Tips And Tricks To Save Money On Your Electric Bill

Looking at how you use electricity is a good place to start cutting down on your energy bill. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the cost of electricity is increasing and people are using more electricity than ever. If you want to reduce the amount of money you're spending on electricity, the key is to reduce the amount of power you're using. You probably won't have to make major adjustments to your electricity usage to successfully lower your power bill a bit, as long as you're willing to make a few lifestyle changes or tackle some maintenance projects or upgrades. 


These tips and tricks will help you lower your power bill. Chances are that you'll find more than a few relatively easy and painless changes that can have a big impact right now, as well as identify some upgrades to consider for the future. Choose a few to implement now, then work your way through the list with the options that make sense for your situation. Whatever strategies you decide to try, you're sure to be happy with the end result — a lower power bill.

Reduce lighting usage

You don't have to sit around in the dark to save money on your power bill, but how you use lighting impacts how much you spend on electricity. It's important to consider how you use lighting in your home to ensure you're doing so judiciously. If you're in the habit of flipping the light switch or turning on a lamp every time you go into a room, even during daylight hours when plenty of light is coming in the windows, you're probably spending too much money to light your home. Use lights when you need them, but not just because you're in the habit of doing so. 


Leaving lights on in empty rooms can also contribute to a higher-than-necessary electric bill. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends turning lights off any time you're going to be out of an area for 15 minutes or longer to reduce your electricity consumption. If you're willing to invest a bit now to reduce your power bill on an ongoing basis, consider installing a motion sensor in highly tracked rooms that'll automatically turn the lights off when the room is empty. 

Use LED lightbulbs throughout your house

Taking care to only use overhead lights and lamps can make a dent in your power bill, but that's not the only lighting-related change that can help you save money. The type of light bulb you use is a big factor in how much it costs to light your living space. If you're still using incandescent bulbs in any of your light fixtures, you're spending more than you need to every time you turn on the light. The best solution is replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient LED bulbs. Not only does it cost about 75% less to operate LED bulbs than incandescent ones, but LEDs also last a whole lot longer. You could also swap out your incandescent lights for CFL bulbs, which are better than incandescent lightbulbs but are less energy-efficient than LED bulbs. For maximum impact on your power bill, go with LED bulbs in all of your lighting fixtures. 


Unplug electronics when not in use

Unnecessary lighting isn't the only culprit driving up your power bill. Lights only use energy when they're on, but that's not the case with everything using electricity in your house. Many electrical devices draw power any time they're plugged in, even if they're not in use. For example, if you have an Instant Pot, the display on the front will show the word "off" in red letters when it's plugged in but not actively being used. It takes power for those letters to show up, so simply having this appliance plugged in will increase your power bill. 


This type of energy usage is called phantom power or standby power, and it can add up. Many small appliances draw phantom power, as do a lot of televisions, gaming consoles, phone chargers, computers, tablets, and other devices. Anything with a light or display that's active when it's plugged in but not being used is constantly using electricity. If you get in the habit of unplugging these "always on" items when you're not using them, the result will be a lower power bill. Make it easy on yourself by using power strips that have an on/off switch. That way, you'll be able to shut these items all the way off without constantly having to plug and unplug multiple devices to/from the wall.

Do energy-heavy tasks during off-peak hours

Electricity rates can vary by time of day, a factor that you can use to your advantage when your goal is to reduce your power bill. Scheduling tasks that require the most electricity for off-peak hours, when power costs less than during peak hours, can be a great strategy to cut your power bill. Once you know when electricity is the cheapest, you can get in the habit of doing laundry, running the dishwasher, and other power-heavy tasks that don't have to be done at a certain time of day during that timeframe. 


As with power rates, peak vs. off-peak designations vary greatly by location and power provider, so you'll need to check with your power company to find out the schedule for your area. You may find this information printed on your power bill or the provider's website; if not, contact their customer service department for details. Depending on where you live, you may also find that rates vary not just by time of day, but by the season of the year. 

Seal air leaks

If you have an air conditioner or use electricity for heating, keeping the climate-controlled air inside your home is one of the best ways to keep your power bill as low as possible. When your HVAC unit is in use, it's important to keep your windows and doors closed, but that's not always enough. After all, doors and windows don't have to be open to let air out or in — and they're not the only openings through which air can enter or escape your home. To minimize the cost of keeping your living space at a comfortable temperature, find any air leaks in your home and seal them. 


