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Like most people, you'd probably like to spend less each month on your utility bills. Powering your home can be expensive, especially when temperatures dip in the winter and spike during the summer. To lower your energy bills, check out these simple changes that can put a little extra cash in your pocket each month.
How to Save on Electricity
Electricity powers most things around your home, and if you don't pay attention, your electric bill can get pretty high. Two of the main ways to reduce the cost of your electric bill are by reducing your overall energy usage and using energy more efficiently. Here are ways you can achieve both.
- Use LED bulbs and dimmer switches. Today's technology now allows you to get the same amount of light from bulbs using less energy. LED lightbulbs emit the same number of lumens (rays of light), but use significantly fewer watts (energy) than their incandescent predecessors. That means that if you install LED bulbs instead of normal light bulbs, you'll use less energy and your electric bill could decrease. These bulbs are more expensive upfront, but remember that your savings over time may be significant and the new bulbs usually last much longer than incandescents. Also, by 2020, consumers will only be able to purchase LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, as federal law will ban retailers from selling the less energy-efficient alternatives.
- Use smart power strips. Power strips serve several functions, chief of which is allowing you to regulate how much energy an electrical device consumes when you're not using it. Some electrical devices—like laptop chargers, washing machines, cable boxes, speakers and more—consume electricity even when they are off. Over the course of a year, this "phantom" power can increase your electric bill. Power strips work by allowing you to shut off the flow of energy to multiple appliances using just one switch. These strips also protect your devices from damage if ever the power surges to that outlet.
- Purchase Energy Star appliances. The Energy Star designation is only given to appliances that meet the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection's (EPA) energy efficiency standards. Purchasing these appliances not only helps limit global energy consumption, but can drastically lower the amount of energy you use in your home.
- Consider adding solar panels. Solar panels produce power by capturing the sun's rays and converting them into usable energy. Adding them to your home will allow you to use the energy produced by your panels instead of purchasing energy from a provider. In some cases, solar panels could sustain all your energy needs, but oftentimes people use them to supplement their current consumption. Installing solar panels can be expensive, but over the course of several years the energy savings should help offset the initial investment.
- Watch for wasteful energy usage. Being mindful around the house can go a long way. Remember to turn off lights and appliances when you're not using them. You can also consider limiting how often you use certain appliances if you know they tend to use a lot of energy. For example, make sure you're washing full loads of laundry instead of doing more loads with less clothes. The same goes for your dishwasher.
How to Save On Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling your home can get expensive quickly. And they're two of the most difficult utility expenses to avoid. Here are some ways to shrink the impact these utilities have on your monthly energy bills:
- Consider a new thermostat. Depending on when your home was built, your old thermostat might actually be costing money you each month. When getting a new thermostat, consider its placement. You'll want it to be centrally located and away from any drafty areas or direct sunlight because many thermostats will react and turn on your heating and cooling systems based on the temperature of where it is located in your home. If the thermostat is kicking on your system more often than necessary, you'll pay more than you need to in energy costs.
New thermostats also offer programming, which allows you to take more control of your home's temperature. If you leave the house every day for work at a set time, for example, you can program your thermostat to use less energy while you're gone.
- Insulate your home. Insulation protects both cold and hot air from getting into and leaking out of your home. In the winter, if you have the heat on but have a poorly insulated home, it could be like trying to heat your home with the windows open. Consider sealing cracks to the outside that let air come in and out. You can also weatherize windows with plastic film that helps create a tighter seal. These simple fixes can be surprisingly effective at conserving energy and keeping your home cooler or warmer, depending on the season.
- Close doors and wear a sweater. This one is simple, but it's easy to forget to close doors and windows when the weather cools. Also considering layering up with a sweater instead of cranking the heat.
How to Save on Hot Water
Hot water can be another extremely expensive part of your utility bills each month. Not only do some people have to pay for water (depending on where they live) but they have to pay to power the device that heats it. This water heater can be powered by gas or electricity and the cost associated with its use can largely depend on which type of energy powers it.
The more hot water you use, the more energy you'll consume trying to heat it. To cut back on this expense, here are a few suggestions of ways you can use less hot water:
- Wash clothes in cold water. If you want to cut back on hot water, this is an easy way to do it. Washing machines use quite a bit of water, and reducing the amount of hot water loads you do could equal savings.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater. If you're not a stickler for having extremely hot water, you may be able to lower the temperature on your water heater, which could cause it to use less energy.
- Fix leaky faucets. Left unfixed, leaky faucets could drain your wallet over time. Try to fix leaky faucets so you're not constantly using water.
- Use hot water more efficiently. Whenever you use an appliance that uses hot water, like a dishwasher, think twice about whether you're using it efficiently. As mentioned above, run the dishwasher only when it is completely full. Also enlist the help of family members by asking everyone to take shorter showers.
How Your Energy Bill Can Affect Your Credit Score
Since utility accounts are not listed in your credit file, utility bills have typically not had a direct impact on credit scores. But if your utility bill becomes too much to handle and you fall behind on your payments, missed or late payments could go to a collection account—which is recorded in your credit file and could negatively affect your scores. Paying all your bills on time can help you avoid getting into a situation that can negatively impact your credit.
Historically, utility payments have not been reported to credit bureaus, which means that the only time they had an impact was if a payment was missed and sent to collections. A new tool called Experian Boost™† , however, changed that, allowing you to increase your FICO® Score* instantly by getting credit for utility and telecom payments.
To find out more about how your utility payments could help you boost your credit scores, check out Experian Boost and consider getting a free copy of your Experian credit report.