According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. family spends $2060 per year for home utilities – almost 50% is on heating and cooling.

 

It’s often thought that in order to decrease utilities costs, all you need are energy star qualified appliances and windows.

While these help, there are other, cheaper ways to dramatically decrease costs that don’t require a huge investment or major changes to your lifestyle.

I’ve tried to make this list exhaustive so I’ve included both actions we’ve done to lower utilities costs and not done as it might work for your situation. I hope it can be a handy checklist you can reference.

With all of the recommendations, check the corresponding appliance’s instruction manual and warranty for application and more details.

 

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Heating and Cooling (biggest impact)

  • Get a smart thermostat. Getting the Nest has reduced our energy bill by at least 10%! Even though my husband and I are not handy or tech saavy, installation of the Nest was a breeze. The unit is easy to use. We used the schedule to set temperatures, but things change all the time and I love how you can just use the app on your phone to make temperature adjustments on the go. The Nest is smart in that it learns your habits including using your phone’s location to detect when you’re away to set temperatures that save energy. The monthly reports they send are a great reminder to save energy. Read more information about the Nest here.
  • Check out your local government energy savings rebate programs. If you’re in Canada, once you’ve purchased the Nest, you might be eligible to receive a government rebate. In Ontario, there’s also the AffordAbility Fund which gives Ontario residents free energy savings upgrades. All we did was fill out some contact information online. We received a call asking us to confirm our household income and average electricity bill, and then within a few weeks, we received a free Home Energy Savings kit which included energy star lightbulbs, a powerbar, a night light and a fridge/freezer thermometer.

 

Other Heating and Cooling Solutions

  • Turn down the heat in the winter and the air conditioner in the summer. Even a ½ degree change makes a difference.
  • In the winter, keep your curtains closed to keep the heat in. In the summer, open your windows at night and close them and any curtains during the day to keep the sun out.
  • If you have an air conditioner, clear the debris from the coolant coils that makes the unit work harder and consume more energy.
  • Use portable fans (like this high performance fan) and heaters to cool down or warm up only the room you’re occupying and don’t use the thermostat that affects the entire house.
  • If you have adequate ventilation in your home, apply weatherstripping or caulking to seal up cracks and holes.
  • During the winter, use plastic window film or removable caulking on windows you won’t open. You can remove these in the spring and reuse them in the fall.
  • Add or upgrade insulation.
  • Put on more layers of clothes when it’s cold as opposed to turning up the heat.

 

Lighting

  • Seal outlets, particularly outlets on exterior walls. You can use approved foam gaskets. I just used childproof plastic plugs that worked well to block drafts.
  • Turn off lights when not in use, which is such a simple, but sometimes forgotten strategy.
  • Use natural light during the day.
  • Install dimmer switches.
  • Install motion sensor lights.
  • Use LED Iight bulbs as they use significantly less electricity than incandescent bulbs and don’t contain mercury like compact fluorescent bulbs. Use them for lighting around the house as well as for outdoors for the holidays.
  • Consider using fewer holiday lights and decorate with wreaths or solar-powered lights.
  • Use low-wattage light bulbs in areas you don’t need bright light.
  • Use lamp shades with a white liner as this reflects more light.
  • If you need light for work at a table (like when you’re using the computer) at night, use a desk lamp.

 

Oven and Stove

  • Use the toaster, microwave or Instant Pot instead of the oven or stove to heat up, toast or cook small amounts of food as they’re faster and more energy efficient. If you’ve never used the Instant Pot, I highly recommend giving it a try as it’s an energy, time and space saver!
  • Use an electric kettle for boiling water instead of a pot on the stove. Boil only as much water as you need each time to not waste heat on excess water that will not be used.
  • Cook with lids on or slightly ajar (if you need the air circulation) to speed up cooking time.
  • Turn the stove and oven off approximately 5 minutes early and let the built up heat finish the job.
  • Use the correct size pan for the burner or heating element i.e. if you’re using a small pan, use a small burner on the stove.

 

Fridge and Freezer

  • Don’t overfill the fridge as the cold air within the fridge needs space to be able to circulate. If the fridge is full, the unit needs to work harder to ensure proper air circulation to keep the fridge cold.
  • In contrast, the freezer should be full. The less space available in the freezer, the less energy the freezer uses to keep the temperature down.
  • Cover food items in the fridge as uncovered items may release moisture which makes the compressor work harder. These mason jars and rectangular glass containers have been the best containers we’ve used – it’s what we still use today and haven’t had to replace.
  • Clean the door seal so that it closes tightly.
  • Defrost the freezer regularly and ensure the frost doesn’t exceed 1/4 inch as this level of ice buildup will mean greater energy inefficiency.
  • Get rid of, downsize or replace (with a more energy efficient model) the second fridge or freezer if you can as it costs hundreds of dollars per year to maintain.
  • When going away for extended periods, consider setting your fridge and freezer to the highest manufacturer recommended settings or emptying it and unplugging it.

 

Dishwasher

  • Use the dishwasher sparingly.
  • Pack it to the brim when you do use it.
  • Scrape excess food off dishes, but avoid pre-rinsing dishes.
  • Set it to the light soil cycle.
  • Turn off the manual heat dry setting and let your dishes air dry.
  • Hand wash whenever possible as it is the most energy efficient way. Consider hand washing all large pots and pans.

 

Laundry

  • Wash clothes in cold or warm water and hang dry on an indoor rack near a sunny window or outside.
  • If you have to use a dryer, clean the lint trap after every load and ensure the vent isn’t blocked.
  • Add a dry towel to the dryer to help absorb the moisture and reduce drying time. Consider using a wool dryer ball.
  • Avoid putting very wet clothes in the dryer and instead, wring the clothes out by hand.
  • If drying more than one load, do the second load right away so the dryer doesn’t cool down.
  • Wash full as opposed to partial loads.
  • Use half the amount of detergent recommended if you have loads that have relatively unsoiled clothes. This not only increases the lifespan of your washing machine, but also your clothes.

 

Bathroom

  • Install a low flow showerhead.
  • Avoid taking showers everyday.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn water off when brushing your teeth or shaving.

 

Outdoors

  • Avoid generating heat indoors during hot days. As cooking is one of the greatest heat generators, cook more salads in the summer or use the barbeque.
  • Plant a deciduous tree on the south side of your home as it will provide shade in the summer.
  • If you have a pool, put the pumps on timers so they don’t run more than they need to.
  • If you have a hot tub, ensure it is well insulated, turn the temperature down and put it on a timer.
  • Use motion sensors or timers for exterior lights instead of leaving them on all night.

 

Hot Water Heater

  • Lower the temperature of the hot water heater. 120°F provides comfortable hot water for most.
  • Wrap the tank with an insultated blanket or sleeves, especially if it’s in an unheated space. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on where not to cover which might include the top, bottom, thermostat and burner compartment.
  • Insulate the first 6 feet of hot and cold water pipes connevted to the hot water heater.
  • If you will be out of town for more than a few days, consider turning off your hot water heater.
  • Drain the water at least once a year to remove sediment.
  • Bleed trapped air from the hot water radiators at least once a year to clear its normal flow.

 

General

  • Get an autoswitching energy bar.
  • Unplug unused electronics to minimize phantom power.
  • Use off-peak hours for cooking and laundry to lower energy costs.

 

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60+ easy ways to reduce your home utilities expenses

60+ ways to Decrease your Home Utilities Expenses
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