14 Ways to Lower Your Gas and Electric Bill

Photo: danxoneil Photo: danxoneil

Looking for ways to lower your gas and/or electric bill? These days, who isn’t? We’ve covered many ways to save energy in an earlier post, but I want to highlight some other great ways to save. These simple, creative or long-term solutions can help you cut your energy bills.

Before you start implementing these energy-saving options, take the Home Energy  Saver audit for your home. The audit will take some time, but it will help you figure out where you most need to save. That way, you can prioritize items from this list and get the best energy-saving results for your home.

1. Install motion sensor switches

You may think that motion sensors are only for outdoor and security lights, but this isn’t always the case. You can install motion sensors in low-traffic indoor rooms – bathrooms, guest rooms, closets, the basement, etc. These are areas where lights could easily be left on, unnoticed, for hours or days at a time.

Motion sensors themselves use a bit of energy, so use them only where you need them. They’re a great energy-saving option for families with children or for the absentminded who constantly forget to turn off lights. You can learn to install a motion sensor.

2. Turn to power strips

You may have heard that power strips can help you save money by cutting off “energy vampires.” Things like TVs, DVD players, appliances, video game consoles, computers and more will suck small amounts of energy, even when they’re off. In fact, these vampires could make up 20 percent of your monthly energy bill.

Plugging appliances and electronics into power strips can save energy because when you turn off the power strip, you cut the energy to those items entirely. But, let’s face it, power strips can be unsightly and inconvenient. Before you resist this energy-saving option, check out these creative power strip solutions:

3. Check out water heater timers

You’ve heard of programmable thermostats, well you can get the same thing for your water heater. If you’re gone most of the day, you’re not using hot water. So why pay to keep the water hot all that time?

Instead, check out an automatic electric water heater timer, which will switch off your water heater when it doesn’t need to be used and on when it does. If your water heater is well-insulated, the water won’t get too cold. That means, you can have hot water in time for evening cooking or morning showers, right on time. Amazon has a few water heater timer options, ranging from about $15 to more than $200.

4. Ask about smart meters

Many electric companies offer smart meters, also known as time-of-use meters, to their customers. Instead of tracking how much energy is used over a billing period, these meters track energy used hourly.

Smart meters are great because they usually reward you for using energy outside of peak hours – in the middle of a weekday, for instance. You’ll probably pay a lower rate for energy used during off-peak hours than during peak hours.

First, find out if your energy company offers smart meters. You can Google “your city name, smart meters,” or call your electric company to ask. Then, think of ways to rearrange your energy usage to use more off-peak and less peak-time energy. For instance, do the laundry in the middle of the night or the middle of the day, or avoid turning on the oven during peak energy times.

5. Put up new window treatments

Curtains, blinds and awnings can add style and personality to the inside and outside of your home, but these window treatments can also help you save energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, window awnings can reduce summer sun-related heat gains inside your home by up to 77 percent. Interior blinds can reduce heat gain by 45 percent, and conventional drapes can reduce heat loss in a warm room by about 10 percent.

While awnings can cost a pretty penny to install, you can sew and put up your own energy-efficient curtains to save even more than 10 percent heat loss during the winter. Plus, light-blocking drapes can help lower summertime cooling costs by keeping rooms from getting warm through sun exposure. Learn how to make chic and energy efficient curtains.

6. Fill gaps around outlets

When you’re weather stripping and caulking your home for the winter, one area you might miss is around the outlets in your home. But if you put your hand next to an outlet on a cool day, chances are likely that you can feel a difference between your outlet and the rest of the wall. They tend to leak cool air, which can make a difference in your heating bills.

Luckily, caulking your electrical outlets isn’t difficult. You can learn how to do it.

7. Permanently stop drafts around windows and doors

If you pull out the weather stripping and caulk gun every year, you probably know something about stopping leaks and drafts around windows and doors. But if you spend a bit more time on the project this year, you may be able to get rid of those leaks permanently.

To do it, you’ll have to pull the frame off windows and doors and seal the gaps between the jamb and the wall framing with a foam sealant. Shoddy workmanship or an older home that has settled may lead to a lack of insulation between the window or door jamb and the wall framing. But filling that gap is a one-time fix that will save you energy for years to come. Learn more about this process here.

8. Make wool dryer balls

According to laundrylist.org, about 5.8 percent of household electrical energy use goes to the clothes dryer. While line drying is the best way to remove this expense from your electric bill, it’s not always possible. If you need to use the dryer, but want to save as much energy as possible, make wool dryer balls.

Dryer balls bounce around in your dryer, separating fabric so that the warm air penetrates more deeply. Basically, they let your dryer dry a load of clothing from the inside and the outside, instead of just from the outside. Plus, they can help soften and de-static your clothes without the use of expensive softeners or dryer sheets.

The great part is that you can make a set of wool dryer balls for less than $10, and you need next to no craftiness to do it. Check out this tutorial to learn how to make wool dryer balls.

9. Replace weather stripping

Put down the caulk gun and take a more permanent – and better-looking – action this winter. Over time, weather stripping can become damaged and allow leaking around entry doors.

You can replace weather stripping with silicone rubber tubes, which look nicer than other options, and offer longer-lasting leak protection. Find out more about weather seals, including caulkable corner seals, from Conservation Technology.

