Have you started to dread getting your electricity bill every month? Does the thought of wasting energy unnecessarily drive you up the wall? We understand. Home energy use is both expensive and, in an age of increasing environmental awareness, a source of nagging guilt for many people.
Homes use energy in complex ways, and there’s not just one easy fix for reducing your electric bill. The good news is that through a combination of behavioral changes and small upgrades, you can run a more energy-efficient home. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Change your lighting: Replacing the lights in your home with energy-efficient compact fluorescent or LED bulbs is a small investment that can deliver big benefits. CFLs and LEDs are up to 75% more efficient than conventional lighting, although CFL bulbs do require special disposal. Today’s products are designed specifically for the home, and give off a warm light that’s nothing like the harsh, institutional fluorescents you remember from high school.
- Invest in a smart thermostat: If your home relies on electric heat, a smart thermostat puts a number of sophisticated tools for conserving energy in the palm of your hand. Smart thermostats allow you to easily program temperatures with greater precision, and can be connected to your phone to optimize the performance of your HVAC appliances. As a result, a one-time investment can reduce your heating and cooling costs by between 20-30% each year, according to some estimates.
- Keep your heating and cooling system in good condition: Even with sophisticated tech such as a smart thermostat, your furnace and air conditioner need to be well maintained to deliver cost-effective performance all year long. Some regular preventative service — such as checking and changing the air filter as necessary — can be done easily on your own. However, an annual professional inspection is also necessary to confirm the performance of your system and identify signs of trouble before they lead to a breakdown.
- Ensure your home is properly sealed: A well-sealed home will be easier to heat and cool, which means your HVAC appliances don’t have to work as hard. Prevent drafts by caulking and weather-stripping your windows and doors. You may also want to consider upgrading to a set of energy-efficient windows — while they can be a big investment, they will both lower your monthly electricity bill and add value to your home.
- Choose the best utility company for your needs: Several states, including Pennsylvania, allow residents to choose which electric supplier they prefer. This means you can shop to see which supplier would be best for your needs. Research different suppliers’ programs and whether a fixed or variable rate would be best for your family.
- Run appliances during off-peak times: Many electric companies offer a lower rate during off-peak hours, typically evenings and weekends. Planning to do laundry, wash dishes and run other appliances during these times is a great way to save on your monthly electricity bill.
- Conserve while you cook: Most people don’t realize that, for certain appliances, a microwave can be far more efficient than a conventional oven. While we don’t recommend cooking a pot roast in there, for reheating leftovers, boiling water for tea and a number of other quick tasks, using the microwave is both convenient and more efficient. You can save even more by using a slow cooker for soups and stews and, if you’re willing to brave the outdoors, barbecuing all year long.
- Adjust your fridge settings: Keeping your fridge temperature set properly not only prevents bacteria growth, but can also reduce energy use and prevent unwanted freezing of food. Check your owner’s manual to determine where your fridge should be set and adjust accordingly.
- Don’t run appliances unnecessarily: Dishwashers, washers and dryers all take a lot of energy to run, so be judicious in when and how often you use them. Wait until your dishwasher is full before running it, don’t use your washer if you only have half a load of clothes, and air dry items whenever possible. As an added bonus, using your appliances less will help them last longer and require less maintenance, too.
- Unplug before you travel: Planning a trip? Don’t forget to unplug the electronics in your home before you leave. Computers, TVs and even lamps can all drain electricity when not in use, so make sure they’re properly shut down and unplugged before going away for an extended period.
- Go solar: Solar power systems are more affordable than ever before, particularly if you can take advantage of tax rebates and other incentives. As an alternative to an expensive full system installation, a dedicated solar water heater will cost less while still saving you money every month.
- Make energy use an everyday priority: Ultimately, one of the best things you can do to save on your electric bill is simply to be more conscientious about how you use energy in your home. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, shut down your computer when not in use and open a window instead of running the A/C. Adopting these little habits will go a long way toward keeping your bills in check and making your home more energy-efficient overall.