5 Expert Tips To Reduce Your Utility Bill as Winter Approaches: Energy Audits, Hibernate Mode and More

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We are less than two weeks away from the official start of winter, and while temperatures have so far been mild across the country, that can soon change. Much like everything else that is being affected by inflation, utility bills are going to hit a peak this winter, with many companies saying bills could hike by 32%, per the New York Times. The latest Consumer Price Index data, released Nov. 10, also mirrors these projections.

The energy index as a whole rose by 1.8% at the end of October, after three previous months where those prices decreased. And though prices for natural gas actually fell for the month — down by 4.6% after it rose by 2.9% in September — electricity costs are up 0.1%. Year-over-year analysis shows where these prices are really impactful: Compared to 2021, we are now paying 14.1% more for electricity and 20% more for natural gas.

So, is there anything you can do to save money this winter?

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GOBankingRates recently spoke with Greg Fasullo, a national home energy efficiency expert and CEO of Arizona-based Elevation, one of the largest residential solar energy companies in the U.S. Fasullo had one central piece of advice: Get an energy audit of your home.

It’s a small investment to make, said Fasullo, adding the fee starts around $100 and goes up to $500 — but the audit can help you find where you are using (or wasting) the most power. Another great bonus is that utility companies will often offer promotions for making any energy efficiency upgrades that will also bring your bill down.

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“You can find a qualified contractor to perform an energy audit to evaluate your home’s energy usage and identify weak points that exist to reduce the guesswork of where to focus home improvements,” said Fasullo.

He recommended checking the Energy Star website to find a list of qualified contractors in your area, or to ask a representative at the utility company for recommendations. “Some utilities companies have programs to cover part or all the costs of an audit,” Fasullo detailed. Plus, “These audits are now eligible for a tax credit through the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Not only that, but utility company rebates for improvements can add up, too. “Varying by state, utility companies will generally have incentives to make home improvements that will conserve energy,” said Fasullo. The Energy Star website also has a “rebate finder” tool to help you unlock potential opportunities.

Insulation, Duct Sealing, Better Window Sealing, and Energy Efficient Appliances Can Help

There are two key areas that are likely to be problematic and increase energy costs, per Fasullo. “Insulation and duct sealing have been found to be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce homeowners’ energy consumption and utility costs… The EPA estimates homeowners can save an average of 15% on their heating and cooling cost by upgrading their insulation. Plus enjoy a more comfortable home, better air quality, better air distribution throughout the house, lower energy usage, and a longer lifespan on heating and cooling equipment. And doing so will put less stress on the power grid and our environment.”

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Fasullo further suggested some other tips: investing in energy monitoring, better window and door sealing, energy efficient appliances, sustainable lighting, and upgraded household electronics.

He added that some of the biggest parts of your electricity expenditure are usually appliances needed for heating and cooling your home. “That means that air conditioners and electric heaters will have the biggest impact on your bill. It’s important to remember that electric water heaters and spas with electric heating can also be big users of electricity.”

He suggested yearly maintenance and changing filters quarterly to ensure these appliances are operating at their highest efficiency. As well, he said, “In recent years, technology has really improved the efficiency of these appliances so in many cases upgrading to a newer model will save money and increase comfort.”

Gaming Consoles, Slow Cookers, Desktop Computers Also Big on Energy Consumption

Other items that use up a lot of energy, per Fasullo, are space heaters, slow cookers and electric car chargers. More moderate draws are desktop computers, TV set-top boxes, gaming consoles, televisions and incandescent light bulbs.

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To conserve energy while using these electronics, Fasullo said: “Try using the sleep or hibernate settings on these devices, if available, to consume the least amount of power when on… For example, if you can reduce your loads by 500w for 12 hours per day that equates to 2190 kWh in a year. At $0.3/kwh that saves $650!”

On the lower end of energy suckers are battery-powered devices such as cell phone chargers and battery-powered vacuums. “Usually, we find that these types of devices are fairly energy efficient,” Fasullo indicated. “They are designed to be portable, and companies usually design these devices to run as long as possible by using the least amount of power. So, generally, we find these are not large vampire loads.”

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Fasullo also said energy monitoring systems — such as Elevation’s The Curb — can be really helpful to see where you are over-using power every month. As he shared, “Devices are being built everyday so the only way to know if your device is an energy hog is to check it yourself with an energy monitor system.”

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined GOBankingRates.com in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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