How to Reduce Your Electricity Bill With Minimal Cost and Sacrifice

Once you’ve moved in alone and started paying your utility bills, you probably woke up suddenly about the cost of energy. If you’ve never thought about something like using electricity before, it may take a minute to get used to not just turning off the lights when you leave the room, but taking into account other household appliances in your home.

The obvious solution to saving money and energy is to study things like energy efficient appliances , solar panels, or energy efficient outlets . Unfortunately, all of this costs money. So what should a person who cares about the environment and budget do?

Air conditioning and heating

Depending on your local climate, you will probably spend a decent amount of money heating and cooling your home (probably both). Either way, there are a few simple things you can do to minimize your energy bill.

It’s all about the channels

If you want to save on heating and cooling costs without spending money, you should take a look at your ducts. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), your ducts are one of the most critical systems in your home, and if not properly insulated and functioning, they can cost you a lot of money in energy wasted. If your ducts are leaking, you may be wasting money heating or cooling parts of your home that don’t need it.

And while any major upgrades to your duct system should be done by a professional (and therefore at a cost), there are a few things you can do yourself, according to the Department of Energy :

Aside from sealing the air ducts, the simplest and most effective maintenance of an air distribution system is to ensure that furniture and other items do not block the airflow through your registers, and to vacuum the registers to remove accumulated dust.

Check other seals

Not only can your air ducts allow valuable, expensive, temperature-controlled air to pass through: your windows, doors, and fridge / freezer can also be to blame. Per Nerd Wallet :

Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are well sealed so that the cold air stays where it should. It’s the same with doors and windows. A bad seal allows energy to seep outward, draining your wallet in the process.

Don’t litter, keep it clean, keep it clean

Another quick and cheap option is to make sure all available air filters in your heating and cooling systems are kept clean. Kateri Callahan, president of the Energy Conservation Alliance , told USA Today that she recommends cleaning your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system every 30 days to keep it running efficiently. “If you have clogged or dirty filters, you are simply wasting more energy to push that air,” she said.

Washing machines

If you are fortunate enough to have a washer and dryer in your house (hello to other tenants), then you may not be using your washing machines in the most energy efficient way. Here’s what you can do to help.

Reduce heat in the washing machine

If you’re just washing all your clothes in the cold because you don’t want to worry about leaking colors, then you are already doing something to cut down on your energy bills. For everyone else, DOE argues that using warm water instead of hot water can cut the energy consumption of a load in half, and washing with cold water saves even more. If you’re worried about how clean your clothes will be when washed in cold water, there are special cold water detergents that can help with this. And while we’re on the subject of washing machines, try to fill the machine whenever possible instead of washing a lot of small items. According to the Department of Energy , your washing machine uses about the same amount of energy at full load as it did at partial load, so get the most bang for your buck and fill it up.

The maximum amount of heat you use in the dryer

The tumble dryer uses heat to dry the laundry, so cutting it down is a bit tricky, but definitely possible. For example, DOE recommends loading the dryer sequentially so that it is already hot when you insert the next load and you don’t have to pay to reheat it. And while you are doing that, they say that using drying balls can help, too, because they can help separate your clothes and get more air into them, shortening the drying time. Also, remember to clean the lint trap regularly. And of course, lower heat settings for the dryer can help cut down on energy costs. According to the US Department of Energy , “even if the drying cycle is longer, you will use less energy and are less likely to dry out your clothes.”

Wash your laundry after 20:00.

Several energy companies offer discounts during off-peak hours, according to Andrew Schrage (co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance ):

Many utilities have plans that offer discounts for switching some of your power consumption during off-peak times. The hours and times vary slightly depending on which part of the country you are in, and each plan is set up slightly differently. If you’re willing to switch a significant portion of your power consumption beyond peak periods, you can certainly save money.

Call your energy company and ask them if they offer off-peak discounts and when they start and end. Usually hours start at 8 pm. However, for those minding their own business during the day, this method may seem inconvenient.

Dishwashers

A dishwasher uses the same tactics to reduce energy consumption as a washing machine. This primarily means that you need to reduce the amount of heat used and to maximize the efficiency of loading the machine.

Reduce heat

Dishwashers require a little warmth to function well, but yours may be set to a higher temperature than necessary. Most dishwashers will automatically set the temperature to between 140-145 ° Fahrenheit, but really only need up to 120 ° Fahrenheit . It will do its job, but it will not use as much energy to heat the water.

Full load only

If you’re the one who starts the dishwasher every day (or night), whether it’s full or not, you’ll want to stop doing it. Instead, just start it up when it fills up .

Scrape off but do not rinse

Your dishwasher is designed to wash dishes, so let it do its thing. If you pre-wash the dishes, you will use more water and energy (heating the water in the sink). Instead, scrape off any food leftovers to make the dishwasher easier to handle, but there is no need to completely clean them if they are going to be dishwasher-safe.

Other electronics

We tend to think of appliances and electronics as large consumers of energy in our home, but this is not always the case. For example, computers and other similar electronic devices account for about two percent of your household’s energy use, while televisions and other entertainment consoles account for about 4 percent . Here, too, there are ways to reduce energy costs.

Computers

If you have been taught that leaving your computer on all the time actually saves energy, this is no longer the case with more modern machines. According to the DOE :

Although there is a small spike in power when the computer starts up, this small amount of power is still less than the energy used when the computer is running for extended periods of time. Spending significant amounts of time in hibernation mode not only saves energy, but also helps equipment run cooler and longer.

Instead of keeping your computer equipment on at all times, turn off your monitor if you move more than 20 minutes away from your computer. And if you are going to be away from your computer for more than two hours, the Department of Energy recommends turning off the CPU and monitor. You can also connect all components of your computer (including your printer or other accessories) to the same power strip / surge protector. Thus, if you are not going to use it for an extended period, you can simply turn off the strip.

TV sets

Most TVs sold today are already quite energy efficient as LED models have become the new standard. But no matter what kind of TV you have, there are some smart ways to reduce your energy use. These include turning off the TV when you are not using it, and using sleep mode at night if you are using the TV to fall asleep .

If you’re looking for even more tips on how to make your home more energy efficient, we have a guide for that, although some of the options discussed there require money to implement. But even if that isn’t in your budget right now, at least you have a few more free (or near-free) ways to cut down on your electricity bills.

This article was originally published in 2012 and updated on March 9, 2020 by Elizabeth Yuko. Updates include the following: validated links for accuracy, changed the title, updated formatting to reflect the current style, changed the function image, and fixed / rewritten large parts of the article to ensure accuracy.

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