Have you ever opened your utility bill only to look at the total and cringe? For us, that’s the water bill. It’s not that we use a lot of water. Water is just plain expensive around here. We use less and pay more than friends in other parts of the country, so those high bills are frustrating. That started us on our quest to save money on utilities.
Maybe for you it’s the electric or gas bill that you dread opening.
Smart Ways to Save Money on Utilities
Whichever bill it is, utilities are a necessity. But that doesn’t mean we always have to pay a premium for the privilege. There are ways to save money on utilities without compromising your comfort.
Heat (Gas or Electric)
If you live in an older house, chances are you have drafts coming from windows, doors, or who-knows-where. If that is the case, seal or block them with weatherstripping, window film, or a door snake.
Also ensure your furnace is in good working order by getting it serviced and ensuring you have a clean filter.
Then turn down the heat when you aren’t home or when you are sleeping with a programmable thermostat.
Water is the big one for me, mostly because it is usually the highest bill we have. So what to do?
When doing laundry, you can save on the cost of heating water by washing full loads in cold water. The clothes get just as clean.
Also, some clothes can be worn more than once before washing. These could include jeans, pants, jackets, skirts and dresses.
For some reason, the best way to do dishes seems to stir up quite the debate between people. There are those that swear hand washing uses less water than a dishwasher and then the other camp says dishwashers are more efficient.
Well, I hate doing dishes by hand and with a full dishwasher, I find it hard to believe that isn’t more efficient. Our dishwasher uses less than 3 up to 6 gallons of water per load, depending on settings. And it holds a 12 piece setting. Then I read there was a study showing that people washing a 12 piece setting by hand could use up to 27 gallons of water in the process! Yikes. Dishwasher, please.
I will grant that if it is just you and maybe a significant other, and you don’t let the water run while you wash dishes, then you could possibly save water with handwashing. This is assuming you wouldn’t have a full load otherwise. For families, use a dishwasher.
Normally, a shower will use less water. It really depends on your showerhead, how much water you use in the tub, and the length of your shower. According to industry standards, a typical tub holds about 42 gallons (to overflow), but people typically use about 30 gallons for a bath. So at 2 gallons per minute, a 10 minute shower (20 gallons) easily saves water.
BUT, you could also set a 5 minute shower limit, as we try to do.
If you don’t have a low-flow showerhead, get one! There are great ones that give good spray at 2 gallons/minute and some even go down lower.
I have or had inexpensive Delta and Kohler showerheads and love them. I like a medium intensity spray and my husband prefers a stronger spray. These are great for both of us and have sprays gentle enough for the kids as well.
If you have an older toilet, you could try the low-cost option of filling ½ gallon jug with sand and placing it in the tank so the toilet uses less water. Easy.
If you later go to replace the toilet, get a low-flow (high efficiency) one. Many states are now requiring low flow toilets so you may not have an option there. In older houses you do need to be aware that the plumbing wasn’t designed for these so you might want to talk with your plumber to see what she recommends.
But, in our almost 50 yr old house we’ve installed well rated Toto high efficiency toilets and have been very happy.
Knowing there would be less water used, I wanted to make sure we had a great flush while also conserving water. This MaP site has great info on “flush scores”. We looked for ones that scored 800 or better.
Lowering your water bill is one of the easier ways to save money on utilities that we’ve found.
Does your electric company charge more for daytime use? If so, most modern dishwashers and clothes washers offer delay cycles. So, load them up and set them to run during off-peak hours.
If you don’t heat your home with electricity, then the refrigerator and dryer will typically be your energy hogs. If you can air dry your clothes on a rack, that will definitely put a dent in the electric bill. In the winter it also helps add humidity back to the air. Keeping your refrigerator stocked helps it run more efficiently as well.
Does everyone use a hair dryer? Well that uses a ton of electricity. Let your hair air dry. It will still get dry.
As a mom now, I can’t officially endorse this, but as a kid, I would even go out to the bus stop in freezing weather with wet hair. I lived. But you might want to have your kids shower the night before if you go this route and live in a cold area.
In an effort to lower our electric bill, we had no problem switching to CFL bulbs as the incandescents burned out. With littles around, I did become anxious when they were a bit rambunctious near lamps, though. Why? Fluorescents have mercury, so if they break, that is bad.
Because of that, we were very happy when we noticed that LED bulbs have become much better, cheaper and easier to find. We are now changing to LED bulbs and fixtures around the house as our older ones burn out.
According to Energy.gov, CFLs use about 25% of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last about 10x longer. Not bad. But LEDs use about 20-25% of the energy and last about 25x longer than incandescents. Great! They also light up right away and don’t have the hazardous waste issues (mercury) that CFLs have. That’s a win for me.
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More and more people are dropping cable every day. It is easy to do and you can reap almost instant savings. Remember how I said lowering the water bill is one of the easiest ways to save? Dropping cable is probably the easiest way to save money on utilities, if you have it.
What tips do you have to save money on utilities?