Utilities may be the most boring line item on your budget. They don’t buy you a fancy new car, a trip to Europe, or a date night. But skip paying your utility bill for a month or two, and things won’t stay boring for long- and not in a good way.
However, while you can’t just dump your utility bills to free up your budget, there are several ways to trim your utility bills with relatively little effort.
#1- Light Bulbs
LED light bulbs are one of the highest yielding investments you can make. These 60 watt replacement bulbs cost right around $3 each and only use 8.5 watts. Assuming your electricity rate is 10c/ kWh, and your bulb is on for 2 hours a day, the LED bulb would use 5c of electricity per month and a 60 watt bulb would use 36c per month. So each of those bulbs are earning 30c per month, paying for themselves in just under a year. And if that weren’t enough, the LED bulbs have a life expectancy that is 30 times as long as incandescent bulbs.
30c/month doesn’t sound like much. But I’m sure you don’t have only one bulb in your house. With ten bulbs in your house, you’d be saving $3/month and $36/year. Still not much, but a step in the right direction, nonetheless.
One note on LED bulbs- the majority of them are not intended for enclosed light fixtures and many are not dimmable. Although this one is a little more expensive, it is dimmable and suitable for enclosed fixtures.
For even cheaper bulbs, check your local retailers or call your utility company. In the name of going green and reducing the load on their grids, many utility companies are sponsoring and subsidizing LED bulbs in the areas they serve. In some cases, they sell them directly (you’d likely have to call or visit their website). Other times, they reimburse local retailers for selling them at a deep discount.
#2- Filling the Toilet Tank
Although it would save money, I’m not going to tell you to do anything radical like using bath water to flush your toilet. However, since most toilets use far more water than necessary, an easy way to save water when flushing is to simply place a few glass jars filled with water in your toilet tank. Just make sure they are clear of moving parts. When you flush, the water in these jars will stay in the tank, and your tank will use less water to refill.
If your flushes aren’t quite strong enough anymore, just take away glass jars until you find a happy medium. You’ll now be reducing the volume of each flush by the amount in the glass jars. Results will vary widely from person to person, but you can probably save at least a gallon a day doing this, netting you a few dollars a year.
#3- Dual Flush Toilet Valves
[four-fifths-first]Filling the toilet tank with glass jars is a great start, but you can only go so far before your flushes don’t count anymore. To save even more water (in a little less red-neck way), invest in dual flush toilet valves. While these won’t quite beat the efficiency of the ‘if it’s brown, flush it down; if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ rule, they will keep your bathroom smelling a little better with the new rule ‘if it’s yellow, only use half a flush.’
The great thing about dual flush valves is that they’re still a relatively inexpensive investment, and can be installed on your existing toilet. Here’s a highly rated one on Amazon for only $23. If you’ve replaced the innards on your toilet tank, you can install this![/four-fifths-first]
#4- Low Flow Toilets
Take the flushing one step further by installing a whole toilet designed to use less water. Standard toilets typically use 1.6 gallons per flush (or even more if you’ve got an antique in your bathroom). Low flow toilets use roughly two thirds of this. While filling your toilet tank with jars might save a gallon a day, a low flow toilet can easily save ten gallons a day.
#5- Fixing Leaks
That constant dripping in your kitchen sink is more than just a nuisance. You’re letting money drip down the drain. If you want to know how much, put a jug under the drip and see how fast it fills up. This might be a job you can do yourself, but even if you need to hire a plumber, the cost is well worth it in the long-term. The drip is only going to get worse as time goes on, gradually sending your water bill higher and higher.
A slow leak in the toilet can even be worse than a leaky faucet. Again, this is a 1 hour DIY job with a repair kit but is still worth hiring a plumber if you don’t feel up to doing the job yourself. One piece of advice- while you’re replacing whatever is causing the leak, just replace all the innards of the tank. They’re all wearable, and when one goes out, the rest are soon to follow. The entire kit is far cheaper than buying individual parts.
