Winter is coming… and for most of us, that means higher electrical bills. Last year, we moved into a new home and we were stunned to receive bills that were literally in the thousands. Of course, this was partially due to the fact that our power company bills in two-month increments… but it was also because our new home was woefully inefficient.
Since then, I’ve become a little obsessive about saving money on our power bill… and I thought I ought to let you know what I’ve found!
Our power company has several cost-saving programs, including free shower-heads, LED light bulbs and even free fridge and washing machine upgrades! Click here to see our post about how YOUR power company can help YOU save money on your electricity bill!
Let’s take a wander around the average home as we conduct a room-by-room analysis of ways we can save money on our energy bill. This is one of the longest posts on Low Income Relief, so please get comfortable… We have a lot to talk about.
Save Money on Home Heating
Just heating your home can consume up to 30% of your home’s electricity. That’s almost a third of the money you spend each month! That seems like bad news… but the good news is that there’s a lot of room for improvement!
Step 1: Prevent Heat Loss
Don’t let the heat you’re paying for slip out the windows (or the doors, or the cracks, or…). Weatherization is key to saving money on your power bill. Yes, it can cost a little bit of money up-front… but you’ll save loads in the long run.
- Shut that door! We have five kids, so keeping the doors closed can be very difficult. When you’re trying to keep the warm air in, keeping doors closed can make a huge difference!
- Check the weather stripping. Weather stripping prevents heat loss by filling in the gaps and cracks around doorways and windows. Energy.gov has a great guide to weather stripping types, materials and installation instructions.
- Replace your furnace filter. If you haven’t replaced your furnace filter in a while, it can be a tremendous source of heat loss. Filters should be changed every three months or so. Change it before the cold season for maximum heating efficiency.
Step 2: Make a few modifications.
- Cover the windows. Approximately 20% of your heat escapes through your windows. Covering the windows helps prevent this. Many people use curtains or blankets for this purpose. Some attach a clear plastic or vinyl sheet to the inside of the window to create a temporary sort-of double-pane window. We use Styrofoam installation panels to cover our windows in the winter. This material has a reflective surface that we direct inward, because it helps reflect the warm air back into the room. It also reflects light, which helps immensely since the windows are covered. The Styrofoam was initially purchased at Home Depot and wasn’t cheap, but it has paid for itself several times over.
- Cover the floors. Up to 10% of your heat escapes through the floor. Add carpets, rugs or other coverings to help reduce this loss.
- Use ovens, dishwashers and laundry machines to add heat. In the summer, we don’t use this appliances except in the early morning or late evenings. Make the most of the heat produced by these appliances. Use them when you need to heat the house up!
Step 3: Turn down the heat.
Does the thought of turning down the thermostat make you shiver? If you’ve reduced your heat loss and made a few improvements to your space, you should be able to turn down the heat with minimal inconvenience.
- Turn it down one degree at the time. For every degree you reduce, you’ll save about 1-3% of your heating costs!
- Going out? Turn it down more! If you’re going out for a short time, turn it down 3 degrees or so. If you’ll be out longer than 5 hours, experts recommend reducing your thermostat to 58 degrees.
- Bring it back up slowly. Raising the temperature quickly will cost more than raising it incrementally.
Enjoy Hot Water for Less $$
Hot water is one of the blessings of having a modern home. Unfortunately, your hot water heater could be consuming 14% of your home’s power! You can enjoy hot water for less money with these tricks.
- Use an aerator or flow restrictor on your showers to reduce the amount of water you use. Our power company actually gave us two free high-efficiency showerheads during our personalized home energy assessment. They are easy to install – and they can save you a lot of money!
- Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket. This can help hold the heat in and reduce the need for electricity.
- Lower the temperature. The hotter your water is, the more electricity it takes to keep the temperature up. Lower the temperature to reduce the strain on your electric bill.
- Turn off the water when you don’t need it. A family of four who showers for just 5 minutes each will still use 700 gallons of water per week. Turn the water off instead of letting it run while you wash or shave.
Our laundry room is also a bathroom, but for the sake of this post we’ll write up bathroom tips separately.
- Wash with cold water instead of hot water. You’ll save 40 cents per load!
- Fill it up! It takes the same amount of energy to wash a small load as it does to wash a large load. Fill up the machine to avoid washing extra loads.
- Wash clothes less often using these nifty tricks.
Kitchen appliances are a major consumer of a home’s electricity. Here are some helpful hints hat might be able to save you some cash in the kitchen.
1. Follow these frugal fridge & freezer tips.
- Set your fridge temperature between 30°F and 42°F. Your freezer should be set between 0°F and 5°F.
- Check your fridge seals. If cold air is escaping, you’re spending more money than you need to! SF Gate has a great tutorial on how to identify and correct problems with your fridge and freezer seals.
- Fill it up! A full freezer costs less to run than an empty one. Use gallon-size water containers to fill up the empty space if necessary. Keep it full but not tightly packed. Some space is necessary to let air circulate, but too much space reduces efificency.
- If the refrigerator and freezer are clean and organized, you’ll be able to find what you need faster… so the door will be open less… and you’ll save money on cooling costs! Also, please note that opening, closing and reopening the fridge will NOT cause new food to appear… but it will cost you more money on your next bill, which will probably reduce the amount of food in the fridge and freezer next month. Don’t do it, people. It’s a self defeating cycle. I know from experience. 😉
- Let hot foods cool before putting them in your refrigerator or freezer. Hot foods cause the motor to work longer and harder
- Cleaning the back of the fridge can help you save money, too! Dust off those coils twice a year to maximize efficiency.
- Get a free fridge upgrade! Some power companies will provide free upgrades for certain inefficient, outdated refrigerators. I know ours does!
2. Optimize your oven use.
- Thaw, defrost and reheat small portions with the microwave instead of the oven. It’ll save you money.
- Use glass or ceramic dishes. Since they retain the heat, you can set the oven 25 degrees lower!
- Stop peeking in your oven! Every time you open the door, you lose 25 or more degrees of heat. Check through the window or wait until the food is mostly done before you pry open that door.
- Clean the oven immediately after use. Because it’s already hot, it doesn’t take as much electricity to heat it to the cleaning temperatures. Dirty stovetops are less efficient at transferring heat. Clean it up – and make sure the reflector pans are also clean (if you have them).
It’s been estimated that every home has over 50 appliances and devices that draw electricity. Some of the worst of these are computers and televisions, which continue to draw power even when they’re turned off.
- Use power strips to stop the vampire draw of computers, TVs, DVD players, video game consoles and other devices. Some devices continue to draw power to show screen savers or clock displays. Just plug these devices into an easily-accessible power strip and then turn off the power strip (or unplug it) when those devices are not in use. My power company offers amazing deals on advanced power strips. Find out if your power company has a similar offer now!
- Unplug devices when not in use. From TVs to battery chargers, you’d be amazed what draws power when you’re not using it.
- Place lamps near corners so that the light can reflect off two walls. This will increase the lighting in the room without increasing the cost.
What are your favorite energy-saving tricks?
Let us know in the comments!