While some of your bills may be unavoidably high, electricity is one expense you do have some control over. With its ubiquitous role in our daily lives, it is easy to take this utility for granted. You may even forget that you pay according to your usage. Sure, we all have to shower, cook dinner and do laundry. But paying closer attention to how you do these tasks can translate to noticeable monthly savings. Here are a few tips to help you get a handle on your power bill.
Did you know that in most cases, you don’t really need to wash your clothes in warm or hot water? Many detergents are formulated for a lower temperature, so you can wash your clothes just as thoroughly in cold water. When it comes to drying, don’t forget to throw in a few dryer balls with your load. These help circulate air throughout your laundry, speeding up the drying process. They’re also a great way to avoid the expense of fabric softener sheets. You’ll get the added bonus of having soft, fluffy laundry—with less waste! For smaller appliances like lamps and toasters, unplug them when they’re not in use to avoid the continuous power draw. Sound too tedious? Try hooking up several appliances to a power strip so you only have one plug to pull.
It likely comes as no surprise that space heating makes up the largest portion of residential energy use. In fact, around two-thirds of the power that your house draws from the grid goes to its heating system. Maximizing its thermal efficiency is therefore one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your power bill. It’s worth it to have your system checked over annually, ideally towards the end of summer, before the heating season gets underway.
Replace your heating unit’s filter regularly. If you can afford the investment, consider upgrading to an ENERGYSTAR certified unit to maximize your long-term savings. You can purchase ENERGYSTAR certified models of many different types of heating equipment. These include gas and oil furnaces and boilers, as well as heat pumps. Investing in a “smart” thermostat will also help crank up your savings. It will automatically set your heating system at energy-saving temperatures while you’re asleep or away. With remote control capabilities, there’s no need to worry about returning to a cold house.
A further 19% of your usage is from heating your water. You can minimize this by simply turning down the thermostat of your hot water heater by a few degrees. Though you need hot water for showering, dishwashing and laundry, chances are you don’t require the standard setting of 60°C. Don’t lower it too much though—a minimum temperature of 54°C is recommended to prevent bacterial growth.
Flicking a light switch is inarguably one of the simplest ways to save energy. Nonetheless, leaving lights on when we don’t really need them is a common habit. (Do you really require the extra light to brush your teeth during daylight hours?) Shutting off all the lights when you leave the house is a quick way tackle your energy use. Consider upgrading your light fixtures that get the most usage with more energy-efficient bulbs. CFLs, halogen incandescent bulbs and LEDs are all more efficient options for replacing older incandescent bulbs. Just like with HVAC units, you can also get ENERGYSTAR certified light bulbs. To really make your savings shine, install dimmer switches. These are a great way to get just the right amount of light you need without wasting energy.