Living in a home comes with many joys and benefits, but one downside can be the cost of powering and heating your space. Electricity and gas bills take a chunk out of many homeowners’ budgets each month. Luckily, there are several effective strategies you can use to cut your energy costs and keep more money in your pocket. In this guide, we’ll explore 10 smart tips to lower your power bills as a homeowner.
1. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Appliances
One of the easiest ways to trim your electricity usage is by switching to more energy efficient appliances. When shopping for new refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and air conditioners, look for ENERGY STAR certified models. These appliances meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE). Retiring old, inefficient appliances and upgrading to ENERGY STAR models can reduce your home energy use by 20% or more.
- Prioritize updating appliances you use frequently and that consume a lot of power, like refrigerators and air conditioners. Just one ENERGY STAR refrigerator can save over $270 in electricity over its lifetime!
- Check the yellow EnergyGuide label displaying estimated energy usage and operating costs for different models to compare savings.
- Look for additional savings from energy rebate programs offered by utility companies and retailers. The rebates can knock down the upfront costs of new efficient appliances.
2. Seal Air Leaks and Add Insulation
A surprising amount of cooled or heated air leaks out of homes through small cracks and openings. Over time these air leaks can lead to noticeable energy waste and higher utility bills. Sealing air leaks with caulk and weather stripping and adding insulation keeps conditioned air in your home, saving on the energy needed for heating and cooling.
- Target common trouble spots like windows, doors, pipes, wires, electrical outlets, fireplaces, attics, and unfinished spaces.
- A contractor can perform an energy audit to find and seal leaks. DIY approach: On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick around windows and feel for air movement to detect drafts.
- Recommended insulation levels depend on your climate zone. An insulation contractor can advise on the ideal insulation R-value for your home.
3. Install Double-paned Windows
Single-paned windows with poor seals are a major source of heat transfer and energy loss. Replacing old windows with new double- or triple-paned ENERGY STAR rated models is a smart upgrade for curbing energy waste. New windows insulate better, reducing cooling costs in summer and heating costs in winter.
- High efficiency windows have at least two glass sheets separated by a gas fill like argon to reduce heat conduction.
- Look for low-emissivity (low-E) coatings that improve insulation. Other features like tints and heat-reflective coatings provide climate-specific benefits.
- Tax credits, manufacturer rebates, and utility incentives can offset 30% or more of new window installation costs.
4. Adjust Your Thermostat
Turning your thermostat up or down a few degrees can save energy. Reduce your heating costs in winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F (20°C) or lower when home. In summer, set the air conditioning to 78°F (25°C) or warmer. Turning the temperature down even lower doesn’t cool your home faster.
- Programmable and smart thermostats make temperature adjustment easy. Set a schedule to automatically dial temperatures up or down when not home or asleep.
- Ceiling fans allow you to feel cooler in summer so you can nudge the thermostat higher without sacrificing comfort.
5. Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat
Upgrade to a smart thermostat like the Nest or Ecobee for the ultimate in temperature control convenience and efficiency. Smart thermostats “learn” your household schedule and preferences, then optimize heating and cooling throughout the day for comfort and savings. Additional smart features include:
- Programmable 7-day schedules with energy-saving temperature presets
- Remote temperature adjustment via smartphone
- Motion sensing to detect when you’re home or away
- Integrations with smart home devices and utilities for automated energy optimization
6. Maintain HVAC Systems
Heating and cooling account for close to half of a home’s energy use. Keeping systems well maintained improves their efficiency and prevents costly repairs down the road.
- Replace filters monthly to keep HVAC system airflow unobstructed. Dirty filters make the system work harder.
- Schedule seasonal check-ups to inspect refrigerant levels, ducts for leaks, coils, belts, and other components.
- Clean the condensate drain to prevent water overflow problems.
- Trim plants away from the outdoor condenser unit so air can circulate freely.
7. Go Tankless for Water Heating
Tankless or on-demand water heaters heat water only as needed, unlike conventional tank heaters that run 24/7, maintaining a whole tank. This technology can reduce water heating bills by 20-30%. Tankless heaters have a longer lifespan too.
- Best for homes with access to natural gas. Electric tankless can work for smaller households.
- It may require upgraded electrical service to support necessary power.
- Higher upfront cost but pays for itself in energy savings over time. Look into rebates.
