Due to the pandemic and winter approaching, we're spending more time at home than usual. More time at home results in a bigger electricity bill. What's worse, with the recent electricity prices spike, utility bills will feel more taxing than ever. Have you searched online on how to lower electric bills at home? You'll probably come across tips like "switch off the lights when you're not using them" or "hang dry your clothes." These suggestions are helpful to an extent. Also, pretty obvious, right? Well, this blog isn't about the obvious tips but about newer and smarter ways to save electricity. So we've rounded up a list of 10 clever ways to save on electric bills. You're welcome!
How to save on electric bills in 10 steps
1. Start with an electricity audit
Before starting with any electricity-saving habits, it's essential to know how much electricity you're actually using. You could use an online auditing tool, download an auditing app, or get a professional to do it. Once you've finalized your electricity audit, it's much easier to identify areas to reduce your energy usage.
Energy audits are a very affordable way to save money on electricity. And many local utilities provide this service for little or no cost.
Related: 7 Common Excuses For Not Having A Personal Budget & How To Beat Them
2. Focus on the biggest energy users: heating and cooling
Your heating and cooling systems are, without a doubt, the biggest guzzlers of energy in your home. The chart below shows you the electricity usage for an average apartment. Take a look at the share for heating and cooling:
If you can replace your heating or cooling systems with a more energy-efficient model - great! According to energy.gov, you will save between 20–40% in energy costs.
You can guarantee you're getting an efficient model by checking two things. One is the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER rating). The SEER rating of a unit is the unit (BTU) to the energy consumed in watt-hours, and the other is by looking for an Energy Star certified model.
Once you install your system, you'll want to check that it works efficiently. If not, your heating and cooling system may end up working harder than it needs to.
This brings us to the next step in lowering electric bills: sealing any air leaks.
3. Seal any air leaks
Utility bills skyrocket during the summer and winter, because that's when people use their cooling or heating systems more. If your doors and windows aren't sealed properly, the indoor temperature will be affected. Didn't think of that one, right? You can easily avoid this by checking your window and door seals frequently. There is a cheap and easy way of making sure your doors and windows are properly sealed—pressure-sensitive weather strips. Buying weather strips costs less than $15 and can save you up to 20% on your energy bill.
4. How to save on electric bills with large home appliances
Large appliances suck up a great deal of energy. These include your dishwasher, dryer, freezer, oven, washing machine, and refrigerator. But you can't just turn them off when you're not using them. Rest assured, the following tips should help.
Freezer It may seem like old-fashioned advice, but a full freezer can help it work efficiently. Who knew all those frozen veggies and meats you stockpiled during the pandemic would help you save on your electric bill?
Refrigerator Your refrigerator is the biggest, most energy-consuming item in your kitchen. Make sure you clean its coils twice a year. Keeping this practice up will improve your fridge's efficiency by around 30%. According to NRCan, dirty condenser coils restrict airflow and cause your refrigerator to work harder, thus using more energy.
Dishwasher Try a lower water temperature. 120-degree water still does the job, plus it saves energy. Waiting until the dishwasher is full or running it off-hours can also reduce overall energy costs.
Washing machine Warm water cuts up to half energy per load. And cold water saves the most power and also helps preserve colors. Aim for a full load with every wash, and use your washer's maximum spin cycle to save drying time.
5. Check phantom energy
It's good practice to switch off lights and appliances when you're not using them. But keeping items plugged in, even if they're turned off, increases your bill. Most electrical items, e.g., games consoles, routers, printers, and rechargeable devices, steadily "bleed" electricity. This is called "standby electricity loss," "phantom energy," or "vampire electricity."
💡 The estimated cost of phantom energy ranges from $165 to $440 annually per household.
Here are a few ways to reduce phantom energy waste.
Use modern power strips These power strips are designed using technology that helps minimize energy waste. They have a timer that automatically turns them off. So, they save you the trouble of unplugging items that aren't in use. Some "combo" strips have timed and untimed outlets, where half the outlets are on timers, and the rest are always on.
Dim your screens Did you know, the brighter the screen, the greater the energy usage? Dimming your TV or computer screens from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of energy the monitor uses.
Group appliances Where possible, "group" items. Put kitchen appliances (coffee maker, toaster, mixers, etc.) on one strip. Flip on the power only when using one or more of these items.
6. Save electricity while you're on holiday
Are you looking at how to lower electric bills when you're away from home? To prevent phantom energy, you should start by unplugging as many devices as possible, like your microwave, TV, internet router, etc. Do a walk-through of your home before leaving to ensure all the lights and fans are off.
Related: Apartment Safety: 5 Measures to Take to Vacation Proof Your Home
7. Control your lighting
Here's your chance to make some serious savings.
If you haven't already, you should consider switching to energy-saving light bulbs. Either buy compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or better yet, light-emitting diodes (LEDs). They can save up to 75% on electricity and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting!
While CFL bulbs cost more than standard lightbulbs, they'll ultimately save you money by helping you save energy. However, an LED bulb goes even further. So, everything it saves you after this point counts as profit.
8. Make your home smarter
Having a smart home makes life easier. Smart devices can help you be more energy-efficient, too. They have tools to help you track your overall electricity usage. For example, smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat™ or the Ecobee can automatically adjust themselves when you're not home. Explore all the settings to save huge amounts on your electricity bills with a few minor adjustments.You can set Smart bulbs to dim when you're not home. You can even remotely turn lights on and off when they're not in use. And utilizing tools like personalized profiles helps even more.
9. Adjust your thermostat
Did you know you can lower your electric bill just by reprogramming your thermostat? Reducing your thermostat by 7–10 degrees for a whole day can help you save 10% on energy a year. You need to adjust your thermostat in the morning and then again at night. This may seem like a lot to remember. But there's no denying it's a sure-fire way to save on electric bills.
If it's within your budget, you could buy a smart thermostat. That will save you the hassle of remembering to adjust the temperature, and they're reasonably priced (some start at just $20). There are also electricity plans available that include free smart Wi-Fi thermostats as part of your package.
10. Change your air filter
Your air filter helps to stop any dirt, dust, pet hair, etc., from making its way into your HVAC. When you don't change your air filters regularly, this debris clogs up your HVAC system, reducing its efficiency. According to the Department of Energy, replacing your filters regularly can reduce your air conditioner's energy consumption by between 5% - 15%.
Stay warm and stay safe this winter. As a first-time renter, these tips can help keep you comfortable as temperatures drop. Check out The Guarantors for smarter solutions to take control of your financial future.