We could all stand to save a little money any time of year but especially in the holiday season. Even as we save elsewhere because of the strange circumstances we find ourselves in with Covid-19, we spend on utility bills like never before.
Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic means drastically lower travel, dining, and entertainment expenses for most of us. The savings in those categories has been substantial. On the other hand, spending so much time at home has increased many people's utility bills because of where they set the thermostat for all-day comfort, heating a pool or hot tub for frequent enjoyment, taking all showers at home instead of a few per week at the gym, and all-day use of computers and TVs.
Let's take a look at the energy draw of common household appliances. Most customers are billed for electricity by kilowatt-hour (kWh), and the national average rate today is 13.19 cents per kWh.¹
Household Energy Cost by Appliance
|APPLIANCE||TYPICAL CONSUMPTION PER HOUR||HOURLY COST AT $0.13/KWH|
|Central A/C or heat pump||15,000 watts||$1.95|
|Clothes dryer/water heater||4,000 watts||$0.52|
|Water pump||3,000 watts||$0.39|
|Space heater||1,500 watts||$0.19|
|Hair dryer||1,200 watts||$0.16|
|Electric range burner||1,000 watts||$0.13|
|Desktop computer & monitor||400 watts||$0.05|
Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills Throughout the House
Here are six places in your home where our easy tips can save you money on your utility bills.
1️⃣ Work with your thermostat.
We don't mean to fiddle with it—we mean that you would save on your home's most expensive single appliance by lowering it and compensating with how you dress and other simple tricks, like a spare blanket for when you're relaxing on the sofa watching TV. You may be surprised how well you can work with a thermostat set 5-10 degrees different from your first impulse.
At $0.13 per kWh, running the HVAC for 10-12 hours to keep the house 74 degrees Fahrenheit would add up to $20-$23 per day. Try lowering the thermostat to 66 and swapping the shorts and T-shirt you normally wear around the house for sweatpants and long sleeves. If 66 degrees seems too austere, remember that in summertime you would love a room to be 66.
2️⃣ Optimize your refrigerator.
Typical refrigerators are quite energy efficient, but that doesn't mean you won't find room for improvement if you give yours a closer look. Start by checking for a good door seal. Close the door on a dollar bill, and try pulling the bill out. If it slips out easily, cold air is also slipping out.
Contrary to what you might think, a refrigerator doesn't work less when there's less food in it—it actually works harder. Just as an ice block in a cooler keeps the food around it cold, the cold items in a full refrigerator keep neighboring items cold. A crowded fridge means less air to cool, so the fridge doesn't need to work as hard. If your household has two half-empty fridges in the garage and kitchen, consider consolidation.
We think many people's fridges during the pandemic are more crowded than ever, what with people buying more groceries and ordering more meals delivered. That brings us to the third fridge tip: Don't block the damper. Your fridge will have to work harder if you've inadvertently placed food against the damper.
3️⃣ Run the dishwasher like a pro.
One thing you'll hardly ever see in a restaurant is a dishwasher running half-full. Professional kitchens just can't afford to waste the money. Wait until you have filled your dishwasher before running it. Don't worry about dried-on food either; if your detergent can't handle that, there are plenty of other brands that can.
Dishes get cleaner when the machine is full too, because there is a lot more ricochet action with the hot water and detergent. Since the dishes will be plenty warm at the end of cleaning, don't use the heat-drying feature. Just open the door (or not) and they will dry fine on their own.
4️⃣ Double up in the oven.
Whatever you're cooking in the oven, chances are there's room to double it. Especially in summer when you want to minimize hot oven time, roast a tray of vegetables along with a lasagna or Chicken Parm. Roast diced potatoes along with a pot roast. Roast acorn squash alongside a meatloaf. Why make one batch of muffins when you could make two and freeze the extra? Leftovers make great lunches and fast dinners. Plus, since refrigerators work most economically when full, leftovers give you a way to fill your fridge.
Lowering your thermostat 1 degree can save 3% on your energy bill, according to experts.
5️⃣ Fill the washing machine, but don't overfill the dryer.
As with the dishwasher, try and wait for a full load before you run the washing machine. If you can't wait, then at least lower the machine's load setting to save on water and electricity. Today's detergents need less water than people think.
When it comes to drying, however, don't dry too many clothes. A stuffed dryer has to work too hard. Finally, keep an eye on the lint trap and empty it frequently.
6️⃣ Be water wise.
What's that drip? Did you hear a drip? A leaky faucet can waste 200 gallons or more of water every month. That's money down the drain.
Second, set your water heater to 120 degrees and it will provide enough hot water for a family of four to take five-minute showers. (Those of us accustomed to efficient two- or three-minute power showers would get bored standing there and stretching the activity to five minutes.) In addition to saving you money on heating costs, water at 120 degrees also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes according to the Department of Energy.
Finally, when shaving or brushing your teeth, turn off the water. Many people don't realize that they use the sound of running water to keep themselves company in the bathroom. Teeth brushing actually requires, say, 10 seconds of running water—a few seconds at the beginning and few at the end. To let water run down the drain for the two intervening minutes is absent-minded waste.
Now You Know
To cut down on your energy bills, take control of all the options on your appliances the same way you probably tinker with all the settings on your smartphone.