If you like heating and cooling, running water and electricity, then you need to pay your utility bills. Each month, you must pay rent and utilities to keep your household running. While rent prices are usually fixed, there are ways to save some money on utilities and keep a little more money in your pocket.
In the process of saving money on utility bills, you can save energy, too! We've got 10 tips for you that can help you save money and reduce your energy consumption.
The most common utility bills
Utility bills are just a part of life. If you're a renter or a homeowner, then you'll have to pay for utilities. There are two types of utilities you should know about — non-discretionary and discretionary.
Non-discretionary utilities are the essentials required to keep a house functioning properly. They include:
- Heating and cooling
- Garbage and recycling
- Natural gas
Other expenses categorized as non-discretionary spending include transportation, groceries and insurance.
Discretionary utilities are not essential but are nice to have. They can include things like:
- High-speed internet
- Cable TV
- Streaming services
- Home security systems
- Phone services
You can save on your utilities if you're aware of how much you're spending each month and look for ways to reduce costs.
The average cost of utility bills
The typical family who rents will spend an average of $240 a month on utilities, according to a report by Move.org. If you're paying utilities for an entire house, plan to spend more like $400 a month.
For renters, that's roughly $2,880 a year for utilities. For homeowners, the cost is closer to $4,800 annually. Add that to the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment — $1,684 a month — and that's a hefty sum for the average American.
We want everyone to save some money and make our planet a bit greener in the process. With a few simple lifestyle changes, you can achieve both.
How to save money on utilities
We've outlined the most common utilities and talked about the average cost of utilities for renters. Now, it's time to dive into 10 ways to save money and reduce your energy consumption. Here's what you need to do:
Let there be (less) light
We can all thank Thomas Edison for the invention of the light bulb. However, we don't love the monthly electricity bill. Here are some easy ways to save money by watching the light.
1. Change your light bulbs
Clap on, clap off light bulbs were all the rage, but nowadays, energy-efficient bulbs are the new "it" item. If you're looking for ways to save, consider simply changing your light bulbs to LED light bulbs.
LED bulbs produce light using light-emitting diodes. Led bulbs are significantly more energy-efficient and can reduce energy consumption. They're also more durable than old school bulbs and emit the same, if not more, light.
Switching to LED bulbs is one way to reduce your energy bill. Another way is to buy smart LED light bulbs. Smart light bulbs connect to an app where you can then control them from your phone. Were you running late for work and forgot to turn off the light fixtures? No problem! You can simply open the app and turn the lights off remotely.
Smart light bulbs are an initial investment with a full starting kit costing about $150 and an individual bulb costing anywhere from $11 to $40.
Smart light bulbs can save you between 7 and 27 percent on your lighting energy bill, according to Jen King's Energy Impacts of Smart Home Technologies energy reports.
2. Turn the lights off
While we're on the topic of lighting, remember how your mom was always nagging you to turn off the lights? Now that you're an adult responsible for your own utility bill, you may understand her persistence.
Simply turning off the lights is a classic and easy solution to an overwhelming electric bill. If no one is using a room, turn the lights off. Make sure your kids get in the habit of this, too. You can also take this one step further by applying the habit to all electronics: If you're not using it, unplug it. This habit eliminates any passive electrical draw that your appliances and electronics might be responsible for.
The electricity bill doesn't need to take up the bulk of your monthly utility bills.
Watch your water consumption
Water is essential for survival, but do you really need to run three loads of wash per day? We don't need you to wait until there's at least a foot of laundry to wash, but we do want you to know how much water you're using so you can save money on your water bill.
3. Use cold water more often
You may not realize how much water you're using each day, and in turn, you're racking up your water bills. Perhaps you start washing clothes and then washing dishes. Next, you flush the toilet tank and take a shower using hot water. Afterward, you move the clothes to the dryer and start another load washing soiled clothes full of pet hair. (Fun fact — did you know using a wool dryer ball can help reduce drying time, which over time will reduce energy costs?)
This sounds like a typical day, but have you ever thought about energy usage in your daily routine? Let's break it down. Everything from the washing machine and dishwasher to the toilet and the shower relies on hot water and the hot water heater.
When you can, use cold water so you don't use the water heater itself. The water heater is an energy sucker, so avoiding the hot water heater and opting for cold water can help reduce your water bills and energy costs.
You may want to buy energy-efficient appliances, like an energy star label washing machine or dishwasher. Or, consider an electric water heater. Keeping the water heater temperature low can help keep your water bill low.
4. Fill up your appliances to use less water
It's tempting to run a half-empty load of dishes but did you know that it can actually be costing you money? If you wait until the dishwasher or washing machine is full before running a load, you can save on your energy bills and use less water. This method not only reduces your water and power usage but, also, ultimately saves you money on detergents, too.
Smart homes were once a thing in sci-fi movies, but in today's world, smart appliances are a part of almost every home. From smart home devices like Alexa to smart fridges, you can become more energy efficient by using smart home tech. Here are a few smart home products we like that'll save you money.
