"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it." Proverbs 21:20 ESV
Go look at last month’s utility bills. Look for things like electricity and natural gas. How much of your monthly spending does this make up? Could it be lower?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household with a married couple and at least one child spent $5,321 per year on utilities. Where does your household stack up?
It’s a guarantee that your family is going to spend money on energy every month. This is an opportunity to work on something that will always be a part of your budget. Here’s some easy things you can do to trim your family’s energy costs this month and every month thereafter.
Do you still have some traditional incandescent light bulbs in your house? The next time you replace them, look at LEDs. LEDs use about 75% less energy and last 25 times longer. The cost and quality of light from these kinds of bulbs has also improved dramatically over the last few years.
This is also an opportunity where you can involve your children. You can teach them to be diligent about turning off lights when leaving a room. It’s a good habit and a starting place to help them associate our everyday choices with financial outcomes.
I know you have a specific temperature you like but hear me out. A Department of Energy study found that changing the thermostat by 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day could save up to 10% a year. If everyone is leaving for school or work for the day, how about bumping the temperature a few degrees? Are you going on vacation or to visit family for the day? Go ahead and adjust the temperature a few degrees for some savings.
If you have a newer smarter thermostat you might even be able to automate or schedule this ahead of time.
Cracks and insulation
Do you have cracks around windows or doors? Can you feel a draft when you stand in front or your back door? That’s money going out the door. This is some simple home improvement that anyone can do. Weatherstripping is inexpensive at the hardware store and easy to put in. It helps your doors and windows make a tighter seal and allow less air to escape. If you have cracks around windows or door frames, this is another easy repair. A tube of caulk will seal these cracks and make it look better.
A bigger project is looking at insulation in your attic and other visible spots. Insulation loses its effectiveness over time. If you have an older house or it’s been a long time since insulation has been replaced this might be worth considering.
Take a tissue and try to blow through it. Then take a thick blanket and try to blow thought it. Your heating and air conditioning system feels this way with a new clean filter and an old dirty filter. If you can’t remember the last time you changed this, then it’s time. This can reduce energy usage by 10-15%. If you're wondering how to cut air conditioning costs or heating costs, this is an easy way.
Regular maintenance does make a difference in energy efficiency. A well-maintained heath pump, as an example, can be between 10-25% more efficient than one with no maintenance at all. Asking a technician to check it out or learning yourself can mean more energy efficiency and a longer lifespan for the unit.
If you have a dishwasher, try to avoid running it when the dishwasher is not full. The same goes for washing clothes. Also keep in mind that washing items by hand doesn’t always equate to less hot water usage. Your hot water heater itself also has a secret weapon. Check your manual for your hot water heater’s “vacation mode” or “VAC” mode.” Most units have an easy to access dial to ensure you are not heating water while you’re visiting family. This is an easy way to save.
We all have a myriad of electronic devices in our homes these days. They all use power. Even when your TV, Xbox, PlayStation, or talking cylinder of choice is “off” it’s still using electricity. It’s probably not practical to unplug your TV every time your favorite Netflix show ends, but there’s still some places you can save here. Is there a TV in the house that never gets watched? Is there a game system that hasn’t been played since last spring? Unplug them and they’ll stop draining your bills.
You also might be able to save the next time you replace appliances like your fridge or water heater. Selecting a model that is more energy efficient can pay for itself over years of use. That’s a topic for another day though.
What are some ways you’ve found to cut energy costs we didn’t mention here?
"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" -Spider-Man or Voltaire depending on who you ask
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