Utilities can be a big part of your monthly budget and can fluctuate wildly during the heating and cooling seasons. If you’ve just opened the gas or electric bill and are ready to scream, it’s probably time to make some adjustments in your utility spending. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. family spends approximately $1,900 a year on utilities. While there are dozens of ways to cut costs, some will allow you faster relief from overwhelming utility fees than others. By doing a home energy audit, you can save money on your utilities and reduce your carbon footprint by a toe or two.
Check you home’s insulation. Because heating comprises 31 percent of an average family's energy use and cooling makes up another 12 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, make sure there is enough insulation in your walls, attic and crawl space; under your floors; above your ceilings; and around your water heater. How much insulation each area requires depends on the region in which you live; the specific amounts you should have in each area of your home can be found on your local utility’s website. Add more insulation to areas that are lower than the recommended amount for your area.
Examine the outside of your home for air leaks. Cracks or holes around windows, doors, plumbing pipes and electrical outlets can allow heat to escape from your home. Plug any gaps you find, using insulation that is rated for the area in question.
Keep your appliances maintained so that they work efficiently. Typically, this means changing your furnace filter often and cleaning dust and debris from the furnace and air conditioner as well as the back of the refrigerator and freezer; check your appliance handbooks for proper maintenance required for each.
Examine your electrical use patterns for additional savings. Because lighting accounts for 11 percent of an average family's energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, make it a habit to turn off lights in rooms not in use, and change as many light bulbs as possible to energy-saving bulbs or fluorescent lamps. Timers or motion sensors can save on outdoor lighting or lights in seldom-used areas of your home.
Study your use patterns for computers and other electronics. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, computers and other electronics account for 9 percent of an average family’s energy usage, and appliances take up another 9 percent. Turn off or unplug items such as televisions, cable boxes, computers and chargers when you’re not using them.
Consider getting a professional energy audit done on your home. Your local utility company will conduct an audit for free or for a nominal fee and will give you an exact analysis on where you can save the most money.
- If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when not in use. In addition, keep fireplace doors closed to stop air from entering through the chimney.
- Turn down the thermostat or purchase a programmable thermostat to instantly save money on your heating bill.
- Wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot. According to Kiplinger, this will save 50 percent of your hot water usage.
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