Written By: Lauren Anderson
Infographics By: Lauren Anderson
Start saving money with these smart energy tips:
With every year that goes by, it feels like being a homeowner gets more expensive. There’s not a lot left over once all the bills are paid. Every dollar you can save—whether it’s for a rainy day, for a college fund, or for a vacation—counts. With this in mind, let’s review the one bill you actually can lower: your electric and gas costs. By making energy-efficiency improvements and taking steps to reduce your home’s energy use, you can set yourself up for long-term savings.
In this article, we’ll review several ways to limit the money you spend on heating and cooling, which makes up the largest portion of your energy bills. Let’s dive in!
Install a programmable thermostat
By now, you probably know several family members, friends, and neighbors who have smart thermostats in their homes. These advanced thermostats have exploded in popularity over the past few years—and for good reason. They’re convenient, easy-to-use, and can actually save you money over the course of the year.
Also known as “programmable” thermostats, smart thermostats allow you to set automated temperature changes ahead of time, building a schedule for your home’s indoor temperature. If you know you’re going to be at work 8-5 every weekday, you can set your heater’s thermostat to automatically move the temperature lower as you leave, and then warm things back up before you get home.
So, how exactly does this automation save you money? A significant amount of energy gets wasted every year when we leave for work or vacation and forget to turn the thermostat dial. Taking that responsibility out of our hands results in a 10-15% savings on our cooling and heating bills. If you’re looking to cut the amount you’re spending on your indoor comfort, you should strongly consider upgrading to a smart thermostat.
Make your home more energy-efficient
On the whole, most homes could stand to become more energy-efficient. Whether there are air leaks, inefficient appliances, or insufficient insulation, your home could be wasting energy (and money!) every month without you realizing it.
If you’re setting out to make your home more efficient, start with your attic insulation. Insulation is essential to your home’s efficiency: it prevents the movement of heat energy through the roof of your home. In the winter, insulation traps heated air below and keeps it from rising. In the summer, it blocks heat from pushing through the roof and into the living spaces of your home. Yet, many homes don’t have enough attic insulation, which means their owners are leaving money on the table.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to insulation. The amount of insulation you need depends on where you live. Generally speaking, homes in colder winter climates need more insulation: a home in Florida needs less attic insulation than one in North Dakota. You’ll need your current insulation measured and—if more is needed—either foam or blown-in cellulose insulation will need to be added.
Schedule seasonal tune-ups
When was the last time you had your air conditioner or furnace looked at by a professional? If the answer is either “years” or, worse, “never,” you need to schedule a seasonal tune-up. A cooling or heating system that goes too long without maintenance is going to work inefficiently, be more likely to break down, and probably run into a number of other problems.
The best time to schedule your furnace tune-up is in the early fall, right before nighttime temperatures drop and you need to turn on the system for the first time. Call a local HVAC professional and have them out to inspect and maintain your system. For gas furnaces, they’ll perform a safety check to ensure the heater is operating properly, and then clean and optimize the system for maximum efficiency.
All told, a seasonal tune-up can save you money on two fronts. First, maintenance makes an in-season breakdown much more unlikely, which could save you hundreds of dollars on repairs you would have had to make otherwise. Second, by improving the efficiency of your system, a cooling or heating tune-up lowers your monthly energy bills. When both of these factors are taken into consideration, most tune-up visits end up paying for themselves!
Put your home on the road to savings
What we’ve discussed so far is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making your home more energy-efficient. There’s so much more—from sealing your air ducts to caulking around your windows—you can do to lower your monthly energy bills and keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.