Myth: The more you spend, the more you save.
There are many ways to cut back on energy consumption, ranging from inexpensive adjustments to complete home renovations. But, you don't have to break the bank to see lower rates. Pare down your power bill with the energy-saving approach that's best for you.
Six quick fixes
Small changes can bring in big savings. Use these tips if you want to reduce your power payments, without investing much time or money.
- Say goodbye to screensavers – Screensavers actually increase your computer's energy consumption. Switch the settings so that your computer goes to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity.
- Unplug electronics – Taking the time to unplug always-on appliances such as chargers, printers and coffee makers can save the average U.S. household $165 per year in electricity costs. If it has a clock or glowing light, it's drawing energy even when turned off.
- Use power strips – Plug frequently used electronics (like TVs and video game consoles) into a power strip to make it easier to turn them off when you're not using them.
- Seal air leaks – Use caulking or weatherstripping to seal cracks in your windows, doorframes, siding and pipes. It's quick, it's inexpensive and it'll cut heating/cooling costs.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs – Trade a traditional light bulb for a compact fluorescent (CFL), and you'll save up to $57 over the bulb's lifetime.
- Close the fireplace damper – When your fireplace isn't in use, close the damper to prevent expensive home air from escaping through the chimney.
Seven serious savings
If you're up for a few lifestyle changes, follow these seven steps for a cleaner world and a fuller wallet.
- Avoid the sanitary cycle – When you do laundry, 90 percent of your washer's energy is used to heat water. Cut down on electricity costs by switching to the cold cycle.
- Use a clothesline – Dryers consume lots of energy and quickly wear out your clothes. Instead of paying for hot air, take advantage of the sun's free heat.
- Run full loads – Always run your dishwasher and your washing machine at full capacity. Fewer loads mean larger savings.
- Go 10 degrees over/under – To maintain optimal energy efficiency, set your thermostat within 10 degrees of the weather outside. (But, to protect against frozen pipes, never go below 50 degrees in the winter.)
- Substitute air conditioning for ceiling fans – A ceiling fan uses less energy than a single light bulb. When it comes to cost-effective cooling, AC systems just can't compete.
- Schedule seasonal AC maintenance – Your air conditioning system can be expensive, but if you keep it clean, you'll use less energy more efficiently.
- Dim the lights – When you turn down the lights, you turn up the savings. See exactly how much dimmers can save in our bulb-by-bulb breakdown.
Eight efficient investments
Looking for long-term energy savings? Got the cash flow for an investment upfront? This is the list for you.
- Refit your roof – Give your AC system a break by covering your roof with specialized reflective material. This "cool roof" technology curbs sunlight and cuts home heat absorption.
- Switch to natural gas – Consider replacing electric appliances – from cooktops to furnaces – with cleaner-burning natural gas.
- Try a water heater timer – Cut back on hot water consumption (and subsequent energy use) by programming your water heater to power down at certain times each day.
- Invest in ENERGY STAR® appliances – Home appliances that meet the EPA's energy efficiency standards are labeled as ENERGY STAR certified products. To reduce long-term electricity costs, look for the ENERGY STAR seal of approval before you buy.
- Choose a front-loading washer – Front-loading washers use less water and less electricity than older, top-loading washers. Bonus points for aesthetic appeal.
- Purchase a programmable thermostat – Modern thermostats can automatically reduce energy use around bedtime and reheat your home before you wake up. You'll save energy while you sleep.
- Install a tankless water heater – Unlike traditional water heaters that consume energy all the time, tankless versions only warm water when you need it.
- Consider solar panels – Going off the energy grid is a significant investment, but photovoltaic panels are becoming more affordable. Plus, you can get paid for the clean energy you create.