Some renters are lucky enough to find a place that includes utilities in the price of their rent. I was one of those fortunate ones for both my first and second apartments, but when I moved into a townhouse just this year, I suddenly had to pay for gas, energy, and water on top of my monthly rent.
No matter how much you can afford, it’s always a good idea to find ways to cut costs whenever you can, and that includes your utility costs. Here are a few simple ways to make sure you cut your utility costs as much as possible.
Check for Off-Peak Reduced Rates
A lot of companies charge more during busy hours, particularly hydro companies, which means the time of day you use electric appliances will have a huge impact on your utility costs.
For example, where I live, the off-peak rate is only 8.7 cents/kWh between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, and all weekend. Compare that to the on-peak rate of 18 cents/kWh from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and you’ll realize what a difference that makes!
So, it’s a good idea to look up your area’s off-peak rates are and make sure you only do your laundry, run your dishwasher, and use other energy-draining appliances during those times.
Change Filters Regularly
In every furnace and air conditioner there is a filter. Filters are used to trap dirt, dust, and other pollutants that otherwise end up getting recycled throughout your house. However, a lot of people forget that they need to frequently replace their furnace (and A/C) filter in order to keep it running smoothly and to help cut down on utility costs.
If your furnace (or A/C) filter is clogged, your furnace is working harder because of decreased airflow. Not only does that increase your utility bill each month, but also it can lead to having to more repairs and replacing worn out parts.
Filters should be changed or cleaned every few months, before they are full, depending on the manufacturer’s directions. You should always read the directions that come with your new filter for this reason.
Distribute Air Evenly
Another thing that can up your utility costs is having air vents either blocked or shut. When a vent is blocked or shut, your furnace or A/C is working harder to try and distribute warm/cold air to that spot. Make sure you go around your home and check to see that each vent is open and clear for air to pass through evenly.
Check for Leaks
Make sure to go around your home and check for leaks around your windows, doors, and vents to make sure no air is leaking out. Air leaks waste a lot of energy and increases your utility costs by a lot, which is why it’s so important to seal any leaks.
Use Heavy Curtains, Blinds, or Shades
Believe it or not, having heavy curtains or blinds in your windows can also help you cut utility costs. Apparently, 10-percent to 25-percent of thermal energy loss goes right out your windows! That’s like throwing money out your window along with it.
Blackout curtains are perfect for people who are looking to block out any light or noise that might get in, but they’re also great for saving energy and money. They help trap heat in during the winter and also keep the heat out during the summer. Some blackout curtains can cost over $100, but you can also get decent ones for much less, and it will be well worth the investment.
Switch Off Power
This money-saving tip is pretty obvious, but it’s a good idea to get everyone who comes into your home into the habit of turning off any appliances, lights, fans, or other electronics when they’re not in use. You might even want to go through each room quickly before leaving or going to bed to make sure nothing is left on.
Use Power Strips
Power strips are great for cutting down utility costs; instead of having each cord plugged directly into an outlet, use a power strip. A lot of computers, TVs, and other electronics are still drawing power even when they’re turned off. Instead of having to unplug them when not in use, you can simply flick the switch on your power strip, cutting off power to multiple devices—saving you time, energy, and money.
Buy ENERGY STAR Certified Products
Many new appliances, electronics, and other devices are now made to be a lot more energy efficient than they used to be. So, if your appliances are more than 20 years old, it might be time to update, but don’t just buy any standard appliance. Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, is one way to easily identify products that are more energy efficient.
Energy Star-certified products are the another great way to cut back on your utility costs, even if the initial investment costs a little bit more.
Use Cold Water
There are several ways you can use cold water to save on your utility costs. The easiest one is to use cold water for your laundry. However, another good idea is to turn the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For every 10 degrees Fahrenheit you reduce the temperature, you can save from 3-percent to 5-percent on your water heating costs.