8. Install Low-Flow Fixtures
Cut your water usage with low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets. Using less water means your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard. Scale back your water heater temperature too – 120°F is typically hot enough.
- Low-flow showerheads can save 15,000 gallons of water per year without sacrificing water pressure.
- Replacing pre-1994 toilets with WaterSense-certified high-efficiency models saves nearly 13,000 gallons of water annually.
9. Switch to LED Light Bulbs
Replacing incandescent and compact fluorescent lights with LEDs can reduce lighting costs by 50-75%. LEDs last far longer than traditional bulbs, up to 30,000 hours. Over their lifespan, LEDs save hundreds in energy costs.
- LEDs come in all common bulb shapes, sizes, and colors for an easy switch.
- Leverage utility company instant rebates or discounted bulbs to offset upfront costs.
- Smart LEDs offer features like tunable color, dimming, timers, and voice controls.
10. Add Solar Panels to Your Home
One of the most effective long-term investments homeowners can make to shrink their power bills is adding rooftop solar panels. Harnessing the sun’s free energy can slash your electricity costs by up to 100%. Excess power generated can even be sold back to the grid for additional savings through net metering programs. We’ll explore how home solar energy works and what it takes to go solar.
How do solar panels work?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight into electricity using solar cells, typically made of silicon semiconductors. Panels are wired together into arrays and connected to your home’s electrical system.
The conversion process is:
- Sunlight hits and is absorbed by the PV cells.
- Energy knocks electrons loose in the silicon, causing electricity flow.
- Direct current (DC) electricity generated is converted by an inverter into alternating current (AC) used by home appliances and devices.
- Excess electricity not immediately used powers your home’s circuits or is sent to the utility grid.
What are the benefits of residential solar?
Adding solar panels can yield both immediate and long-term benefits for homeowners, including:
- Lower monthly electricity bills. Sunlight is free, so you can generate your own power instead of buying as much from the utility.
- Protection from rising energy rates. Lock in savings for years since you generate your own supply.
- Increased home value. Homebuyers are willing to pay a premium for a solar-equipped house.
- Tax credits, rebates, and incentives. Take advantage of solar subsidies to recoup 30% or more in costs.
- Clean energy. Using renewable solar offsets fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions.
- Energy independence and resilience. Still have power in outages if the system is battery-backed up.
What factors impact system size and cost?
The ideal solar setup for your home depends on these key factors:
- Location – Sunnier climates produce more energy. South-facing roofs get the most sun exposure.
- Roof size and angle – Panels need adequate unshaded space oriented properly.
- Energy needs – More panels are required for larger homes and bigger energy users.
- Electricity costs – Solar pays off faster in areas with higher utility rates.
- Incentives – Local and federal tax credits and rebates reduce the payback period.
Does my roof need to be replaced before installing solar?
If your existing roof already needs replacing, doing so beforehand is recommended. This allows the roof and solar array to have a common lifetime. However, some solar installers are willing to remove, and reinstall panels when re-roofing is needed down the road.
If your roof is in good shape, overlays can be installed without a roof replacement. Extra racking lifts panels above shingles while providing adequate clearance underneath for air circulation.
Will I still need utility power?
Unless your system includes batteries for power storage, you will still rely partly on your utility when solar production is low like at night. But during sunlit hours, excess energy generation will spin your electricity meter backward to credit your utility account. This feature, known as net metering, lets you tap credits later and significantly lowers bills.
Adding battery storage allows true energy independence but adds cost. With batteries, rely fully on solar day and night during outages.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much maintenance do solar panels require?
Solar PV systems are very low maintenance. Panels need occasional cleaning and visual inspection. Have an expert check connections and inverter operation every 3-5 years.
How long do solar panels last?
Panels still produce over 80% of peak output after 25 years. Many solar equipment warranties cover at least that long. Lifespans up to 40 years are possible.
Can I install solar myself?
Attempting a DIY solar install is not advisable. Permits, inspections, precise roof planning and electrical connections require professional skills. Hire a reputable local solar company for proper installation.
When will my solar system pay for itself?
How fast you recoup your solar investment depends on system cost, available incentives and how much you pay for electricity. In favorable scenarios, the payback period can be under 5 years.
Can I sell excess solar energy back to the utility?
Through net metering programs, utilities can credit homeowners at the retail electricity rate for surplus power fed to the grid. This makes solar even more economical. The credit you receive can vary from state to state.