Spending more time at home can naturally increase your utility bill. You might be washing your hands more, powering extra devices, or taking more or longer showers to help you relax. Having access to utilities is so important in our day-to-day lives, but paying for them can be stressful—28% of people polled in a 2020 survey reported paying utility bills as one of their top five money stressors.1 The bright side? If we can feel more in control of our utilities and what they cost, we can feel more confident, feel less stressed, and have a positive effect on the environment, to boot.
As the schooling, working, and entertaining from home trend continues, you can learn how to save on utilities and stress less by trying these 11 tips that may help lower your monthly bills.
1. Make the most of daylight
If you’re looking for ideas on how to save on utilities, sunlight can be your best friend. Plus, it’s free.
“Open or close blinds to make the best use of natural daylight, and take advantage of skylights or other natural daylight sources in your home,” says Energy Star support team member Chris Holm.
Letting as much sunlight in as possible can boost your mood and help warm your home naturally during the winter. Alternatively, during the hot summer months, keeping your blinds closed can help your home stay cooler. The closer the indoor temperature is to the outdoor temperature, the less your heating or air conditioning will cost you by the end of the month.2
2. Leave room to vent
If you haven’t already figured out where all the vents are in your home, it’s time to locate them. Are they blocked by furniture, drapes, or artwork? Make sure the areas in front of the vents are clear so air moves more efficiently throughout your home.
“As much as 25% more energy is required to distribute air if your vents are blocked,” Holm says.
3. Choose ceiling fans
During warmer months, turn on a ceiling fan instead of an air conditioner—then watch your bill melt down. Solar Magazine says investing in a ceiling fan costs roughly $100 and can save you about $500 or more a year.3
4. Change filters more frequently
During peak heating and cooling seasons, your heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems work overtime. See if replacing your air filters every month or two instead of every three months could actually save you money. Although it seems counterintuitive to spend extra on new filters, keeping them clean allows the equipment to run more efficiently. Overworking equipment with dirty filters can cost more while also lowering the quality of indoor air.
5. Turn things off when you don’t need them
It’s official: We’ve become our parents. But they were right—you should turn the lights off when you leave a room. Energy Star estimates that reducing lighting use during the day and relying on natural light instead can reduce lighting expenses by 10 – 40%.4 This rule goes for most of your other electronics in the home, too. Make sure everyone in your home is on the same page, and maybe you’ll notice a difference in your utility bill.
6. Find and seal any leaks
The U.S. Department of Energy says sealing air leaks around windows, doors, and ceilings can save you 5 – 30% a year while making your home more comfortable.5 Air leaks can cause problems both in summer and winter, so this fix benefits your bill year-round. Better yet, you can make the improvements yourself. Head to the store for caulk, spray foam, door sweeps, and weather stripping, then roll up your sleeves.
It’s also possible for air ducts—which transport heating or cooling through your home via your HVAC system—to leak. Some possible signs of leaky ducts include uneven temperatures in different rooms, excessive dust, or seemingly inefficient heating and/or cooling in general.6 If you suspect you have leaky ducts and are unable to pinpoint or fix the problem yourself, you may consider calling a local specialist.
7. Get under the covers
Heating and cooling likely make up the majority of your utility bill. If you live in a fair-weather climate, you could try to stay warm during the winter while still turning the thermostat down by using heated blankets, a heated mattress pad, or simply a warmer comforter. The Department of Energy says you can save as much as 10% a year by simply turning down your thermostat 7° – 10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day.7 Speaking of: If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, or simply haven’t taken the time to program yours for when you’re not home, now may be the time.
8. Try “roughing it” (from home)
Make your energy-saving mission fun and adventurous by planning a weekly camping night—even if it’s in your living room. Move couches, unplug the TV, and set up a tent wherever is comfortable. Tell ghost stories, play cards, and only use flashlights or candles. If it’s warm enough and you enjoy the outdoors, take it outside.
This could even have mental health benefits: Spending a dedicated evening with our loved ones where we’re not focused on devices, TVs, or video games can strengthen relationships and bring us closer together.8
9. Request an audit
Reach out to your utility provider and ask if they provide free or inexpensive energy audits. What does an energy audit do? It locates where your home is losing the most energy. The whole purpose is to pinpoint improvements that can help save energy and reduce your monthly bill. While you’re chatting with the provider, ask if they offer equipment rebates, too.
10. Invest in rooftop solar
The upfront costs of installing a solar rooftop are high, but the savings begin immediately and continue over time. Google’s “Project Sunroof” offers a guess at how much you can save by adding rooftop solar if you put in your address.
EnergySage estimates that over the lifetime of a solar panel system, a home can save $10,000 – $30,0009, but that number depends on how much sunlight you get and even the angle of your roof. Going solar can also reduce your carbon footprint, which is just one more way to feel good.
11. Make ongoing swaps
Keep energy savings on your mind as you eventually replace interior accessories and change out fixtures. Choose energy-efficient replacements like Energy Star–certified major appliances, LED nightlights, energy-saving bulbs, insulated curtains, an outdoor clothesline, or reflective window film.
It’s empowering to know how to save on utilities—it’s a recurring expense that we have the power to change in the future. Taking small steps to control what we can improves our mindset and financial confidence, which can make us happier.