Winter is Coming.
As we enter the winter months and the weather outside becomes frightful, so do monthly utility bills. To help reduce the amount you’re spending on power each month, we’ve put together a helpful guide that covers strategies big and small to make heating, lighting, and powering your home cheaper and more efficient.
Before we cover some of the more involved methods, there are some obvious ones that you should absolutely employ in your efforts to lower your power bill but are simple enough they didn’t warrant full entries. We’re talking things like:
- making sure your vents are open when you’re trying to heat (or cool) your house
- turning off lights in rooms you’re not using
- unplugging chargers and electronic devices when not in use
- closing doors to help regulate room temperatures
- opening your shades/blinds during the day, and closing them at night
While these are little strategies everyone has heard before, they don’t take much effort to do, and the energy savings will quickly add up.
Instead of the above strategies, we wanted to focus on methods that might not be as obvious but that will save you a good chunk of change. We’ve split these up into three levels of difficulty: easy, intermediate, and advanced. Obviously, the higher the difficulty, the more time and/or effort you will need to put in, but their payoff is higher. That said, integrating any of these changes, big or small, will help knock down your power bill and save you money.
Turn Down the Heat
It may seem as if this belong in the “obvious” category, but when it comes to turning down the heat, it’s all about timing. Whether you’re leaving for a day at the office, a quick workout, or an evening out, turning down the thermostat when no one is home to enjoy the temperature just makes sense. However, there’s also a particularly long span of time spent at home when you should be turning the thermostat down.
It’s been found through various studies that sleeping in a cooler room is better for you than sleeping in a warm one. Not only that, but you’ll be saving money by not heating your house all night. Of course, this isn’t to say you should spend your nights freezing, as the health benefits only apply to the temperature of the air, not under the covers. So bundle up under a few extra blankets, and snooze soundly knowing you’re saving a few dollars.
Hack Your Washes
The energy and water used when washing dishes and clothes makes up a large portion of your monthly energy expenditure, but there are a few easy ways to make getting clean less expensive. Washing clothes in cold water, which is better for colorful clothes anyway, will save a ton of electricity. This will change nothing about how you do laundry; you just push a different button. Similarly, taking quicker, cooler showers will also reduce your heat (and water) bill.
When it comes to dishes, use lower heat. It’s the same as washing clothes: You don’t need the heat to be as high as you think. Yes, hot water is important, especially for sanitizing dishes. However, dishwashers have different settings for a reason; the manufacturer wouldn’t add a setting that made washing dishes unsafe.
When it comes to drying clothes, the most important thing is that you don’t overload the dryer. Though it may seem faster to just squish everything you own into a dryer, if the clothes don’t have room to move they won’t dry properly. This leads to weird smelling clothes and the dryer working harder than it should be to dry everything. Just do two smaller loads with a lower heat. Of course, you can always avoid the dryer entirely and instead hang-dry your clothes.
Cool Down Your Water Heater
You can also go straight to the source to change the temperature of your washes: your water heater. Turning down your water heater is a simple fix, but it requires some investigation first. Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but in most cases it is safe to reduce that temperature to 130 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is safe for most people, but if you have respiratory illnesses or a compromised immune system, it may be best to stick to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, as legionella bacteria can survive at lower temperatures than that. Again, this is safe for most people, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.
Furthermore, if your dishwasher does not have a heat boost, then keep the temp at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure your dishes come out fully sanitized.
These are simple, practical changes that will help save you some cash each month on your utility bill. However, there are a plenty more things you can do to save even more.
Minor Insulation Upkeep
While insulating your home is important, an entire overhaul of its insulation is difficult and time-consuming — not to mention expensive. Instead, there are some small changes and upkeep you can employ to close the gaps in your insulation.
First, wrap your hot water pipes. To prevent the heat from radiating out, and therefore being lost, wrap your hot water pipes in simple pipe insulation. Another major source of wasted energy is from leaking heat. Small holes and openings let out the heat (or cool air) you’re trying to fill your home with, which in turn makes your heating/cooling appliances work harder. Apply expanding foam, caulking, and/or weather stripping to any gaps or holes around your windows, door frames, and other openings in your home. A hardware store will have weather stripping that has a sticky back, so you can just cut it to size and stick it under anything that might be leaking.
Buy LED or CFL light bulbs. While a bit more expensive upfront than your usual incandescent bulb, these newer bulbs will last you far longer. They’re also safer, as they use less energy, and use it more efficiently, meaning that there is less heat produced. We understand how replacing the lights in your home can be a chore; there’s a large upfront cost, it can be tedious, and some dislike the brighter light quality of LEDs and CFLs. However, you’ll quickly make up the initial cost and then some given how much you’ll save on replacements and on your monthly energy bill, and if you combine LEDs or CFLs with a dimmer, you’ll be able to control the brightness to your liking.
Become a Heat Miser
Perhaps one of the best things to do is to double check that your power meter reading matches what the power company is charging you. While it’s not all that common, there’s always a chance you’re being overcharged, especially if your bill is based off of estimated usage. Simply make a note of the meter reading for your apartment unit or home every one to three months, and report the usage to the power company if there are discrepancies.