How to Save on Energy Costs

There are plenty of ways to lower your monthly bills without skimping on doing laundry or watching Netflix.

Written by Linda Childers / June 17, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Americans spend more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, and the cost is expected to continue going up.
  • An energy audit of your home can help you pinpoint exactly where energy is wasted, so you can make fixes and start saving.
  • Even something as simple as blackout curtains to keep out the heat or cold can have a real impact on your bills.
  • Your energy company may provide a one-time bill assistance or put you on a more manageable repayment plan.

If it seems as though your electric bill is increasing every month, it’s not your imagination. The U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA) reported this past March that retail electricity prices in 2021 rose at their fastest rate since 2008.[1]

“The cost of heating and cooling your home increased 33% last year,” says Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing and Heating in Brooklyn, NY.

Since electricity rates are expected to continue increasing because of a surge in natural gas prices, combined with disruption of the world energy markets due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, now is a good time to look at ways to reduce your energy bill.

While cutting back on electricity may not seem as easy as taking a pass on dessert, there are ways to simplify the process. The trick, says Rebecca Brooks, CEO, Finance and Success Coach at R&D Financial Consulting, in Chattanooga, Tenn., is making small changes that can add up to big savings.

“Little things like [not] leaving items plugged in when not in use can add up to savings on your energy bill,” says Brooks. “It's called Phantom Energy and it's the energy electronics consume even when they’re not being used. The fix is simple—if you're not actively using something, make it a habit to unplug, especially when you leave the house for an extended period.”

But there is even more you can do. Read on for pain-free ways to shrink your energy costs.

Do an energy audit

A home energy audit looks at how much energy you use each month, how much is wasted and identifies opportunities where you can make improvements or upgrades to save money on your electric bill. The U.S. Department of Energy says homeowners can either do an energy audit themselves or hire a professional to conduct a home energy audit that looks at things like air leaks, ventilation, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, lighting, and appliances and electronics.

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For example, an energy audit will check for air leaks around windows. By caulking and adding new weatherstripping around older windows, you can seal leaks and reduce the cost of heating, or cooling, your home. Lighting is another area that should be checked. By switching to energy-efficient LED lighting, the average household saves about $225 in energy costs each year. According to the U.S Department of Energy, an energy audit can result in a 30% reduction in your home’s annual energy consumption.

Photo of Rebecca Brooks

Meet the Expert

Rebecca Brooks, CEO, Finance and Success Coach at R&D Financial Consulting, in Chattanooga, Tenn

Ask for assistance

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, help is available. The Low-Energy Home Energy Assistance Program is a federally-funded program that helps low-income households pay their cooling and heating bills.

Also, if you have a past-due balance, check with your local energy company to see if you qualify for a 12-month repayment plan. Some energy companies also provide a one-time assistance fund to eligible customers, providing up to $300, once a year.

Embrace these simple household tips

Jeff Monford, senior advisor, financial communications at Edison International, one of the nation's largest electric utility holding companies, says there are a lot of easy ways customers can conserve energy, while also reducing their electric bill including:

  • Cooking with a microwave to keep your home cooler.

  • Giving your air conditioner a rest when you can and cool your home with fans.

  • Shutting off lights when leaving a room.

  • Closing your blinds to keep out the afternoon heat.

  • Limiting the opening and reopening of refrigerators, which are major users of electricity in many homes.

  • Plugging home electronics into power strips and turning off power strips when equipment is not in use.

  • Unplugging electronic devices and chargers when they are not in use.

  • Giving your dryer a break and hang-drying your clothes.

Meet the Expert

Jeff Monford, senior advisor, financial communications at Edison International, one of the nation's largest electric utility holding companies

In addition you can turn down or up the thermostat to reap savings. “Depending on the season, the optimal house temperature is typically between 68- and 78-degrees Fahrenheit,” Petri says. “Setting your thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer is recommended to save money.”

Tip

The U.S. Department of Energy says it’s possible to save 10 percent a year on energy bills by being conservative with thermostat savings year-round.

And since heated water requires more energy, Petri suggests setting your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This will be warm enough to take a hot shower while still keeping bacteria from developing in the water heater.

Don’t forget that making sure the mechanicals in your home are in tip-top shape helps, too. schedules. “Having yearly checkups on your home's plumbing, water heater and furnace can identify future issues that might result in driving up energy costs,” Petri says. “Homeowners should sign up with a local heating and plumbing company to perform yearly maintenance to keep their systems in ideal working order.”

One more tip: Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when there is a full load. Since these appliances use both electricity and water, they can drive up costs. Waiting until they are fully loaded is a great way to ensure they are not being run too often.

Switch to Energy Star appliances

According to the federal government’s Energy Star program, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, the average American household spends more than $2,200 on energy bills.

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Upgrading to Energy Star products is one way to save money, while also protecting the environment. The Energy Star website offers a product finder, showing where to buy energy efficient appliances, including washers, dryers, furnaces, and more.

“Newer furnaces are now built to heat using less energy,” Petri says. “While there’s an initial cost, it will save thousands on energy bills in the long run.”

In addition, Petri recommends buying a smart thermostat. Energy Star offers rebates between $30 to $150 on a number of smart thermostats.

“Smart thermostats use AI technology to ‘learn’ the best ways to heat and cool a home and allow homeowners to control energy use from their cellphones,” he says.

Tip

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says homeowners can save up to $180 a year on their energy bill just by replacing an older thermostat with a smart, programmable, model.

Don’t forget the windows

Sometimes you need to spend money to save money, this is especially true with the windows in your home.

The U.S. Department of Energy says heat gain and heat loss through windows are responsible for 25% to 30% of residential heating and cooling energy use.

If the windows in your home are in good condition, you can make them more energy efficient by checking them for air leaks, adding energy efficient window coverings, and considering exterior shading such as awnings or exterior blinds.

If your windows are showing their age, Petri says updating them can save you thousands.

“Newer windows now have glass that reduces the effect sunlight has on a home's temperature,” Petri says.

Blackout curtains can also be a good investment since they also reduce energy consumption.

“Buy blackout curtains that can help block out intense sun and keep your living space cool in the summer, while also helping with cold drafts in the winter,” Brooks says. “That means you'll benefit from monthly savings, especially in rooms with windows that get intense sun in the heat of the day.”

Article Sources
  1. “During 2021 U.S. Energy Retail Electricity Prices Rose at Fastest Rate Since 2008,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, March 1. 2022, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=51438

About the Author

Photo of Linda Childers

Linda Childers

Linda’s articles on healthcare costs and Medicare have appeared in Forbes and MedicareGuide. She has also written on healthcare topics for Arthritis Today, California Health Report, Allure, Health Monitor, US News and World Report, O, The Washington Post and many corporate blogs.

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