The prices of everything seem to be rising faster than we can keep up. Prices for things like groceries, gas and travel are on the rise, and so are energy costs. That means our utility bills are also creeping up, especially as we enter the summer months when the air conditioner temperatures start going down. Heating or cooling your home can be a significant expense, especially if you live in a place prone to extreme weather.
When we take charge of our monthly spending, it can be tempting to make big changes all at once. Switching everything in our kitchen to energy-efficient models and throwing out all of our plastic in favor of glass makes us feel like we’re doing something. Remember that taking small steps to change your behavior can be more effective than a dramatic sacrifice. You’ll likely adjust to the change faster, and it will integrate into your daily life without as much planning or thought.
Look around your home for the little things you can change quickly, like the temperature on your water heater or programming your thermostat to keep things a little warmer or cooler than usual. You probably won’t save hundreds of dollars every month by making these changes, but every little bit helps your budget and is money you’ll have to spend elsewhere, like on groceries or child care.
Bump your thermostat
It can be tempting to combat the extreme heat in the summer by lowering the thermostat an extra degree or two. Staying cool in the hot weather is not only smart, but it can also be life-saving if you’re in a place prone to extreme and dangerous heat waves.
Consider setting the thermostat seven to 10 degrees above where you normally would, especially while at work or running errands. According to energy.gov, using a programmable thermostat could save you about 10% on your energy bills simply by raising your thermostat in the summer or lowering it in the winter when you aren’t home. You probably won’t notice the difference, and even if you would have you’ll be conserving energy when you aren’t home to feel the difference anyway.
Strategically use your blinds
If you usually keep things around 70 degrees, try programming your thermostat between 72 and 75 degrees instead and use fans and window shades to help cool your space. Using a tight shade can help you block out the rays and prevent them from overheating your home. It’s estimated that up to 76% of the sunlight that enters standard double-pane windows becomes heat.
Use the heat that your windows trap in the winter by raising the shades in rooms that get the most light and closing them when the sun sets to help insulate against the cold. Doing the opposite during the summer months can help you keep your space cooler by having your shades block the hottest part of the sun. While your standard blinds are relatively effective, consider replacing them with tight-fitting coverings to trap or block more heat, depending on the season.
Swap out your light bulbs
This tip might cost you a bit of cash upfront but will save you money over the long haul. Consider switching out the light bulbs of frequently used lamps and fixtures to those with an ENERGY STAR rating. Doing so can help you use about 75% less energy over the year, and LED light bulbs usually last about 25 times longer than regular bulbs, so you’ll be changing them a lot less frequently.
Additionally, LEDs emit very little heat compared to the light they produce, which can help you save on cooling bills if you use overhead lights or lamps frequently during the summer months.
Adjust the temperature on your water heater
Water heaters generally default to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit and most people never adjust the settings. Even dropping the temperature to about 120 degrees can help you save about 10% in energy costs over the year and doesn’t affect things like sanitizing or bathing comfort. If you’re going out of town for a few days during the warmer months, consider dropping the temperature even further to help you save additional money and energy.
Dropping your water heater temperature a few degrees will also have the added benefit of preventing potential scalding injuries and slowing the corrosion and mineral buildup in your water pipes.
Don’t wash clothes in hot water
Keeping water hot and ready to go can take a lot of energy, especially if you use all of that hot water for laundry. Consider washing your clothes in warm or cold water, which is a twofold saving. Not only will you save on your energy bills but it will also help prolong the life of your clothes, meaning you won’t have to replace them as often.
If you only have a small load to do, use the small load setting so you don’t waste water. Consider air-drying your clothes on a clothesline or rack to help save energy and keep your house cooler in the summer. If you have a high-efficiency washer, make sure to use high-efficiency detergent, which produces fewer soap suds and cleans well using less water.
Taking these small steps around your home can help you reduce your energy bills and help the environment at the same time. You don’t need to drastically change your life to positively affect your energy consumption or utility bills. Pay attention to the things you can do in just a few minutes to help you on your energy-saving journey.