When it comes to budgeting, every dollar counts. Yet many of us don’t carefully examine one of the largest annual expenses we have: the cost of utilities like electricity, natural gas and water. In fact, the average U.S. household spends almost $2,000 each year on their utility bills.
Turning off a light when you’re not in a room for a few hours may not in itself save you a lot of money, but when you multiply the daily savings by 365, lower utility bills can save you hundreds of dollars every year that could be spent on other things. Here are three ideas to reduce your utility costs that don’t take much time or effort.
1. Audit Your Utility Usage
Household leaks can cost you hundreds of dollars in wasted utilities. Check around windows and doors where drafts often occur. Feel for drafts with your hand or use a candle. Most of these drafts can be eliminated with a bit of caulking.
When it comes to water, many households pay twice: once when the water comes in through faucets and again when the water goes out through sewage drains. According to the EPA, 10 percent of homes in the U.S. have leaks that waste 90 gallons of water every day. Common leaks include dripping faucets and worn-out toilet flappers. Fixing these leaks can save you about 10 percent on your water bill.
2. Adjust Your Heating Threshold
The closer the temperature inside your home is to the temperature outside, the less you’ll spend on heating and cooling. In the winter, for each degree you lower the temperature, you can save up to five percent on your heating bill. Likewise, in the summer, increasing the temperature on your thermostat by a couple of degrees can save on your cooling costs.
Turning down the temperature on your hot water tank is another simple way to save money. While many manufacturers set the default temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, most homes don’t require water any hotter than 120 degrees. Lowering the hot water temperature to 120 degrees can save you more than $400 each year and reduces the risk of you or a loved one being scalded.
3. Schedule Your Energy Use
Turning down the heat when no one is home is a common-sense way to save on energy costs, but it isn’t always easy to remember. Replacing your old thermostat with a programmable one eliminates the memory work. In the winter, you could program the thermostat to hit 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you get up in the morning and then go back down to 56 degrees when everyone leaves for the day. Set the temperature to return to 68 before you get home from work, and then to drop to 56 again when you go to bed. A daily eight-hour, 10-degree reduction may reduce your heating bill by as much as 10 percent each year, making a programmable thermostat a wise investment.
In many municipalities, electricity costs are higher during what’s known as peak hours. For example, in some areas, electricity costs more between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. when everyone is getting home, turning up the heat or air conditioning and using appliances. Operating appliances like the washer and dryer during off-peak hours can save you a lot of money over the course of a year. Peak hours can vary by region and by season, so check with your local energy provider.