Remember Mom’s mantra that you didn’t live in a barn and should shut that door behind you when you come in?
Mom had a point. Heating uses more energy than any other source in the home, according to Chip Berry of the U.S. Department of Energy; other energy suckers include air conditioners, water heaters and the power for appliances, electronics and lighting.
If your dollar’s not stretching as far as you’d like, your energy bills could be a place to cut costs. Whether warm air is escaping through your attic or your appliances are silently stealing more electricity than they need, you can lower you energy bills in 2015 with some quick fixes and long-term changes.
Home energy audit
Take a tour of your home and see where you’re losing energy. Most heating, cooling and insulation companies will come out and give your home a professional energy audit for a small fee, and sometimes even for free. You can also do one yourself. There are many tools and apps available for consumers, including the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick, which helps homeowners improve a home’s comfort level and lower utility bills.
“Look for leaks and drafts,” says John Tough, vice president of operations and business development at Choose Energy, an online energy marketplace serving 13 states. “That alone can save you 5% to 10% on your energy bills.”
Tough also recommends lowering your hot water heater temperature to 115 to 125 degrees, since heating water typically accounts for 20% of a home’s total energy use.
There are many quick and easy ways to save energy and lower your monthly bills.
- Explore your options: “About half of households in the U.S. can shop around for electricity and natural gas plans,” says Tough. “Having energy options means you may be able to save money on your bills every month.”
- Blackout curtains: If you can’t afford to replace your windows with energy-efficient ones anytime soon, a quicker and cheaper fix is to put up blackout curtains or drapes. In summer, they keep out sunlight that heats up a room, and in winter, they help block the cold. Blackout curtains are available these days in various colors and styles to complement your room’s decor without looking hideous or throwback.
- Power down: Turn everything off when you’re the last one out of the room, including lights, TVs and computers. Unplug any items from the wall that aren’t in use. The electrical plug draws a current, even when the appliance is turned to the off position. It adds up and costs you money. Disconnect phone chargers, stereos, blenders, can openers and shredders, among other gadgets.
- Make a decision: Stop lingering in front of the fridge with the door open while deciding what you want to eat; it takes more energy to keep the refrigerator temperature down.
You can save money in the long run by investing in modern appliances, energy-efficient windows, home sealants and newer heating and cooling systems. Adding insulation lowers air loss, making it easier and cheaper to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Other options:
- Radiant heat barriers: They keep heat out in the summer and keep it in during the winter, reducing heat gain by up to 93%. “Radiant barriers perform best in hot climates and hot conditions, but they can also benefit in cold climates by holding heat in the house,” says Robert Wadsworth of the Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association.
- Thermostats: A programmable thermostat will keep the temperature comfortable when you’re home and awake, and adjust to use less energy when you’re out or asleep.
- Incandescent vs. compact fluorescent lamps: “If you have all incandescent lights in your house and you replace them with all CFLs, you’re going to save more money on your energy bills,” says Berry, of the Department of Energy. “They’re just that much more efficient.” According to Energy.gov, CFLs and light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are 25% to 80% more efficient than incandescents and last up to 25 times longer.
Image via iStock.