How to lower your electric bill

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Electricity bills have a way of sneaking up on us. Did you know that, on average, Americans spend over $1,400 per year on electricity? That's a lot of money that could be better spent on vacations, concerts or other, more responsible, uses. Whether you're motivated by the desire to save money, reduce your environmental impact, or both, we've got strategies on how to lower your electric bill.

How to read your electric bill

Many people don’t fully comprehend their monthly electric bill. But if you don’t understand your bill, how can you know how to reduce it? By familiarizing yourself with these key elements of your electric bill, you can gain insights into your energy usage and costs. This knowledge enables you to make informed decisions about how to reduce your consumption and, ultimately, how to lower your electric bills. Let's look at the key elements of a typical electric bill so you can decipher the information and make informed decisions about your power usage.

  • Billing period and account information – The top section of your bill typically displays the billing period and your account information. Verify that these details are accurate to be sure you're being charged correctly.
  • Usage summary – This section includes the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) you used, which is a measure of your electricity consumption. By comparing this figure to previous months, you can track your usage patterns.
  • Rate information – The rate you're charged per kWh helps you calculate your charges and identify the cost associated with your usage.
  • Service and delivery charges – These cover the cost of maintaining the infrastructure and delivering electricity to your home.
  • Taxes and fees – Additional taxes and fees may be included in your bill, contributing to the overall cost.
  • Total amount due –This is the amount you need to pay by the due date to avoid late fees or service interruptions.
  • Usage history – Some electric bills include a usage history graph of your energy consumption over several billing cycles. This can help you identify seasonal trends and assess the effectiveness of your energy-saving efforts.
  • Messages and tips – Keep an eye out for any messages or energy-saving tips provided on your bill. Utility companies often include timely tips to help you reduce your energy consumption and lower your electric bill.

How to make your home more energy-efficient

Optimizing the energy efficiency of your home is a good first step toward lowering your electric bill. The actions in this section not only save you money without compromising comfort or convenience, but also contribute to a more sustainable future.

Seal air leaks
One of the most effective ways to lower your electric bill is by sealing air leaks in your home. Gaps around windows and doors allow air to escape, forcing your heating or cooling system to work harder to overcome the temperature outside. By sealing these leaks with caulk or weatherstripping, you can keep your home more comfortable year-round and reduce energy waste.

Add insulation
Proper insulation in attics, walls and floors helps maintain a consistent temperature inside your home, reducing the need for heating or cooling. The upfront investment can lead to significant long-term savings on your electric bill.

Upgrade your appliances
Outdated appliances often require more energy than newer ones. When shopping for new appliances, consider upgrading to newer, more energy-efficient models. Look for the ENERGY STAR label, as these have been certified by the EPA for their energy-saving capabilities. While the initial cost may seem steep, the savings on your electric bill over time will justify the investment.

Use a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat is a smart addition to your home that can lead to substantial electric bill savings. These devices allow you to set specific temperature schedules, automatically adjusting when you're asleep or away. By optimizing your heating and cooling cycles, a programmable thermostat stops you from wasting energy when it's not needed.

Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
Lighting can account for a significant portion of your electric bill. Replace old incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient alternatives like LED or CFL bulbs. Not only do these bulbs use less energy, but they also last much longer, reducing the frequency of replacements.

Install energy-efficient windows and insulation
High-quality windows with double or triple glazing and advanced insulation materials can significantly reduce heat transfer, keeping your home comfortable while cutting down on the need for heating or cooling.

By taking these steps to make your home more energy-efficient, you'll be well on your way to achieving your goal of lowering your electric bills while also reducing your carbon footprint. You may also be on your way toward lowering your insurance premiums. Many insurance carriers offer discounts for adding smart or energy-efficient features to your home. The VIU by HUB Advisory Team can help you understand your homeowners insurance implications, if any, of these upgrades.

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How to change your energy habits.

You don’t have to spend money to save money. There are also actions that you can take that can substantially reduce your electric bill. These adjustments are budget-friendly and eco-friendly.

