This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for making the most of your indoor and outdoor spaces.
Here’s how you can add up the bills: In the US, the average household spent $117 per month on their electric bill in 2020, an increase of more than $1,400 per year. Since then, gas and water bills and energy prices have increased by 30%, according to the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association (PDF).
There isn’t much you can do to affect energy costs, but you can reduce energy use. Small changes when unplugging unplugged appliances, washing, cooking or adjusting your thermostat can save a little money and make your home more efficient. Here are seven steps you can take to start saving on electricity, gas, water… and cash.
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get an electrical check done
Many electricity companies offer a free audit where they examine your home room by room and look at your utility bills to see where you are wasting energy. You can follow their recommendations to lower your electricity bill.
Even if your electric company doesn’t offer this service, you can easily conduct a home improvement energy audit using the instructions on the US Department of Energy’s website.
Set your thermostat
One of the easiest ways to lower your electric bills is to adjust your thermostat. According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling bills by adjusting your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees 8 hours a day. In other words, keep it a little warm in the summer and a little cool in the winter.
One easy way to do this is to set your thermostat while you’re sleeping or away from home. If you have a smart thermostat, you can set your thermostat to adjust during these times so you don’t forget.
turn off your water heater
Many water heater manufacturers set the thermostats at 60°C. But in reality, most households need to be set to a maximum of 120F. Setting your water heater to a lower temperature can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Adjusting the water heater temperature is a quick and easy fix. The thermostatic regulator on your water heater is likely located on the flow or gas control valve near the bottom of the tank. Be sure to consult the user manual for setup instructions – and consult a professional technician if you have any questions.
By customizing your water heater, you can save on electricity and cut bills.
Turn off and unplug what you’re not using
By leaving things plugged in and turned on in your home when you’re not using them, you’re unnecessarily increasing your electric bills.
You can start turning off the lights when you’re not in the room or when there’s enough light outside to fully rely on natural light. Lightbulbs use 4 cents an hour for 40 watts (although the average American will probably pay more). This amount only increases with the wattage of the bulb. While that doesn’t sound like much, it can add up over time.
You can also save money by unplugging devices you’re not using. Phantom Energy The average cost of energy consumed when your device is not turned on when connected to AC power can be $100 per year.
Use your dishwasher
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest a device run to save on your electricity bill. And yes, there was a time when dishwashers used a lot more water than they do today. But the Department of Energy controls how much water modern dishwashers can use. Every dishwasher made since 2013 is limited to using 5 gallons of water. If it’s a compact dishwasher, it’s limited to 3.5 gallons.
You might think that you certainly use less than 5 gallons of water to wash your dishes. But the US Geological Survey estimates that it takes 9 to 27 gallons of water to handwash many dishes.
Benefit from additional tariffs
Electricity consumption is high at certain times of the day and year. First, demand is higher in winter and summer when the heating and air conditioning are on. It is also higher during the day and in the evening hours.
Some utilities offer periodic usage plans that increase tariffs during peak periods and reduce them during off-peak periods. If you have one of these plans, you can save money by running large appliances like your dishwasher and washing machine early in the morning or late at night.
change your air filter
Your air filter helps trap dirt, dust, pet hair, and more, preventing them from entering your air conditioner. If you don’t change your air filter regularly enough, this debris will get into your HVAC system and clog it, reducing its efficiency. According to the Department of Energy, replacing your filter on time can reduce your air conditioner’s energy use by 5 to 15%.
There are many steps, big and small, you can take to reduce your consumption and save money on your bills. The Department of Energy has set up a whole section on its website with tips on how to save energy. And while many of them come with a price tag, there are plenty more on this list that you can use for free.