Simple Ways to Lower Your Summer Utility Bill
While our summers are mild, this year looks to have wild variation between hot and cool temperatures. Mild highs mean that our standard summer season is cheaper when it comes to paying for energy, but the wild swings between 12-31 degrees in the next few weeks can mean higher-than-normal utility costs compared to last summer. Still, if you’re already energy-efficient there may be a few things you can do now to help save on energy costs this summer (and yes, some of this advice will help for the winter as well).
What are You Spending Electricity On?
The quickest way to save is to identify where most of your utility bill is spent. Electrical appliances, water heaters, and air conditioners use a majority of the electrical power in your home. Even if you use gas for powering many of your appliances, you could stand to save some energy on these otherwise- ravenous appliances. Heating and cooling make up a substantial percentage of utility costs so the first place to start is in reducing costs associated with climate control and hot water. After that, identifying which always-on electronics in your home are simply energy vampires will help you cut out some of your wasted energy each month.
Insulation can be broken down into its own article and that’s how we’d approach it if we wanted to dig deep on heating, cooling, and water heaters. But when it comes to conserving energy and reducing utility bills, it’s better to focus on the high points of what insulation means to a homeowner:
- Home Insulation: Make sure your walls and attic are insulated properly. This will preserve heat in the winter and keep heat out during the summer. Leaks and drafts in walls and around doors or windows is part of ensuring proper home insulation so be sure to inspect everything.
- Water Heaters and Plumbing: Especially when using an electric water heater, placing an insulating jacket around the tank and pipes in your home will mean decreased loss of heat and a reduced cost while keeping stored water warm.
- Use Curtains to Shield Against Heat: Curtains and blinds are a great way to hold heat inside your home during the winter but they’re also an effective means of shielding against in the summer. Keep shades and curtains drawn when those windows are directly facing the sun.
So why is insulation important for your utility bill? Improved insulation means lower run times for water heaters, refrigerators, and air conditioners. Those lower operating times mean that you spend less each day on powering them and can decrease the amount you’re spending on electrical power.
Lighting for Energy-Efficient Homes
Maybe it’s a dead horse by this point, but controlling the amount of power you expend on your light bill is important. Of course, standard activities such as turning off the lights when you aren’t using a room still apply. Even so, updated lighting systems have changed how energy is consumed and that means you shouldn’t always turn off your lights after leaving. Fluorescent lights require more energy to turn on than they do for much of their operation time. If you’re planning on being in and out of a room all day long (and the room is lit with fluorescents) consider leaving the lights on instead of switching them on and off repeatedly.
That said, upgrading the lighting in your home to a more energy-efficient system is a sure-fire way to reduce your monthly energy demand. Just consider the difference between a 100-watt incandescent and a 15-watt LED lamp. With LEDs consuming roughly 10-15% of the energy used by incandescent lamps you’ll start saving immediately. After all, consider this:
A home with 10, 100-watt lamps throughout it expends 1 kilowatt each hour that those bulbs are in constant operation. That same home with an upgraded package will expend roughly 150 watts each hour of use. Even an upgrade to CFLs which use about 25% of the energy of incandescent will save you money every month. And that’s just during the summer when we use lighting less. The savings increase when the winter months arrive and longer nights mean increased lighting bills.
Shop Around for a Provider
Whether you’re looking for a new home, renewing a lease, or just looking to reduce costs on your existing house, shopping around can help you save each month. You have multiple options for how to purchase energy and you should take advantage of that by researching new rates each year. Lower rates can help you save throughout the year and will likely make up for any connection fees.
As a last note, take care of any appliance or devices that are consuming energy and not using it. Power adapters that aren’t being used (phone chargers for example) should be unplugged so that they don’t drain leak-current (energy that leaks through a system not in use). Many present-day devices feature ‘always-on’ capabilities, but you should only take advantage of the systems you need. Smart home features such as a smart thermostat or monitoring system should benefit from constant electricity, but you don’t need to leave every computer, video game, or TV plugged in all the time. Every device that’s plugged in is just one more device that’s slowly draining energy from the grid, so choose carefully about what you want to spend your money on.