Lowering the Monthly Electric Bill

Lowering the monthly electric bill can be one of the most significant savings you make. The average annual electric bill for a single-family house is $2,200.[1] Of course, this varies widely depending on where you live, the size of your house and many other factors, but electricity is one the most expensive utilities, regardless. Lowering the electric bill doesn't require sweating, shivering or reading by candlelight. You can make substantial changes without even noticing a difference and then put that savings towards relieving credit card debt.

First, consider where your energy is going. On average, heating accounts for 29 percent of energy use, and cooling for 17 percent. Water heating uses 14 percent and appliances draw 13 percent. Lighting accounts for 12 percent and electronics use 4 percent. The remaining 11 percent goes toward things like ceiling fans, telephones and external power adapters.

Money Saving Tips

Tackling the heating and cooling bills simply requires planning ahead. Before you leave the house for several hours at a time, adjust the thermostat. The HVAC system doesn't need to run full tilt in an empty home. You can even set a timer to have it turn on 30 minutes before you return from work so you can come home to a comfortable house.

If you spend several hours in one room, there is no need to heat the whole house. Invest in a space heater and box fans or window unit for the bedroom, home office or any place you spend time in frequently. Adjust the thermostat for the rest of the house to run the HVAC system less frequently, while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere in the room you are occupying. Small units use a fraction of the electricity that the heating and cooling system uses.

Your heating and cooling bills may also be inordinately high if the HVAC system isn't performing at optimal levels. Change your filters every month to keep the system working its best. Also schedule an annual inspection to make sure everything is in good shape. Finally, make sure the unit is the right size for your home. A cooling unit that is too large uses extra energy and works less efficiently than a unit of the proper size.

In warm climates, keeping solar heat out can keep the house naturally cooler. Close blinds and shades, install shutters and awnings, and even plant trees and shrubs near windows on the sunny side of the house. You can also apply films to the windows. Some are tinted to block solar heat, but the more attractive options have energy-efficient coatings that let in light while blocking heat. Letting in natural light also reduces the need for artificial lights during the day, which can help lower electric bills.

In cold climates, winterize the house against cold drafts and air leakage. Caulk and weatherstrip windows, and apply plastic sheeting to insulate them. There are also tax incentives for buying energy-efficient replacement windows, so consider making an investment that will pay off at tax time and on your monthly electric bills.

Appliances draw energy even when they aren't in use, especially the ones with large black transformers on the plugs. Attach all appliances to a power strip that can be turned off with one switch when they aren't in use. Of course, turning off lights when you leave a room can save energy, but the kind of bulbs you use can have a dramatic effect on your electric bill. Switch all of your bulbs to compact florescent: they use 10 times less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last 10 times longer. They cost a bit more, but they are a smart investment for lowering the monthly electric bill.

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