12 easy ways to reduce energy bills

Fri Oct 16 2020

A woman checks her thermastat

Energy costs are on the rise, and with winter around the corner, now’s a good time to figure out what small changes you can make to keep that energy bill in check.

How to reduce energy bills

The average retail electricity price in the US is 13.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, a 1.2 percent increase from 2019. We’ll likely see costs go up by 1.2 percent again in 2021, too.

Aside from saving you some green, conserving energy is good for the environment. The EPA notes 40 percent of the energy consumed in the US is used to generate electricity, and most electricity is generated using fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. In other words, our energy consumption is a big part of our environmental footprint and impacts our air, water, and land.

Feeling inspired? These 12 tips will help you keep energy bills down and reduce energy waste.

1. Use energy-efficient appliances

If you’re in the market for new appliances, look for the Energy Star logo. Yes, there are energy-efficient versions of everything now: refrigerators, washers, dryers, microwaves, and dishwashers. They do the same job but require less energy to do it.

Energy-efficient appliances could help you save up to $100 a year on your energy bill. Plus, your state and local utility companies may offer rebates for these appliances.

2. Shine longer with LED bulbs

Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are pretty price-competitive with incandescent bulbs, but they last longer and use far less energy. An LED bulb only uses 11 to 12 watts; an incandescent bulb uses anywhere from 50 to 120 watts. That’s a 75 percent energy reduction to light your home.

LED bulbs also last eight to 25 times longer than an incandescent or halogen bulb. Each LED bulb has more than 50,000 hours of use time – about 11 years of lighting your home for 12 hours a day.

3. Install a solar water heater

Your water heater is one of the most energy-consuming appliances in the home. On average, it runs three hours a day and costs nearly $781 a year. Traditional 50-gallon water heaters run at 5,500 watts. A solar water heater costs $3,500 on average, but the savings add up over time. Your return on investment is about five years.

4. Switch to a smart thermostat

You can control a smart thermostat on your phone, tablet, or internet-connected device, which means you can adjust the settings when you wake in the morning or return home from work. That way you’re not paying for extra heating and cooling while you’re away. Some smart home thermostats could reduce heating and cooling costs by 15 percent, or about $130 each year.

5. Turn down the heat

Keeping your home just a few degrees warmer or cooler can dramatically reduce your annual energy consumption and bill. For every degree that you set your thermostat back during the winter, you can save 1% on your energy bill. During the winter months, this means wearing an extra layer while in the house or putting an extra blanket on your bed to save up to 10% on your energy bill.

6. Brighten up with solar panels

The cost to install a 6kW solar panel system varies depending on where you live. Installation can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $19,080, but some state and city utility companies offer rebate programs. Plus, you qualify for a federal tax credit – 26 percent of the cost of the system and installation in 2020 (and 22 percent in 2021). Once you have a solar panel, you can completely eliminate your monthly utility bill. In some cases, you can tie your system into the utility company’s infrastructure and sell energy back to the grid.

7. Fix leaky faucets

Check your home for dripping faucets, running toilets, or leaks under sinks. Even a small leak can drive up your water and electricity expenses (if it’s leaking hot water). A leaking faucet can cost you $20 a month, and a running toilet can use 200 gallons of water per day and cost $75 to $150 a month. Fix those leaks to save on utility bills.

Check out our home maintenance guide for more tips.

8. Plant some trees

Trees can reduce energy costs both in the summer and winter. During summer months, shade from the trees keeps your home from getting too hot. During winter, the trees provide a windbreak, slowing the winter winds from directly hitting your house and cooling your walls. That can save you 10 to 50 percent in heating.

9. Get a ceiling fan

A ceiling fan can help keep your home cool during summer months and warmer during winter. In the summer, make sure the blades rotate in a counterclockwise direction to push down the cool air so your AC works less hard. Reverse the fan’s rotation in the winter (and keep it on the lowest speed) to draw the cold air up toward the ceiling. On average, ceiling fans can help consumers save up to 8 percent on cooling costs. The cost to install a ceiling fan is $247 on average.

10. Maintain your HVAC system

Change the air filter in your HVAC unit to save on energy costs. A dirty air filter makes the system work harder to push air through the system and cool it. It can reduce the HVAC unit’s energy consumption by 15 percent. For many homeowners, that could help you save 7.5 percent in energy costs each month for a $12 air filter.

11. Power things down

Even when your electronic devices aren’t in use, so long as they’re plugged in, they’re drawing energy. When possible, unplug devices and turn off power strips to save a few dollars on utility costs.

12. Cook with an air fryer (or smaller appliances)

Did you know your oven uses 2,400 watts per hour on average? At 13 cents per kilowatt, that’s $9.49 a month or $113.89 a year to use your oven once a day for an hour. That might not seem like much, but with all your other appliances, it can add up. When it makes sense, try to use smaller appliances to get the job done. For example, the average air fryer uses between 800 and 1,500 watts. This could reduce your energy consumption by as much as two-thirds.

Remember, these are just ideas to get you started on a path toward less energy consumption. The goal isn’t to live a spartan, joyless life. It’s to take stock of where you can reduce your use and make those adjustments when you’re able to.


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