15 Ways to Save Money on Utilities
Most people in their twenties are always a little tight on cash. Or maybe more than a little. Adulthood brings with it a lot of fun and freedom, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. Mostly financial responsibilities. And let’s face it, financial responsibilities suck. Here are some things I do around my own home to try to keep my utility bills down.
- Energy-efficient bulbs
Energy- efficient bulbs, often called CFLs, use 75% less energy and last 6-10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs. The upfront cost might be a little higher than the alternative but over time it will save you big on your electric bill. I’ve had the same CFL bulb in my bedside lamp for almost 5 years now so they really do last for a long time.
This is another place where a small change can save you a lot of money. Most people recommend turning your heat down to 68 or lower in the winter, and turning your air conditioning to 78 or higher in the summer. You can even bump it down or up a few degrees when you leave the house, or even turn it off altogether. If you can, install a programmable thermostat. You can set these to your schedule so it will automatically adjust the temperature based on whether you’re home or not. Some programmable thermostats are even wifi enabled and can be controlled remotely from your smartphone. In the winter, you could have your thermostat set to a lower temperature during the day while you’re gone, but you could turn the heat back up from your phone when you’re on your way home so your place will be warm when you get there. I don’t have a programmable thermostat at my house, but I’ve made it part of my daily routine when I leave for work to change the temperature by five degrees down or up depending on the season.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you don’t have laundry in your home. But if you do have your own machines, make sure you only wash a load of laundry once you have a full load. It takes the same energy to wash a full load as it does a half load, so make sure you have a full load so you don’t have to use the machine as often. Switching the water from hot to cold will also save you a lot of money. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to separate darks and whites since the colors don’t usually run in cold water. Another thing you could consider doing is buying a folding drying rack and let your clothes air dry instead of using your dryer. Your clothes will last longer and you won’t be using a ton of energy to run your clothes dryer. If you do use your dryer, use dryer balls! I bought mine for about $5 in the laundry aisle of the grocery store, and they will last forever. Use them instead of dryer sheets. My clothes feel softer and cleaner than ever.
- Window blinds and curtains
If you don’t have blinds or curtains, get some. Closing blinds or curtains during the summer will help keep the sun out during the day, which means your A/C won’t have to work as hard to keep your place cool. Less work = less electricity = lower bill. The opposite applies in the winter. Keep blinds and curtains open to let the sun in to help warm your house during the day.
- Unplug electronics and appliances
Did you know that even when your electronics are off, they still use up electricity just by being plugged in? Only plug things in when you need to use them. Or better yet, plug everything into power strips and all you have to do is click one button to turn everything on or off.
- Low-flow fixtures
Installing low-flow fixtures in your house can save you up to 43% on your water bill. Added bonus: they’re super cheap and easy to install. Just unscrew your old shower head and screw the new low-flow head on. Most shower heads pump out 3 gallons of water per minute. Low-flow shower heads usually use 1.5 gallons per minute. Don’t worry about low shower pressure either; low-flow heads add more air into the stream which makes it able to use less water without sacrificing pressure. You can also add aerators to faucets to get the same benefits.
- Change air filters when recommended
This is the one thing on this list that I need to really get better at. Changing the filter for your central air helps keep the unit running as efficiently as possible. Most filters need to be changed once a month, but you can buy one that’s a little more on the higher end and change it every 3 months. It will tell you on the package when the filter should be replaced. Make sure you check which size you need! Filters are NOT one size fits all.
- Set water heater temperature lower
Same idea as turning down the thermostat in your house. Don’t set it higher than you need to. Make sure you have it set high enough so you can do dishes and take a warm shower, but make sure it’s low enough that you’re not making it heat more water than you need. It might take a little experimentation. You can also get a special blanket to wrap around your water heater that will help insulate it so the water will stay warmer longer.
- Weatherize your home
Do you have drafts in your home? Try putting weatherstripping down in places where the air is escaping, like windows and doors. You can also use caulk. This will help keep your central air and heat from working too hard.
- Electrical outlet plug insulation
I just recently put these in in my home so I’m not sure how well it works yet, but I had a friend who did this in their home and says they’ve saved about $5/month since putting the insulation in. It’s decently cheap and super easy to install, and it helps prevent drafts which will keep heating costs down. I’ll update when I get my next bill to let you guys know if there was much of a difference. You can also use plug covers for outlets not used.
- Use fans instead of A/C
Fans are significantly cheaper to run than your whole A/C unit. On days where it’s not sweltering outside, try turning the air off and the fans on. Did you know that you can also change the direction of your ceiling fan? There’s a switch on the side. This is important for proper air flow. In the summer, your fan should turn counter-clockwise to push cold air down. In the winter, have your fan run clockwise to promote warm air flow.
- Buy energy-efficient appliances
Your early twenties are when you are most likely to rent a place for the first time. This means you’re going to need things to put in your new place. When purchasing appliances and other electronics, buy energy efficient models if they’re available. The upfront cost might be a little higher than a non-energy-efficient model, but if it’s something you’re planning on having for a few years, it will be worth it down the road on your electric bill.
- Fix leaky faucets
A leaky faucet might not seem like a huge deal, but it doesn’t take long to accumulate a gallon of water. Fixing the faucet is not as hard as you might think, and it can help keep your water bill down.
- Call and ask for a discount
Most companies are very willing to help their customers keep rates down. Some places might be willing to give you a flat-rate discount on your bill. Others might help you switch to a cheaper plan that works for your energy needs. Most energy companies also have lots of information on their websites on how to keep your home efficient and may even send you free items to help your home efficiency.
- Cook efficiently
I saved this for last because there are so many ways you can save on utilities in the kitchen. Your oven and stove use up a lot of energy, whether it’s electric or gas. One thing I do in my kitchen to be efficient is cooking in bulk. If I’m going to bother to heat the whole oven, I better get more than one meal out of it. This way, you’re only using your oven once, but you get to eat twice or more. Another thing I always do is turn off my oven about 5 minutes before the food is done. The leftover heat will continue to cook the food and you have 5 minutes less use of energy. In the winter, I leave the oven door open when I’m done to let the heat out in the house to help warm the house. Waste not my friends. But my absolute number one tip for efficiency in the kitchen is to get a toaster oven. Seriously, they are magic. You can use it as a toaster,you can use it as an oven. I cannot sing enough praises of toaster ovens. They use significantly less electricity than the full oven but cook just as well. I use it for almost every meal. I thought about buying one for the family I nanny for so I can use it for lunch during the day. I am THAT obsessed with them. I mean, you can bake cookies in them. MAGICAL.