When it comes to personal finance, there are two basic ways you can improve your present situation: (1) increase your income, or (2) reduce expenses. In many cases, the latter is easier and more effective. And while there are infinite strategies for reducing expenses, one of the more practical options is to lower your utility bills.
5 Tips for Saving on Utilities
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. family spends more than $2,200 per year on energy bills – nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. This figure obviously increases rather significantly when you add square footage and take other factors into account.
Whether you’re spending $2,200 per year or $5,200 per year, there are ways for you to save on utilities and create more room in your budget for the things you enjoy doing.
Let’s take a look at some top tips and best practices:
- Schedule an Energy Audit
Most utility companies offer free home energy audits to customers, because it helps them as much as it helps you. If your utility company offers something like this, there’s no reason not to participate. It’ll help you identify areas where you’re wasting energy so that you can make smarter decisions moving forward.
- Shield Your House From the Sun
The sun is your enemy during the summer. While it might be nice to go out and enjoy the sun outside, it can elevate the temperatures inside of your home and force your AC system to work around the clock.
The more you can shield your house from direct sunlight, the better off you’ll be. One of the first steps is to protect your windows with something like solar sun screens.
“Because sunshades are installed on the exterior of your window it stops the sun’s rays before they even touch your windows so solar heat gain is dramatically reduced,” Screens Unlimited mentions. “This benefit will reflect significantly in your utility bills. In fact, SRP points out that by installing exterior window shades you may cut your energy bills by as much as 25%!”
You can also strategically plant shrubs and trees so they block direct sunlight from entering your home – especially on western facing sides.
- Paint Your Roof White
According to a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Heat Island Group, houses in sunny climates see significant variances in energy consumption based on the color of their roofs. And while it might not be the aesthetic you’re used to, painting your roof white could save you 40 percent in cooling costs over a traditional black roof.
- Reduce Hot Water Consumption
Water is unique in that it can absorb significant heat without experiencing a massive increase in temperature. In other words, it takes a lot of heat to warm up the water in your home. Since water heating accounts for a large portion of your household energy bill, this works against you.
Some practical things you can do to reduce hot water consumption are to lower the temperature setting on your water heater, take shorter showers, and wash clothing in cold water.
- Switch to CFL Bulbs
One of the more practical things you can do is replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs. As The Family Handyman explains, “CFL bulbs will provide 10,000 hours of light and use $10.40 of electricity (at 8 cents per kilowatt hour). To get the same output with incandescents, you would have to use seven bulbs, which would cost less up front, but the electricity would cost $48.”
Give Your Budget a Boost
What would you do with another $75 to $125 in your monthly budget? It might not sound like a lot at first, but there’s actually a ton of practical value in this money. You could use it to pay down student loans, take a family of four out to dinner and a movie, pay to have your house professionally cleaned, or save towards retirement.
Whatever the case may be, it’s much better than wasting money on unnecessary energy consumption.