5. Get smart power strips
Many appliances continue to draw power even when not in use adding unnecessary expense to utility bills. One solution is to unplug appliances when not in use, but this is often not practical. Another solution is to use standard power strips to power down electronic hot spots in your home when you're not there or asleep. For example, by plugging your TV, stereo, DVD, DVR, etc. into one power strip, you can simply turn off the power strip before you leave for work in the morning or when you go to bed at night.
Alternatively, there are now smart power strips. A smart power strip can sense when an appliance is no longer in use and automatically shut off the power being drawn from the wall socket. Another cool feature of smart power strips is that you can control them remotely from your phone via an app. This gives you full control wherever you are and can help reduce utility costs without having to plug and unplug your appliances with every use.
6. Install a smart programmable thermostat
You're wasting energy if you keep your apartment or house heated when you're not there. If no one is around for eight hours during the workday, you can install a programmable thermostat, or a smart thermostat, to help control the furnace and air conditioner.
You can turn the heat off during the hours when no one is home and program it to turn back on a little bit before someone gets home. Some thermostats allow you to program target temperatures during peak hours of the day so you can use less energy and keep it off during peak hours.
For instance, in the middle of summer, it's particularly hot outside, so running the HVAC system at that time if no one is home would be a waste of energy and money. Using a programmable thermostat allows you to control the heating and cooling systems remotely and save money on utilities.
People like smart thermostats like the Ecobee or Nest. They can help you control the temperature of your apartment and keep it turned off during peak hours.
Conduct an apartment check
Who knew that closing your vents or weather-stripping your windows would be a way to save money on your apartment utilities. But guess what? It's an easy way how to save money on utilities. Walk around your apartment and check a few things out and you'll save money in the process.
7. Inspect your insulation
Air leaks allow cold air or warm air to escape through poorly insulated areas of your home. Not only are you losing heat, but you're also losing money.
Get some inexpensive insulation from your local home improvement store and cover up all those areas where heat or air conditioning might escape. Start with a foam weather stripping for your doors and windows as it's cheap and is extremely easy to apply.
If the problem with air leaks is severe, you can ask your landlord to inspect the apartment and re-insulate your doors and window. This is one of the easy ways to save money.
8. Close the vents and change the air filters
If you have rooms that you never use — like guest rooms or large storage areas — you may not really need your central heating or cooling systems to reach those areas. Close and seal off the vents in those rooms for more energy efficiencies and direct the flow of air to the rooms you use most. This will help you reduce heating costs.
Another money-saving hack is to regularly change your air filters. If they become too dirty, air can't pass through the system and the system will overheat. By closing unused vents and changing the air filters frequently, you'll save money.
Save money on air conditioning
We all love our AC but it can rack up the cost of your monthly utility bills, especially if you live in an area with a hot climate. We have a tip that'll help you keep cool while keeping a little extra pocket change.
9. Use your ceiling fans
It's common sense that using your furnace or air conditioner less can help save money. But how do you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter with this method?
An easy way to save on cooling costs is to open a window instead of heading right to the air conditioners. Some days it's just too hot to go without air conditioning, but a lot of times we power the AC up just out of force of habit. Alternatively, you might try a combination approach. Set your thermostat to 78 degrees, the recommended temperature to maximize energy savings and then use the ceiling fans.
You can use ceiling fans in both the summer and the winter. In the summer, you can cool down hot air but setting your fan to spin counterclockwise. This will help push air down and create a cooling effect.
In the winter, use your ceiling fans to help reduce the heating bill. Ensure your fan is running clockwise to create warm air to heat you up.
Use your furnace or air conditioner wisely
One of the most expensive utilities is heating and cooling. It's important to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but no one wants to spend all their money on this. Be conscientious of how you use your furnace and air conditioner to determine how to save money on utilities.
In the summertime, open windows and use fans so you're not running the HVAC system throughout the entire day. In the wintertime, make sure your heat isn't cranked too high and rely on things like blankets or even space heaters to warm up the apartment.
10. Avoid extreme temperatures in your heating and cooling system
You may think that turning the AC all the way down will cool the place down faster. Or, turning the heat all the way up will rapidly warm the apartment and then you can turn it off. Avoid extreme temperatures as this actually uses more energy to go from cold to hot or hot to cold.
When you keep the thermostat at the same average temp each season, you'll use less energy turning it on and off every time. As with everything, balance is crucial so keep the heat and air at a moderate temperature to save on utilities.
Easy ways to lower utility costs and energy costs
Your retailer or local utility company can help you find the appliances that are the highest-rated for energy efficiency. According to Energy Star, a joint program between the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, the average home contributes twice the amount of greenhouse gases to the environment as an average car
Keep your eyes out for little things on how to save money on utilities — whether it's taking a shorter shower instead of a bath, not over-drying your clothes or going into a room that's already in use to share light. If you're looking, you can almost always find a way to live greener — and save a little more money while you're at it.