Electricity prices are constantly rising and finding ways to lower your electric bill can save you an impressive amount of money on energy costs in the long run. In this article, we’ll suggest five key energy-saving tips to cut your electricity bill and see instant monthly savings – whether you rent or own your home – through day-to-day changes, energy-efficient products, and larger home upgrades.
Key takeaways: how to lower your bill
- You can save on your electric bills by choosing energy-efficient appliances, upgrading your home, changing your daily habits, and subscribing to community solar.
- Invest in an energy audit to understand your current electricity costs to get started saving.
- Going solar can lead to the biggest electric bill savings in the long run – visit the EnergySage Marketplace to estimate your costs and get solar quotes easily.
What’s included in this article:
- Get a home energy audit
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances and products
- Upgrade your home’s weatherization and insulation
- Adjust your daily routines to save energy
- Subscribe to community solar
1. Get a home energy audit
One of the best ways to hone in on which changes you should make is to have an energy audit. Whether you do it yourself or have a professional come in, understanding your energy situation will help you identify the highest impact changes to lower your energy bills. Many utilities offer free or reduced-cost energy audits. Make sure to contact your utility company to see if they have an energy audit program – for example, many Massachusetts homeowners can take advantage of a no-cost energy audit from Mass Save.
Whether you rent or own your home, a home energy audit can help you confirm if you have any large-scale issues like airflow from outside to inside that’s making you use more energy in your home and other smaller items like getting more efficient lighting. Even a DIY energy audit or assessment can enable you to save money on utility bills and electricity.
2. Purchase energy-efficient appliances and products
Devices with the ENERGY STAR label are certified by the federal government to consume less energy than standard appliances. According to studies cited on ENERGY STAR’s website, choosing ENERGY STAR products can allow a typical household to save about $450 on their energy bills.
Washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, and dehumidifiers are just some examples of the types of ENERGY STAR-certified products available. ENERGY STAR appliances reduce your energy usage by lowering your electricity and water consumption (which reduces the amount of energy used to heat water). So, if you have to purchase a new appliance anyways, it usually makes sense to choose an energy-efficient model.
Save more when upgrading with rebates
Your utility company may offer rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient appliances. So you’ll not only save a lot of energy and lower your electricity bill, you’ll also save on the upfront cost. Check with your utility company to see if they have a marketplace, rebates, or other offers for upgrading appliances. ENERGY STAR’s website also has a rebate finder where you can enter your zip code to see what offers are available.
Replace lighting and other small appliances
Beyond large appliances, many of the products we use in our homes are functional but inefficient. Common household items such as incandescent light bulbs, power strips, and light switches can all be upgraded for a low cost to reduce electricity consumption greatly. LED light bulbs can save the average household approximately $225 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Even CFL light bulbs, which are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, are less efficient than LEDs.
In addition to light bulbs, products like advanced power strips, low-flow shower heads, and motion-sensing dimmer switches offer upgrades over conventional home tools to reduce your energy usage (and thus your electricity bill) without changing your lifestyle or habits much, if at all. You may not realize that leaving electronics plugged in can still use energy – these are known as “energy vampires” (or standby power or phantom loads) because they use energy even when turned off or in standby mode.
Upgrade heating and cooling systems
While a bigger expense, one of the most impactful ways to incorporate ENERGY STAR products into your home is to upgrade your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system to save on heating bills. Heat pumps are one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool your home with just one system – and there are heat pump incentives and rebates available to help reduce your upfront cost.
Heat pumps can save you between $300 and $948 on your annual utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Your savings will depend on a few things, such as your current HVAC system, the size of your home, the climate where you live, and your personal preferences. Even if heat pumps aren’t a fit for you, purchasing an ENERGY STAR natural gas furnace or central air conditioning unit can save you money each month (up to $140!). Also, upgrading your ductwork with better sealing or insulation can help make your heating and cooling system up to 20 percent more efficient, according to ENERGY STAR.
3. Upgrade your home’s weatherization and insulation
When you weatherize your home, you seal air leaks around it, which can greatly reduce the energy you use to keep cold air or hot air inside (depending on the weather outside). Common areas for leaks include vents, windows, and doors, and they can all be weatherized to reduce air leaks significantly. Especially if you live in an older building, faulty seals on windows and doors can lead to unnecessary electricity use. The better the seal, the more your home will stay at the thermostat’s set temperature, and the less you’ll have to pay to run your heating and cooling system. (Pro tip: a smart thermostat, also known as a programmable thermostat, can help you manage temperatures more efficiently.)
Similar to sealing your windows and doors, it’s a good idea to check the insulation on your entire home. Insulation is the protective layer in your walls that helps maintain a constant temperature inside – warm during the winter and cool during the summer. The more effective your insulation, the lower your electricity bills will be.
