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Jul 9, 2024

How to save on your electric bill this summer

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Your electric bill is one of those must-have line items in your monthly budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce how much money it costs you. Rising electricity costs and spikes in usage during summer and winter can be especially challenging to manage. If you’re looking for ways to save money, reducing your electric bill is a smart way to trim your expenses. All it takes is increasing your awareness of your electrical usage and developing some simple habits. With practical steps, you can discover how to save on your electric bill while still keeping your home comfortable.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Understand your electric bill

First things first, you’ll want to understand exactly what all the information on your electric bill means. The total cost of your monthly electricity is broken down into energy usage, transmission/delivery charges, taxes, and other fees. Some electric companies also charge a monthly flat fee for service in addition to usage charges. 

While you can’t do anything about the cost of taxes and fees, the money you spend on energy use is within your power to affect. Generally, your electric company charges a certain amount per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is a measurement of how much energy is used in one hour. Your electric bill will show you the cost of your electricity usage by kWh. Depending on where you live, you might pay a higher rate per kWh during periods of high usage; this is often called peak pricing or time-of-use rates.

Your statement may also contain helpful information like graphs reflecting your energy consumption by day or week, comparisons of your usage to previous months or years, or periods of peak usage. Pay attention to any sections of your bill with this kind of intel; it can be invaluable in strategizing about how to save on your electric bill. 

Audit your home energy use

A home energy audit is a comprehensive assessment of your home’s energy efficiency. You can either perform a DIY audit or hire a professional to conduct one. A professional audit will provide a detailed report on areas where your home is losing energy and recommend improvements. If you choose to do it yourself, start by checking for drafts, inspecting insulation, and evaluating the efficiency of your HVAC system. Simple fixes like sealing leaks and adding insulation can make a significant difference in your energy consumption.

Identify phantom power sources

Phantom power can increase your energy usage without you even realizing it. Evaluate sources of phantom power usage, which refers to devices that are draining energy even when you’re not using them. Review everything you have plugged in and identify which items are continually pulling electricity. Common culprits are appliances, computers, gaming consoles, cell phone chargers, and devices that connect to Bluetooth® or wi-fi. Consider unplugging anything that you don’t need to remain always-on or using a power strip with a standby eliminator that can switch off power to devices when they’re consuming electricity in standby mode.  

Rethink your lighting

Lighting accounts for a significant portion of your electric bill. Switching to LED bulbs can significantly reduce your energy consumption. These bulbs last longer and are more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. If you tend to leave lights on when they’re not needed, consider using timers or smart lighting systems that will automatically turn on and off lights based on the time of day.

Additionally, make use of natural lighting whenever possible to reduce the need for artificial light. That said, be aware that heat generated by sunlight on extremely hot days can cause your air conditioning to work harder, using more electricity. 

Heat and cool efficiently

Heating and cooling your home efficiently is crucial for reducing your electric bill. Proper insulation and sealing leaks can prevent heat loss in the winter and keep your home cooler in the summer. Regular maintenance of your HVAC system, including cleaning or replacing filters, ensures it operates efficiently. 

Efficient thermostat settings are also important. Many experts suggest setting your thermostat to no lower than 78°F in the summer and no higher than 68°F in the winter. Alternatives like ceiling fans and space heaters can also help maintain a comfortable temperature without relying solely on your HVAC system.

Try smart home technology

One strategy for how to save on your electric bill is investing in smart technology. Smart thermostats learn your schedule and adjust the temperature automatically, ensuring your home is comfortable when you’re there and conserving energy when you’re not. Smart plugs and lighting systems allow you to control appliances and lights remotely, preventing unnecessary energy use. Investing in smart home technology can lead to substantial savings on your electric bill over time.

Reduce water heating costs

Water heating is another major contributor to high electric bills. Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than traditional tank heaters because they only heat water on demand instead of keeping a large volume of water hot all the time. Setting your water heater temperature to 120°F can also reduce energy consumption while providing sufficient hot water for daily use. Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment, ensures your water heater operates efficiently.

Use energy-efficient appliances

Appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and air conditioners use a lot of electricity. Upgrading to energy-efficient models can lead to significant savings on your electric bill. Look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. government. Comparing energy usage between standard and energy-efficient appliances can help you make informed purchasing decisions. As an added bonus, you may be able to get tax credits and rebates from the government when you buy an ENERGY STAR certified appliance. 

Daily habits to reduce your electric bill

It’s easy to get careless about your energy consumption as you go about your day. Developing energy-saving habits can help you save on your electric bill with little effort. Once you start incorporating these practices into your daily routine, they’ll become second nature over time. 

