Heating, cooling, lighting, appliances. While necessary, these four categories account for the bulk of your energy consumption. And if you live in Texas, you’re already consuming more energy than residents in any other state. Learning how to use energy more efficiently can result in lower consumption – which allows you to pay less each month for utilities. We rounded up a team of experts to explain the secrets to having lower energy bills.
During the winter months, have you ever noticed cool air coming into your home around your windows and doors? “The U.S. Department of Energy states that drafts can waste up to 30 percent of homeowner’s energy use,” said Jack White, director of special projects at Rainbow International Restoration. “To prevent drafts, homeowners can place a rolled towel or a purchased draft snake along the base of drafty doorways or windows,” he said. Also, be sure to caulk around windows and plumbing pipes.
And according to Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor, drafty windows are one area in particular in which you can save on energy. “In any house, your frames and panes must be properly sealed to avoid temperature transfer, but older glass units and improperly sealed frames may prevent this seal,” Roberson said.
So, what’s the most cost-efficient approach to accomplish this? “Keep the window frame material, which is more of a cost and/or aesthetic consideration, and replace the existing clear glass insulated units on homes built before 2001 with new low-emissivity (Low-E) glass insulated units,” Roberson says. This can help you save up to 35 percent on utility bills and will also provide benefits such as a lower noise level and reduced fading of your drapes and carpets.
Swapping out your light bulbs can also result in huge savings. “Lighting accounts for up to 12 percent of your energy budget, and those old school incandescent give off 90 percent of their energy as heat, which can take a toll on your monthly electricity bill,” said Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv.
Ciresi recommends replacing those bulbs with CFLs and LEDs. “CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer, while LEDs use 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer for substantial savings,” he explained.
When you’re not using your appliances and devices – such as microwaves, toasters, and TVs – they’re still consuming energy, according to Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance. He recommends unplugging appliances and devices when they’re not in use. “Don’t let them drain your budget – plug them into power strips instead,” Shimek said.
Bryan Cash, VP of Electronic Restoration Services of Suncoast Florida, agrees. “Many older electronics have push-button switches that can disconnect the circuit and be a hard off-switch,” he explains.
However, Cash continues that many modern-day electronics have a standby mode that use electricity even when turned off. “Being cognizant of these by using a smart power strip, which is a Wi-Fi-enabled device that can be set on a schedule or controlled by a smartphone and will turn on/off power to outlets, essentially unplugs these from the wall in terms of power consumption,” he said.
If you’re looking for a lower-cost entry point, he recommends buying smart outlets that are also Wi-Fi enabled. According to Cash, “These serve a similar purpose and cost approximately $10; they are generally available at local home improvement stores.”
It’s tempting to keep opening the oven door to check on the progress of the contents cooking inside. However, Cash says keeping the door closed while you’re cooking meals in the oven can help you save on energy bills. “If you keep looking, you’re not cooking,” as the heat escapes each time you peek,” he explains. “This makes the oven less efficient as the pre-heat setting is working harder to stay hot, running the heating element more so.”
When it comes to your freezer, Cash advises keeping it packed. “Tightly-pack items in freezers serve to keep them close to each other and therefore colder; when they get frozen in a bundle, they’ll help each other stay cold and the freezer won’t work as hard to achieve its temperature,” he explained.
However, don’t use this method with your fridge. “In the refrigerator, you want to allow circulation to cool by keeping items relatively spread out,” Cash said. “This saves on energy ultimately because the refrigerator runs on a thermostat that uses the compressor more so.”
Clean appliances certainly look better, but that’s not the only reason to keep them free of dirt and debris. “Keeping appliances properly cleaned is also key to save on energy bills,” said Cash. “Running self-cleaning cycles on ovens every three months, cleaning compressors every six months, and keeping dryer vents and screens free from lint and debris are all helpful – maximizing efficiency and therefore cost savings.”
Hanging your laundry on clotheslines is the optimal way to save on electric consumption and lead to lower energy bills. However, that’s not always feasible.
“If you have time, try using the air-dry setting or a lower heat setting on your dryer,” recommended Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard. “These settings will use less energy, but there’s also an additional benefit. “Lower settings keep potentially heavier loads from overheating in your dryer, which in turn will help to prevent potential fires,” Kapica explained.
Another overlooked way to lower your energy bill is slushing the water heater. According to the Department of. Energy, water heaters account for 17 percent of your energy consumption. “Addressing your water heater can save you money at the end of the month and reduce your carbon footprint,” said Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
James explains, “Flushing sediment from your older system offers an efficiency boost, but the greatest energy savings come with replacement – particularly for systems that are 15-20 years old.” James says the tankless on-demand systems, which don’t store water, can provide savings up to 30 percent. “However, the latest hybrid heat pump systems offer even greater savings – reducing water heating costs up to a whopping 60 percent.”