Utilities are a practical necessity for every household. These are monthly services like electricity, natural gas, and water, and you’ll be required to pay for whatever you use. Most homeowners end up treating their utilities as an unavoidable sunk cost, auto-paying or blindly paying whatever their bills are, assuming that there’s no way to make those monthly costs lower.
However, this mentality will result in you paying more for your utilities than what’s truly necessary. In fact, with the right strategies, you can significantly lower your utility costs in all areas.
Before you get too deep in changing your home or your lifestyle, consider some high-level strategies that can reduce what you pay overall. For example, there may be multiple competing utility companies in your area; choosing one over another may introduce you to a lower rate per unit of resource used, ultimately resulting in lower bills. You may also be able to enroll in a free program with your existing utility provider that lowers your rates, or allows you to pay a consistent bill, rather than one that fluctuates with the seasons.
Seal Your Home
One of the best things you can do to maximize your energy efficiency is to keep your home sealed. All homes will naturally leak air, compromising the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. In winter, the warm air from your home will leak out, and in summer, the warm air from outside will leak in. You can ease the burden on your HVAC equipment by sealing up as many of those leaks as possible.
Doors and windows are usually the biggest violators. Depending on the age of your home, you may be able to seal up cracks with caulk or foam insulation, or you may need to replace your windows and doors with newer models. You can also add more insulation, and check parts of your home like the garage and the chimney for leaks.
Invest in More Efficient Appliances
Though this does require an upfront investment, upgrading to a modern, energy-efficient appliance could save you a ton on utility costs in the long run. Modern air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, and other appliances all use less electricity, water, and natural gas than their older counterparts. Depending on the age of the appliance you’re upgrading, the new appliance could pay for itself in a matter of a few years.
Maintain Your Appliances
You can keep those modern appliances operating more efficiently by maintaining them regularly. For example, changing your furnace filter every three months can make sure your furnace is operating as efficiently as possible, reducing your natural gas and/or electricity bill. Keeping your refrigerator coils clean and clear of debris can ensure it uses less electricity when keeping your food cold. Plus, maintaining good habits here will increase the lifespan of your appliances, so you don’t have to replace them again for a long time.
Replace Bulbs, Faucet Heads, etc.
You can also reduce your energy consumption without interfering with your daily life by replacing little things throughout your home, like light bulbs and faucet heads. LED light bulbs, for example, are more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, but can save you up to 80 percent of the electricity you’d use for an incandescent bulb. On top of that, LED bulbs can last up to 25,000 hours, compared to the 1,000 hours that an incandescent bulb might last. Newer faucet heads and showerheads can also more efficiently control the flow of water, so you use less of it when bathing or washing up.
Keep Control Over Your Thermostat
Next, keep tight control over your thermostat. Keeping your home just a few degrees warmer in summer and a few degrees colder in winter can have a dramatic impact on your monthly bills. Investing in a smart thermostat can also help you ensure your home remains a reasonable temperature when you’re away—and that you aren’t wasting money by heating or cooling an empty house.
Adjust Your Habits
Finally, consider adjusting some of your habits to maximize your energy usage. For example, you can rely on open windows and ceiling fans to cool your house instead of an air conditioner, or you can use cold water when doing the laundry. You can adopt as many or as few of these habits as you’re comfortable adopting—each one will bring your bills a little bit lower.
With these strategies, you could save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars a year. Some of them do require an upfront investment of time or money, but they end up paying for themselves in the long run. Pay close attention to how your bills change over time, and keep pushing for more efficient habits and usage.