Beyond weatherizing, you should fully insulate your home to retain heat in the winter and keep it out in the summer. Depending on where you live and the part of your house requiring insulation, you’ll need different types of insulation. Some of the most common areas to insulate are your attic, walls, floors, basement, and crawl spaces. By insulating your home properly, you can make heat and air conditioning last longer, meaning you won’t have to use as much energy to power your HVAC system. Weather stripping and caulking holes in basements can also increase your home’s efficiency.
One less common area to focus on when checking insulation is your ductwork. Ducts are the pipes that move warm or cool air throughout your home from your air conditioning and heating units. The better insulated those pipes are, the less energy you’ll need to heat up or cool down your home.
4. Adjust your daily routines to save energy
You can even reduce your electric bill by simply changing some of your habits. Forget spending extra money on upgraded appliances, insulation, or a cleaning service – here are some easy actions you can take right now to lower your electricity bill:
Dress for the occasion
This one might sound obvious, but it works! One way to rely less on your heating and cooling system is to simply dress for the weather. In the winter, throw on a sweater and don’t set the heat as high. Wear shorts and a t-shirt around the house in the summer and set the thermostat a few ticks higher than you usually would. Over time, you’ll save money and still stay comfortable.
Use less water
There are a few ways to reduce your water usage around the home, saving you money on water heating costs (regardless of whether your water heater is gas-powered or electric). Taking shorter showers is an obvious example, but did you know that dishwashers actually use about nine times less water than hand washing your dishes? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), running your faucet for five minutes while washing dishes wastes about 10 gallons of water and uses the same amount of energy as a 60-watt light bulb over 18 hours.
Use appliances and other energy-using products strategically
You can also take steps to use the existing appliances you own (whether ENERGY STAR-certified or not) and other household items more strategically:
- Washing clothes: using cold water in your clothes washer can save energy since you’re not heating up as much hot water.
- Drying clothes: if you dry loads of laundry back to back, the dryer doesn’t need as much electricity to warm up the second time because there will still be heat left over from the first load. You can also hang or air dry clothes if you have space to reduce energy consumption.
- Washing dishes: run a full load of dishes in the dishwasher to reduce the number of times you have to use it.
- Heating and cooling: check the temperature setting on your thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) notes that you can save as much as 10 percent each year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat back 7° to 10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day.
- Heating water: check your water heater temperature. Most of the time you can set it at 120°F. Keeping it at this setting compared to 140°F can save you a lot when you account for lower costs to wash dishes and clothes and run water for showers. The DOE notes this can save you as much as $400 per year.
5. Subscribe to community solar
One of the best ways to cut your electricity bill is by joining a community solar project. A community solar project is a large, central solar farm where multiple homes and buildings can use solar energy. While the size of a residential solar installation is measured in kilowatts, community solar projects are measured in megawatts, meaning that a single community solar project can power many homes. Community solar is also often referred to as roofless solar, solar gardens, or shared solar.
Since you don’t need to install anything to participate in a community solar project, it’s a great option for renters and people who live in apartments, condos, townhomes, or duplexes. By purchasing a share of or subscribing to a community solar project, everybody can benefit from solar while paying less for electricity.
How does community solar help you cut your electric bill?
Community solar allows you to purchase bill credits generated at a local solar farm. Typically, you purchase these bill credits at a discount (most companies offer a 10 percent discount from what you currently pay for electricity). You’ll usually still receive an electricity bill from your utility company. Still, it will include any credits you bought from your community solar farm, lowering your overall bill amount.
With community solar, your electricity bill savings vary monthly because your electricity usage typically varies by season, as does solar production. When the sun is shining during the summer, the solar farm will produce more electricity (therefore, more solar bill credits.) This often means higher payments to your community solar provider and lower utility bill charges, while the opposite may happen during the winter months. Despite this monthly variance, you can expect to save 5 to 15 percent of your annual electricity costs when joining a community solar program. With community solar, most subscriptions involve no upfront cost, guaranteed savings, and allow you to cancel anytime without penalty fees. Visit our EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace to find a participating solar farm near you.
Bonus: keep it clean!
While not technically a home upgrade, it’s worth it to clean specific parts of your home – you’ll save money, and, in many cases, improves the air quality and reduces allergens or germs in your home. Here are a few examples:
- Clean your refrigerator coils: refrigerators use lots of electricity, so you’ll want those coils to perform as efficiently as possible.
- Replace the air filter in your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump regularly: this helps keep the system running smoothly and reduces the energy it needs to push air through your home.
- Clean your ceiling fans to ensure they’re working efficiently.
- Keep the lint filter in your clothes dryer clear: this allows your clothes to dry more efficiently.
- Clean your windows in the winter: when it’s cold out, you can rely on the sun for some natural heat.
Lower your bills by generating your own electricity
If you own your home, installing solar panels is one of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate your electric bill. You can easily get several free quotes from trusted, reputable installers before you decide to move forward. Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to compare quotes from high-quality solar installers in your area and learn how much you can save.