How To Have Lower Energy Bills

Lower your monthly energy bill with a few simple tricks, such as installing a water heater timer and investing in storm windows for more efficient insulation.

Winter often means higher energy bills, as the weather - and your house - cools down. By investing a little time and energy of your own, however, you can reduce energy bills and save money.

Start by contacting your local energy company. Although it may seem it would be in the company's best interests to keep your bill high, most energy companies in fact offer programs designed to save energy, reduce pollution and help keep your energy bills low. Many companies offer a free "energy assessment," sending a representative to your home to evaluate your energy usage and offer energy-saving ideas and suggestions. Some even offer energy-saving products, such as low-flow showerheads, for free or at a reduced cost through the program.

You can perform your own energy assessment using a pad and pencil. Go through each room in your home and note the energy consumption in that room. For example, your living room uses lamps, an overhead light, heater and/or air-conditioning unit, television, VCR and stereo system. Be sure to include small energy users, such as humidifiers or clock radios, and don't forget not-so-obvious rooms like the garage or basement.

Next, brainstorm ideas for reducing energy consumption in each room. Replacing light bulbs (except in reading lamps) with lower wattage bulbs can present a significant savings. Replacing regular windows with storm windows in the wintertime yields substantial long-term savings; adding weather-stripping to doorjambs can help trap in heat in cooler weather. To further cut down on heating bills, keep heat turned down when no one is at home and at night. It takes only a few minutes to heat a room, and the savings can run as much as 30% off your energy bill.

In the Kitchen

Consider replacing very old appliances, such as refrigerators. Newer appliances offer energy-saving features that will more than make up the initial investment.

If replacing again appliances isn't an option, or the appliance isn't old enough to be replaced, try cleaning the appliance thoroughly and replacing any worn parts. Cleaning the coils on the back of the refrigerator, for example, allows air to circulate more freely and helps the refrigerator maintain an even temperature. Defrost refrigerators and freezers regularly, as a layer of frost works as an insulator, forcing the appliance to work harder to maintain the proper temperature.

Always load the dishwasher fully and properly, and turn of the "heat dry" feature. Allowing dishes to air-dry (crack the door for about 30 minutes) or hand-drying the dishes as you put them away can save a significant amount of the energy used to heat the dishes dry. If you do need to wash a smaller load, take advantage of the "Light Wash" cycle present on most dishwashers.

Laundry Room/Basement/Utility Room/Garage

Remember that hotter isn't always better. You can was all but your most soiled colors in cold water; for heavily soiled colors, use warm water instead of hot. Most whites can be washed in warm or cold cycles, as well. Avoid small loads, even if the washer has a small setting. Conversely, avoid overfilling the washer, as clothes won't be thoroughly cleaned and may require a second, water-wasting washing.

Line-dry clothes whenever possible - not only does this save energy, but your clothes will last longer. A quick five-minute tumble in the dryer with a quarter fabric softener sheet will leave your clothes soft and fresh smelling. To help clothes dry more quickly in the dryer, toss in a few dry hand towels - they "soak up" the extra moisture and can substantially decrease drying time.

Your hot water heater may represent a hidden treasure chest of savings. Purchase and install a timer, which turns the heater on and off at preset times, according to your family's hot-water needs. Reducing the temperature of the water heater to 150 degrees (don't go below this temperature, as your clothes and dishes won't be adequately cleaned) saves energy and reduces the risk of children being scalded.

In the Bathroom

Install a low-flow showerhead - the latest generation offers more pressure and better flow than their previous trickling versions. Consider replacing your toilet with one of the new water-saving toilets, or fill an empty bleach bottle half full of water and place in the tank, away from the from the flushing mechanism, to keep the water level down.

Using these tips and other suggestions from your utility company, you can cut your energy bill by as much as 40%. Depending on where you live and how much energy you use, that 40% savings could mean a winter vacation - just don't forget to turn the heaters off when you leave!

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