Invest in new windows or solar screens
Depending on your ability to pay for these expenses now and how long you may be in your home, evaluate if it makes sense to make an investment in the next several years of living expenses. Especially with new windows, it can take quite a while to recoup those energy savings, so consider your intentions in staying in the home for a long time as well as the up-front costs. With tax laws changing regularly, it’s important to review the laws periodically to see what may qualify and how it may qualify (see the IRS.gov website on 2013 energy efficiency related tax credits for more information). For 2013, you can get a credit for 10% of the price of new windows (subject to a limit of $200 – excluding any installation costs).

Use the outside temperature to your advantage
Is it cooler outside than in your home, but your A/C is running? Is it summer and warmer outside than your home, but you need more heat? Try opening a window and letting some of the fresh air inside, so you don’t have to turn on the A/C or heat unnecessarily. For us, we’re able to do this in the spring and fall and not so much in the winter or summer months, but every little bit helps.

Shop around for your provider
Check-out sites in your area dedicated to providing information on the lowest cost energy providers, and shop around. For Texas, consider reviewing PowerToChoose.Org if your term is about to expire. See also our post on saving money on your energy bill for more information.

Consider the Nest learning thermostat
While not having used this personally, I have read a lot of reviews and heard a lot of positive feedback from people that have. The Nest energy system allows you to efficiently monitor your energy usage in your home, provides great summary reports, and it allows you to easily customize schedules for your home, so you don’t waste energy while you’re away from the house or not using certain zones if you have more than one. Some energy providers even offer this system with a discount (or free), but consider the potential extra monthly energy costs you may face with those providers – they have to subsidize this somehow! We would love to hear about your success with this system if you’ve taken the plunge to try it out.

Change your air filters regularly
Changing your air filter regularly allows you to save a little extra money on your bill. The more dust and debris in the air filter, the harder your A/C has to work. Most experts recommend changing your air filters once every 30-60 days. Also, avoid the expensive filters. Oftentimes, the more expensive filters can block too much air flow to the unit, so you may actually be causing the unit to work harder and use more energy, so not only do they cost more up-front, but they can cost more to run on an ongoing basis.

Consider upgrading your appliances
Shop around to see if you can find a great deal on some newer, more energy efficient appliances. Don’t just upgrade them unnecessarily, but do the math on what your initial out-of-pocket expenses will be compared to the ongoing costs of carry of your existing appliance(s).

Check for leaks and drafts
Do a quick check-up of your doors and windows and see if there are any problem areas. Sometimes there are some simple caulking solutions to fix the problem, but other times it may require evaluating a larger initial outlay (i.e. new windows).

After all, it’s not just about reducing your energy bill, but also about using the resources we have more efficiently and reducing our energy footprint. Any small change can have a meaningful impact over a long period of time. Just like saving a small amount of money here and there (think of how your change jar can add up to something significant over time), saving energy adds up significantly over time. However, just because it can help save in the short-term doesn’t mean you can afford it now. Really sit down and look at your list of ‘must-haves’ to change now and see what you can reasonably afford. Maybe the new windows will have to wait another year or maybe you’re able to make enough small changes in the interim that it could wait even longer.

    What tips do you have for saving money on your energy bill?
    Have you used the Nest system?
    Tell us about other tips and tricks you have to cut your energy costs.

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2 thoughts on “Ten ways to save money on your energy bill

  1. Our power companies (or you can contract a consultant, who doesn’t typically charge a fee unless you request work to be done) will do a free energy audit. I have done this in the past, and it’s well worth the time spent. They will show you the “leaks” and make recommendations. You can then do the cost/benefit analysis. We have set-back thermostats. That helps a lot! I also insist on keeping shades and drapes closed when we are not at home, especially in the summer. I joke that our plants have a “summer” place and a “winter” place, contingent on the natural lighting. Turning off lights does help a bit, just remember that if they are fluorescents, the time it takes to heat up and illuminate means you should probably just leave them on if you are home and moving from room to room.

    • I like all of your suggestions! I didn’t know that energy companies had that service offering available, so we might have to try it out sometime to see what they say!

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