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How to save on the cost of your utilities

Unless you’re adventurous enough to live off the grid, utility bills are a fact of life. Some areas of the country are more expensive than others. But no matter where you live, the cost of your utilities can significantly impact your monthly cash flow. Did you know the average American spends over $400 each month on utility costs?1 Here in Iowa, our average utility cost is $436.

And paying utilities is simply no fun.

So, even if you aren’t venturous enough to live without the convenience of utilities, you still want to save as much money as you can.

It is possible to save on the cost of your utilities, each month, without a lot of sacrifice and discomfort. A few tweaks here and there can add up to big savings. If you could save $25, $50, $100, or more on your utilities each month, imagine how much you’ll save in a year!

How to save on the cost of your utilities

Slash your gas and electric bill

The three best ways to save on your gas and electric bill

1. Be smart with your thermostat

Adjusting your thermostat is the most obvious advice. It might push your comfort level a little. But, hear me out. This is one of the best things you can do to lower your utility costs.

Each degree you raise or lower your thermostat saves you money. For each degree you raise or lower your thermostat it’s estimated you save up to 3%. So if you adjust the thermostat by 3 degrees, you could save 9% on your bill – just by doing this one little thing.

Your savings will depend on things like where you live, how old your house is, how much insulation you have, and how efficient your HVAC unit is, of course.

But, for example, let’s say your typical heating bill runs $300+/month in the winter. By lowering the thermostat 3 degrees, you could save up to $20-$30/month (or more!).

Discomfort is the biggest complaint of most people here. At first, it will take time to get used to the new temperatures. You can use fans to create more air flow. And adjust your clothing accordingly (I wear a fleece jacket all winter). Then give it a little time. Your mind and body will get accustomed to your new indoor temperatures.

Are you the person that still manually adjusts your thermostat? Stop doing that! Use a programmable thermostat and set it at temperatures that challenge your comfort a bit. If no one is at home during the day, set the thermostat to save money. After you set your program, don’t touch it!

2. Use LED lightbulbs

According to Consumer Reports, most households spend about 5% of their energy costs on lighting alone.

With the price of LED (light-emitting diode) lightbulbs dropping significantly in recent years, it’s a no-brainer to make the switch.

High-efficiency LED bulbs have a lifespan of up to 20 years, use 80-85% less electricity2, and give off less heat than their counterparts.

Sure, LEDs still cost slightly more than incandescent and halogen lightbulbs, but they make up for it in lifespan and efficiency. Any extra cost will more than pay for itself in short order.

If you have a lot of bulbs to replace, try spreading out the cost by buying a few at a time. Watch for sales and rebates and stock up when you can save.

And, of course, don’t forget to turn off the lights!

3. Take it easy on your furnace/air conditioner

First, do you need to have your furnace or air conditioner running at all? In the Midwest, we have times in the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate. During mild weather, we don’t necessarily have to use our furnace or A/C (though using the fan setting is helpful).

But, when you need your HVAC unit to stay comfortable, there are a few things you can do to reduce how often it runs. This will not only save you on your energy bill but on the wear and tear on your unit.

When your furnace or A/C is running, help it out by doing the following:

  • Close blinds/curtains during the sunny days when it’s hot and open them on those sunny days when it’s cold.
  • Is the air temperature outside cool at night, but hot during the day? Open the windows at night and close them first thing in the morning to keep that cold air trapped during the day.
  • Keep air moving inside your house. Use ceiling fans and/or the fan on your HVAC unit to keep air moving. Remember, ceiling fans have a winter/summer switch – make sure you have it on the correct setting for the season.
  • Limit the opening of exterior doors during extreme temperatures (and if you have an attached garage, keep it closed)
  • On scorching hot days, don’t use your oven! Use your outdoor grill, slow cooker, or pressure cooker to keep the house from heating up.
  • Add more insulation to your walls/attic
  • Add weather stripping to windows/doors
  • Insulate electrical outlets with foam inserts.
  • Change your HVAC filters as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Keep your HVAC system clean (clean the condenser on your AC unit outside).
  • Keep vents clear of obstructions and vacuum them when they get dirty.
  • Have a pro check your unit and perform preventative maintenance.

