5 Short- And Long-Term Strategies To Slash Your Electric Bill

Does sticker shock have you afraid to open your electric bill each month? Understanding exactly how electricity is used in the average home can help you cut your consumption and keep energy bills in check. Consider these top five energy hogs, then check out your short and long-term options for cutting electricity use in each category.

Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling the home accounts for almost 50 percent of energy use in the average home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  While this may seem insurmountable – you have to keep your home comfortable year-round – you actually have much more control of heating and cooling costs than you may think. Cut costs in the short-term by properly maintaining your furnace or air conditioner, which can boost efficiency and extend equipment life. If your bill seems unusually high during the peak summer or winter months, contact a qualified heating repair or HVAC company to determine whether there's a problem with your system.

In the long-run, consider switching to a more efficient system to save big bucks. For example, homeowners who rely on electric heat can swap baseboard heaters for an air-source heat pump to cut the amount of electricity used for heating by 50 percent. Of course, electricity is by far the least efficient way to heat the home, so consider a switch to natural gas or oil when it's time to ditch your furnace. Talk with a professional service, like RA Styron Heating and Air Conditioning, about installing a more efficient system.

Hot Water

An average of 18 percent of residential electricity consumption in the United States goes to heating water for bathing, dishes and washing clothes. In the short-term, your best bet for saving is to simply use less water; run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full and take shorter showers. You can also insulate both your water heater and the first six feet of pipe extending from the unit to save even more.

Cut water heating costs in the long-run by swapping out an older unit with a newer, more efficient model. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heaters last 10 to 15 years, but they can become less efficient over time. Upgrade to a new unit or abandon the tank-style heater for highly-efficient instant-hot units, which provide water on demand instead of constantly heating a tank of water you may not need.

Lighting

Five percent of the electricity used in homes typically goes to lighting. Cut lighting costs immediately by making an effort to turn off lights when they aren't needed – install occupancy sensors if you tend to forget to switch lights off regularly. When possible, use task lights instead of large, overhead bulbs to direct light only where you need it and minimize waste.

In the long run, reduce lighting costs even further with better bulbs. A whopping 90 percent of the electricity used by old-school incandescent bulbs is generated as heat, not light. That means not only are you wasting money on lighting, but you're adding unwanted heat to the home during the summer, which can increase cooling costs. In contrast, LED lights use just 20-30 percent of the energy.

Refrigeration

Keeping food cool can account for around 5 percent of your electric bill. Cut costs immediately and boost efficiency by cleaning the coils on your unit, which are located either at the bottom or underneath the refrigerator.

For the long-term, consider updating to a newer, more efficient model, such as one certified under the Department of Energy's Energy Star program. Depending on where you live, rebates and other incentives provided by government agencies or utility companies may help offset the cost of your upgrade.

Other Uses

The easiest way to cut energy use in other categories, which account for around 24 percent of electric use, is to simply turn things off when you're not using them. Remember that chargers and other electronic equipment can drain energy even when you're not using them, so unplug them when possible, or use power strips that you can switch off as needed.

In the long-run, save energy by replacing old, worn-out electronics and appliances with upgraded models. Consider the lifetime cost of new electronics and appliances when it's time to replace them. That means considering both the initial price and operating costs over time. This strategy may mean bypassing the cheapest version of an electronic item for one that costs a few dollars more, but will save you on energy costs for many years, resulting in substantial savings overall.

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