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Many of us cringe at the thought of the spike in our electric bills to heat our homes this winter. After all, the electric bill is the third highest bill people need to pay (after mortgage/rent and groceries).
Did you know there are many different ways to save on electricity, both big projects and small ones, that you can accomplish on your own? Some of these may seem obvious while others may be new to you. A few projects you may want to consider hiring a professional.
Here’s a list of 25+ ways to save on electricity.
I know the idea of hiring a professional isn’t very frugal, but in the long run will save you money as well as being tax-deductible when it’s income tax season.
1. Water Heater Check
It’s important to maintain your water heater with regular checkups once a year by a professional service.
This helps the heater last longer, have a better output, and prevents costly surprises in the event of a breakdown (especially during the winter months where there’s a “hike” in service fees for emergencies).
An old, malfunctioning water heater with corroded parts has to work harder to maintain the same heat level and thus sucks up electricity.
2. Home Performance Check
Calling your local electric company for a home performance check will give you areas to improve on. These professionals will be able to tell you where your home is using, losing, and wasting energy.
Some electric companies have home energy incentives and will provide insulation and other weatherization options for you, sometimes for free. The may also provide a rebate in your electric bill if you refer others to do the same performance check.
There may also be a local agency that may help with weatherization costs, such as Community Action. For low income families they can offer free weatherization services for you.
It’s possible that there will be a waiting list, but can be sped up if you have young children, elderly or disabled family members in the house.
3. Heating System Check
Getting your furnace or boiler checked, cleaned and upgraded will greatly improve the system’s function and in turn lower your bills. A dirty, malfunctioning system makes it work harder to produce output and that’s why your bill climbs.
These are large projects that may be time-consuming and somewhat expensive, but again, will pay you back over time.
4. Insulate It Yourself
If your electrical company doesn’t offer weatherization and there’s no local agency to help, you may do it yourself. Check out local big-box hardware stores as well as local shops and price-compare for a good deal.
5. Get A New Washer And Dryer
Getting a newer washer and dryer pays you back in several ways:
- The newer ones are more energy efficient than their older cousins. They can use (and even monitor) their electric consumption much better.
- Getting ones with larger capacities reduces wash loads. The bigger ones can do 2 or 3 laundry basket loads at once, which saves you from doing 3 extra hours of laundry a week – three hours of less electricity used.
- More washing and drying options offered to cater to specific washing and drying jobs needed.
- The newer washers can detect how big a load is and adjust the water level accordingly so you save in your water bill as well. Another tip for saving electricity on washing clothes I use all the time – wash your clothes in COLD water. Laundry soap is still effective in cold water and you don’t have to sort whites and colors separately (this saves time too).
6. Get A New Dishwasher
Getting a newer version dishwasher has most of the same benefits I mentioned with the washer and dryer – they’re more energy efficient, have more washing and drying options, and have larger capacities capabilities.
A frugal tip here, don’t use the heat dry option on the dishwasher and let the dishes air dry themselves, usually the heat left from the finished hot water cycle does a good job.
7. Invest In A Tankless Water Heater
Endless hot water, gaining more storage space and lower energy bills are great reasons for getting a tankless water heater. They may be a little expensive at first, but eventually will save you about $100 per year.
You don’t even have to invest in “brand new” appliances either, keep an eye out on local buy, sell & trade sites, auctions, garage sales, floor model sales at stores and the like.
Any model that’s newer than the one you have is an improvement, especially for those appliances older than 1992 – before the EPA introduced the Energy Star program.
Let’s say that you either cannot afford to do the large projects – meaning the majority of us, or that your house is already adequately insulated and your appliances are working fine.
There are still small projects that be done around your house that altogether will save on your electric bill.
8. Check For Drafty Areas
Grab a Thermal Leak Detector and go around and check your house for drafts, cracks in walls, and other heat and air leakage. Make a list of these areas and then employ some, or all, of the following products to eliminate these money drainers.
9. Insulate Your Water Heater
If you still have a traditional water tank, go ahead and insulate it. This enables it to use less electricity that’s needed to maintain the heat level, especially if the water heater is out in the garage. Don’t forget to cover the hot water pipes as well.
10. Don’t Neglect Your Garage Door
The garage door is a large area that has a very thin metal or wood barrier between your house and the cold weather outside.
Insulating the garage door reduces the loss in the air transfer between the door and garage space. This saves electricity in having to heat up the garage especially if you have a workspace, have the water heater or laundry appliances out there as well.
11. Seal Your Switches And Outlets
If you did a thermal check you’ll probably see that there are cooler areas around light switches, plug sockets, and other outlets.
This is usually due to internal walls not being insulated and cold air seeping up from the basement, or down from attic areas. In any case sticking these foam pads behind your switch plates and outlet covers will block escaping air and it’ll be less costly to heat your home overall.
12. Do your own weatherization
If you couldn’t apply for weatherization assistance from an agency, you’re going to have to apply your own weather stripping. Go over your thermal check again and seal the gaps around windows and door frames.
13. Seal Up Your Windows
A long term money saving solution for windows in your home is to apply heavy duty film to all of them.
