7 Useful Habits that Can Cut Costs Around the House
Purchasing your own home is a major milestone that can make you feel proud, humbled and accomplished. It’s also one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy due to the actual cost of the property, taxes, repairs and more. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think though. There are some very simple tips and tricks that can help you save money on a daily basis, whether you own a house, condo or rent an apartment.
1. Unplug Electronics
Do you constantly leave your electronic devices plugged into a power source when they’re not in-use? You should think twice about doing that because it’s costing you money. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the phenomenon known as “phantom energy” is costing each household in the United States around $165 per year, which is a combined $19 billion nationwide or the equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 50 large power plants.
When idle yet plugged in, the Energy Center of Wisconsin found that typically treadmills still use 5.6 watts of power, printers use 4.3 watts, battery chargers use 2.6 watts, desktop computers use 2.4 watts, televisions use 1.3 watts, modems use 1.5 watts and laptops use 0.7 watts.
The simple solutions to over $150 in savings? Unplug them! Not only will you be saving yourself money, but you’ll also be preventing carbon dioxide from being released into the air.
2. Switch to Energy Efficient Bulbs
Sooner or later, your house is going to strictly use energy efficient light bulbs. Don’t panic, no one is going to come into our home and change out your traditional incandescent bulbs. Those bulbs are just not being produced anymore. Instead, the most common energy efficient bulbs produced today are halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs), according to energy.gov.
According to Consumer Reports, halogens use 25% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb, but are the bottom of the current barrel for energy efficiency. They have a 1-2 year life span. CFLs use one-third of the energy of halogen incandescents and are claimed to last for 7-14 years if they’re used three hours per day. The bad thing about CFLs is they contain small amounts of mercury, which is dangerous. Avoid breaking them at all costs and recycle them properly when you’re done with them. LEDs use up to 30% less energy than halogens, but they’re claimed to last 18-46 years when used for three hours per day.
These bulbs cost more money up front than traditional incandescents but are supposed to save you money in the long run. The average household in the U.S. puts 5% of its energy budget towards lighting and the alleged fastest way to cut your energy bills is with these energy efficient light bulbs.
3. Control Your Thermostat
Being naïve about the temperature of your house can come back to bite you with a big bill. Be conscious about the weather and adjust accordingly. In the winter, you should ideally set your heat at 68 degrees or less, according to Compact Appliance, but be mindful of the rules put in place to keep pipes from freezing by a landlord or HOA. The higher you keep your heat, the more it runs and the more money it costs you. Use drapes, curtains and blinds to help keep more of the warm air in and the cold air out.
In the summer, you’ll find for each degree you set your air conditioning above 72 degrees, you’ll save 1-3% on your energy bill. If you’re tempted to keep lowering your air conditioning, invest in ceiling fans or tower fans to help circulate cool air from the vents and cool central locations.
For all seasons, make sure you replace or thoroughly clean your HVAC filter. The cleaner it is, the smother it will run which means there’s less of a chance for it to break. According to Central Heating & Air Conditioning, you can also save an additional 5-15% on your energy bills if you lower your thermostat by 10-15 degrees for eight hours per day, also known as when you’re at work.
Smart thermostats make caring about your heating and air conditioning cool. If you install a smart thermostat, not only can you program it like a typical programmable thermostat to go off at certain times of the day, but you can control it from your smartphone. If you sit down at your desk at work and realize you forgot to raise or lower the temperature on the thermostat, you can just open the app and adjust it accordingly. This saves you money because your heat or your air won’t go off for no reason.
Prices for a smart thermostat vary, but they can cost as low as $80, but are more commonly around $150. Some utility providers even give rebates for installing a smart thermostat in your home, according to Energy Star. Do your research on which smart thermostat will best fit your needs before you go out and make the switch.
4. Care for Your Appliances
Every time you open your refrigerator or freezer to make food in your oven or every time you do laundry or run your dishwasher, do you wonder how much money it costs to run these appliances? Chances are you don’t think about it; you’re just thinking of getting your food cooked or getting your laundry or dishes done ASAP. Truth be told, it does matter how much it costs to run these appliances because everything adds up into your utility bills. You should shoot for having quality appliances that will be energy efficient. Also, make sure you clean them regularly. You don’t want dust build-up to hurt your appliances’ ability to function.
Energy Star certified appliances are built with saving money and the environment in mind. If you have appliances that are 15 years old, it’s time to upgrade. According to a 2015 study by Energy Star, you could annually save $174 with a new washing machine, $25 with a new dishwasher, $52 with a new refrigerator, $34 with a new freezer and $34 for a new room air conditioner for a total of $292. If you can save nearly $300 by only upgrading five home appliances, why not upgrade them all and watch your annual utility bills shrink?
5. Grow Your Own Food
You can easily cut down on your food expenses by planting your own garden filled with fruits, veggies and herbs. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association, a well-kept food garden produces ½ lb. of food every square foot. Even if you only have a 100 sq. ft. garden, you’ll yield 50 lbs. of produce. That’s a lot of food. According to Investopedia, people typically invest $70 into their initial garden and have a $530 return on investment, so they’re definitely maximizing their dollars by gardening.
In 2013, 35% of American households (42 million) gardened in some fashion, according to a special report from the National Gardening Association. You can help that number continue to grow. Don’t be discouraged if you live in an urban area and don’t have a big plot of land to grow a garden. Even if you live in a downtown apartment in a major city, you can always plant a few fruits, veggies and herbs in small pots or planters on your deck, porch or balcony.
6. Protect Your Electronics
Instead of plugging your many electronics—like your T.V., stereo, video game consoles, speakers, etc.– into a wall outlet, plug them into a smart surge protector. A smart surge protector does more than give you additional outlet space. A smart surge protector turns off electronics when they’re not in use, which stops you from using “phantom energy” and slashes your electric bill. A smart surge protector can also protect your electronics from damage in the event of a power surge, but a regular surge protector can do that as well.
Smart surge protectors are usually sold for around $20, so they’re affordable and can keep you from spending more money down the road either on your energy bills or from replacing fried electronics.
7. Laundry Tips
Doing laundry takes up a large portion of the energy used in your home. According to Energy Star, 90% of the energy used to operate a washing machine is for heating the water. To save on your energy bills, wash as many loads of laundry as you can with a cold-water cycle. Even cutting your hot cycle to a warm cycle will save 50% more energy. Try to do as few loads as possible. The less you use your washing machine, the less energy is consumed.
For drying your clothes, put your washing machine on a high spin cycle as this will dry your clothes faster and reduce the time your clothes are in the dryer. You can also attempt to hang-dry your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer. Avoiding running the dryer will save you energy. Don’t forget to clean the lint trap as well! Dryers run more effectively when the lint trap is clean because the air circulation improves.
These little tips and tricks on in-house energy conservation might not seem like much individually, but when you combine them together, you have a chance at saving some serious money without even blinking. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be doing your part in helping to reduce carbon emissions. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.