The cost of powering your home and all your assorted appliances and devices can be significant. The price of everything, from running your air conditioner on hot days to charging your phone as you sleep, can add up.
Getting a handle on your electric bill is important. While utility companies don’t typically report payments to the main credit bureaus, missing payments could potentially eventually drop your credit score as they can get sent to collections. (You can check two of your scores for free every two weeks on Credit.com).
But you can significantly reduce the electrical energy your home consumes by taking a few simple steps. Here are 11 ways you can lower your electric bill.
1. Perform a Home Energy Audit
Home energy auditors are professionals who come to your home to evaluate your power usage, assessing your home and your past power bills. They’ll look for areas where you can increase efficiency. Many electric suppliers provide this service for free, but you can also find a local paid professional.
When the audit is complete, the auditor can recommend energy-saving methods and products.
2. Install Dimmer Switches
The overhead lights in many rooms often provide more illumination than we need. With dimmer switches, you can adjust the amount of light you’re using. Modern dimmers also reduce how much electricity lights use.
3. Install Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans circulate air through your home and can cool you off. While they use electricity, they may reduce the workload of your air conditioner.
4. Ward off the Sun
Sunlight coming in through windows can heat up your home and make your air conditioner work harder. You should close the curtains or blinds on your windows when you don’t need them open and consider installing tinted window film. (If heating or cooling your home is the main cause of your high electric bills, here’s how you can keep temperatures comfortable without spending too much.)
5. Turn Off Unused Items & Unplug Electronics
Of course, you should shut off all electronics and lights when you leave a room to reduce energy usage. But electronics and appliances can use energy even when they’re turned off.
“Gadgets and appliances like TVs, laptops, coffee makers, printers, space heaters and cable boxes continue to suck energy even when turned off,” said Andrea Woroch, a consumer finance expert. “Get in the habit of unplugging all these electronics and appliances when you aren’t using them. Power strips are an easier and less timely alternative — some even come with a remote control for easier use.”
6. Use LED Light Bulbs
LED light bulbs use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs. While LED bulbs can cost more, they have a longer lifespan, so you could save money on light bulbs in the long run.
7. Replace Your HVAC Air Filters
Air filters keep dust and debris from circulating through your HVAC system and clogging vents and air registers. Over time, these filters get clogged with dust and debris themselves, and your air conditioning system will have to work harder to cool your home. You should swap your air filters out every few months to reduce the energy needed to regulate your home’s temperature.
8. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats reduce energy costs by adjusting your home temperature when you’re away, at work or asleep. Your energy usage will be reduced because you won’t be wasting electricity cooling an empty home.
“The HVAC system uses the most energy in your home, and running the air conditioner or heater can blow your budget. However, installing a programmable thermostat takes the guesswork out of fiddling with temperatures and allows you to preset temps when you are home or away at work or school so you don’t waste energy,” said Woroch.
Just be careful. “Smart” thermostats are one of a few household objects that might make you vulnerable to hackers.
9. Solar Panels
If you’re looking for big savings and energy reduction, solar panels may be the way to go. Typically installed on the roof, solar panels harvest the sun’s energy and convert it into electric power.
“Solar panels continue to improve. The prices of solar panels have become cheaper, their ability to capture the sun’s photons and convert them to electricity is becoming more efficient, and the technology is changing as solar shingles emerge as a more mainstream item,” said Sage Singleton, home maintenance specialist at Safewise. “The time before payoff on solar panels is also getting shorter — the average rooftop solar system will pay back a homeowner in seven-and-a-half years. The sooner you install your solar panels, the sooner you will see the average savings on your lowered energy bills.”
Solar panels might also lower your tax bill.
10. Look for Energy Provider Programs
Many electric suppliers have programs you can participate in to reduce the cost of your bill. These include rebates for buying energy-efficient appliances, rewards for reducing energy usage during peak hours and programs that spread the cost of your peak usage for months across the year. Visit your energy provider’s website or call to find out what programs might be available.
11. Shop for an Alternative Provider
If you have alternative energy providers in your area, you can always shop around to see if you can find a cheaper option.
“One common way that consumers reduce their electric bill is to shop for a new electric supplier. Many states in the U.S. are deregulated, meaning the residential customers can shop for electricity,” said Kelly Bedrich, cofounder and president of ElectricityPlans.com. “In these states, homeowners and renters can shop for electricity in the same way you can shop for cable and internet service. By being able to shop for their energy, the homeowners can often save as much as 30% to 40% off of their energy bill simply by switching their supplier.”
Looking for other ways to save? Making your home more energy efficient is one 50 tips we came up with to give your finances a fresh start this year.