- Energy costs have risen substantially over the past year.
- There are small changes you can make that will reduce your energy use without much effort.
- Trying just a couple of these tips can save you hundreds every year.
It's not just you. Everyone's energy bills are getting more expensive. In 2022, natural gas prices increased by around 24%1 and electric bills by 6%,2 according to the US Energy Information Administration. That's a brutal hike for utilities, especially because groceries, housing, and much more are also pricier lately.
Read on for 7 easy tips for lowering your gas and electric bills.
Request an energy audit
Shrinking your energy bill can feel like an uphill battle—who really knows whether their water heater, air conditioner, and other units are working harder than they should? That's why an energy audit is the first step forward to lowering your expenses.
An inspector can examine your entire home for possible pitfalls, such as air leaks, insufficient insulation, and inefficient appliances, and suggest fixes for them. If you implement these upgrades to your own home, or, if you're a renter, suggest these upgrades to your landlord and if they make the changes, you could save 5% to 30% on your bills.3 That's thousands of dollars over the years.
Your energy provider might offer an energy audit for free or a discount. Or, you can go the DIY route using the US Department of Energy's Energy saver guide.
Unplug "vampire" appliances
These household items suck up energy even when you're not using them—and account for 10% of the average home's energy use.4 So look around your home for anything that doesn't need to be plugged in all the time, such as cable/satellite boxes, coffee makers, and charging cables. Unplugging them—or leaving them plugged into a power strip that you can switch off—could put dollars back in your account every month.
Use less hot water
Water takes a lot of energy to heat. In fact, it accounts for 20% of home energy use, on average.5 You don't have to take cold showers to save on hot water costs (but, hey, we won't stop you); just think about washing your clothes in cold water. Hotter water used to mean a cleaner wardrobe. Not anymore; most detergents today are designed for water temperatures around 65 degrees, the average temp of cold water taps.6 And your washing machine works just fine with cool water.
You could turn down the resting temperature of your water heater too. Most water heaters are preset at 140 degrees, 20 degrees above the Department of Energy's recommendation.
Use a new dishwasher over washing dishes by hand
Most dishwashers, unfortunately, haven't gotten the cold water memo. Still, that's no reason to switch to handwashing. Manually cleaning your dishes can use up to 27 gallons of hot water per day on average; a newer dishwasher uses only 6 gallons per cycle.7 (Older dishwashers use about 16 gallons per load.) All that excess hot water can translate to big energy bills.
Don't run appliances unless they're full
Sometimes you just need a couple of items cleaned quickly. But most dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers use the same amount of energy regardless of how full they are. Although having your own washer/dryer is cheaper than popping quarters into a laundromat machine, you should treat each home load as though you're paying for it individually. This can help discourage you from pressing start before the machine is full.
Only heat or cool your home when you're there
Nearly half of the average utility bill goes towards heating and cooling,8 so turning off the heat or AC (or at least adjusting it to a less-comfortable temp) while you're out can make a big impact. If you have a newer, programmable thermostat, schedule it to your preferred temperatures only when you're likely to be home. If you have an older HVAC system, adjust the thermostat when you leave and return. Less comfortable temperatures when you just get back will make for a more comfortable energy bill later.
Change your air filters regularly
Air conditioners and furnaces have filters that keep dirt and dust out of your home's airflow. Clogged filters not only make your house dustier but also make running your appliances more expensive. Change your air filters every 60 to 90 days so everything chugs along as efficiently as possible.
You may not be able to use all of these ideas. Luckily, implementing just a couple of these tips could mean hundreds saved every year.