I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to save even more on our energy bills. Every year I take an overall audit of our spending (both natural gas and electricity) and try to beat our spending from the year before. This began in 2010 because of my need to know we had not purchased too much home for our energy budget (the year before when we purchased our home, I asked the owner what he spent on energy in the summers and he admitted to a staggering $500!).
Annual Review of Spending on Energy
And so far, we’ve managed to not only beat our previous owners on electric use by a mini-windfall, but also beat the average energy use for homes similar to our size and age. Here’s what our stats look like (natural gas and electricity added together):
- 2010: $1,628.86, 10.8¢ per kWh
- 2011: $1,587.79, 9.1¢ per kWh
- 2012: $1,384.32, 9.4¢ per kWh
- 2013: $1,289.00, 10.5¢ per kWh
I think we’ve done a great job at paring down our energy use over the last four years. So I’d like to share with you 5 of the things we’ve done in hopes that you can cut your energy costs as well.
How to Save Money on Your Electric Bill During Summer
- Check for Natural Gas Leaks: We actually found a natural gas leak outside of our home a year or so ago. I was able to identify it because an unusually large bill we received tipped us off. I went over to the area where natural gas is connected to our home, and sure enough smelled an odor (natural gas is naturally odorless; however, for safety purposes, an odor called mercaptan is added to the pipelines). Also, I heard a small hissing sound near our natural gas line. Not only was this a safety issue, but we were literally sending money into thin air! If you suspect a natural gas leak from an unusually large bill, first off do not go near the area, and secondly, call your natural gas provider. They will send someone out (ours is a free call) to check and troubleshoot.
- Reseal Your Air Duct System: Recently we had an energy audit conducted at our house. Something surprising that came out of this was the need to reseal part of our air duct system. We replaced our Central A/C and furnace unit for the downstairs three years ago, and apparently, some of the sealant needs to be replaced. Fortunately, this is a very cheap thing to do. The auditor let us know that we should purchase what’s called air duct mastic and basically just paint over wherever the original sealant was installed (and we can easily see where it is). Some areas of your duct work may need taping as well, in which case you will want to use something called UL 181.
- Shut Down Part of the System: This is very much behavioral. See, we have two A/C units and two furnaces for our two-story home. But we don’t use the second floor very much. My office is there, and I work for myself, so it gets a fair amount of use. But instead of turning on the A/C for upstairs just for the one room, we put a window unit in my office window and I use it as needed. There is a fair amount of space from the first floor leading into the second, so we also close the doors to the other bedrooms so that not too much air comes up from below. Not only does this save on energy costs, but it also has saved us from having to replace the old Central A/C unit yet (we know it’s coming).
- Unplug this Specific Energy Vampire: Perhaps you aren’t on the unplug-appliances-after-use bandwagon. That’s perfectly fine (though a way to make this more convenient is by plugging multiple things into a power strip and just shutting the one button off before going to bed). However, one thing that you should make a habit of unplugging is your DVR. It turns out that this appliance uses an awful lot of electricity when it is plugged in, even if you’re not using it.
- Install a Water Heater Blanket: If the outside of your water heater tank is warm to the touch (be careful when attempting to figure this out), then you are wasting energy. Fortunately, you can install a water heater blanket to cut down on your energy costs. Another tip for your water heater is to make sure you turn it on “vacation mode” when you are away for a few days. Might as well not heat up water when you won’t be using it!
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