5 surprising ways to save on utility bills
We’re experiencing the hottest summers on record — and that means high utility bills. But you don’t have to break into a sweat over energy costs.
Just ask Dariush Azimi, a physicist and environmental consultant who teaches online math and science courses at University of Phoenix. “In the last 12 months, [our household] used 45 percent less energy than our neighbors, and this saved us $900 per year,” he says. Here’s what you can do to save energy and money:
Manage the thermostat.
Conventional wisdom says to turn off the air conditioner when you’re not home. But doing this can cost you, Azimi says, explaining that it takes a lot of energy to cool hot air.
Instead, install a programmable thermostat to regulate air conditioning use, suggests David Barraza, an instructor in the environmental science program at the University, and an environmental engineer for the city of Tucson, Arizona.
“I’m typically the last one to go to bed, so [at night] I’ll set the thermostat 3 to 5 degrees warmer and use ceiling fans to circulate air for comfort,” Barraza says. He keeps the thermostat at that same level in the morning and doesn’t lower it until the house gets hot in the afternoon.
Be water smart.
You can save on your power and water bills simultaneously, Azimi says, by setting your water heater to “warm” instead of to the maximum temperature, and by washing clothes in cold water.
You can realize more savings, he notes, by using the fewest dishes and utensils possible, cooking one-pot meals and using one plate for all courses. You’ll consume less energy cooking and less water cleaning up.
Azimi has a barrel in his yard to collect rainwater for his plants. “It’s not only free, but also better for the plants,” he says, because rainwater isn’t treated with chlorine. He notes that his yard is planted with native vegetation, which requires less water than grass.
Arrange a power company visit.
Most local power companies will perform a free energy audit on your home. “The audit uses thermography to measure temperature and [identifies] locations in the home that need improvement to reduce energy loss,” Barraza explains, such as better or more insulation and double-paned windows.
Run major appliances at night.
Power companies often charge lower electric rates at night, when demand goes down, so Barraza suggests that you take advantage. “Set your dishwasher timer to turn on after 11 pm [to] save on your electric bill,” he advises.
Do chores the old-fashioned way.
Azimi recommends cooking mostly on the stovetop instead of using the oven. “Most people are not aware,” he notes, “that gas ovens have a large volume [that] needs a lot of natural gas … to get to the desired high temperature.”
His household also eschews some modern conveniences, he adds. “By hanging and drying [our] clothes out in the sun, we not only save energy not using the dryer,” he says, “[but the sun’s] UV rays kill bacteria and other germs … on the clothes.”