Summer is almost here. It’s the season you switch from worrying about your heating bill to worrying about your electric bill. Listen, if you’re like us, you’re always looking for tips to save extra money (especially in the summer). Tips that are actually easy to do and actually work.
Here’s the good news: There are a ton of ways to save on your electric bill. Check out these simple tips on how to lower your electric bill and still beat the heat this summer.
13 Ways to Save on Your Electric Bill
1. Do an electricity audit.
Don’t let the word audit scare you. This is the first stop on your journey to a lower electric bill. Basically, this audit just means looking over the electric usage in your home. For the best (and most in-depth) electricity audit, you might want to call in an expert from your local electric company. And the best part? A lot of electric companies offer this service for free!
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If you go with a professional audit, you can expect them to ask you about what you’re looking to accomplish and what concerns you have. They’ll run tests, inspect your home for air leaks, and check the quality of your insulation. Then they’ll give you their best recommendations on how you can fix any big issues.
And if you’re the handy type, you might consider doing the whole thing yourself using a simple online audit tool (type in your zip code, and the energy calculator will take it from there with your personalized results).
If the audit causes you a lot of head tilts, don’t worry. Go through and see what changes are actually worth it to you. Make sure you budget for any home improvements you need to make (with your zero-based budget). Then sit back and watch that electric bill go down.
2. Turn off the lights.
Sounds simple, right? For a lot of families, forgetting to turn off the lights is already a hot topic of conversation (to put it lightly).
But there’s good reason: Keeping the lights on when they’re not in use is a real drain on your electricity—and your budget. For every 40-watt light bulb that runs for an hour, 0.04 kWh of energy is used up.
So, let’s say your electric company charges 10 cents per kWh of electricity. That means every hour the light is turned off, you’ll save $0.004.1 That might not sound like crazy savings, but if you switch off just five lights in your house for 10 hours a day, you’ll save $6 a month on your electric bill right there.
The more lights you switch off (and the higher wattage they are), the more you’ll save on the electric bill!
So, get in the habit of turning on the light only for the room you’re using right then. And if it’s sunny out, use that natural light to your advantage. Not only is it easy on the eyes, it’s free!
3. Change your light bulbs.
This one might seem a little too basic, but the simple task of changing out your light bulbs can mean big savings. While these bulbs will cost a bit more up front, you can save big bucks (over time) just by switching out the light bulbs in your home. Talk about saving money the easy way!
Next time you’re at your favorite home improvement store, take a hard right turn down that lighting aisle and stock up on compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Be on the lookout for the green Energy Star logo when you’re shopping too. It’s the government symbol for energy-efficient products.
A typical Energy Star-certified LED light bulb saves households around $225 in energy per year.2 Most LED lights use up to 90% less energy than those old incandescent lights and last up to 25 times longer!3 Say what?
4. Check for air leaks.
Ask yourself these questions when checking for air leaks: Are the windows whistling? Can you hear air coming in from under the front door on windy days? Do the doors actually seal shut when you close them? Is the fireplace damper working? Hopefully, you discovered a few of these easy-to-miss energy wasters when you did your energy audit.
Listen, keeping your windows, doors and appliances sealed properly makes a big difference . . . especially in the peak heat of summer.
If you have doors and windows that aren’t sealed right, you’re letting warm air in and that cool air out. And when you’ve got an air leak in your home, you might as well have a leak in your wallet.
Air sealing your home is a cheap and easy money saver! Just pick up some weather strips for your doors and windows. You’ll also need some caulk to seal those leaky areas in your plumbing, air ducts and wiring. Buying weather strips, caulk and a caulk gun will cost you around $15, but it can save you up to 20% on your energy costs.4 Talk about a return on investment!
5. Replace the air filter.
We know, it’s hard to keep track of everything you need to replace throughout the year. But guess what? Replacing your air filter is a simple fix that can beef up the life of your HVAC system and make it run more efficiently (saving you money in the long run). So, just bite the bullet and remember to swap out the air filter every three months. You’ll be glad you did—especially when you see that lower electric bill.
6. Shut the door.
You remember it well as a kid. You were having the best summer ever, racing in and out the house, playing with the neighbor kids (and leaving the door wide open). After a few times in and out, your mom would shout, “Were you born in a barn? Close the door!” Ah, sweet childhood memories.
Your mom had a point. Keeping the outside doors open while the AC unit—or furnace—is running is a bad idea. Not only are you letting that precious (and expensive) air escape, but you’re also making your unit run harder for longer. Just picture your dollars sailing out the door . . . right alongside your coveted cool air. Yikes.