Unplug electronics when not in use
Electronics, even when turned off, can continue to draw power if they're left plugged in, contributing to higher electric bills. Make it a habit to unplug devices like chargers, televisions and gaming consoles when they're not in use. Alternatively, use power strips to easily disconnect multiple devices at once.

Wash clothes in cold water
The energy used to heat water for laundry can add up. To cut costs and reduce your carbon footprint, switch to washing your clothes in cold water. Modern detergents are designed to be effective at lower temperatures, so you won't sacrifice cleanliness.

Dry clothes on a low heat setting
Clothes dryers are notorious for using a lot of energy. To lower your electric bill, consider drying your clothes on a low heat setting or using a drying rack when feasible. Remember how nice Grandma’s laundry smelled after drying on the line in the yard? Doing this helps your clothes last longer in addition to reducing energy consumption.

Air-dry your dishes
Dishwashers often use a lot of energy to heat water and dry dishes. To reduce your energy bill and minimize environmental impact, set your dishwasher to air dry your dishes instead of using the dishwasher's heated drying cycle.

Take shorter showers
By reducing your shower time, you can lower your monthly costs for both energy and water. Installing a low-flow showerhead can also help you use less water while maintaining a comfortable shower experience.

How to take advantage of energy efficiency programs and rebates

Many utility companies and agencies are committed to helping their customers lower their electric bills by offering programs and rebates. These initiatives are designed to incentivize homeowners to reduce their energy consumption.

One common program is the offer of free energy audits. These assessments provide a detailed analysis of your home's energy usage and recommend improvements specific to your home. You can also often find rebates on energy-efficient appliances from your energy company or through governmental programs. These rebates can significantly reduce the initial cost of upgrading to more efficient models, making it a more accessible option.

How to calculate your energy savings

To gauge the impact of your actions, start by comparing your current electric bill to previous bills from corresponding periods. Note the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) consumed and the total cost. Calculate the percentage reduction in both energy usage and expenses. Keep in mind that factors like seasonal variations can influence your energy usage, so year-over-year comparisons may provide a more accurate assessment.

You can also look into energy monitoring devices or apps that provide real-time data on your energy consumption. These tools help you track your usage trends, identify peak usage times and pinpoint specific areas where you can further reduce energy consumption. By regularly monitoring your energy usage and costs, you can fine-tune your efforts.

How to separate fact from fiction

There are several common myths about energy saving that can lead people to make less effective or even counterproductive choices when trying to lower their energy bills or reduce their environmental impact.

Myth: Keeping lights and appliances on uses less energy than turning them off and on repeatedly.
Fact: It's generally more energy-efficient to turn off lights and appliances when they're not in use, even if you plan to use them again shortly. The brief surge of power when turning things on is usually minimal compared to the energy saved during the idle period.

Myth: Closing vents or registers in unused rooms saves energy.
Fact: Closing vents can actually disrupt the balance of your HVAC system and make it work harder, potentially increasing energy consumption. It's more effective to use a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature in unused rooms.

Myth: Keeping a computer running consumes less energy than shutting it down and restarting.
Fact: Turning off your computer when not in use, especially for extended periods, is more energy efficient.

Myth: Energy-efficient appliances are always more expensive than standard ones.
Fact: While energy-efficient appliances may have a slightly higher upfront cost, they typically save you money in the long run through lower energy bills. You’re also more likely to find programs to help with affordability for energy-efficient appliances than standard.

Myth: Space heaters are more energy efficient than central heating.
Fact: Space heaters can be more efficient in heating specific areas, but they can also be energy hogs if used inappropriately. Central heating systems are usually more efficient for maintaining overall home comfort.

Myth: Energy-efficient windows and doors are the only home improvements that matter.
Fact: While efficient windows and doors are important, other upgrades like insulation, sealing air leaks and efficient HVAC systems play a significant role in overall energy savings.

By understanding your electric bill, making home upgrades and modifying your habits, you can make a big impact on your monthly electric bill. Choose some of the strategies above and start your journey to energy efficiency today. The more you do, the more you will save but by choosing even one of these tactics you can feel the benefits of a lower electric bill and a greener lifestyle.

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