Heating and cooling bills are part of the financial costs of owning or renting a home, condo or apartment. Depending on the climate, these monthly costs can soar, leaving a deep dent in the budget.
None of us can control Mother Nature’s weather whims; heat waves and cold snaps happen. However, homeowners (and renters) can find ways to lower their heating and cooling usage by embracing sustainable energy solutions that save money.
Here are 10 easy ways to help lower both your energy usage and those monthly bills:
Use Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans help circulate the air in a room and aid in maintaining a comfortable temperature. Most people assume, though, that a fan will only cool down the room.
During cold months, reverse the direction of the fan to allow warm air from vents to better circulate. Cool air falls but warm air rises, and proper circulation in both temperature extremes is ideal for maximizing comfort and using less energy!
Installing ceiling fans is fairly easy, and most fans can be purchased for a nominal cost. You don’t have to get fancy with fans. If you’re really tight on a budget, head to a thrift store and purchase a basic room fan that plugs into an outlet.
Choose Natural Gas Instead of Propane
All natural gas uses resources and energy, but propane may be a more expensive option. When possible, choose natural gas; the Department of Energy also notes that natural gas “is an abundant resource.”
Still, be wise about your usage. If you have a gas heating unit, keep the thermostat low to avoid using up more gas than you need. And always, always use a carbon monoxide detector to ensure that there are no leaks. Carbon monoxide is an incredibly toxic odorless and colorless gas, making it an invisible killer.
Insulate Water Pipes
Water usage accounts for expensive monthly bills, too. Hot water uses more energy than cooler flows. To keep heat from escaping those pipes, use pipe insulation. So why does this save money? Think about bundling up in the cold; your coat and sweater lock in your body heat.
The insulation warms up the pipes and traps the heat. The Department of Energy notes that you can nudge down your water temperature and save money…all thanks to a little sleeve of insulation.
For gas heaters, though, the Department of Energy advises keeping the insulation “at least six inches from the flue” and notes that fiberglass material should be used if the flue is 8 inches from the pipe.
Saving water means using less. Flushing the toilet wastes a ton of water, and so does everyday faucet flow. Low-flow options are much more sustainable and also help lower your costs.
However, new fixtures aren’t mandatory. Basic habit changes also can help you save money and embrace a more energy-efficient lifestyle. Set a timer for your shower in the morning to ensure that you don’t waste water. And turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands.
Zap the Electricity
The Internet of Things (IoT) might be another ticket to energy savings. If your home runs on electricity only, take charge of your usage by using tech to lower costs. Smart plugs and power strips allow you to control your lights, television and other household appliances with your tablet or smartphone.
Not tech savvy? Get hands on. Turn off all lights when leaving the room and keep appliances unplugged. Also, never plug a power strip into another power strip; this is a fire hazard!
Light Your Home With LED…Not Incandescent
If you’re using incandescent light bulbs, you’re wasting energy. And you may be boosting your bills. Switch out those old bulbs for LED; they last longer and don’t emit the amount of heat that plague regular bulbs.
Embrace Natural Light
When it’s a bright and sunny day, turn off the lights and open up the curtains. Natural light is free and uses no energy! However, during the summer months (and extreme temps), you may want to opt for those LED lights as the heat of the day may boost indoor temps.
Choose Off-Peak Hours to Run Appliances
Depending on your utility company (and its policies), using electricity during off-peak hours may mean a drop in rates. This could save you a decent amount of money during the course of a month, especially when the hottest temps threaten to bust your budget. Check your utility provider’s policies and see if there are incentive programs or lower rates for certain hours that could help you save.
Sprinkle with Care
Yes, a green lawn is gorgeous and may help the curb appeal of your home. However, if you live in an area of the country that is drought-prone, sprinklers might not even be an option…or they may be cost prohibitive. For those who don’t face water restrictions, limiting sprinkler use is still a smart move.
Adjust the Thermostat
Your home doesn’t need to remain at a single temperature 24/7. When you go on vacation, adjust the temperature to a warmer or cooler temperature (depending on the season). You also may want to program your thermostat to adjust during work/school hours when no one is home and maybe even during the night.
No matter what type of HVAC you have, always remember to change out the air filter at least every three months. Some filters may need to be changed more frequently. While it’s easy to forget this simple task, programming a reminder for a new filter into your phone may help you remember.
Water and heating and cooling bills may soar during certain times of the year. Unpredictable bills may hit the budget hard, but homeowners can take control of these monthly expenses. Simple sustainable solutions can help lower energy usage and nudge down those bills. While some solutions may be an investment, others involve changing our everyday habits to become more conscious of our energy output (and waste). By becoming mindful of our energy usage, we’ll lower our carbon footprint and our bills—a win-win for the environment and our pocketbook!