7. Program your thermostat.
Did you know dialing down your thermostat by 7–10 degrees for eight hours a day can help you save 10% on your electric bill each year?5 You can do this the old-fashioned way: Just change the thermostat when you wake up and adjust it again before you go to sleep.
If you want to save your sanity, you can buy a programmable thermostat (if it’s in the budget, of course). It’ll save you the hassle of remembering to turn the temperature up or down morning and night, and it’s not that expensive either (some start at just $20).
If you’re tech obsessed, investing in a smart thermostat could be the right move. These savvy devices allow you to change the temperature of your home from your smartphone—simple as that! And some devices even have a little something called geofencing (fancy). Geofencing uses your smartphone’s location to track when you’re home and adjusts your temperature automatically. This definitely isn’t your grandma’s thermostat.
8. Don’t run your appliances unless they’re full.
Yep. We’re talking about things likes your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. If your kid comes home with super dirty, smelly and stained pants (you know the ones), you might be tempted to go ahead and wash those (in your hazmat suit) on their own. Believe it or not, though, one of the biggest money wasters is running your washing machine for just a few pieces of clothing.
The average washing machine uses 590 kWh, and the average dryer uses 769 kWh.6 That means each load of laundry you wash and dry costs about 70 cents. It’d be a shame to spend that amount when you’re only washing a few socks and the shirt you want to wear tomorrow. So wait until you have a full load of clothes in your hamper before you declare it laundry day.
And when it is time to toss a load in the wash, there are two super simple ways to cut back on the amount of energy you use up: using less water (fewer loads) and using cold or warm water.7
When it comes to the dryer, the rules are the same. Don’t use the dryer for anything but a full load, make sure not to over dry the clothes, and try to dry similar items at the same time. There’s nothing more obnoxious than spending two hours drying your towels and T-shirts only to find out your T-shirts were dry 45 minutes ago and your towels are still damp.
Pro tip: Use the automatic cycle instead of any timed settings to make sure those moisture sensors do their job.
If you want to dig a little deeper, use this handy home energy use calculator to estimate just how much your appliances are costing you. And if you really want to save on your electric bill, try cutting out the dryer altogether and line dry your clothes—sometimes you’ve just got to go back to the basics.
9. Check phantom energy.
No, we’re not talking about ghosts here. We’re talking about phantom energy—a little something that happens when appliances use up energy even when they’re turned off!
Yep, start unplugging those devices and appliances when you’re not using them. You’ll be surprised by how much money you save on your electric bill just by pulling the plug. Phantom energy costs the average family up to $165 per year on their electric bill—for nothing.8 Now that’s scary.
10. Adjust your refrigerator.
This is another one of the small fixes that makes a big impact. Take a look at your settings on the refrigerator. A good rule of thumb is to keep your fridge set at about 35–38 degrees.9 Adjusting the settings like this will keep your food fresh but will make sure your unit isn’t zapping extra energy by working overtime to keep everything too cold.
11. Keep your freezer full.
Who knew all those frozen veggies and meats you stockpiled during the pandemic would come in handy for saving on your electric bill. It’s true—having a full freezer can actually help insulate your whole appliance.
And guess what? If the freezer is already cold (and staying that way), then it doesn’t have to use up precious energy (and dollar bills) to keep your frozen goods, well, frozen.
12. Lower the hot water heater temperature.
Most people don’t ever stop and wonder if their water temperature is too high. You turn on the tap, the warm water comes out, and you go on about your business as usual. But if your water temperature is set too high, you could be wasting $36–61 each year.10
Setting the water heater to 140 degrees should be okay, but keep in mind sometimes it could give you scalding hot water too. On the other hand, setting it too low to 120 degrees can mess with your dishwasher’s bacteria-killing ways. Play around with the temperature settings and see what works for you.
13. Ask about discounts and incentives.
We all love a good discount, right? So, check with your local electric company to see if there are any special savings available to help you save on this home expense. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know!
Some companies give discounts for going paperless. Others might give you rebates based on any energy-saving home improvements you do to your home. Some even give savings for using electricity during off-peak hours. Not only that, but when you sign up for newsletters, they share tips and tricks that can help you save even more on your electric bill.
Watch Your Savings Roll In
Now that you’ve got 13 ways to lower your electric bill, it’s time to put that extra money where it belongs: your budget. Keep track of your budget (and your newly saved dollars) with our very own (and free) budgeting app, EveryDollar.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself an ice-cold sweet tea, kick up your feet, make your first budget, and start watching those electric savings roll on in.