#6- Blocking Drafts
In the winter, drafty windows and doors can be a huge burden on your heating bill. Those drafts are constantly moving warm air out of the house and cool air in, meaning your furnace has to work that much harder to keep your house warm. Making matters worse, the extra air movement makes you feel colder, meaning you’re more likely to bump your thermostat up a few notches, which in turn bumps your heat bill up.
An easy fix to drafty or cold windows is covering your windows with transparent shrink film. This film creates an additional pocket of air between you and the outside, drastically cutting your heat loss. While this film is transparent, it is still noticeable, so you may decide you don’t want to install it in main living areas, but might not mind it in bedrooms or storage rooms.
You can seal out drafts coming from doors with weather stripping. Running your hand along the edge of the door makes it easy to pinpoint the source of the draft. You’ll definitely want to weather strip if you can see daylight around the door!
#7- Upgrading Windows
While effective, covering your windows each year gets old. It doesn’t look great and it keeps you from opening the windows on unseasonably warm early spring days. For a long term, more effective fix, upgrade your windows. Newer windows will not only cut out the draft but also reduce heat loss with extra panes of glass and insulating gas between the panes. For more on picking windows, check out this article on window efficiency ratings and other efficiency features.
#8- Keep Your Thermostat Warmer in the Summer, Cooler in the Winter
The closer you keep your thermostat to the outdoor temperature, the more energy you save. Of course, you don’t need to keep your house 40 degrees in the winter, but even adjusting it a few degrees makes a huge difference! Although a number of variables are involved, for every additional degree you heat or cool your house, you add roughly 4% to your heating and cooling bill.
A no-pain solution is to use a programmable thermostat to turn down the heat or air conditioning when you’re not at home. Thermostats come in all ranges of smartness, ranging from basic programmable– where you set the thermostat on a schedule, to thermostats that add in remote access from phone apps. And of course, there is the Nest Learning Thermostat, which learns when you are home and away and adjusts accordingly. Even though the Nest is one of the most expensive thermostats money can buy, Nest claims the energy savings will pay for the thermostat in 2 years.
Even when you’re home, however, little things such as throwing a sweatshirt on or using fans can allow you to adjust the thermostat a little while still staying comfortable. Make little changes over time, and your body will get used to your new settings in no time! A colder house in the winter might even keep the pounds off!
#9- Adding Insulation
Especially if your house is older, adding insulation can significantly reduce both heating and cooling bills. Although there are ways to re-insulate your entire house, the attic is usually an easy target because it is easier to access. Depending on how comfortably you are with DIY, you may even be able to re-insulate the attic yourself.
#10- Air Dry Clothes and Dishes
Using electricity to dry clothes and dishes is expensive. Skip the heat dry setting your dishwasher and let your dishes air dry. On sunny days, consider drying some of your clothes outside. Drying a single load of laundry costs roughly 45c. Even if you don’t hang the entire load, air drying heavier items such as jeans and towels will significantly reduce the necessary dryer time for the rest of the load.
#11- Replace Appliances Wisely
Don’t ditch a perfectly good appliance, but when your appliances do burn out, be selective when shopping. Often, the cost to operate appliances is far more significant the purchase price. At bare minimum, select appliances with the Energy Star logo. These meet certain energy guidelines. But also look at estimated annual operating costs. Although the actual cost will depend on usage, these give you a good number to compare models. Do this for washers, dryers, fridges, air conditioners, furnace, hot water heaters, etc, and over time you’ll gradually reduce your energy consumption from appliances.
Energy Audit For More Ideas
Your local utility company likely offers a free energy audit. At your request, they will come out and inspect your house for things that are driving up your utility bill and suggest solutions. Some of their fixes may require you to save up for. However, even the most expensive fixes that the suggest will likely pay for themselves in a short amount of time.
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- While I do strive to only write accurate information and dispense valuable advice, I am not a licensed financial adviser. All information is based solely on my personal experience and personal research and should be treated as such. Find out more.