As you find leaks, seal them up with caulk, weatherstripping, or other appropriate materials. The frames around doors and windows are among the largest areas of your home, so they're a good place to start checking for leaks. Once you're sure those large openings are handled, check out other potential places for air leaks, such as switch plates, wall- or ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures, electrical outlets, plumbing fixtures, fireplaces, dryer vents, doggie doors, mail slots, and more. Your diligence will be rewarded with a lower electric bill.  

Add insulation to your home

Insulation factors into how much it costs to heat and cool your home. The better insulated your home is, the less energy it will take to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. As a result, unless your house is already very well insulated, adding insulation under your floors, in your attic, and/or in your walls will help reduce the cost of air conditioning your home during the summer or keeping it warm in the winter. 


Adding insulation is a bigger (and more expensive) home improvement project than caulking or weather stripping to seal air leaks, so it may not be for everyone. However, it can be a worthwhile investment for those who own their living space and plan to stay there for a while. You don't have to do the whole place all at once; you can add insulation a little at a time — as it fits into your budget and schedule. 

Get a lower flow showerhead

If you have an older (pre-1992) showerhead, chances are it uses more water than you need in the shower. Installing a newer, lower-flow shower head can help you reduce both your water bill and your electric bill, assuming that you have an electric water heater and don't take ice-cold showers. Some older shower heads had a flow rate of over five gallons per minute (gpm), while the maximum flow rate a new shower head can have is 2.5 gpm.


Some new models have a flow rate of less than two gallons per minute, which is what you'll want to look for if your goal is to pinch every possible penny in your quest to reduce your power bill. To make sure you're getting a showerhead that'll help you maximize your savings, purchase one that has a WaterSense label on the package. If a lower-flow showerhead isn't in your immediate future, you can also cut back on your expenses in this area simply by taking shorter showers.

Use cold or warm water for laundry

Heating water is the most expensive part of operating a washing machine. It costs much more to wash clothes and linens in hot water than it does in cold water. As much as 90% of the electricity cost associated with running a washing machine is to heat the water. There might be times you truly need to use hot water, such as when washing linens or other items that need to be sanitized. However, chances are that most of your laundry will do just fine with a lower temperature.


So, if you're in the habit of washing all (or most) of your laundry in hot water, you can save money on your electric bill simply by reducing the temperature of the water you use for most loads of laundry. You'll save the most money by using cold water, but switching from hot water to warm water will also lead to a lower power bill.

Properly maintain your dryer

Your dryer is another laundry-related appliance that can have a significant impact on your electricity expenses. You could eliminate the cost of operating a dryer by starting to line-dry all of your laundry, but you don't have to go that far to find some dryer-related savings. The best way to reduce the cost of operating your dryer is to properly maintain it by keeping it clean. 


To start with, it's important to empty the dryer's lint trap regularly — ideally after every cycle. Try to get into the habit of emptying the lint trap every time you empty the dryer, and this step will simply become part of your regular routine. You also need to periodically check and clean out the dryer vent, as debris can get in and clog it. Both of these important dryer maintenance steps can help keep your dryer operating efficiently, which will keep it from having to work extra hard (and use extra power) to dry your clothes. 

Only run your dishwasher when it's full

Your washing machine isn't the only household appliance that uses a good bit of water and electricity each time you run it. A dishwasher doesn't use as much water as a washing machine — six gallons per dishwasher cycle as opposed to 25 gallons per load of laundry — but hot water is an absolute must when washing dishes. Dishwashers generally heat water to at least 135° Fahrenheit. This hot temperature is needed to help remove stuck-on food and grease, as well as to dissolve dishwashing detergent so it can do its job.  


As a result, every time you run your dishwasher, you're using electricity to power the appliance and to heat the water it uses to clean. There's no cold water setting on a dishwasher. To reduce the energy cost associated with operating your dishwasher, the best practice is to wait until the appliance is full to run it. If you're in the habit of running it after every meal, holding off until it's full can help you save some bucks on your power bill. You can further reduce your bill by turning off the dry cycle and allowing your clean dishes to air dry. 

Change your thermostat habits

While costs can vary widely based on climate and temperature preferences, heating and cooling account for over 45% of household energy costs, on average. With that in mind, it's easy to see how much impact the way you use your heating, venting, and cooling (HVAC) system can have on your power bill — especially if you rely on electricity to both cool and heat your home. 


