Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Money Minute - 10 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bills

Oh how I hate those couple months with really high heating or cooling bills.  You know the ones - they come in January and February and then again in July and August.

Well, today I bring you some tips to ease the pain.
  1. Check your duct work.  Head down to the basement or crawlspace.  Take a couple tissues with you.  Your goal is to check for big leaks.  If you feel a lot of air coming through joint in the duct work, you can hold a tissue in front to pinpoint the leak.  Repair with the shiny silver duct tape (works on most duct work).  We discovered one whole segment of ducting had separated from the main line so no cold air was coming up to our bedroom.  What a difference fixing it made!
  2. Check your vents.  In the winter, close many of the vents upstairs.  Heat rises, so you'll want to make sure downstairs is comfortable. That heat will rise and heat the upstairs.  The reverse is true in the summer.  Open all vents upstairs and limit the ones open downstairs.
  3. Check the temp.  To save energy, try keeping the thermostat at 72 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter.  For even more savings, try moving another degree or two.
  4. Check your doors.  Rooms will heat and cool faster when closed off since open hallway spaces aren't being heated or cooled then. 
  5. Check your fans.  Fans use much less energy than air conditioners or heaters.  Circulating air will make rooms more comfortable overall.  Use ceiling fans throughout the year.  Check the setting to see which direction the air is blowing.  Have it blow up toward the ceiling in the winter to circulate warm air without cooling the room.  Have it blow down in the summer to cool while circulating air.
  6. Check your thermostat.  If you have a programmable thermostat, use it!  If the house is empty during the day, don't pay to heat or cool it.  Have the temperature set several degrees hotter or colder when the house is empty.  Have it change an hour or so before arriving home.  Consider lowering the temperature in the winter through the nights and use extra blankets to keep warm.
  7. Check your filter.  Make sure your air filter is reasonably clean.  It will improve air flow and will clean the air better than an old and dirty filter.
  8. Check your unit.  Be sure to trim back weeds and plants from the outside unit.  HVAC units need plenty of air flow to run efficiently.
  9. Check your usage.  Get an energy audit.  Many local power companies have free energy audits online.  These audits will walk you through ways to make your home more energy efficient.  Some companies will send technicians to your home to audit in person (usually for a small fee).  Many companies will also do a free audit over the phone (mine has).
  10. Check the efficiency.  When you do need to replace heating and air units, consider the efficiency of the new unit.  Spending a little more upfront could save thousands over the life of the unit.

 I hate those expensive seasonal bills.  Using this checklist works for me!  You may also want to consider getting on a budget bill pay plan where the cost is even through the year.

Want some more great tips?  Check out Works for Me Wednesday over on We Are THAT Family.

 Make sure you enter my giveaway for a $25 Kroger gift card!


Jessica said...

Don't forget curtains!

We close the East ones in the evenings during the summer and don't open them until noon - of course in the wintertime, we leave them open, using the sun to our advantage! :)

The Prudent Homemaker said...

You must live in a cooler climate than I do. The electric company here recommends setting the thermostat at 78º in the summer. It says that every degree of difference is about 2% of the bill. We have very high electric costs here, and they have been raising rates every quarter for almost 4 years; I know people who have electric bills that are $900 a month in the summer months (we have 5 of those here!)

We set our thermostat at 65º-66º in the winter, but a friend of mine in Alaska said that they kept theirs in the high 50ºs!

I have worked to bring our bil down $200, despite the rising rates, by doing the following:

Changing filters--every month here in the desert where it's very dusty. The washable ones didn't do much, but the cheap ones do a great job.

Turning off ceiling fans in rooms when we are not in them. We are home all day, and though ceiling fans do help keep you cooler, running 11 of them all day costs a lot of money. Turn the ceiling fans off when you leave the room; it saved me $150 in one month.

Turn the lights off whenever you leave a room. I read a study on this, an they said that if you will be gone for 2 seconds with incandescents, it's worth turning them off (depsite the powere to turn them on, this would be cheaper) and about a minute on flourescents.

Turn off all lights in the kitchen at dinner except for the ones over the table (I already had all other lights off in the house except for the kitchen ones. I thought it wasn't that big of a difference. Just changing this saved me $20 a month.

Turn off your computer at night. Everyone said it was fine; it would sleep. I turned it off anyway and found a differnce of $50 a month.

My rates are pretty high here, and my house runs 2 a/c units (the way it was built), so your prices could be different, but these litle things helped me cut my bill despite rising costs.

Audra said...

Jessica - Curtains! Yes! How could I forget? I just got new ones for our bedroom. We just painted our living room and I have noticed a difference since taking those curtains down.

Prudent Homemaker - We live in the WV mountains, so it isn't terribly hot here in the summer. We have just a few weeks of mid-90's temps. The worst thing is the humidity. You have some awesome tips! Thank you!

PinkyB said...

Hi, Audra - believe it or not, I was in the music business for about 20 yrs! I taught piano after I graduated from college and then worked with orchestras and a trumpeter after that until I "retired" to start a family. I am so hooked on Small Notebook, LOL. I just hope I can follow-through! I am having a "coupon lesson" with a local very talented couponer mom next week & I'm looking forward to that!

Harry said...

Yes, and don't forget about window tint. We have western facing windows, so we suffer from glare and heat during the summer. We found that installing window tint on these windows helped with both problems. Take a look at SnapTint window tint kits, we found their pricing affordable and quick to install.

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