10. Plant some trees

If you want to go green while saving energy, plant some trees or vines. Just by placing trees and trellises on the south and west sides of your home, you can reduce your summer electric bill by $25 a year or more.

According to one study, planting a tree on the west side of your home can help you reduce summertime carbon emissions from electricity usage by 30 percent over 100 years. The key is to plant a fast-growing, hardy, native tree that will grow well in your climate without lots of extra TLC. If you don’t want to wait for a tree to grow, consider installing some trellises on the south and west sides of your home and opting for fast-growing vining plants.

11. Install ceiling fans

Installing a ceiling fan is a great way to reduce energy use in the summer. Ceiling fans can operate all day for pennies. And they help keep you cooler by circulating air.

Whereas your air conditioner creates a cooler environment, air blowing on your skin from a ceiling fan helps cool you directly. Plus, in the winter, ceiling fans can be used to push warm air down from a high ceiling to the floor where you need it most.

Installing a ceiling fan isn’t a quick and easy DIY project, but if you have some experience, you can probably do it on your own. Learn how to install your own ceiling fan.

12. Eat out more

Just kidding! You won’t save money by eating out all the time, but you could save by cooking at home a little less. Every time you cook, you use energy from appliances, whether that’s a crock pot, a microwave or a stove. But in some cases, you also end up heating up your home, which can increase cooling costs in the summer.

Cooking less often but in larger batches is similar to washing only a full load of laundry. By doing it in bulk, you’re spending less energy over the long run. So instead of cooking every night of the week, prepare extra meals once a week. You can turn the oven on once for five hours instead of five times for one hour, and you’ll save energy.

Making double batches is another good option because you can reheat the leftovers in the microwave. Microwaves take a lot of energy while they’re in use but end up costing less overall because it takes so little time to heat something in a microwave. In fact, most microwaves take 50-65 percent less energy than a conventional oven to heat a similar dish.

Finally, when you are cooking, especially in the summer, make smart choices about what and how you cook. Instead of doing an entire meal on a stovetop – a guaranteed recipe to heat your home – opt for a mostly chilled meal, or cook your food in a low-energy slow cooker.

13. Check out the Nest thermostat

If you’ve been hesitant to get a programmable thermostat, hesitate no longer. Most programmable thermostats end up wasting energy because they’re too complicated to program. The Nest thermostat, on the other hand, basically programs itself. Just change the thermostat to be more comfortable for a few days, and it will get a feel for your home’s rhythms, changing the thermostat on its own. Plus, the Nest optimizes itself for different types of heating systems, including radiant, heat pump and forced air.

While it’s not a cheap option – $249 – it is a one-time expense that could dramatically reduce your energy expenditures over the long term.

14. Install solar panels.

The days of super-efficient solar energy that can run an entire home may not be far off, but they’re not here quite yet. Still, you can offset some of your energy costs by installing solar panels in your home.

Home solar panel options may be complicated, so make sure you understand exactly what you can expect from solar panels. You can find reviews of some of the best home solar panels in the industry at The Daily Green.

Depending on which panels you choose, you may be able to install them yourself. However, some are only available through licensed installation operations. Honestly, when it comes to a step that could save you money in a big way for years to come, paying a bit more for professional installation may not be a bad idea.

Some of these money-saving ideas are cheap and easy. Dryer balls? They’ll cost you $5 and take you a couple episodes of American Idol to finish. Solar panels? They could cost several thousand dollars, and they’ll take time and care to install.

But what all these ideas have in common is that they’ll save you energy. So get started with a home energy audit today, and then figure out which of these options is most worth your investment of time and money.

Published or Updated: April 3, 2014
About Abby Hayes

Abby is a freelance copywriter and blogger who writes on everything from personal finance to health and wellness. She spends her spare time bargain hunting and meal planning for her family of three.

Comments

  1. Money Beagle says:

    I would add one thing: Invest in an infrared thermometer. For around 25 bucks, it’s a simple little device that you point at any surface to get the temperature. It’s great to shoot around windows, doors, and other things where you can identify points where large gaps in temperature exist, and act accordingly. Quick story, our bedroom was always five degrees difference than the rest of the house, colder in the winter, hotter in the summer, no matter what we did. So, of course we end up adjusting the temp of the whole house to keep ourselves more comfortable. One day I brought in my infrared device and found that there was a leak up around the ceiling fan. There was a slight gap between the fan and the beam it was installed in. During the winter, the heat just went up and into the attic. In the summer when we were running the fan, we were actually drawing hot air from the attic down to the room. About three cents of insulation later, and the room temperature normalized instantly. Would have never found that otherwise.

  2. Jim says:

    Check with your gas/electric utility to see if they offer any kind of energy savings programs. I assume most have some program. They’ll give you incentives and maybe free stuff. A home energy audit is a good start and might even be free from your uitlity (ours does it free). That will give you good personalized study of what can be done most cost effectively to cut your own homes energy use.

    Solar is still too pricey to be effective. They cost too much for the amount of energy generated to be practical versus other ways to cut usage. I like solar, but its a low priority given its low return on investment. THe exception might be if your state has very generous tax breaks which a couple might.

  3. Abby Hayes says:

    Thanks for the extra advice. I’d never heard of an infrared thermometer. May need to pick one of those up for our apartment, though I dread to see where all the leaks are coming from…

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