You don't have to set your thermostat so high or low that you and the other members of your household are uncomfortable. However, it's in your budgetary best interest to choose a reasonable temperature setting and to take steps to minimize HVAC usage when it's not needed. EnergyStar recommends a winter setting of no more than 70° Fahrenheit during waking hours when you're at home, with a lower setting overnight or when the house is empty. During the summer, set your thermostat to the highest comfortable level when you're at home, with a higher setting when you're away. You can adjust manually or install a programmable thermostat to automate regular adjustments.

Properly maintain your HVAC system

The setting on your thermostat can have a significant impact on your HVAC operation costs, but so can the condition of your unit. An HVAC system works hard most of the time, which means that it needs regular TLC to function at peak capacity. Proper maintenance starts with cleaning or changing the air filters every month during times of year when your HVAC unit is running steadily. You can most likely cut back to every few months when the unit isn't operating as frequently. 


You should also regularly check out the ducts on your HVAC system to look for any air leaks that need to be sealed. It's also a good idea to bring in a professional to inspect and service your HVAC system at least once per year, as they can identify and address additional issues that may be preventing your unit from operating efficiently. The more efficiently your HVAC system can operate, the less power it will use. 

Avoid setting your fridge or freezer too cold

Speaking of temperature control, it's important to think about how you store perishable food. Of course, you need at least one refrigerator/freezer combination to be able to safely keep perishable food in your home. Whether you have just one or several, setting the temperature to an optimal level can help you cut back on your power bill while also helping you make the most of your food budget. 


The temperature setting can significantly impact how much it costs to operate a refrigerator or freezer. A refrigerator should be kept between 35°Fahrenhiet and 38°Fahrenheit — any warmer and your food won't stay fresh or safe for as long as it otherwise could. A freezer should be set to 0° Fahrenheit. There are sub-zero freezers, but that's not necessary for a typical household. If you're keeping your refrigerator or freezer colder than optimal, then you're paying for more electricity than is necessary. Additionally, it's important to avoid opening the door of your fridge or freezer more than necessary and, once open, close it as quickly as possible.

Regular fridge/freezer maintenance

Properly setting the temperature on your refrigerator and freezer can help keep you from paying extra to drop the temperature lower than it needs to be. However, that's not the only way to minimize the operating cost of these cooling appliances. As with most household appliances, refrigerators and freezers require maintenance to operate efficiently. Periodically cleaning the coils of your fridge can help with temperature regulation and efficiency, as they can quickly get clogged up with things like dust and pet hair. This quick maintenance chore that'll help your unit reach and maintain the desired temperature much more easily and quickly than if the coils were dirty, resulting in lower power usage via more efficient operation. 


If you have a freezer that doesn't have an automatic defrost setting, you'll also need to periodically defrost your freezer so it can function efficiently. You should also check the seal regularly to verify that cold air isn't escaping your refrigerator or fridge, a problem that will cause the compressor to run more frequently to keep the unit cold.

Reduce oven usage

If you're in the habit of heating your electric oven to cook or heat just one dish, chances are that you're spending more on energy for cooking than you have to. It makes sense to use the oven when the racks are full of dishes to bake, and while ovens aren't huge energy hogs, any time you use a large electrical appliance to do something that would work just as well in a smaller one that uses less power, you're running up your power bill. 


Some foods — like bread and cookies — truly need to be baked in an oven, but many things do not. For example, leftovers taste just as good (and are ready faster) when heated in a microwave — which uses 80% less power than an oven. A microwave isn't the only small appliance that's more economical to operate than a full-size oven. Rather than cooking a roast in your oven at a high temperature, a slow cooker, electric multicooker, or stovetop pressure cooker will get the job done just as well, with much less power required.

Install energy efficient upgrades

Sometimes the best way to save money starts with spending money. To cut your energy costs as much as possible, set aside funds to invest in energy-efficient upgrades as your budget allows. This type of investment can help you reduce your electricity consumption for many years to come. Home improvement and renovation options you may want to consider include: 

  • If your appliances and large electronics are older models, consider investing in new ones that are Energy Star certified, as they're specifically designed for maximum efficiency. 
  • If your home has older windows that still seem to be leaky no matter how carefully you seal them, it may be time to start installing energy-efficient windows a few at a time. 
  • If you're ready to go all-in with energy efficiency, take the plunge and install solar panels. You'll likely recover the upfront cost in energy savings over several years. 

If you're considering options like these, be sure to conduct thorough research before making any big decisions. Contact your power company to find out if there are any grants or low-cost financing programs available to customers in your area. You don't have to make big changes all at once to start seeing your power bill move in the right direction.