Utility Bill Blues: 10 Good Habits To Turn Things Around and Save Money


If your utility bill seemed abnormally high in 2022, and hasn’t gone down much in 2023, you’re not imagining things. Electricity prices skyrocketed in 2022 by 14%, according to Utility Dive, which is almost double the rate of inflation.

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While there is some hope that energy prices will fall this year, anything you can do to help save money while you wait will help your bottom line. Fortunately, there are a number of good habits that can significantly reduce energy use, and thus lower your bill. Here are 10 ways to get you started.

Look for Leaks

Even if you can’t feel a breeze when you sit by your windows, the fact is that poorly sealed windows and doors are a high cause of energy loss in a home. According to Energy.Gov, the energy you lose through windows and doors causes about up to 30% of your energy usage, and you probably don’t even know it’s happening.

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Windows may need fresh caulking, weatherstripping, or you may need to invest in new energy-efficient windows altogether, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Seal Up Outlets

Another surprising place where you might be unwittingly letting air in, and energy out, is through your electrical outlets, baseboards and cracks in flooring, particularly in older houses, according to NRDC. It’s worth having an energy inspection to find all these leaks and then caulk, strip or otherwise plug them up.

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Close the Curtains (in Winter and Summer)

It may seem more obvious that closing curtains in the warmer months reduces energy usage by preventing the sun from warming up rooms. But did you know that keeping curtains closed in winter also prevents cooler air from creeping in?

Of course, there are some considerations for the kind of curtains. According to SFGate, you want to opt for a heavier weight or even thermal-resistant curtain. Additionally, the closer the curtain is to the window, the better protection it offers. The only possible downside is if closing curtains means you need to turn on lights more regularly than you would otherwise However, if you invest in LED over incandescent bulbs, you should be okay.

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Lower the Thermostat 

It makes sense that lowering your thermostat is likely to save you money — up to 10%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). However, you don’t have to turn it back as far as you think.

Just lowering it 7 to 10 degrees more than your normal setting for eight hours can make a huge difference in your bill (particularly if you live in a milder climate). One way to hack that is to just lower the temperature to what the DOE deems the perfect temperature, 68 degrees, at night while you sleep, and then you can run your regular setting during the day if you’re home, or keep it on low until you get home.

Get a Smart Thermostat

Even better, if you don’t want to have to be manually messing around with your thermostat settings all the time, simplify the process by investing in a smart thermostat, which allows you to program the temperature to specific times of day.

Install Smart Power Strips

People may not realize that many of your devices use a small amount of energy, called “phantom power” by the NRDC, if they are plugged in — even when they’re turned off. In an ideal world, you could just run around and unplug a few devices, but in our ever more complex, digital lives that would be unrealistic.

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Smart power strips come with an on/off switch that makes it easy to turn off all the devices plugged into them. These also tend to be safer in preventing circuit overload.

Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LEDs

Another big area of energy loss is through the extraordinarily heat and energy-producing incandescent light bulbs. Instead, replace these with LED lights (light-emitting diodes).

You’ll know incandescent bulbs because they get physically hot to the touch, and “burn out” often with a fritzing noise and a puff of smoke. LEDs, on the other hand, don’t rely on heat for their light. They produce a whopping 75% less energy than the old school bulbs and last as much as 25 times longer than incandescent lighting, according to the DOE.

Run Large Appliances at Night

If you didn’t know already, most utilities offer lower rates on energy use at off-peak hours, typically in the evening hours after most people have gone to bed — say after 9pm in many municipalities. As such, it’s a great time to run those appliances that take a lot more energy, such as a dishwasher or a dryer.

Buy Energy Star Appliances

While most of the tips on this list so far are pretty easy to make habits or lifestyle changes, if you are in the market for new appliances, a safe bet is to invest in Energy Star appliances. These products have to meet strict guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are guaranteed to be more energy efficient than others.

You can visit the Energy Star Website to find out which products qualify, or look for the sticker on appliances before you buy.

Get Solar Panels

Perhaps the biggest investment you could make in energy efficiency would be to purchase or lease a solar panel system for your home, drawing upon the sun’s raw energy to power most of your electrical needs. While these can be costly, many cities and states have tax deductions or rebates for purchasing them, so investigate those options before you drop any cash.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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