You have recently taken a closer look at your utilities bill and wondered where all that electricity and money is going, am I right?
You have also decided that maybe it is time to make some changes to save a little electricity and money and maybe be a little more environmentally friendly along with it. Good for you.
I have done a little research and looked back on ways I used to save on my utilities bill when I was a starving university student living in an apartment and what I noticed my parents would do when I still lived at their house.
Below I have listed 13 tips to get you started. Of course, not everyone either lives in an apartment or own their home, so I incorporated tips and suggestions for both types of living situations.
1. Know What You Use
As the good old saying goes: knowledge is power. It doesn’t matter if you are living in an apartment and paying your own utilities or owning your own home, inform yourself on how much energy in a day/week you use to get an idea of where you are spending most of your utilities budget.
Make a list and record precisely how much and at what time those energy expenditures happen. This will give you a starting point to begin cutting unnecessary energy usage in your home.
Most utility companies either send you a print out of your monthly energy usage with a graph that shows your usage every day or week, or they have an online account system set up for you to track your usage on a paper free basis.
2. Know the Peak Times
I remember when I still lived at home and the utilities company had just informed my parents that they are increasing the price for electricity by mail the utilities company included a little hand out that we hung up on the fridge that showed the peak and off times for energy usage and price range.
It is a good resource to have when trying to cut down on your utilities bill, but it can be difficult with shift work and a busy schedule to be home during those times to do laundry, use the air conditioning or run the dishwasher.
I currently live in an apartment house. A few years ago the head office decided that each new tenant is responsible for their own utility usage, so meters and a thermostat were installed in each unit as it became available.
I’m still under the old tenant agreement, so I have no say on how much I can heat my apartment during the winter months, but my hot water usage is not metered.
Right before summer begins we get an extension of our lease agreement, so to speak, that gives us the opportunity to register our AC unit. For an extra $15 a month from June until the end of September, I can use my AC unit as much as I want, without getting into any trouble and only having to pay that flat fee.
When it comes to laundry, in our building everyone pays the same price for washing and drying in the communal laundry room.
All this is to say that in combination with my first point, it is very important to inform yourself of the amount of energy you use and the options that are available to you to have a comfortable home without paying an arm and a leg.
3. Upgrade Old Systems
If you own your home and it is getting up there in years, it might be a good idea to take a look at your heating and cooling systems to make sure they are running as efficiently as possible.
Dedicate some time to remove any excess dust and build up, research any upgrades that could be beneficial for your home and be honest with yourself when it is time to bite the bullet to get that new water heater tank, furnace and AC unit.
It might seem like a great waste of money to spend, especially, if the system is still working relatively well, but in the long run you will save money and potentially avoid a sudden breakdown when it is most inconvenient and you are rushed to make a decision that could turn out to be less than ideal.
4. There’s An App For That
Since we are well into the 21st century and everything runs over computers or our lovely handheld devices, ask your utilities company, if they have an app available that allows you to track your electricity usage.
5. Program Your Thermostat
Technology can be wonderfully helpful. Consider replacing your thermostat with a programmable one, or maybe you already have one with that function and just never thought of using it.
During the winter months, have it set so that the temperature will adjust to about 5 degrees lower than your daytime temperature. With an extra blanket or cozy flannel pajamas you won’t feel the difference.
The programming function will take the stress out of having to remember to adjust the temperature yourself every evening and every morning.
Another little trick that will help you save on your energy costs is to lower the thermostat by one degree during the day. It is not really too much to notice physically, but it will have an impact on the amount of energy it will take to heat your home.
6. Close The Curtains
Curtains are great, they really are. For the first seven years of living in my current apartment I didn’t have any curtains up. Who knows what my neighbors caught me doing on a daily basis, but since last summer I have stopped my free and daily peep shows and have noticed that they actually keep the apartment cooler during the hot summer days.
I’m not going to lie, putting up those curtains was a pain in the rear end. I had purchased the rods and brackets and actual curtains years ago, but finding a hammer drill to get through the concrete of my ceiling and ultimately having to deal with the concrete dust that covered every surface of my apartment really turned my off to the whole thing.
Needless to say, once they were up it made a world of difference. It became a sort of daily routine of having the windows open during the night to get some of the cooler air into the apartment. Once the sun came around, I closed the curtains and turned on the AC, which made the summer months for someone like me, who sweats like a beast and reacts to all kinds of pollen, much more bearable.
The same method can be applied to your home, obviously; close the curtains during the day and open the windows at night.
During my research for this article I have also come across a suggestion to close your curtains at night during the winter months to help keep the heat from escaping through the windows.
