How To Lower Your Electric Bill: 5 Energy-saving Tips You Probably Haven’t Heard Before
by Ansul Rajgharia | 7 min read
When it comes to ways to lower your electric bill, we’ve all heard the advice to turn off your lights and take shorter showers. And while those are helpful, are there more ways to track and reduce energy, while not breaking the bank?
The answer is, “Yes.” There are several often-overlooked ways to save energy and reduce your bill, whether you’re looking for simple and inexpensive do-it-yourself solutions or have more to invest for long-term savings.
In this article, we’ll take a look at energy-saving tips for every budget that provide a variety of ways lower your electric bill, and dive deeper into sophisticated ways to save energy that go beyond the basics.
How to Lower Your Electric Bill: Common Tips and Tricks
Before diving into the energy-saving tips you’ve probably never heard of, here’s a list of common ideas that can shave a few dollars off your bill:
- Make sure seals on windows and doors are air sealed
- Adjust the temperature setpoints in your refrigerator and freezer
- Take shorter and colder showers
- Wash clothes in cold water
- Swap your old lightbulbs for LED bulbs
- Many of us have checked these ideas off our lists, so let’s go deeper with the less common energy-saving tips, from budget beaters to long-term investments.
5 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill You Probably Haven’t Heard Before
If you’re searching for ways to lower your electric bill, the goal is to save money, so you might not be keen on spending more to save. Luckily, you don’t have to. There are a few simple things you can do without spending any money — or very little — that will yield savings. If you have some flexibility on the amount you can spend for energy-saving solutions, there are several options that can help lower your electric bill, too, with more of an upfront investment.
Energy-saving Idea #1: Pay Attention to Time-of-Use Rates
Did you know that some electric companies charge more per kilowatt hour (kWh) depending on the time of day or time of year? That’s called a Time-of-Use (TOU) rate. At times when energy usage is higher, like during the summer when people are running their air conditioning units more frequently, for example, the cost of electricity increases because there’s more demand on the grid.
Every utility company is different as far as how much rates increase during peak hours. It could be anywhere from an additional 5 cents to 20 cents per kWh. That might not sound like much, but if your off-peak rate is 10 cents per kWh, 20 cents is a 100% increase — that’s like paying $5 for a gallon of gas versus $2.50.
TOU rates are usually fixed seasonally and/or within broad intervals of the day that reflect typical peak and off-peak times. For example, in Los Angeles, California, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power divides the week into a base period, low-peak period, and high-peak period, with a difference of up to 9 cents per kWh, depending on the time of year.
TOU rates can typically be found on your energy bill or the electric company’s website. Knowledge is power. By understanding when electricity costs more, you can adjust usage. Is the TOU rate lower during nighttime hours? Wait until then to run your dishwasher. Do you have a dehumidifier in your basement? Run it overnight versus during the day.
Energy-saving Idea #2: Leverage Smart Technology
"Implementing energy-efficient technology, appliances, and practices can save anywhere between 5% – 30% on your energy bill."
The term “smart technology” might make you see dollar signs. But in fact, there are several inexpensive tools that make a big difference in energy savings and only require a one-time investment. Two examples of smart technology include smart plugs and programmable thermostats.
Smart plugs, like the Square D™ X Series Wi-Fi receptacles, cost anywhere between $20 – $40. These plugs fit between an appliance and an existing outlet, essentially creating a “smart” switch. By making any switch smart, you can put the appliance on an automated schedule to turn on and off. So, if you only drink coffee in the morning, you can program the plug to turn the coffee maker on at 8 a.m. and off at 11 a.m., saving energy when you’re not using it. Why does that matter? Because appliances draw power even when they’re not in use. “Standby power” can eat up 10% of your home’s total energy consumption. Other appliances commonly used with smart plugs include outdoor and indoor lights, tabletop kitchen appliances, fans, and electronic devices.
A base-model programmable thermostat starts at approximately $30 and goes up from there. This tool allows you to program settings for the thermostat temperature, raising the temperature at times when no one is home. If you work an 8-to-5 office job, you can set the thermostat to raise the temperature several degrees while you’re at work, then reduce the temperature when you come home.
Or perhaps you’ll find that TOU rates are cheapest during mid-day, when many people are at work. If you have a well-insulated home, it can store cool air for six to 12 hours. That means you can crank up the AC during the day and leave it off during peak demand hours.
Both smart plugs and programmable thermostats provide the ultimate benefit of automation. For little money, you gain the convenience of not having to remember to adjust appliances — and that leads to big energy savings.
Energy-saving Idea #3: Lower Your Water Heater Temperature
"Simply lowering the temperature can save between 4% – 22% each year."
U.S. Department of Energy
A no-cost solution for water heaters is simply lowering the water temperature. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations first, but most water heaters can be reduced from 140 degrees to 120 degrees and still inhibit bacteria growth. A heater at 140 degrees can waste up to $60 annually on standby heat loss. Plus, it’s usually quite simple to lower your water heater’s temperature; there’s often a thermostat knob that you can turn on the exterior of the unit.
Water heaters are a big culprit of energy use. Keep reading to learn more energy-saving tips around water heaters that require more of an upfront investment.
Energy-saving Idea #4: Invest in Efficient Water Heating
"Water heating is the second largest expense in your home and can cost between $400 – $600 each year for the average household."
U.S. Department of Energy
A few energy-saving tips specifically for water heaters include purchasing a water heater smart controller and insulating your water heater.
A water heater smart controller has a one-time cost of approximately $150. However, it quickly pays for itself. The smart device controls the temperature of the water in your tank, only producing hot water when you need it. For instance, most of us aren’t showering or running our dishwasher in the middle of the night. Some water heater smart controllers analyze hot water consumption and turns the heater on and off accordingly, while others require manual programming. Either way, it’s a great energy-saving tool, with one smart controller projecting between 10% – 30% savings.
Insulating your water heater also saves energy. On average, water heaters can waste substantial standby heat, which is heat from the water in the tank that’s lost when the water heater isn’t in use. Think of it like a pot of boiling water that’s still giving off heat, even after you’ve turned off the stove. By insulating your tank, you could reduce standby heat loss up to 45%, which saves between 7% – 16% on your energy bill. You can find pre-cut blankets for the size of your heater at most hardware stores. Check with your utility company as well, as some offer water heater insulating blankets at lower prices or rebates.
Energy-saving Idea #5: Monitor Energy Usage
If you’re looking for ways to lower your electric bill, it might be helpful to learn why it’s so high in the first place. Energy monitoring can help you keep tabs on what is using energy in your home and when that energy is being used.
Energy monitoring is traditionally done with a device like the Wiser Energy™ smart home monitor. Starting around $300, the Wiser Energy home energy monitor breaks down usage in your home so you can see exactly how much energy each appliance or device is using. Once you have the data, you can take action when and where it matters most.
Wiser Energy allows you to take control of energy use by setting custom alerts and goals, and it provides an activity log so you can track exact usage, eliminating the guessing game.
If you’re using a smart plug, like the X Series Wi-Fi receptable mentioned earlier, you’re already ahead of the game, as the X Series connected switches and receptables include energy monitoring within each device. This is a simplified, effective version of energy monitoring, allowing you to see just how much energy a single device is using.
Looking for Even More Energy-saving Tips?
No matter your budget, there are steps you can take to lower your electric bill. And with continued enhancements in smart technology, like X Series Wi-Fi receptacles, programmable thermostats, and Wiser Energy, you can get a clearer picture on where to slash spending in your home.