According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average summer electricity bill was about $395 last year. That’s a lot of money.
Cutting your utility costs doesn’t have to mean buying a bunch of gadgets or sitting alone in the dark. Here are some low-cost, no-stress, renter-friendly ways to slice your summer utility bills.
Vampires: Slay Queen!
They’re all around us, and we don’t even know it. They’re personal electronics and small appliances that should turn off when you want them to, but continue to suck power and pennies from your meter.
How do you spot a vampire? Anything with a clock or light that’s on when the item is turned off (laptops, cable boxes, coffee machines—you get the idea). Also, any kind of plugged-in charger can be a vampire appliance (cellphones, tablets, etc.), whether or not it’s charging anything.
Luckily, you don’t have to go around plugging and unplugging every time you use an item in your home. Surge protectors or outlets that connect to wall switches can control items around the house, so when the wall switch is off, there’s no more power to drain.
Fans First, AC Second:
Who doesn’t enjoy coming in from frying eggs on the sidewalk and immediately cranking the air conditioning down to a temperature usually reserved for the county morgue?
Unfortunately, while this sounds fantastic in the moment, you’ll probably feel like actually dying once your bill arrives. Icing down the whole house just to cool you off for a few minutes is expensive, doubly so without the right equipment.
Contrary to popular belief, ceiling fans, standing fans, and window fans are still the most energy efficient way to cool a room, because they don’t use nearly as much electricity as an air conditioning unit. Well-placed fans can keep cool air circulating in the house. They also have the added effect of feeling like a wind tunnel if you stand right in front of them, giving you that morgue-fresh chill.
If you’re a renter, there’s a 50/50 chance you were lucky enough to have inherited a clunky, hand-me-down air conditioner as a rental “bonus.” There’s also a very good chance that air conditioner is old enough to vote and not exactly energy efficient. So, make sure you remove the filter and clean it once a month. This will ensure efficient, even air flow. Once that’s done, keep the air conditioner at a reasonable setting and look for other ways to chill when you first come inside. Have a frosty beverage, put a cold compress on the back of your neck, or change into some cool, absorbent clothes.
If you have a newer air conditioner, it will have an energy saver option. When you’re not at home, use the energy saver option on your air conditioner rather than turning it off. This sounds counterintuitive, but the energy saver will keep your house at a cool temperature. If you turn off your air conditioner, the temperature in your house will rise and your air conditioner will need to work harder to cool your house down again when you turn it back on, which will increase your electric bill. Once you’re back at your place for the night, turn off the AC and turn on a fan to continue circulating the cool air.
Hanging heavy drapes in front of windows serves a dual function: they’ll help keep the house cool by keeping the air conditioning in, and they won’t allow sunlight to warm the rooms. If buying drapes for all of the windows in your home is too expensive, you could opt to hang them in the areas of your house that get the most sun exposure or DIY them with light-colored sheets or throw blankets.
Also, try to use as much natural light as possible during the day. If you must use electric lights or lamps, switch from incandescent to CFL (compact florescent) or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. They can help you save substantially on lighting costs. If you’re still using old bulbs you tucked away in your utility closet, now’s the time to make the switch.
PRO TIP: It’s best to run larger appliances, like washing machines and dryers, before 4:00 p.m. and after 7:00 p.m. That way, you’ll reduce the peak electricity demand on hot afternoons.
In the Kitchen:
Kitchens are actually the number one culprits of energy waste in many homes, much of which stems from outdated appliances. Make these quick changes, and you can treat yourself to a hot meal made on someone else’s hot stove:
- For optimal efficiency, change your refrigerator temperature to 36-39 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer to 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, any foodstuffs in your freezer shouldn’t cover the cooling vents. Your fridge will have to work harder to keep your food cool.
- Say goodbye to dish hands. Did you know that your dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand? Run the dishwasher when you have a full load, and then let them air-dry to save even more!
- Use the microwave. Nothing is more energy efficient for cooking than your microwave. It uses 2/3 less energy than your stove, and it wont leave your kitchen feeling like a portal to the equator.
See our list of easy, cost-saving tips!