If you have windows that are less than energy efficient and you do not have the budget to get them replaced or it is the middle of winter and can’t get them replaced until the spring or management at your rental unit is a bit stingy to say the least, you can also cover your windows with plastic wrap to staunch the flow of cold air coming into your room.
7. Consider Air Circulation
My old room at my parents’ house used to get either extremely cold with the AC running or turned into a sweat boxing during the winter when the door was closed.
So, close off rooms you are not using and close those little vent slots to direct the hot or cold air to other parts of your house you intend on heating or cooling.
In my old apartment I would close all bedroom doors while I was in the living room/kitchen area, either cooking or snuggling up on the couch with a blanket.
Circulating is a good idea when the air is fresh and crisp outside and you want to air out your apartment on a cool spring day, but it can be beneficial to close those doors when you are trying to conserve energy or cool down one room in particular during the summer.
If it ever gets too hot or too cold in one room, you can always open the door to disperse some of that unwanted temperature difference.
Other ways to save energy you may not have considered are to unplug appliances you do not use and that have been fully charged.
Devices that are not in use, but are still plugged into an outlet are still using up energy that could be saved or used otherwise.
Also, leaving your devices plugged into your charger long after they have fully charged wastes energy and could potentially harm your device. So keep an eye on those gadgets as they charge to unplug them as soon as that green light comes on.
9. Use Timers
Another nifty idea on how you could save on your energy bill is by using timers.
You are a working guy or gal, who works outside the home for a considerable portion of the day. It would be a waste to have those devices and appliances running even on standby mode when you are not home to use them.
Invest in a few timers that plug into your outlets, connect your devices to them and set them to come on 10-15 minutes before you get home.
This is a great way to save energy and to really decide which devices you use on a daily basis and that would actually need to be plugged into a timer.
10. Turn Off The Lights
Once a year, usually during the annual inspection run the management staff does, they hand out information sheets on how to be more energy efficient. One of the tips they always give is to turn off the lights when you are not in the room.
Make it a habit to flip that light switch as soon as you pass it on your way out of the room. You may come back 5 minutes later, but those minutes are wasted energy.
I’m a bit of a paradox. I used to be very afraid of the dark and would turn on every light when walking from one room through the hallway into another. I would always turn them back off once I was done with them, but it would still cost energy.
On the other hand, I would always find it creepy finding a room well-lit when nobody was in it.
If you really must keep some sort of light source on, because you live alone and feel highly uncomfortable with most of the lights off, or maybe to battle your seasonal winter blues, try energy efficient fairy lights. Put them on a timer to light up after sunset and turn them off when it’s time to go to bed.
If you own your home, is it a good idea to take stock of any cold pockets in the house and to have them professionally insulated with environmentally friendly insulation material.
In my current apartment, management had the windows replaced about four years ago. The new windows aren’t very good, but they are a better fit than the old ones.
During the winter when the wind would blow right into my side of the apartment building I would be absolutely freezing. I would sit on the couch, wearing a thick sweater with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
It wasn’t until much later when I happened to crouch on the floor for some reason and looked up at the window that I noticed a big gap between the window frame and the frame that held the window in place.
I bought a tube of silicone sealer and sealed the gap as best I could. I was surprised how much of a difference that little gap made.
12. Use Your Fan In Reverse
Have you ever noticed that little black button on your ceiling fan, but had no idea what it was for? Yeah, me, too.
During my research for this article I came across the answer to this mystery: apparently it is a switch that sets the fan motion in reverse to circulate warm air.
So, if you still have a ceiling fan and it is a bit cold in one part of the room, flip that little switch, turn on your fan and let the warm air circulate throughout the room.
13. Choose Energy Efficient Options
If you are like me you may suffer from regular migraines that turn light of any kind into a nasty form of torture. Sometimes, my migraines are even triggered by that harsh blue-white light from those LED bulbs.
Honestly, I don’t know what type of genius came up with the idea to create energy saving LED lights and only make them available in migraine-inducing bright light.
Luckily for us migraine sufferers, more LED light bulbs now come in soft white light.
They are an excellent alternative to the regular bulbs; they last a lot longer (the one I use in my bathroom light fixture has been going steady for many years now), they save energy and are overall more environmentally friendly.
So, why not consider switching.
There are so many little ways you can save on your electricity bill, be a little more frugal and environmentally friendly all at the same time.
It all really just comes down to doing your research, knowing what you have to work with and making the appropriate small changes. Most of those changes are not even that noticeable until you see your bill and realize that you have been wasting quite a bit of money.
Give the tips I listed above a try and be amazed what other ways you will find on your own that will let you save even more money and energy.