Recently, the question on everyone’s tongue is –How to save on electric bills? As more of us become environmentally-conscious, the importance of being energy-efficient is well-known. However, using less energy is also a great way to save money.
The average US household electricity output is 11,000 kWh per year. This is not surprising given the increased energy consumption from appliances such as laptops, TV’s, refrigerators and freezers! While we certainly wouldn’t be without these devices, easy ways to budget on your electricity bill are worth knowing.
In this article, we’ll outline some of the best ways to lower your electric including providing specific tips to save energy in your kitchen, laundry room and living room! Understanding when and where we use electricity is important too so we’ve also discovered, and explained, what costs the most on your electric bill. If you’re still unconvinced, we round-up with three key advantages of saving energy.
How can I lower my electric bill?
One of the most frequently asked questions by families is how to save electricity bill costs. We think there are three main considerations to lower your electric costs.
Consider energy usage
One of the most important ways to save money on your electric bill is to reconsider your energy use. By this we mean, take a look at where, when and how you are using excess energy in your house. For explanatory purposes, in this section we’re going to separate energy and electricity, with the former covering your HVAC system and water use.
Heating inefficiency can be a crucial factor in your energy consumption. Indeed, heating and cooling can cost up to $1000 per year. So it’s worth taking a look at where you might be unnecessary losing heat or, for those lucky enough to live in warmer climates, bringing in excess heat. You’ll want to consider the condition and extensiveness of your indoor and external house insulation. Our homes lose the most heat through the loft so you should specifically evaluate up in the loft. If it’s not up to scratch, it might be worth investing in re-insulating the loft at least. Furthermore, it is estimated that we lose over 15% of heat through our windows. There are two options here. Firstly, you could replace your existing windows with double or, even, triple glazed windows. Alternatively, to save money, some companies can simply install secondary glazing onto your existing windows. Either way, you’ll be massively reducing your heating bill
To tackle cooling costs, it’s imperative you replace your central air conditioning unit if it is more than 10 years old. A newer model will work more efficiently and, therefore, cut your energy costs. Likewise, you could invest in a ceiling fan to save on air conditioner. However, it’s important to ensure you choose from ceiling fans which have a high efficiency rating.
A programmable thermostat is also a great way to make sure your heating isn’t on for hours a day. This device will self-adjust the temperature of your home depending on the time of day. You’ll spend less money by not unnecessarily heating or cooling an unoccupied space i.e., when you’re at work or sleeping. Some studies suggest you could make savings of between 10-30%.
It’s well known that taking a shower uses less water than running a bath so showers are a great way to save on your water bills. However, our water heaters also consume a huge amount of energy to heat up our shower water. Obviously, a cold water shower is hardly ideal or something we’d suggest you endure. However, what you could do is invest in a newer water heater, one that would be more energy-efficient while still allowing you to shower at your ideal water temperature. The downside to this would be the initial expense, but the long-term payback through bill savings can make this a smart choice. For those in sunny climates with a lot of light, you could invest in a solar-powered water heater.
Nonetheless, hot water for our showers, washing up or cooking is a comfort most of us don’t want to go without.
However, whilst showers are more efficient than baths anyway, you can further minimize their power consumption by utilizing the low-pressure function.
- solar panels
- be cost-efficient with heating, i.e. specific times of day, make use of warmer clothes
Speak to your provider
People can often be reluctant to speak to their provider, but they are a great place to start if you’re wondering how to save on the electric bill.
Usually there are many different payment plans available, which differ in cost. For those who want a steady and consistent bill, then an estimated plan allows you to avoid sudden surges. On the other hand, a plan that allows you to take regular metre readings could help you avoid over-paying on your utility bills.
Moreover, energy suppliers frequently have offers and/or discounts which you as a customer can take advantage of. They may not always advertise these to existing customers, but just give them a call and ask.
What a lot of people are unaware of too is that your utility provider can conduct an at home energy audit. This will allow them, as professionals, to identify ways to make energy savings. Whether this service is free or at a cost depends on your provider.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to switch providers. There are loads of websites which allow you to compare quotes between companies so make use of them! It’s always worth at least exploring the option of switching to another company; you could end up saving yourself a lot of money per year on your energy bills.
Monitor your electricity usage
To save electricity, there are lots of small and big changes you can make.
