You’ve probably heard sayings such as “Throwing money out the window” or “Pouring money down the drain”. Both statements refer to wasting money when it could have been easily avoided. It’s ironic that the statements use subtle references to home utilities to make the point.
I think that’s because utility usage (such as for electricity, gas, and water) is hard for the average person to measure on a daily basis. You can’t touch it. And it doesn’t enter our conscious thinking until a utility bill arrives in the mail and it’s unusually high. I call utilities the silent wealth robbers.
However, there are steps that you can take to save money on your utility bills. I’ll discuss 10 frugal ways in a moment. But the best place to start is by knowing which areas of your home are the biggest energy hogs.
The first group would include appliances that run all or most of the day. Your refrigerator is one culprit and your water heater is another. Next in line are heavy use items. This would include your heating and cooling system, and lights.
By implementing as many of the following 10 ideas as you can, there’s no doubt that you will save money on utility bills:
Turn Off Lights
This should be an easy one to implement, but surprisingly it isn’t for many families. We are all guilty of walking into a room and then walking out without turning off the lights. Multiply that by 3 or 4 people and the electricity costs add up quickly. If this is a problem in your home, consider installing motion detector sensors that would turn the lights off automatically when the room is empty.
Installing energy-efficient lightbulbs will also help to reduce your electric bill.
Finally, turn off and unplug computers and non-essential appliances when they are not in use. The reason to unplug them is because some appliances continue to use electricity to light up on/off switches, indicator buttons, etc.
Purchase Energy Star Appliances
Your fridge is a big energy hog because it operates 24 hours per day. And the older it gets, the more electricity it drinks. If you can fit it in your budget, you should replace your old refrigerator with one that has an Energy-Star rating.
Energy-Star is a program that was started by the government to encourage manufacturers to produce more energy efficient and eco-friendly products. Any appliance carrying the Energy-Star logo has been certified to save up to 30% more on energy costs when compared to older models. So not only is this a good frugal living strategy, but it helps the planet as well.
You will find that there are many appliances being manufactured to meet Energy-Star standards — clothes washers and refrigerators are two popular examples.
Monitor Air Conditioning Temperatures
Raise the temperature of your air conditioner (AC) thermostat. When you’re away from home, turn up the temperature several degrees higher than the norm. However, you should not turn it completely off because the AC still needs to keep your possessions cool.
And if you really want to reduce your heating/cooling costs, consider replacing your old HVAC unit with one that’s Energy-Star rated. I replaced mine a couple of years ago to take advantage of tax credits offered by the federal and local governments. But what really made it a no-brainer was that it would take only about two years for the new unit to pay for itself in cost savings. Now my electricity bill is about 15%-20% lower every month and will be that way until I have to replace the unit.
Reduce Water Usage
You can immediately start saving money by taking shorter showers and baths. If you prefer showers, then install a water saving showerhead.
For the long run, you could also install an Energy-Star heat pump water heater. You can probably find one for $600 or more depending on your home size and needs. But if you consider that an energy efficient water heater could save you up to $300 per year, it may be worthwhile. Plus, check to see if there are any rebates or tax credits being offered by federal, state, and local governements.
Use Cheaper Phone Services
Do you have a mobile phone as well as a landline phone in your home? If so, eliminating one of them will save you money. You could replace your landline service with cheaper options such as Vonage, Magic Jack, and Skype. These services are cheaper because they employ VOIP technology, which simply means you can make phone calls over the Internet.
Mobile phone services and prices are also quite competitive. Shop around. Also consider using a prepaid mobile phone if you really want to tamp down spending.
Use Alternatives to Heat Your Home
When it’s the middle of winter, your central heating unit will be working over time. But you can save costs in a couple of ways. First, if you have a fireplace make full use of it. Not only is it effective, but it’s great for creating a cozy or romantic ambiance in the room.
Second, use space heaters for local heating. If you spend most of your time in one or two rooms, there’s no need to heat the entire house. A space heater and a little blanket may be all that you need.
Cover Your Windows
A lot of energy escapes from your home through windows. If they are poorly insulated, your home will get hotter faster in the summer and colder faster in the winter.
To slow the energy leaving your home, use blinds and draperies for window coverage. For a long term solution, consider replacing the windows with energy-efficient versions.
Reduce Or Eliminate Your Cable TV Service
I read an article not long ago that included some startling statistics of how many people are ditching cable tv and jumping to Internet services for their entertainment. I haven’t done it yet. But when you get an annual cable bill of $900 or more, it makes you think.
If you were to leave cable tv, you would still have access to the free broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc. All you’d need is a little inexpensive digital antennae.
For other programs, you can stream them over the Internet using a set-top box provided by services such as Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, and others. It’s through these services that you can subscribe to content providers such as Hulu, HBO, Disney, and NetFix. So for a fraction of the cost, you can still watch all of your favorite television shows.
But if you’re not quite ready to jump from cable tv, you can still negotiate prices with them. This is especially so if you live in a highly populated area where there’s competition.
Call up the cable company and threaten to leave if they don’t cut you a better deal. If the representative pushes back, ask to be transferred to the disconnection department. Repeat the threat to that department. Usually, they’ll try and work something out. But if they don’t, you have nothing to lose by making a deal with their competitor.
Negotiate With Home Heating Services
Depending on the region of the country in which you live, there will be multiple competitors for utility services related to natural gas, heating oil, solar, etc. Don’t hesitate to negotiate prices and terms with those companies. If they don’t want to play ball, move to the next guy.
Have an Energy Audit Performed to Save Money On Utility Bills
An energy audit service is one that will come to your home and use instruments and techniques to determine where it is leaking energy. They will give recommendations for making your home more energy efficient. These services are usually free or low cost, and you’re not obligated to implement any of their suggestions.
If you decide to have an audit performed, contact your local energy company for a list of reputable services.
Bonus: Upgrade the Insulation in the Attic
Aside from windows, the other major area of your home where energy escapes is through the attic/roof. This is usually due to poor insulation. If you have an old home that is still outfitted with its original insulation, it may be due for an upgrade in this department. Newer insulation materials put the old stuff to shame.
The best way to go about implementing the above suggestions is to start with the easiest one. When that one is done, move to the next one to keep the momentum going. You’ll be surprised by how much you save money on utility bills over a short period of time.