Published July 19, 2013
As temperatures continue to rise across the country at the height of summer, so are electricity bills as many of us blast the air conditioning.
Electricity prices have been holding steady this year, but increased AC use leads to higher tilty bills, and that can be hard on a household budget.
“It’s likely that U.S. natural gas prices will remain moderate, which affects heating costs directly and also tempers electricity prices,” says Rodney Sobin, senior policy manager at the Alliance to Save Energy. Still, he says, “it’s usually much cheaper to use energy more wisely and efficiently than to waste it.”
While big changes like adding solar panels or geothermal heating tend to get the most attention when it comes to reducing monthly bills, experts say sweating the small stuff can also go a long way in reducing utility bills.
Consider this: According to the Department of Energy, turning your thermostat back from its normal setting by 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day can save as much as 10% on heating and cooling costs each year.
For those not willing to make that drastic of a temperature change, Sobin says each degree you raise your thermostat in the summer and lower it in the winter can save you 1% of cooling and heating costs.
Taking a moment to unplug electronics and appliances can also bring significant savings. The DOE reports that in the average home, 75% of electricity used to power those devices is consumed while the products are turned off, costing about $100 a year.
“If you don't want to have to run around unplugging things all the time, invest in a special surge protector that will do it for you,” says Erin Huffsteler, guide to frugal living at About.com.
He also suggests turning your hot water heater between 130 and 140 degrees during the summer and turning off the heat dry setting on your dishwasher if you want to save money.
Washing your clothes in cold water and not running the washing machine or dishwasher until it’s at full capacity can also lower monthly bills. According to Sobin, washing your clothes in cold water can save an average family $63 a year.
It also pays to stay on top of appliances maintenance. Huffsteler recommends keeping an extra fridge or freezer in a climate-controlled room so it doesn’t have to work overly hard to maintain its temperature in extreme weather.
It also pays to make sure no energy is leaking in or out of your home.
“Proper sealing and insulation can save 20% on heating and cooling,” says Sobin. “The easiest is to use weather stripping to seal leaks around doors, windows and the attic entrance.”
Other costs savers include sweeps that go on the bottom of doors and garage doors, sealing gaps around window air conditioners and even sealing wall electric outlets and switch plates. “These measures keep air-conditioned air in during summer and heated air in during winter,” he says.
Even the outside of your home can save you money on your utility bills. According to energy experts, installing attic insulation and having adequate attic ventilation and fans will prevent the space from overheating in the summer, which will reduce the burden on your air conditioning.
If you need to replace your roof, consider a light colored or reflective roof which will reflect more sunlight than darker roofs. Green or vegetated roofs can provide additional insulation during summer and winter months. The vegetated roofs are common for commercial and public buildings, but it can be retrofitted to existing homes or installed on new homes, according to Sobin.