The average American home spends $110 per month on electricity. Whether you are paying more than that or you simply think that cost is too high, you may be interested in learning how you can save money on that bill. Some people do not bother, as they assume saving energy requires spending money on expensive solar panels or energy-monitoring technology.
While these devices are available if you want your house to operate at peak energy efficiency, there are also a number of smaller, common-sense steps you can take to lower your energy bill.
Understanding the Problem
The most obvious sign that there is a problem with your energy consumption is your energy bill. If it is higher than you would like it to be, this is a sign that you need to find ways to stop using so much energy. However, the bill will not give you the information you need to reduce your most costly energy expenses. Turning the lights off when you are not using them helps, but the savings may be small compared to what you could do if you targeted your most energy-hungry machines.
The purpose of an energy audit is to show you which aspects of your electricity usage are costing you the most money. There are three types of energy audits:
- Professional Energy Audit
- Free Energy Audit
- An Energy Audit You Can Do Yourself
Cheap professional energy audits will cost $250, while the more expensive ones can reach up to $650. These audits generally take place over the course of several hours, and use pieces of equipment you do not have access to, like thermo-grams.
The most important think they look for is air leakage. These are caused by holes or cracks in your home, which lead your air conditioning or heat to leak through, making your temperature regulating unit work harder to maintain your home’s temperature.
You can also contact your utility company. Sometimes they offer energy audits free. If your utility company does not offer a free audit and you do not want to pay for one, you can perform one yourself.
To do so, close all your exterior doors and open the interior ones. Turn on all of the fans in your house that you can, so that they blow air out of your home. Then, take a lit incense stick and hover it near areas where air is likely to escape from your home. These are areas with access to the outside, like closed windows and doors, or outlets.
If you see the incense move outside your home, you have found an area that can be sealed. While doing this, keep in mind that you need to maintain a balance: while too many air leaks increase your HVAC expenses, your home needs to let some air out to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Heating and Cooling Your Home
Temperature regulation is, on average, responsible for anywhere from 35 percent to 40 percent of a home’s energy bill. This makes it one of the best places to start saving money. To start, here are a few actions you can take to increase the efficiency of your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC):
- Replace your air filters once a month.
- Get your HVAC serviced twice a year.
- Check your HVAC’s manual, so you understand which temperatures it operates best at and which temperatures are most likely to increase the cost of your bill.
As tempting as it may be to keep the temperature of your home stable year-round, you can also save money if you adjust your HVAC based on the temperature outside. During the warmer months, adjust the temperature so that your house is comfortably warm. During the colder months, adjust the temperature so that your house is comfortably cool. It is a simple fix, but one that is easy to forget when you can change the temperature: the less your HVAC has to work, the less energy it will use.
Alternatively, there are ways to maintain a good temperature for your home without using your HVAC. Fans, for instance, can help you cool your home, but they may not be as effective as an HVAC. In this case, put some ice in front of your fan, as this will cause it to blow cooler air throughout the house. As well, make the temperature outside do some of the HVAC’s work for it. At night, you can turn off your HVAC and open the windows, allowing the night air to provide a nice breeze.
Reducing Light and Water Energy Consumption
Though your HVAC is most likely using the most energy in your house, there are a number of other appliances using excess energy. Some of the ways you can reduce their energy consumption are common sense — unplugging your devices when you are not using them, for instance — but others require a bit more thought or expertise. Incandescent light bulbs are a good example, as they can use up to four times more energy than the more efficient Compact Fluorescent light bulbs.
Another area to look at is water consumption, as this is on average the second biggest energy expense after temperature regulation. Two of the biggest ways you can reduce this expense are by spending less time in the shower and using cold water to wash your clothes. Once a season, you should also perform maintenance on your water heater. The owner’s manual should help you to determine how best to maintain it and performing this activity helps increase the heater’s efficiency.
Gadgets That Can Save You Money on Energy Consumption
The above tips can help you save money on your utilities bills without making additional purchases, but there is technology out there that can help you save money in the end. Better yet, not all of it is as expensive as you might imagine. Take the lamp timer, for instance. It should cost $10 or less, and it can help ensure that your devices are only on during the hours you typically use them. This can be great for items you would forget to turn off manually during the night, like a cable modem.
A smart power strip performs a similar function, but instead of relying on time to decide when an item should be turned off it relies on a ‘parent’ item. This means that the smart power strip automatically turns off TV speakers when your TV is off, for instance. This ensures you are not wasting energy on a device that is not in use.
Solar panels are the flashiest and most well-known device for saving money on your energy bill, but they can cost thousands of dollars. This means they are not well suited for people who are already struggling to pay their bills, but they can be a smart long-term investment if you feel that your energy bill is unreasonably high. They are also well suited to individuals who are simply worried about the environment. If you are considering buying a solar panel, get quotes from as many companies as possible. However, do not be afraid to get quotes from smaller companies: their prices often beat the competitors.