  • Unplug devices when not in use: Unplug devices that draw power even when turned off. You might make it a nightly practice to shut down your computer and unplug unneeded electronics. Charging cords for your mobile devices can be a sneaky culprit of phantom power; get in the habit of unplugging your charger from the wall when you grab your device. 
  • Set electronics to energy-saving mode: Many devices have a built-in power-saver mode. Adjust the settings for your computer, TV, and other electronics to reduce their power usage. 
  • Cook more efficiently: Cook with pot lids on to retain heat, use the appropriate size burner for your pan, and let food cool down before putting it in the fridge. Place food in your oven as soon as it’s finished preheating, and avoid opening the door multiple times during baking.  
  • Air dry your dishes: Letting dishes air dry instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle cuts down on energy use. During winter months, you might want to open the dishwasher door when the rinse cycle completes to let heat into the room and dry your dishes faster.
  • Wash clothes in cold water: Washing clothes in cold water saves energy and money. And because most laundry detergent is formulated to work effectively in cold water, you don’t have to sacrifice cleanliness. Plus, cold-water washing can often extend the life of your clothing. 
  • Turn off lights when not needed: This may seem obvious, but making a conscious effort to turn off lights when leaving a room can make an impact on your electric bill. Try sticking a note to the doorway of each room to remind you until it becomes an ingrained habit.

Summertime tips to save electricity

Optimize air conditioning use

  • Thermostat settings: Try to keep your thermostat at or near 78°F when you’re home, and increase the temperature when you’re away. During a major heatwave, you may want to go with a higher setting so your AC isn’t constantly running. 
  • Programmable thermostats: Invest in a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature based on your schedule. You could also go for a smart thermostat that self-adjusts based on your behavior. 
  • Regular maintenance: Clean or replace air filters every 90 days and ensure your AC unit undergoes regular servicing. Inspect your outdoor unit every month and trim away any vegetation that’s touching it. 

Use fans and ventilation

  • Ceiling fans: Use ceiling fans to circulate cool air by setting them to rotate counterclockwise, creating a refreshing breeze. 
  • Portable fans: Use oscillating fans in commonly used rooms to ensure continuous air movement, and point fans directly at where you’re sitting down or sleeping to keep you cool without having to drop your thermostat setting. 
  • Exhaust fans: Operate exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom to effectively expel heat and humidity; just be sure to turn them off when you’re finished. 

Block out heat

  • Curtains and blinds: Keep curtains and blinds closed during peak heat hours to block direct sunlight. If you have an especially sunny room, you might want to install blackout curtains or blinds that block heat more effectively. 
  • Reflective window film: Use reflective window film to minimize heat gain. You can find window film at most hardware stores and install it yourself. 
  • Shade trees and awnings: If you own a house, plant shade trees or install awnings to prevent sunlight from entering windows. 

Wintertime tips to save electricity

Optimize heating system use

  • Thermostat settings: Set your thermostat to 68°F or lower while at home, and turn it down even further when you leave the house.
  • Programmable thermostats: Upgrade to a programmable or smart thermostat to automate temperature adjustments.
  • Routine maintenance: Regularly service your heating system and clean or replace filters every three months.

Seal leaks and insulate

  • Weatherstripping: Install weatherstripping around doors and windows to eliminate drafts.
  • Caulking: Seal cracks and gaps in walls, windows, and doors with caulk.
  • Insulation: Add insulation in your attic, walls, and basement to better retain heat.

Maximize ambient heat

  • Open and close curtains: During the day, open curtains and blinds to allow sunlight to naturally warm your home. Close them when it gets dark to minimize heat loss through windows.
  • Warm your home when cooking: Your oven heats up your kitchen in addition to your food, so winter is a great time to bake and broil. You’ll add heat to your home without using extra electricity. 

Use space heaters wisely

  • Target high-use areas: When you’re in one room for an extended period, use a space heater and lower the thermostat for the rest of the house.
  • Safety first: Ensure space heaters are placed away from flammable materials and are turned off when you leave the room or go to bed.

Layer clothing and use blankets

  • Dress warmly: Wear layers of clothing and use blankets to stay warm without raising the thermostat.
  • Heated blankets: Consider using heated blankets for additional warmth at night.

How to save on your electric bill with smart habits

Reducing your electric bill involves a combination of understanding your energy usage, making smart choices, and adopting energy-efficient habits. Whether you rent or own your home, you can make improvements that cut down on the power you need to heat/cool your home and use appliances. And with a bit of practice, daily habits that save energy will become automatic. 

As you plan out how to save on your electric bill and make adjustments, track your progress by examining your statement each month. Since electricity usage varies by season, compare your usage to the same month of the previous year to see how your plans are paying off. 

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FAQs for saving on your electric bill

How do you lower your AC bill?

To lower your AC bill, set your thermostat to an energy-efficient temperature of 78°F when you’re home, and turn it up when you leave the house. You can also set the temperature higher and still stay comfortable by using fans to circulate air and opening windows instead of running your AC during cooler times of day.  

Also be sure your AC is running as efficiently as possible by replacing your air filter every three months, getting regular service, and clearing any vegetation away from your outdoor unit. 

What is the most efficient way to save electricity?

The most efficient way to save electricity is to combine the use of energy-efficient appliances and lighting, smart home technology, and good daily habits like unplugging devices when not in use and using energy-saving settings on electronics.

What runs your electric bill up the most?

High-energy appliances such as HVAC systems, water heaters, and older, inefficient appliances tend to contribute the most to high electric bills. Reducing usage during peak times and upgrading to energy-efficient models can help lower costs.

author

Written by

Tara Blaine

Tara Blaine draws on over 20 years of experience as a writer to translate seemingly complex financial ideas into insights readers can put to work in their everyday lives. She’s written personal finance education materials for numerous institutions, helping customers learn smart techniques for budgeting, overcoming debt, saving money, and planning for their long-term financial health.

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