Not only will the film application save you money in the winter, but cut cooling costs in the summer time too – up to 50%! It also helps reduce UV exposure and sun glare. Some come with a mirrored side that offers privacy as well.
If you don’t care about the aesthetics, a cheaper alternative to use just for the winter season is to temporarily seal up your windows with plastic film.
This gloves over the whole frame and not the panes and creates an air barrier and prevents a large loss of heat between your warm cozy house and the blustery weather outside.
A much more frugal option is heavy duty saran wrap and tape. (Although this may be more trouble than its worth – we all know how hard it is to handle saran wrap right?)
14. Use Your Fireplace
If you’re lucky to have a fireplace in your home – use it! A cord of wood, or wood pellets from a farm co-op, is still cheaper than electricity over the winter months.
Be sure to have a chimney inspection before you toss that first match though. During the times you’re not using it, or If by chance the fireplace is inoperable, cover it up.
15. Switch Thermostats
Switch your thermostat to a programmable one, especially one that allows you to program different schedules for every day of the week. Adjust the temperature to a lower one for nighttime, and for those times you’re at work or away for the weekend.
These small heating differences can save you 15% off your electric bill!
Now that your home is all sealed up and insulated tightly, you’ll soon start to see some savings in your electric bill. Should you stop there? How about some extra things you can do to save even more?
These extra tips will keep a little extra money in your wallet:
16. Decorating With Insulated Curtains
If you don’t like the look of the window sealing films I mentioned earlier, a much nicer option is to hang thermal insulated blackout curtains instead.
These also can prevent heating and cooling loss through your windows and come in a multitude of colors and styles to match your décor.
17. Unplug Things:
Many of us have small appliances sitting on our countertops, the toaster, mixer and such sitting there still plugged in but collecting dust. We might have electronics such as radios, game consoles, dustbusters and other gadgets that don’t get used often.
These suck up electricity even when they’re not on – about 5 to 8% of our electric bill is from these “power vampires”! So if you don’t use a gadget often, unplug it. A great tip is to use a power strip for these and just unplug the strip for the “group”.
18. Power Down Electronics
Turn TVs off – don’t run them all day for “background noise” it’s cheaper to use a music or news app on your phone with earbuds than running your tv or radio all day (and night).
The same goes for your computers and printers, turn them off after you use them. Sure it may be a hassle to wait for them to warm up when you need them, but that’s only a takes a minute or two.
19. Use An Electricity Monitor
For those electronics that you use frequently such as the television, alarm clock, and so on – invest in a power energy saving device.
These plug into your outlet, then the electronic is plugged into it and what it does is balance the current and prevents spikes and drains of electricity. This also prolongs the life of the appliance too so that’s an extra bonus.
20. Recycle Your Dryer Heat
Since you use the dryer a few days a week (or daily if you have a big family), why not utilize the heat cycle? Get a heat diverter for the dryer outlet that will release the dryer heat into the laundry room instead of being lost outside.
21. Forget The Laundry Machines
If you really want to get frugal – forgo the washer and dryer. A large family does about eight loads of laundry a week – this is about $115 a year on electricity alone.
Some of these aren’t even a full load, a last-minute wash of a business shirt, or the kid’s pajamas. Instead of running the washer for a small load, use a hand-cranked washer.
It’s just a small table top washer and why not just crank away while watching your favorite television show? If you don’t want to go that frugal, you can still save money by hanging up your clothes to air dry.
22. Use A Space Heater
If you live alone, or are a couple, it may be wise to invest in a space heater. Especially one that is portable, this way you can set your thermostat to a much cooler temperature and only heat the room you’re in like the living room and bedroom.
23. Switch Your Bulbs
Switch out your regular bulbs to LED bulbs that only use 9 watts of electricity for a 60watt equivalent. This saves about $290 a year over incandescent bulb and about $44 more a year than the compact florescent bulbs.
(The electric costs are: $328/yr for incandescent bulbs, $76/yr for florescent bulbs & $32/yr for LEDs).
24. Use Area Lighting
Again, if you’re only a couple or single person, consider using area lighting such as a lamp for your chair area. This saves a bit of electricity by not having to light up the whole room.
25. Use Motion detecting Lights Inside
Instead of having your hallway light burning all evening, install motion detecting lights along the pathway. They’ll spot you coming, light your path and then shut off after a moment, this sure beats fumbling around for the switch too.
Don’t forget ones for your outdoor lights as well, we often forget to switch off our porch light at night that it burns away all night and all day, an unnecessary sap of electricity.
26. Use Mirrors To Light Up Dark Spaces
We may have a dark corner of a room that we want to keep a lamp on to brighten it. Instead of doing that, use mirrors in a way to reflect either natural light from the windows, or the overhead light to brighten that space.
27. Dress Appropriately
This may sound blatantly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many houses I visit in the dead of winter and people are dressed in T-shirts (and even shorts) and the furnace is blasting 78 degrees.
So, save money and dress accordingly to the weather, put on a hoodie and turn down the thermostat!
There you go – more than twenty-five ways to save on electricity this winter. So, insulate, switch off, and bundle up and your wallet will thank you.