Personal Finance

How to Spot Money Wasters in Your Home

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If you receive huge heating bills in the winter, and you’re spending big money on your water bill every month, chances are you can cut your costs by making simple adjustments around the house. Here are a few tips to cut utility costs at home:

Water

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 30% of daily water consumption in the U.S. is used outdoors, and that percentage may even double during warmer months. To save on lawn care and outdoor maintenance, check for leaks in your sprinkler system, don’t waste water on your driveway or sidewalk, and you can even collect rainwater runoff in barrels to use in your garden.

In the bathroom, there are plenty of ways to save on your water bill. When it comes to flushing the toilet, you should first check for leaks by pouring a packet of colored, powder drink mix in the tank. If you start to see that color in the toilet bowl without flushing, you could be pouring money down the drain and should fix the flap or seal as soon as possible. Once that’s done, you can also save costs on each flush, by placing a plastic bottle filled with sand or pebbles in the tank of your toilet.

If you have a leaky faucet, you could be wasting thousands of gallons of water every year. According to a U.S. Geological Survey, one drip every second adds up to 6,428 extra gallons annually, so fix leaky spigots as soon as you see them.

When it comes to showering, cutting a fifteen-minute shower to ten minutes will save you big bucks over time. But you should also be paying attention to your showerhead. Replacing an older showerhead with an eco-friendly version (that follows the 1994 federally-mandated regulations) will spray less than 2.5 gallons per minute, and can put hundreds of dollars back in your wallet.

Electric

When you leave a room, get in the habit of turning out the lights. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t waste more energy to turn lights off and on. And if you’re still using incandescent bulbs, you’re burning up money that you could save by switching to longer-lasting, environmentally friendly LED lightbulbs. They’re a bit pricier than your standard bulb, but over the life of an LED bulb (which can last up to 50,000 hours), you’ll save quite a bit more money than the initial cost.

You should also turn off and unplug appliances whenever you can. 40% of energy consumed by home electronics is used when devices are off—so make sure to unplug chargers, laptops, any other personal items, and a power strip or surge protector with a master switch can help with that. Large appliances are also cheaper to run at night. Avoid peak energy rates for clothes dryers and dishwashers by using them in the evening.

The energy used to heat your water can also be drastically cut. If you lower your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees, you can save $450 annually. It’s also good to know that boiling water in the microwave is more energy efficient than on the stove — the EPA says a microwave uses 80% less energy and is three times cheaper. But if you do use the stovetop, make sure to match the burner and pot size so you don’t waste excess heat.

Heating/Cooling

Heating and cooling your home through all the seasons is one of the biggest constant costs for a homeowner. One way to save is by placing a shade, or planting a tree over your A/C condenser or window unit. Don’t place it close enough to constrict airflow, but if you do it just right, you could save 10% on A/C costs.

If you have them, take advantage of programmable thermostats. Air-conditioning works at full throttle regardless of what it’s set at, until it reaches your set temperature (so cranking it down extra low won’t cool your house faster, and only increase your costs by 7% per degree). If you program the thermostat to kick in before you arrive home, the steadier pace will prove kind to your wallet.

During the winter, don’t crank your heat up — instead, opt for flannel sheets and down duvet covers, both of which retain more warmth than your typical cotton sheets. And in both hot and cold weather, insulating your home translates into savings. This is a top energy waster, and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well-insulated. Once you’ve got that down, make sure to weather-strip around doors and windows as well to keep your heat or air in the house.

There are plenty of ways to save money around the house, and if you make sure to follow these tips, you’ll see your utilities drop significantly over time. Not only will you be saving money, but these simple modifications make your home more environmentally friendly as well — a win-win situation, and any homeowner’s dream.

Image: Comstock

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