Bonus energy savings:

  • Use a motion sensor on your light switches if you have forgetful people (or teenagers) living with you.
  • When appliances die or windows need replaced, replace them with energy-efficient models. (Check for rebates through your utility company).
  • Get an energy audit from your local utility company. Some utility companies offer this service and give away light bulbs, hot water heater wraps, low flow showerhead, etc.
  • Lower the temperature on your hot water heater (120 degrees is safe for most people).
  • Wrap (insulate) your water heater.
  • Wash laundry on cold. This not only saves money on the gas and electric bill, but it’s also easier on your clothes. (The only laundry I wash on hot is towels and bedding.)

Sink your water bill

Most water bills aren’t astronomically high. So many of us don’t think about saving on water as a top priority. But even some simple changes can save you a few bucks each month! Check it out.

How to reduce your water usage:

  • Install low flow shower heads and aerators on faucets.
  • Don’t leave the water running while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. Try to eliminate one or two loads of laundry each week. Are your clothes actually dirty when they get washed? Or do you just automatically put them in the laundry?
  • Use a rain barrel under a downspout to water gardens. Mulching also helps plants retain moisture, so they need less water.
  • Showers use less water than baths. Take a shower instead.
  • Shorten your time in the shower to save even more.
  • Repair running toilets and dripping faucets immediately. That’s literally money down the drain. I bet you can DIY it!

Cut the cord

Do you still have cable or satellite television? There might be better, cheaper, ways get your favorite TV shows (and movies too!)!

With faster internet service available, there are many alternatives to cable and satellite. If you have decent internet service, a streaming service is a great option that can replace cable and satellite service.

Check out just a few of the streaming options available:

Netflix. Netflix offers commercial-free movies and tv series at a great price! Basic packages start at $8.99/month (up to $15.99/month). You can try it for free for 30 days. Plus, Netflix is month-to-month, and you can cancel anytime.

Hulu. Hulu is a streaming service that offers TV and movies. You can watch from Hulu’s library or even stream live TV – with options to get channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. Plans start at $5.99/month (up to $44.99/month). You can switch plans or cancel anytime.

YouTube TV. YouTube TV streams live TV, and has over 70 networks (including sports), much like many cable and satellite packages. This option is a little pricier, at $49.99/month, but does have more network options plus DVR storage  – and you can cancel at any time for free.

Amazon Prime. Prime Video is free with your Amazon Prime membership ($119/year or $12.99/month). Amazon offers many movies and TV series, as well as paid options. Plus you can subscribe to extra channels, such as HBO and Showtime.  If you sign up for Amazon Prime, you also get free 2-day shipping, Prime Music, and other benefits. You can cancel at any time.

Let’s not forget the trusty antenna!  An antenna costs a little up front, but local TV programming is then free! The antenna is much better than it used to be. Did I mention watching is free?

If you are too attached to your cable/satellite to make a change, consider switching to a lower priced package. Call your provider or look online to see what packages you can get at a lower monthly cost.

Wifi for less

Wifi has become more of a necessity in recent years. Whether it’s for work, pleasure, TV, or research, we want the internet, and we want a good, fast connection to boot. The average American shells out around $50/month for internet service.

There are a few ways to save on the monthly cost of wifi. Here are some ways to reduce your internet bill:

  • Call to request a lower rate and/or introductory internet pricing. Talk to a customer retention specialist. They’ll usually find a way to save you money if they can keep you as a paying customer.
  • Switch to a cheaper provider (or threaten to). Shop around for internet providers and weigh your options.
  • Complain if you have problems with your service. Remember, you are the customer. If you aren’t getting the service you are paying for, or have had a period when your service didn’t work, ask for a statement credit.
  • Read the fine print on any contract you sign and make sure any discount offers you receive are in writing.
  • Buy your own modem and dump that monthly modem charge.

 

Whether you’re selling or buying a home, the process can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. At Coluzzi Real Estate, we answer all your questions and simplify the process. We’re here for you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

  1. Utility costs, in this case, include electricity, natural gas, internet, cable, and water. The Cost of Utilities: Which States Pay the Most?
  2. Bright Outlook for Energy-Saving Lightbulbs
2019-05-31T09:25:08-05:00

About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo.