Save Money On Utilities
Many people want to save money on utilities. From a Christian perspective, saving money on utility bills is a by product of an even greater question, "How can I be a good steward of the things that God has entrusted to me?" Stewardship and conservation go hand-in-hand. When we use our resources wisely we will naturally save ourselves money because wasting resources costs everybody. Being a good steward of what God has provided needs to be an intentional act. When you are intentional about your stewardship, you will save money on utilities.
Ways To Save Money On Utilities
There are many ways for you to save money on utilities. What this really translates to is conservation of resources. When you use less electricity, water or gas, you end up paying less. Here we will look at ways that we can conserve our resources and save money doing it. Most of these ideas will have minimal cost. Some ideas will cost more but save in the long run. And some of these ideas will have to be planned for as you replace or upgrade broken items. In all of these suggestions you will have to determine what makes sense for you and your household and how serious you want to be to save money on utilities.
Heating And Cooling
Focusing on the area of heating and cooling will probably has the most dramatic effect if you are looking to save money on utilities.
- Insulate your attic - Many people don't realize how many dollars they lose in the summer time trying to keep their house cool due to inadequate insulation in the attic. It can be significantly more that the dollars lost in the winter time trying to keep your house warm.
- Ventilate your attic space - Make sure that your attic space is properly and adequately ventilated. I used to have several vents in my roof but they were inadequate; there wasn't sufficient air movement in my attic space. When I had my roof shingles replaced, I had the vents removed and a ridge vent installed. I also had soffit vents installed to increase the air flow in my attic space and it has made a significant improvement.
- Install an attic fan - An attic fan is a great way to circulate air throughout the house quickly. You must have windows open in the house for the attic fan to work properly. If you don't have adequate ventilation, the attic fan will suck the pilot light out of your furnace. I tell you this from experience.
- Install ceiling fans in every room - ceiling fans are a very good way to circulate the air in your house when you do not want to open the windows in your house. They help keep the temperature even and prevent hot or cold spots in any given room. Most ceiling fans have a directional switch on them. Be sure to set your ceiling fan to push warm air down in the winter and draw cool air up in the summer.
- Open windows/pull blinds - Be sure to take advantage of passive ways to save money on utilities when you can. Opening the windows when the day is still cool and shutting them before it gets too warm and then pulling the blinds on the sunny side of the house can help lower your utility bills.
- Programmable thermostat - Installing a programmable thermostat with multiple settings will allow you to turn your heat down a few degrees at night and when nobody is home. You can then have it turn on a little before you wake up or come home.
- Wear seasonally appropriate clothing - Wearing sweaters or sweatshirts and thick comfortable socks will help keep you comfortable and allow you to keep your house a few degrees cooler in the winter time. Also putting a thick comforter on your bed will help keep you warm at night in the winter. When I lived in Scotland we bought a couple comforters; a spring weight and a fall weight. In the winter time we would combine them to make a winter weight comforter. It worked very well for us!
- Insulate your doors and windows against drafts - Make sure that the weather stripping around your doors and windows is not worn; replace it if it is. These leaks are a constant drain on your resources year round. Also be sure to caulk any openings that allow outside air into your home.
- Keep your furnace clean - Change your filters often; no less than every three months. Schedule regular maintenance on your furnace as well. This will help keep your efficiency up and make your furnace last longer. A furnace will last about fifteen years, maybe longer if well maintained. If you have an electric furnace consider getting a gas furnace instead. It is more efficient and less costly to run than an electric furnace.
- Keep your swamp cooler clean and free from debris - The motor doesn't have to work as hard when your swamp cooler filters are clean and free from debris. That saves wear and tear on the motor and saves you money.
- Schedule an energy audit - Have an energy audit done by both the electric and gas companies. These audits are often free and they can show you where you are wasting energy and what you need to do to fix it.
- Thermal imaging - Consider hiring a thermal imaging service to photograph your house. I had a friend with a thermal camera come and photograph my house with a thermal imaging camera. The results were very interesting and showed me areas where I was leaking heat.
By being aware of how you use electricity you can make good and informed decisions on how best to modify your electric usage. In the process you will save money on utilities. Most of the ideas in this list are really common sense. However, many of us take for granted the electricity that we use.
- Unplug appliances - Many appliances use a trickle of electricity even when they are not in use. Unplugging appliances when they are not in use will stop that leak and save money on utilities in the process.
- Turn off lights - There is no reason to keep lights on in a room that no one is in. Some people keep the light on in a room thinking they will be right back in a few minutes only to find themselves side tracked and leaving the room vacant for hours. Turn the light off when you exit a room and leave it vacant.
- Turn off the TV - Many people leave the television on for sound. If you are not actively watching it, turn it off; it is a huge energy waster. If you want sound, turn on the radio.
- Look for the Energy Star - When you go to replace your appliances, look for energy star appliances and use it as a guide in helping you make your decision on which appliance to get.
- Use a clothes line - Hang your wet clothes on a clothes line. For those in a dry climate it can add much needed moisture to the house. You will also save a lot of electricity by not using your dryer as much. Some people will balk at a clothes line because their clothes will feel stiff. Then I would suggest putting those dry clothes in the dryer for ten minutes with a dryer sheet. Your clothes will be less stiff and you will save money in the process.
- CFLs - No discussion about saving money on utilities would be complete without mentioning CFLs or Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs. CFLs will save about 75% of the energy that you would use with a standard incandescent lightbulb. They cost more up front but will last much much longer (about 10,000 hours vs. 1,500 hours) than an incandescent bulb that it will save you money in the long run. The major drawback to CFLs is that you need to dispose of them properly and some have complained that the quality of some CFLs is spotty.
- LEDs - In recent years the LED, or Light Emitting Diode, technology has made great progress. LEDs will cost more than CFLs but will last much longer (about 60,000 hours vs. 10,000 hours). Here is a
to compare cost savings of incandescent light bulbs to CFLs and LEDs. One problem to LEDs, though, is that they are highly directional and do not illuminate a broad area.
- Monitor usage - You can see exactly how much electricity each appliance is using if you use a Kill A Watt Usage Monitor. You can even see the electrical draw when the appliance is not in use. Some monitors are programmable and will calculate for you how much a particular appliance is costing you per day/week/month/year. You will be able to see the dollars slip out of your pocket and then make an informed decision on what to do next. With that information in hand you will save money on utilities and be able to see exactly how much!
- Management Programs - One last idea to save money on utilities is for you to check with your utility company and see if they offer off-load management programs or off-hour rate programs. If they do then enroll and do some of your major electrical usage, like running the dish washer or doing laundry, during those off-peak times.
People who live in the city are charged for the water they use. So reducing the amount of water will lower your cost. However, even if you have a well and are not charged for the amount of water you use you still pay to heat that water. There are suggestions here to help people in both categories save money onutilities. Little changes here can add up to significant dollars in the long run.
- Don't leave water running - When brushing your teeth or shaving, it is not necessary to keep the water running. Turn it on as you need it. Also, it is not necessary to run the faucet at full blast, just enough to wet or rinse your toothbrush or razor is sufficient.
- Use aerating or low-flow faucets and shower heads - sometimes you can get these for free from your utility company. My utility company sent me a free low-flow shower head with everything to make the switch as easy as possible. Now I save money on utilities by using less water!
- Stop leaky faucets, spigots and running toilets - You can lose several hundreds of gallons per week with just one leaky faucet or running toilet. Get those leaks fixed and save yourself cash.
- Displace water in your commode tank - Put a liter bottle filled with sand or pebbles in your commode tank to use less water. Consider not flushing every time as well. there used to be a popular saying, "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown flush it down." This can be a significant water saver over time as well as save money on utilities.
- Install a dual flush kit - If you are buying a new toilet you can get one with the dual flush built in. However, for most people, a dual flush kit will suffice. It takes less than a half-an-hour to install and is relatively inexpensive. Pull the handle one way and you get a half-flush; pull the handle the other way and you get the full flush.
- Avoid baths and long showers - I think that it is common knowledge that a bath uses more water than a standard shower. However, if you are looking to be really frugal, turn on the shower long enough to get wet and then turn off the water, soap up and rinse. Get clean and put money back in your wallet when you save money on utilities.
- Water heater temperature - Lower the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees. Most hot water heaters are very inefficient. You keep water hot 24 hours per day for only a few minutes usage throughout the day. If you are looking for a replacement water heater you might consider the instant hot water heaters. They can be up to three times more expensive than standard water heaters but may save you a bundle in energy costs throughout the year.
- Put on a jacket - Putting a hot water jacket over your hot water heater can help insulate your water heater and save money on utilities. It can easily pay for itself within a year.
- Pipe insulation - Insulating your water pipes is a good way to help keep the water in your pipes from leaking heat to the surrounding area. This is best done at time of construction.
- Vacation setting - When you leave your home for more than a day, turn your hot water heater to the vacation setting. Then you won't be heating water and keeping it hot for nobody to use. When you come back, flush your hot water heater. This will remove any sediment in the bottom of the tank and prolong the life of your hot water heater. It is a good idea to flush your hot water heater once per year. Making your hot water heater last longer will help you save money on utilities in a big way.
- Dual use water - When you rinse your fruit and vegetables, use a pan and save the water. You can then use that water to water your garden or indoor plants.
- Limit utensils - Limit the number of utensils, plates, bowls, and cutting boards when preparing your food. By limiting the use of extra utensils and things preparing your food you will use less water in cleanup. It may mean that you have to plan a little more beforehand but it is worth it when you save money on utilities.
- Use least amount of water to prepare food - Using three quarts of water to boil pasta when 1 1/2 to 2 quarts will do wastes water and it takes longer to heat up, increasing your gas or electric costs.
- Use your garbage disposal sparingly - Don't use your disposal if the trash can will do. You need to run water when you use the disposal. And when you use the disposal you are just flushing water down the drain to keep the disposal clear.
- Check for leaky sprinkler systems - This can be a huge water waster. To check takes cooperation from the whole family. Turn off all the water in the house and check your water meter. Don't use any water for half an hour, including flushing the toilet. After a half hour check your meter. If the meter moved you have a leak. Now put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and find that leak in your wallet.
- Water early in the morning - Avoid watering your garden in the heat of the day. You will lose the benefit of your efforts to evaporation before the water can soak into the ground. The best times to water are early in the morning or later in the evening. Don't over water and don't water the sidewalk; it won't grow and you don't save money on utilities when you water the sidewalk.
- Use a soaker hose - Using a soaker hose in your garden will save money on utilities because it releases water more slowly so you will end up using less water for the same amount of time. It also concentrates your water to the places where you need it most.
Many of the appliances we use have become invisible to us. We hardly know that they are there yet we use them every day and disaster strikes the day that they stop working. Now is the time to take a good look around at the appliances we use and see how they impact how we save money on utilities.
- Use the Energy Star – When buying appliances, look for the energy star rating to help guide you in your buying decision. Energy Star appliances conserve energy, save electricity and help you save money on utilities.
- Boil water then maintain heat – Use high heat to bring your water to a boil but then reduce your heat to maintain the boil. It takes a whole lot less heat to maintain your boiling temperature than to bring it to a boil in the first place.
- Use tight fitting lids – Properly fitted lids on your pots and pans will keep help heat and steam in.
- Use a whistling teapot – Using a whistling teapot will allow you to hear when your water is hot, allowing you to turn your stove off and save gas or electricity. While this may sound trivial, several small changes can add up to big savings in the long run and allow you to save money on utilities.
- Know your stove – Know how long it takes your oven to preheat at different temperatures and plan to put your food in the oven as soon as it is preheated. Then, turn your stove off a few minutes before your food is done cooking and allow the residual heat to finish cooking your food.
- Run full loads in your dishwasher – Most dishwashers will typically take the hot water input and heat up the water even more to wash your dishes. Many dishwashers don’t discriminate between a full and partial load of dishes so you end up wasting electricity and water when you don’t have a full load in your dishwasher.
- Get multiple wearings – If possible, wear your clothes a couple of times before sending them to the laundry basket. Your clothes will look newer longer and you will save money on your utilities by not using as much water, gas or electricity to wash and dry those clothes.
- Run full loads in your washer – Only run full loads in your washer unless you have multiple water settings. Even then, you need to be sure you are using the correct setting for the amount of clothes you are washing.
- Run full loads in your dryer – Only run full loads in your dryer. Better yet, hang up your clothes on a line to save even more on your utilities. Some people don’t hang their clothes on a line because the clothes get stiff. However, you can always toss them in the dryer for a few minutes with a dryer sheet to take out the stiffness. You still save money on utilities when you do this because you are not using your dryer nearly as much.
- Reduce your drying time – Don’t set your dryer for longer than needed to dry your clothes. Hang your clothes up immediately from the dryer after it has stopped to reduce your need for ironing.
- Clean your filter – Clean out your lint filter after every load. Get your dryer vent cleaned out yearly. These two things will reduce the load on the heating element in your dryer, making it last longer and helping you save money on utilities and appliances.
In the United States of America, phones have become one of those ubiquitous items. You can hardly walk down any street in any city an not see a cell phone plastered to the side of somebody's face. This is great news for the phone companies. Here are some things to check to ensure that you are getting the best deal for you so that you can reduce your costs and save you money on your phone bill.
- Compare long distance providers – Compare the prices of various long distance providers and save money on utilities. Be sure to look at different aspects, cents/minute, connection fees or calling fees, membership fees as well as reimbursement for dropped calls.
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- Optional services – Check your phone bill for those optional services that you don’t use or don’t really need. Those added services are cash cows for the phone companies.
- Buy your phone – Phone companies will be happy to lease a phone to you. However, you will save money by buying your own phone.
- Embrace technology – This is the information age and the age of the Internet. Email, while not as personal as a letter or phone call, can save you time and money. Beware of some of the Internet chat utilities. Be sure to read the user agreement because some of them make money from selling your information. They will track your movement on the web. They do tell you this in the user agreement but most people don’t bother to really read it.
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Long-Term Ways To Save Money On Utilities
Here are some ideas to help you save money on your utilities that are not necessarily inexpensive but with planning will save you money in the long run.
- Downsize your home – Downsizing your home is a drastic measure. However, there can be significant savings not only in heating your home but also in water and electricity usage, not to mention your mortgage.
- Replace leaky windows with energy efficient windows. I had Low-E windows installed on the sunny side of my house and it has saved me significantly in cooling my house in the summer. The Low-E windows prevent the solar heat from coming in through the windows. You also lose the solar warmth in the winter but that is not a big loss. . My dog hates these windows. She used to like to lay in the sun and is now confused about why she doesn’t feel the warmth.
- Plant tall shrubs and bushes or trees – Planting foliage on the sunny side of the house will help beautify your house as well as provide shade for that side of the house, reducing your cooling costs. You could wait several years to see any significant results.
A Family Affair
Make saving money on utilities a fun family affair. When your water, gas and electric utility bills come in quiz your children. Have your children name all of the things and activities that use the various resources. For example when you shower you use water and you use gas to heat the water. Let your children see your utility bills and track how much is spent each month. Involve your children in brainstorming ways to conserve and be good stewards of the resources that have been entrusted to you. Your children will become more aware of their activities and the impact that they have on the family budget. Conservation and good stewardship needs to be intentional. In the process you will save money on utilities and provide additional resources to help balance your budget.
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