10 Tips to Lower Your Utility Bills
Everyone would love to see their utility bills go down, but sometimes it seems like it would take a huge investment to make that happen. In reality there are a few simple tricks and minor adjustments to your lifestyle that can help you drive down energy costs. Here are 10 easy things you can do in your home to help reduce utility costs and save money for years to come.
1. Upgrade to LED Light Bulbs
Upgrading your light bulbs can save you money, like $240 a year. Incandescent light bulbs use a lot more energy than LED light bulbs, and that additional energy just goes towards heat. For example, an incandescent light bulb needs 60 watts of energy to generate the same amount of light as an LED light bulb that only uses 9 watts, so that’s like 50 watts going towards heat. According to Cree LED's website, you can save nearly $20 a month by switching all your light bulbs to LED.
Some people say that the cost to buy LED light bulbs negates the energy savings they offer. A few years ago that might have been true, but now LED light bulbs are very affordable. A 16 pack of Philips LED light bulbs (60 watt equivalent) cost $24.97 on Amazon, making each light bulb just over a $1.50.
2. Put Additional Insulation in Your Attic
Proper insulation in your attic helps keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, saving you from higher energy costs. Because of the extreme weather changes we experience here, you need to have at least enough insulation in your attic that you can’t see the joists on the floor. It’s recommended, however, that you have between 14 and 18 inches of insulation to save the most on your energy bills.
Questar Gas and Rocky Mountain Power will help pay for the insulation you add to your attic with their great rebate programs:
Questar Gas will pay 7 cents per square foot OR 25 cents per square foot depending on the amount of insulation required. Learn more about Questar Gas’ insulation rebate.
Rocky Mountain Power will pay 10 cents per square foot of insulation. Learn more about Rocky Mountain’s insulation rebate.
3. Install a Smart Thermostat
Heating and cooling your home cost a lot, nearly half of your energy bill! Installing a smart thermostat gives you better control over your home’s temperature and associated cost. As the smart thermostat learns your schedule and automatically adjusts the temperature when you’re not home, you save money! According to EcoBee’s website, their product can lower your monthly heating and cooling energy costs by 23%.
Smart thermostats are slightly more expensive, but you can get a $100 rebate from Questar Gas, making them comparable to other programmable thermostats. Learn more about the Questar Gas Smart Thermostat rebate.
Setting your water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect because it provides water that’s hot enough for your needs without scalding you. It takes a lot of extra energy to heat the water in your tank above 120 degrees, and that water is too hot to use anyways. By lowering your water heater’s temperature you’ll lower your energy costs without affecting your hot shower.
5. Seal Your Electrical Outlets
You’d be surprised to know that a lot of air escapes from the outlets in your wall. Electrical boxes typically don’t have any insulation behind them, which creates a hole where air can enter or leave your home. Installing Socket Sealers can prevent air from circulating through your electric sockets and help reduce your heating/cooling expenses. Socket Sealers are very affordable on Amazon and they only take a minute to install. Simply unscrew your outlet cover, put on the socket sealer, and re-install the cover plate.
6. Use Smart Power Strips
Have you ever walked into your living room in the middle of the night to be greeted by a bunch of small glowing lights coming from your electronics? When your electronic devices are in “sleep” or “standby” mode they still account for 5-10% of your monthly energy costs. A smart power strip can help you eliminate that wasted energy consumption. It monitors the electricity of one device, like your T.V., and turns other devices on or off based on the activity of the first device. So if you turn your T.V. on, the smart strip will turn on your Blu-ray player and gaming system. Once you turn off your T.V. the strip will power off the other devices, eliminating the standby mode.
7. Install Ceiling Fans
Using your ceiling fan can save you between 15% and 30% on your heating/cooling costs. Ceiling fans are great at keeping the air in your home moving. Thanks to the air they circulate, you can leave the thermostat a little higher in the summer or lower in the winter. Just remember that the blade rotation is important! In the summer you want the fan blades to spin counter clockwise, which forces the cool air down. During the winter you want the blades to spin clockwise, which circulates the air in an upward direction.
8. Open and Clean All Your Vents
There’s a myth that closing the vents in an unoccupied room will save money or make your heating/cooling system work less, but it actually makes it work harder. Opening every vent will allow your system to run more efficiently and less frequently. Keeping your vents open also means making sure that none of them are blocked by furniture or other items. Take a few minutes to clean inside each vent as far down as you can reach, removing dust bunnies and other debris, to help reduce the cost of heating and cooling your home even more.
9. Give Your AC Unit Space to Breath
When an AC unit is surrounded by shrubbery it can weaken the unit’s ability to perform. It’s kind of like trying to run with a towel over your mouth. You want your AC unit to have at least one foot of space on every side so take a few minutes to trim back any bushes or vegetation surrounding your AC unit. Giving your AC unit the room it needs can reduce your cooling costs by as much as 30%, talk about breathing room for your budget.
10. Plant Shade Trees
Planting deciduous trees (the ones that lose their leaves in the fall) on the South and West sides of your home can help regulate your home’s temperature. Shade trees protect your home from hot rays during the summer months while still letting in warm sunlight during the winter. Trees can help improve your energy savings by as much as 15%. Just make sure to plant the trees at a safe distance from your home and power lines so they don’t cause damage.
Bonus Tip: Create a Maintenance Checklist
Create a maintenance checklist for your home that includes tasks that need to be done throughout the year. Tasks like changing the filter in your furnace, checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, or some of the tips mentioned in this article. Then set reminders to help you follow through with your checklist on a monthly, semi-annual, or yearly basis. Doing so can help you reduce energy costs, increase the efficiency of your home’s important systems, and keep your home in great shape for years to come.