Let’s talk utilities: How to save money on things we consider essential
Unless we’re really, really carefree about or water and power usage, we don’t tend to look at the cost of those services as areas we could save money on. After all, we tend to think we use these services as we need them, and we don’t consider ourselves irresponsible people.
Well, truth is, while you might not be irresponsible with your power and water usage, you also probably aren’t doing all you can to minimize your consumption – or worse, you’re doing things you think help but actually don’t.
In order to help you minimize your utility bills, let’s take a look at what you should be doing, what you could be doing, and what you absolutely should not be doing to save on them. A warning – some of these tips will require you to spend money, but then again you do need money to make money, don’t you? Even if you can’t do these things right now, you should keep them in mind for the future.
For this article, we’re going to focus on the big spender: Power.
Do: Make sure your lightbulbs are energy-efficient and not too big for their location
This is one of the easiest changes you can make, as you most likely are changing a couple lightbulbs a year anyway.
Next time you purchase lightbulbs, make sure the ones you get are actually energy efficient. While these days most lightbulbs are, there are still some ancient, incandescent models lying around that will greatly increase your consumption. Just as well, make sure you’re getting lightbulbs that are just as bright as needed and not more, since brighter lights naturally eat more power. A small room doesn’t need a super bright lightbulb, and even large rooms can often do with smaller (or fewer – that lamp might have space for six lightbulbs, but the room might be just fine with just two) lights.
Extra tips: Go for LED lightbulbs when you can, they’re generally very energy efficient. Dimming lightbulbs are also great because they allow you to darken or lighten rooms as needed. For exteriors, consider getting solar-powered solutions that charge during the day and keep your lawn lit at night.
Do not: Turn lights off every time you walk out of a room
Here’s a piece of advice that was good once, but isn’t good anymore. Many of us grew up with our parents reminding us to not leave lights on, and always turn them off when we left a room in order to save power.
And this was true, back in the seventies or eighties or nineties we grew up in. Back then the vast majority of lightbulbs were incandescent, and those lightbulbs do consume a lot of energy when left on.
These days, however, most bulbs aren’t incandescent. Instead, CFL and LED light bulbs have taken over, with their energy saving touted as the main reason to make the switch.
But there’s something they forgot to tell you: CFL and LED lights consume much less power… when they’re on. To turn them on, however, they need a surge of power greater than what they consume being left on for fifteen minutes. This wasn’t the case with incandescent lightbulbs, whose power usage was mostly linear.
Now, don’t leave all lights on, since that will be heavily counterproductive. But instead of just turning the light off whenever you leave a room, be conscious of how long it’ll be before you return. Are you just going to the kitchen for a quick snack? Leave the light on. Are you going for a walk? Off might be better.
Do: Check your house’s wiring
Possibly the most expensive item of this list is also the one that might save you the most in the long term.
As with everything in the world, wiring can and does degrade over time. Internal wiring that was perfect when your house was built, might be worn down and less than ideal these days – and said wiring could well be leading to massive energy waste.
To minimize this, you’ll have to have a technician check the wiring… and potentially replace at least part of it. Once again, tho, you’ll see savings in the long term.
Do: Unplug, unplug, unplug
Standby energy waste is a thing. Leaving electronics plugged while we’re not using them does waste energy. Even leaving just cables, like your phone charger, plugged when not used wastes energy, not to mention it shortens the life of your charger.
The losses in standby energy aren’t tiny, also. In average, every US household loses about $165 a year to standby electricity loss. Next time you feel like leaving your electronics plugged when you’re not using them when they’re off, remember this.
Do: Turn off water heaters when not using them
Having hot water on demand whenever we feel like is great. However, those of us using electric water heaters, particularly tank-based ones, might want to think this twice.
In order to have hot water available for you at any time, a water heater has to keep it heated 24/7. Keeping water hot at all times has a cost, specifically an energy cost.
Don’t waste energy, turn off or unplug your heater during periods it doesn’t see use.
Do not: Leave the heating or air conditioning on while outside
Entering your house after a few hours out in the heat (or the cold) and finding its temperature to be perfect feels great, so people often leave the heating or aircon on.
What doesn’t feel great is having to pay for all the power spent running these electronics while you weren’t even at home to enjoy them. Turn them off. Deal with a few more minutes of heat or cold when you’re home, and potentially dozens of dollars in savings a month.
Also, don’t turn on the air conditioning only to open a window. Don’t be that guy.