“Don’t forget to turn off the lights!” For many of us growing up, this was the number one thing we heard about how to save on our energy bills. For decades I’ve dutifully turned them off every time I left the room, and thought I was doing everything I could to lower my bill.
But recently I learned that turning the lights off is no longer the number one thing we can do to drop energy use and lower our bill. About half of homes in the U.S. use more efficient LED lights, and only 15% use incandescent bulbs, bringing lighting costs down significantly. For those of us already using LED bulbs, there are some new adjustments and habits we can build that will lower our bills and reduce energy waste.
Here are the top things to know about what’s fueling your energy bill, what you can do to reduce energy waste without taking on a big home improvement project, and what kind of savings it could bring you.
Before diving into specific tips, it’s helpful to think about a couple general guidelines you can use to decide where you want to put your attention. The first is understanding your biggest sources of energy use. The largest expenses are likely the ones where you have more opportunity to see big savings – and on the other side of that coin, going to great lengths to reduce something that doesn’t cost you much isn’t going to be a good use of your time. If you’re already barely using your dishwasher, for instance, then investing in a solution for it won’t do much for you.
Let’s start by understanding where energy is being used in your home. Every household runs differently, but here’s the average energy breakdown for American homes according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
As you can see, the biggest-ticket items here are temperature control for your home, and heating water. But that doesn’t mean you need to start taking cold showers and over-heating in the summer to save some money – some of these other categories are easier to adjust. Now that we know what’s going into your bill, let’s talk about savings tips.
Here are some of the best options for reducing your energy use and bill, and how much you could potentially save by giving them a go.
Get Rid of Air Leaks:
If you haven’t checked your house for air leaks, you might be throwing money out the (literal) window. If your house is poorly sealed, that means every time you heat or cool your home air escapes through gaps and you won’t be able to stay at your ideal temperature for long. Check for air leaks in places like ceilings, windows, doors, open fireplace dampers, light and plumbing fixtures. If you find any, you can seal leaks with caulk or weatherstrip your doors and windows.
Potential Savings: Proper insulation and sealing can save homeowners up to 15% on heating and cooling costs, or 8% of your energy bill.
Air Dry Your Laundry
The vast majority of energy used to clean your clothes goes into drying them. If you skip the dryer and instead hang your clothes up to dry, you’ll see immediate savings. And a side benefit? Tumble-drying clothing is hard on them, so your clothes will last much longer when they are air-dried.
Potential Savings: If you air dry all your clothing, you’d save about 7% on your energy bill.
De-Fang Your Home’s Energy Vampires:
Yes, there might be a vampire in your house! If you haven’t heard of them, energy vampires are appliances and electronic devices – like printers, computers, and TVs – that slurp down power from your outlet even when they’re not being used. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to cut them off. First off, if you’re getting a new appliance or replacing one, look for an ENERGY STAR appliance – these can reduce vampirism by 25-75%. Another great option is to get a Smart power strip. These can be programmed to turn off at a specific time (like when you’re asleep or at work) or even controlled from your phone.
Potential Savings: Experts say standby power consumption in an average home ranges between 5-10% of your household energy consumption – imagine getting that money back on your bill!
Get a Smart Thermostat:
Since heating and cooling the home is contributing on average to over half of our energy bills, it’s worth fine-tuning this system. If you don’t already have one, a Smart Thermostat is a popular option that will give you more control over temperature and save money. Smart thermostats connect to your home’s Wi-Fi and allow you to control the temperature remotely using your phone. They can help with energy costs by automatically pre-heating or cooling your home, and you can save even more if you connect your Smart Thermostat to OhmConnect.
Potential Savings: On average, homes that install a smart thermostat can save about 8% on heating and cooling. This translates to a reduction of 4% of your total energy bill.
Turn Your Water Heater Down a Notch:
If the hottest temperature on your tap water is scalding, you stand to save a lot with a simple adjustment to your hot water heater. Some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 degrees fahrenheit, but if you lower yours a notch to 120 degrees, you’ll reduce water heating costs every time you take a shower, run your dishwasher, and wash your clothes.
Potential Savings: Depending on how you’re using hot water in your house right now, the Department of Energy estimates this could save 4-22% on your energy bill.
And as a bonus tip, if you live in California, Texas or New York, you can actually become an OhmConnect member and we’ll help you save money on your energy bill automatically (and even pay you to participate).
While there are a ton of worthy projects and investments you can make to reduce energy waste in your home, each of these ideas should only take you a few minutes, or be as simple to do as turning off your lights when you aren’t using them (which you should still do, and will still save you money!).
Not only will they lead to savings on your bill, but they’ll contribute to energy savings more broadly. Homeowners and renters account for 16% of energy used in the U.S., so if we all take steps to reduce energy waste in our homes it’ll have a big impact.