How to Lower My Energy Bill on a Budget
Energy costs are up everywhere, which isn’t a mood booster at all, especially when the price of food and basics have gone up at the same time. In fact, in 2022, the average American’s electricity rates went up 14.3% and another 4.3% in 2023. Hopefully, energy costs may go down in 2024, but time will tell.
While you can’t control when your energy company decides to hike up rates, you can be proactive about reducing energy use at home to weather the storm. And though there are some big-ticket ways to reduce energy spending, such as replacing windows, it’s also helpful to know free or cheap ways to cut energy costs. After all, if budgets are a little tighter, buying a new Energy-Star water heater may not be in the forecast.
This list will include only free and cheap ways to use less energy. If it costs over $50 to do, we won’t list it!
How to Reduce Energy Bill Costs
If you need to spend less money on your energy bill, your main goal is to reduce HVAC system usage. The majority of your electric and gas bill comes from heating and cooling the home. Since it’s not easy to just throw down $3,000 for new windows, we want to list some cheap, accessible options to reduce the amount of energy you use daily.
1. Unplug “energy vampires” easily with power strips.
We’re not talking about Count Dracula. Energy vampires are devices and appliances that steadily use electricity while plugged into an active socket. While some are impractical to unplug, like microwaves or Wi-Fi routers, you can unplug other devices without much inconvenience when not in use, such as coffee machines, rice cookers, gaming consoles, TVs, computers, sound systems, lights, and random kitchen gadgets.
Most of these can be unplugged directly to save energy, but you can make turning off devices more convenient by plugging them into a power strip. When you plug other gaming consoles and streaming devices into a single power strip, you can turn everything off with a quick flip of a switch.
Our economic pick: This 4-pack from Amazon can streamline energy saving in a snap, and it’s only $24.99! Also, note that there are quite a few devices that should not be plugged into a power strip, like space heaters, due to risk of fire.
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2. Set your house to energy-saving temperatures in different seasons.
To reduce energy usage during extreme seasons, experts recommend setting the thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 in the summer. These are the ideal settings to use the least energy to deliver cool air into the home in the summer while using less electricity or gas for home heating in the winter.
3. Use room darkening shades in the summer.
In the mountainous areas of Switzerland, most households don’t have air conditioners, yet the houses remain comfortable even in the summer. The reason? They shut out the sun during the day in unused rooms with room-darkening shades and spend most of the day outside.
Simply cutting out direct sun can keep a house cool. Otherwise, UV rays would create hot air indoors. We can use this practice to our advantage, with the addition of ceiling fans and air conditioners to combat the humidity that we typically suffer with in the States.
4. In the winter, let in plenty of natural light.
Winter has many hazy days, but sunny days offer free heat. Open your blinds and let in all the sunlight to offset heating costs. As long as your windows aren’t drafty, open up those insulating shades and let the sun offset some heat loss. Plus, the sunlight is good for your mood and gives you some extra vitamin D!
5. Seal old doors and windows.
No state-of-the-art air conditioning system can stand up to a poorly insulated home. The hundreds of dollars extra you pay to keep your home cozy in spite of air leaks can be prevented when you apply stick-on weatherstripping or caulk to cracks around doors and windows.
6. Ditch old-fashioned incandescent bulbs.
Swap out the conventional bulbs in your home for energy-efficient LED lights to reduce electricity usage by up to 75%. Incandescent light bulbs are also hotter than LED bulbs, which can make a house even harder to cool down in the summer. It’s a lose-lose all around, so get your lighting game into the 21st century. Your utility bill will thank you.
Pro tip: The Dollar Tree typically carries LED bulbs for $1.25 each. I have found these to be not-so-reliable though. They burn out more easily than the ones at Walmart. They’re good for when you need lights TODAY. That said, Walmart sells multipacks for under $10.
7. Use energy-saving modes on entertainment devices.
What do you do when you don’t want to shut down your TV or console fully, but you don’t need to use it for a while? Energy-saving modes combine convenience with wallet sense, keeping your devices on an ultra-low-wattage mode that will delight the energy-saver inside you.
8. Use the “cheap modes” on your efficient appliances.
You see those labels: the ones that are begging you to practice some energy consumption. Most modern appliances like washers and dishwashers have them, and it’s up to us to use them. They go by different names, but you can usually identify which ones are geared toward less energy use, like “eco mode” or “air dry.”
Try the air-dry option if your dishes or clothing aren’t urgent chores. Eco-mode for dishes can also do just as good of a job if you do a bit of pre-washing.
Tip: Using full loads with your washing machine and dishwasher can save homeowners energy over time by simply running fewer cycles.
9. Change your HVAC filters regularly.
While the typical 13-SEER heat pump system can cost well over $13k for parts and installation, maintaining an HVAC can lower energy bills for a small monthly cost. Be sure to change furnace air filters regularly, and you can see up to 15% savings throughout the year. That’s over $100 on energy bills easily.
10. Use a programmable thermostat.
Programmable thermostats can save you plenty of energy costs during the year. Since most energy usage is related to heating and cooling costs, strategically setting temperatures for different days of the week and times of the day can help you optimize your heating bill. This also ensures that your heating and cooling system won’t be as strained during high-needs seasons.
Deals are out there: We just found a programmable thermostat under $25 on Amazon!
11. Take 4-minute showers to use less water.
Long, hot showers are luxurious, but they come at a cost. Even a 10-minute shower costs three times more than a 4-minute shower. Imagine saving three times the hot water costs every time you take a shorter shower. Get even more savings when you use a water-saving shower head, which can cut gallons of water per shower. It all adds up!
Want to get extreme? We don’t recommend this if it’s incredibly uncomfortable, but a cold-water shower can cut some cost on your showers. It’s marginal, and may not be worth it, but it can save you some money.
Press the Easy Button and Get an Energy-Efficient New Construction Home!
By reducing your electric bills, you can increase your margin and save for bigger energy-saving upgrades. You don’t need to spend a lot to make a long-lasting impact on your energy spending, and every effort makes a difference.
Also, if you crunched the numbers and figured that getting a new construction home outfitted with the latest energy-star-rated components evens out with the cost of rehabbing your current home, contact us.
Our agents can connect you with the right builder in your area to get you a gorgeous, energy-efficient new construction home.
Alicia Persson is a Content Strategist SEO writer at Marketplace Homes, utilizing previous years of experience on real estate teams that specialized in investments and property management. Before she joined Marketplace Homes, she was also a freelance writer for 7 years, leading to a specialization in real estate and home living content for boutique digital marketing agencies. During her writing years, she learned the basics of SEO and gained experience writing for many different clients, making her versatile at creating diverse content.
She is a proud University of Virginia master’s graduate and enjoyed her undergraduate years at the University of Mary Washington. When Alicia is not writing, she plays keytar and sings in a local 90’s rock cover band, or she spends time with her amazing family.