Six Tools for Reducing Your Utilities this Summer

Paying Bills

With the summer season officially in full swing, American families will be spending more time outside and hitting the road on vacation, but when they are at home, they will be cranking down the air conditioning to combat the heat.

According to a 2011 Deloitte and Harrison Group study of 3,200 households and 405 medium-sized businesses, respondents cut their electricity use by 25% to save money. What’s more is that about 87% of respondents said they are searching for more energy- savings opportunities.

There are simple ways to beat the summer heat without getting scorched by high utility bills. Here are six tools that aim to reduce your energy bills and are easy lifestyle changes.


Many consumers only watch a handful of TV channels on a regular basis, yet pay for hundreds that go unwatched. One way to reduce your monthly cable invoice is to buy a Roku device. This small streaming media player starts at about $60, connects to your TV, and offers access to Netflix, Pandora, Facebook, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video subscriptions without a PC.

There are hundreds of other private and public streaming Roku channels to get your daily fix of news, sports and entertainment.

Digital Antenna

Now that you’re streaming movies and TV shows through your TV, get free over-the-air programming for the major network channels with a digital antenna that cost around $60-$150.

“Digital TV is as good quality and often at a higher resolution than cable,” says Gregory Cohen, a consumer who installed an antenna on top of his house recently. “I got a digital tuner that goes into my home network, and I can watch Over-the-Air TV on my laptop for $60 more.”

Water Flow Meter

Patrick Frano of Blue Sphere Water Technology, which monitors utility usage of major manufacturing facilities, suggests purchasing a plastic home flow meter for about $100 to monitor hot water usage.

“Any semi-handy person could install one on the entry to the hot water heater in their home,” he says. “Now they can check it every week and say to their family, ‘Hey, we used 2,000 gallons of hot water last week. Let’s see if we can make an actual 10% reduction for next week.’” Other places for flow meters may include the irrigation system or swimming pool filter.

Nest Learning Thermostat

Many local utility centers offer technology or products to remotely control your energy use that can significantly lower your monthly bill. If your company doesn’t offer anything, check out the Nest Learning Thermostat. The company claims the product saves about 20% when you “teach it well,” which takes about a week by turning the heat down at night or turning off the AC when you leave the house.

Energy-saving features like Auto-Away and Energy History become available as Nest learns your habits and adjusts automatically. Nest can also be remotely controlled with a Smartphone app.

Solar Panels

Some solar companies are now offering no-money-down leases to install solar panels on a home’s roof that can result in immediate reductions on electricity utility bills.

“Companies will do everything - take care of permits, do the installations, and provide the financing,” says Denis Wolcott, a spokeswoman for American Solar Direct. He adds the average monthly savings is about $50, with a good hedge against future electricity cost increases.

Rain Barrel

Buying a rain barrel from a home improvement store or nursery and placing it under a gutter to catch water during heavy rain can reduce the increase in your water bill from the summer plant and lawn watering tasks.

The barrels cost around $100, and some cities and municipalities also offer rebates on purchases.