A common improvement is to switch your ordinary lightbulbs to energy-saving light bulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs consume far more electricity than newer alternatives such as compact fluorescent lamps, halogen incandescent bulbs or LED lights. Not only is their electricity consumption less, but they typically last anywhere between 3-35 times longer. It’s worth noting that these often cost more initially but they operate at a lower cost which is where you’ll make your savings.
Another idea to make savings on the costs produced by your lights is a dimmer switch. Put simply, dimmer switches save electricity by allowing your lights to operate at a lower power output. Consequently, they also extend the lifespan of your bulbs. Even better, some companies now produce smart bulbs which can be dimmed via your smartphone. For either option, you just need to ensure your light bulbs are compatible with a dimmer switch before making the transition.
The average home is full of modern appliances, but these devices can be costly when it comes to our bill. That’s why it’s important to consider how efficient your appliances really are. One way to do this is to look at the ENERGY STAR (ES) rating of your devices. The ES rating system was established by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In short, it tells customers how efficient their devices really are by considering a few factors such as initial premium versus running costs. ENERGY STAR rated devices save you money whilst also in the grand scheme of things, protecting the environment from greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and other pollutants. As such, its worth evaluating how efficient your devices, such as your air conditioner or fridge, really are. If their rating is rather low, it might be worth investing in a newer device with a higher ES rating. Annoyingly, the initial cost of buying new devices is high. However, if you really want to make substantial savings, you need to consider the long-term picture and try to reduce your everyday running costs in your home.
i.e. with appliances, lights
- how efficient
- unplug if not being used
How can we save electricity at home?
In the kitchen
Our kitchens are the hub of the family, and consequently where we use a lot of our electricity. Fear not, there are many easy ways to address the problem.
One way to save is to focus on using energy-efficient appliances. For example, a microwave is far more efficient than your typical oven. Why? Because its small size means a high level of heat can act on a more focused area, i.e. your food, than warming extra space. Even better, try using a slow cooker; some studies suggest their energy output is similar to that of a light bulb! Moreover, they’ll save you precious time after a long days work.
If using a microwave or slow cooker isn’t an option, fan-assisted ovens are also effective as they can be used at a lower heat and they evenly distribute heat across the oven to increase effectiveness. In addition, by making sure you thoroughly defrost food, you can cut down on cooking times. While this necessitates some planning and thus time, it’s worth it for what you could save in money.
Another important factor to lower energy is your water usage. Perhaps surprisingly, it is actually more water-efficient to use a dishwasher over hand washing. Couple this with investing in one of many available A+++ dishwashers, and your energy consumption will be reduced significantly. However, you should still air-dry dishes over using your dishwasher’s heat cycle. Water can also be saved through simple and inexpensive measures such as not overfilling pans with water.
In the laundry room
Particularly for larger families with young children, we can easily spend our days in a cycle of – wash laundry, dry laundry, repeat. What this means is our laundry rooms are a focal point of electricity use. Like our kitchens however, there are some quick ways to save money.
Of our ways to save, washing clothes at a lower temperature has got to be the easiest. Experts recommend washing your next load between 30-40°C. This is because most of the energy used by our washing machine is spent on warming up the water for higher temperature modes. So if you use your washing machine at a cooler temperature, you’re saving a LOT of energy and, therefore, money.
Likewise, our tumble dryers waste electricity. In the summer months, a great alternative option is to air-dry your clothes outside. All you need is a sunny and breezy day. Unfortunately, this isn’t a year-round fix. For those times, you could buy a cheap indoor clothes drying rack. Or a great hack to minimise the time your tumble dryer is on, is to remove your clothes whilst they’re still slightly damp and iron them to dry. It’s not as great an option as utilising sunlight but with our energy bill, every little helps.
So next time you’re doing your laundry, try implementing some of our simple savings tips.
In the living room
Home to the family TV, our living room is one of the best places to save on electricity.
The best way to stop wasting unnecessary electric is to not leave the TV on standby for hours a day. So many of us use the standby function thinking it saves energy, but it is actually is one of the biggest culprits. In fact, the best option is to completely unplug any devices which aren’t currently in use. Alternatively, a smart power strip is a great device to control energy wasting appliances such as TVs, computers or gaming systems. A smart power strip reduce your power consumption through turning off devices in standby mode. This saves you money but more importantly time, saving you from having to remember to constantly unplug your devices. The only word of caution is that power strips need a decent standard of sensor precision to ensure it actually turns off your gadgets.
