(BPT) – Winter is upon us, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the average household could pay up to 29% more for natural gas and 5.5% more for electricity this year. Not surprisingly, a recent survey showed that 43% of Americans are worried about these higher utility costs given the already growing price tag for food, gas and other goods.
The good news is there are several steps you can take to offset rising energy bills. If your utility offers a home energy report, that is a great place to start. These reports give a personalized view into how you are using energy, and ways to save. Many utilities also offer programs that save you money for avoiding energy use during peak times or will send you a high-bill alert message if your bill is trending higher.
By taking advantage of these programs not only can you save money this winter (and year-round), but they also have the bonus impact of reducing your carbon footprint. New research from The Brattle Group and Oracle Utilities Opower reveals that by 2040, people taking actions (even small ones), can reduce as much greenhouse emissions as retiring half the coal plants in the U.S.
From working with hundreds of utilities across the U.S. to help people save money, energy and reduce their impact on the environment, we collected a series of additional tips that have been proven to help reduce energy bills:
Weatherize your home
Many utilities offer free home energy audits to help prioritize your home upgrades. Better insulation and air sealing can save up to 15% on your energy costs. Alternatively, you can apply inexpensive weatherstripping, caulk, foam and even rolled-up towels to block air leaks around windows and doors to make a significant difference in your energy bill.
Use a smart thermostat
The typical household spends about half of its energy costs on heating and cooling. Simply setting back your smart thermostat 7-10°F for eight hours a day can save you up to 10% on your annual heating and cooling costs. For optimal savings, set a temperature schedule on your smart thermostat through a mobile app. Many utilities offer programs to purchase a smart thermostat at a reduced cost, so be sure to see if your energy provider offers this kind of deal.
Reduce ‘always-on’ energy use
Always-on use is energy consumed when appliances, electronics and other equipment are in standby, sleep mode or left fully on, but inactive. Since many American homes run more than 50 devices, always-on use can be around 20% of total household electricity use. Power strips that can be switched off at night help reduce this “phantom” load.
Lower your water heater’s temperature
On average, hot water accounts for about 18% of home energy use. You can save up to 22% of energy spent on water heating annually by lowering your water heater temperature. For most households, dialing the temperature back to 120°F is sufficient and safe. Washing laundry in cold water can also make an impact.
Install a heat pump
If you need a new heating system and air conditioner, consider installing a heat pump. They collect heat from the air, water or ground outside your home and concentrate it for use inside. Today’s heat pumps can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 50%. High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months.
Replace inefficient light bulbs with LEDs
On average, U.S. households use about 10% of their total electricity consumption for lighting. Incandescent bulbs can be replaced with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs that use at least 75% less energy to produce the same amount of light. Although they cost more to buy, LED bulbs last 25 times longer and cost much less to keep on, saving a lot of money in the long run.
Upgrade to ENERGY STAR® appliances
ENERGY STAR certified products (based on U.S. Department of Energy testing) can save you up to 30% of your home energy costs. The ENERGY STAR label can be found on efficient models of many products. Certified models often run more quietly, last longer and are more convenient to use than conventional models.