Cut Energy Costs

Evaluate then reduce the amount of energy you consume and save money

Energy is expensive. The average family spends $1600 a year on utility bills alone. Housing costs take up 30% of the average American budget, and while most of that cost is for mortgage or rent, big utility bills only drive your cost up. But there are measures you and your family can take to save both energy and money.

Tip No. 1: Unplug appliances and gadgets, they suck energy even when off.

TVs, laptops, cellphones, chargers and even coffeemakers account for 20 percent of your electricity bill when they are not in use, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), costing consumers more than $3 billion each year.

Unplug devices when not in use. Remember even sleep and “power-saver” modes can eat up power if the device is plugged in. You can also actually hurt the battery life in some devices by leaving them plugged in after they’re fully charged. In addition, small appliances cause more of a fire risk when left plugged in.

Tip No. 2: Keep money in the bank by implementing strategies to heat and cool your home.

Heating accounts for almost two-thirds of annual energy bills in colder areas of the country and cooling does equivalent budget damage in hot areas. By following these tips you can keep your home at a comfortable temperature without sweating it.

  • Insulating your home can cut your heating and cooling needs by 30 percent. Your attic is usually the largest sources of heat gain, so start the insulation process there. Plug, caulk, weather-strip or spray any holes that lead outdoors with foam insulation to make the area airtight and prevent energy from leaking out. Install an extra pane of glass or heat-blocking film to reduce air infiltration and boost the insulation value of a window. When not in use, keep the damper on the fireplace closed.
  • Adjust your thermostat when you aren’t home or in the summer and winter. You want to reduce the temperature difference between the exterior and interior of your house as much as possible. Set your air conditioner at 74 degrees and the furnace at 68 degrees. If your current system does not allow you to modify the temperature in the areas of the house you do not use, ask a qualified contractor about “zone” heating and cooling.
  • Install inexpensive plastic sheeting over windows in the winter to retain heat. In the summer, use shades and drapes to help block out sun to reduce cooling costs.
  • When strategically installed, ceiling fans can make a warm room cooler in the summer and warmer in winter. Position blades at 12 degree angles for more efficiency. Set ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise in the summer to pull hot air up and away from the living space; and clockwise in the winter to blow the hot air down. Kitchen and bathroom fans are excellent for reducing moisture but be sure to turn them off.
  • Use light colored paints to bounce back the heat. A light colored house reflects heat; a dark colored one absorbs it. To reflect heat, install highly reflective materials like an asphalt-based coating that contains reflective glass fibers and aluminum particles under your roof, and a radiant barrier of aluminum foil. This can lower surface temperatures by up to 100 degrees.
  • Clean the air conditioning coils and the air filter for your units regularly. Manufacturers recommend changing your furnace filter at least quarterly for efficiency.
  • Purchase energy-saving products. Compact fluorescent bulbs cost more but can save money in the long run. They also last much longer. Replace 25 percent of the lights you use often with fluorescents and cut your lighting bill by 50 percent.

Tip No. 3: Use appliances for maximum efficiency; and see light in your budget

Washer and Dryer:

Use cold water and cut the cycle short, a 5-6 minute cycle is sufficient for most loads. Use the dryer for full loads; smaller loads take longer to dry. Be sure to empty the lint filter after every use. Make sure the hose that connects to the wall is lint free. Doing so will not only save money but will prevent a fire. Consider installing a clothesline – air drying your clothes will conserve energy and give your laundry that fresh, clean scent.

Dishwashers:

Run the dishwasher for full loads only and right before bed. Open the door and let air dry overnight.

Refrigerators:

A full refrigerator and freezer are more energy efficient. Fill unused space with jugs of water. Consider whether an older model is worth the cost. Check for leaks by closing the door on a piece of paper. If it pulls out easily, the seal is probably worn. Replace and repair to keep money from leaking out of your pocket.

Water Heater:

Cut cost by turning down your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees (unless your dishwasher requires a higher temperature). Use an insulation blanket on your water heater. If you use hot water at fairly regular times during the day, install a timer that will allow you to turn off the hot water heater during the times you aren’t likely to use it. Go tank-less. A tank-less water heater heats water as it passes through the appliance. The water is heated as needed and does not take time to reheat.

Tip No. 4: Conserve water; every drop of this valuable resource is worth saving.

Water your lawn or outdoor plants in the early morning or late evening. Invest in a good quality, energy-saving low-flow showerhead. Be sure to turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shampooing your hair.

Need a home energy savings diet?

If the cost of your utility bill is sucking the life and energy out of your budget we may be able to help. Call Consolidated Credit at and a certified credit counselor will help re-energize your pocket book. Or, request a free Debt & Budget Analysis online.