Another way to optimise your TV is to choose one with an LED Screen over LCD or plasma. LED Televisions reduce energy expenditure by using up to 70% less power than a plasma television.
Other than our electronic appliances, there are some other ways to save power in our living rooms. For example, switch off the main ceiling light and instead use smaller lamps; this will create a nicer ambiance and save you money. With this in mind, make sure your light bulbs are switched to LED bulbs. But in the daytime, why not utilise nature’s best light and heat resource – sunlight! So many households are guilty of keeping lights switched on throughout the day when they’re not needed. Likewise, to preserve heat in the evenings, shutting your curtains is simple but effective.
What costs the most on your electric bill?
Working out what costs the most on your electric bill is useful for understanding where and how you can save money. Obviously every household is different, but there are a few things that consistently rank number one as energy vampires.
Your refrigerator and freezer have a huge energy consumption rating. Indeed, some studies suggest our fridge and freezer consume nearly a third of the average household’s power. This is hardly surprising considering they need to be plugged in 24/7. Closing the fridge door properly, regular defrosting and investing in an appliance with a good ENERGY STAR rating are our key saving tips. Regular freezer maintenance, such as defrosting, often gets overlooked, but its essential to maintaining its effectiveness, which ultimately saves you money!
Heating and air-conditioning are also culprits in high energy consumption. Quality house insulation is important for maintaining a consistent temperature in your house. In the winter, it’ll prevent heat loss and in the summer it’ll protect against excess heat. If you happen to live in a colder climate, using your heating system might be unavoidable. In this case, we suggest you take a few smaller steps which are still highly effective. For instance, reducing the temperature by even 1°C can save a significant amount of money. Likewise, you could consider turning off radiators in rooms which aren’t in use.
An underlying and often inconspicuous energy cost often comes from the amount of appliances we all leave on stand-by or chargers plugged in unconnected. While the initial power used will be minimal, over periods of time such habits can lead to us racking up a costly electric bill. It’s the little things that make the difference, so we’d highly recommend you make sure to turn off those unused devices.
Benefits of saving energy
Devices which are more efficient benefit not just ourselves, but everyone. From an environmental perspective, more efficient devices will require less electricity, and therefore less fossil fuels. People don’t always associate their electricity use with fossil fuels. However, the majority of US electricity is produced via natural gas or coal. Consequently, more efficient devices help reduce the high-levels of GHG emissions, which have alarming consequences on our environment.
Moreover, when you combine the fact gas is a limited resource and the high-electricity use as a result of modern living, it’s no surprise that there’s never been a greater risk of a power outage. As such, choosing more efficient devices, which require less electricity, helps reduce the demand on what can be a limited resource. This, of course, benefits everyone.
A highly desirable benefit to saving energy is that it’ll lower your household costs. While some energy saving methods have an expensive initial purchase price, this is easily offset with the money saved by a cheaper bill. In this way, methods to reduce energy can be seen as a financial investment. Furthermore, newer (and more efficient) appliances often will produce fewer repair bills.
From a long-term perspective, it is worth making efforts to reduce our electricity use. This is because it’ll protect you from the long-term trend of rising electricity prices. Despite an increase in renewable energy sources, most electricity generators are still dependent on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, it is a limited resource that is in high demand, so prices are rising every year.
Longer lasting changes to save energy also can be beneficial home improvements. In fact, changes such as better insulation, double-glazing or solar-panelling all increase property value. Saving you money while you live there, but increasing your property’s value means energy-based house improvements are an all-round worthwhile venture. People value a well-insulated and energy-efficient home, from both a monetary perspective but also due to comfort. Energy-saving improvements, as mentioned, reduce the long-term running costs of your house; a desirable feature to new buyers! Furthermore, good insulation, durable windows and newer appliances (such as water heaters, dishwashers or a refrigerator) make a house far more comfortable and, therefore, liveable; in the US, we value our quality of life, and our homes should reflect that! Moreover, with climate change and environmentalism growing in popularity, there’s the rise of the ‘eco-conscious buyer’.