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35 Simple Ways to Save on Utility Bills

Consumers spend 6% to 12% of their income on utilities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s time to bring that number down.

1. Pull the plug. Appliances that include a clock, have a light to indicate the appliance is finished running, or operate by a remote, and all our device chargers are sucking electricity even when you're not using them. Of the total energy used to run home electronics, 40% is consumed when the appliances are turned off. Pull the plug when items are not being used or purchase a smart power strip which stops drawing power when equipment is not in use.

2. Insulate Your Water Heater. Adding an insulation blanket is inexpensive, easy to install, and will pay for itself in a short time - saving you up to 10% on your water heater bill. With the cost of natural gas and propane sky rocketing, now is the time to take this step. Check with your local utility company as many provide a credit for installing energy saving items.

3. Turn down the temperature on the water heater. Turning down the temperature will not only save money but will also be safer as there will be less chance of the young or elderly getting burned.

4. Install a timer on your water heater. As with a water heater blanket this can save you additional money by turning off the system while you are sleeping or away on vacation.

5. Install an Energy Star programmable thermostat. There is no reason to heat or cool a home after you leave for the day. It is much cheaper to buy an extra blanket than to heat the house all night. Too often we forget to turn down the heat or turn off the air conditioner when we are headed to bed at the end of a long day. This can save up to 35% on your heating and air conditioning bill. For every degree you lower your home's temperature during the heating season, subtract 5% from your bill, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Turning up the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for 8 or more hours a day can save you 10% on cooling costs throughout the summer.

6. Close vents in rooms you don’t use. Why are you heating the guest room when there are no guests? Many times, we do not use all the rooms in our homes. Even when we do, we can close vents in the children’s rooms during the day when they are at school.

7. Change heating and air conditioning filters. Changing filters often costs pennies but can extend the life of your appliances by increasing their efficiency. It will also save on the length of time the unit is running thus saving on power cost.

8. Do full loads of laundry. Filling up your washing machine with water requires energy, and it’s a waste if done for a partial load.

9. Do not over-wash clothes. Delicate and gently worn clothes don’t need as long of a wash cycle as soiled, sturdy clothes.

10. Wash clothes in cold water. Cold water washes costs on average $34.06 per year. On the other hand, a hot water wash and a warm rinse, costs $248.20 per year. Running mostly cold washes with all cold rinses saves us $214 per year.

11. Separate light and heavy items before drying. Lightweight items take less drying time, so don’t waste dryer time by throwing your undergarments and t-shirts in with your towels and rugs.

12. Don’t over-dry clothes. Take clothes out while they are still slightly damp to reduce the need for ironing — another energy user. If your dryer has an auto-dry feature, use that instead of the timer. Setting your dryer on the moisture sensor, not the timer, cuts energy use by 15%.

13. Clean the dryer lint filter after every load. A lint-free filter improves air circulation and quickens drying, whereas a clogged filter and vent can cause a home fire.

14. Locate your dryer in a heated space. Putting it in a cold or damp basement or an unheated garage will make the dryer work harder and less efficiently.

15. Vent dryer properly. If you vent the exhaust outside, use the straightest and shortest metal duct available. Flexible vinyl duct restrict airflow, can be crushed, and may not withstand high temperatures from the dryer, needing to be replaced frequently.

16. Check the outside dryer exhaust vent at least annually. If it doesn't close tightly, replace it with one that does, so outside air can't leak in. This also reduces heating and cooling costs.

17. Dry two or more loads in a row, taking advantage of the dryer's retained heat.

18. Use the cool-down cycle (perma-press cycle) to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.

19. Best Choice, use a clothesline! Let the heat of the sun dry your clothes, and don't use the clothes dryer at all. If you don't like the stiff feel to some line dried fabric, placing them in the dryer for just one minute after they are dry will remove the stiffness. Line dried clothes smell so…good! Buy the supplies now for use during a power outage even if you do not intend to dry clothes in this way normally.

20. Run dishwasher only when full. Too often we get into the habit of running the dishwasher after dinner even if it is not full. Avoid the temptation and wait until after you load the breakfast dishes, and it is full.

21. Air dry dishes for added energy savings. This is easy and convenient to do, cuts down on the energy used to heat your dishwasher and prevents any damage caused by excessive heat.

22. Avoid Peak Hours. Most energy companies charge more during peak hours, or when energy is used most often. Use the delay or timing feature on your dishwasher to start a full load of dishes late at night or early in the morning. Another easy alternative is to load your dishwasher after dinner and start it when you first wake up or after loading the breakfast dishes.

23. Avoid peak hours. As with dish washers, avoid energy use during these times. To take advantage of the non-peak hours savings turn down the temperature during the winter, up in the summer, do laundry before or after peak hours, bake, and if you have a well, water before or after these hours. Check your utility bill for their peak hours.

24. Open and close window coverings. During the winter months open window coverings during the day to let in the heat of the sun. During the summer close them as soon as the sun begins to shine in. In winter close them at dusk and summer open them at dusk.

25. Place Mylar blankets in windows during summer months. These blankets will reflect the heat from the sun streaming in and greatly reduce the temperature in your home thus reducing the amount of time the air conditioner will run.

26. Turn off the lights. This may be a hard one for children so create a reward program if you have to until they get into the habit. The same principle applies to the radio, stereo or TV. If there is no one in the room they don’t need to be on.

27. Use energy efficient light bulbs. If you get a reputable brand the savings out weigh the slightly added expense. Also, use the lowest wattage possible to get the job done.

28. Install Dimmer Switches. A dimmer switch will allow you to light a room only as much as is needed for that moment in time. There is no reason, for example, to have lights turned on high if you are just watching TV. Dimmers will not only save money on your electric bill but it will also prolong the life of your light bulbs.

29. Install occupancy sensors or timers on lights in areas you use only occasionally and for exterior lights, which tend to get left on during the day.

30. Install ceiling fans. I do not understand why designers always remove ceiling fans on TV shows when they remake a room. I would never give up my fans. They save on cooling during the summer and on heating costs during the summer. We even have a ceiling fan on our patio so we can enjoy being outside more of the day. Outdoors fans also have the added advantage of almost completely eliminating flies while you eat. Remember, fans move air cooling your body as the moisture on your skin evaporates. They do not cool the air. Turn off fans when leaving the room.

31. Get a home energy audit. Many utility companies will provide this service for free. You can learn where you are wasting energy or losing it due to inadequate insulation or weather stripping.

32. Water the lawn and plants early in the day. Water early in the morning when it is cool and evaporation will be less. If you are paying for water this will reduce the amount of water you need to use. If you are not paying for water you will help ensure that your lawn and plants survive the summer and save you the cost of replacement. If you are on a well watering early will mean you need less water and less time with the pump running, to keep plantings healthy.

33. Plant a tree or two or three. Observe the track of the sun from sunrise to sunset for a week. Plant trees in areas where they will provide shade for your home. This will not only save you money now but it will make you money when you are ready to sell by providing added beauty to your home.

34. Install a low flow shower head. It may take you a few weeks to get used to this gentler spray but it will save money not only on energy costs but also on water costs. Remember the droughts and the rationing of water?

35. Keep your freezers full. A full freezer requires less power to keep it cold and guarantees a longer period of time food will remain safe during a power outage. Fill plastic containers within an inch of the top or fill a freezer bag three fourth full of water. Place in the empty spaces of the freezer. These now become sources for safe drinking water as they defrost during an outage or when you remove them to add food.

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