20 Tips on Saving on Summer Utilities
Are you getting hot under the collar as the latest utility bill lands in your mail box? Every year seems to be more expensive than the last, doesn't it?
So, as we head into what is typically the hottest and driest weather of the year here in Southern California, thoughts turn to ways we can reduce our utility bills spending, especially on electricity for air conditioning and, of course, on water for home irrigation.
Actually, although Californians pay among the highest rates per consumption unit nationwide for our utilities*, our total power bills tend to be lower because of our climate. But unlike many other states, our electric bills are highest during July and August.
Not surprisingly, water bills are also at their highest now. But the big issue for Californians is not so much about the size of our bills as it is about managing water supply and conservation.
In fact, for all our utilities, there are plenty of ways to keep utility bills down during hot months.
Let's take a closer look.
How Can I Save Money on Utilities? Power Down for Summer!
Here are 10 things you can do to cut back on electricity and natural gas usage in the coming months -- though most of them are good for year-round savings.
- Raise you cooling thermostat a degree or two. It's among the biggest frugal ways to save on utilities and making a significant saving on your bill. And the truth is that most of us barely notice the difference.
- While you're in an A/C frame of mind, have your ducts cleaned and change the filters. Other air conditioning savings include using fans (which are cheaper to run) and replacing your thermostat with a "smart", programmable one. And if you're going to be away for a day or more, turn it off.
- Another useful way of reducing indoor temperatures is to install sun filtering film on your sun-facing windows. This is best done by a professional and will take a couple of years to recoup the cost in savings. Alternatively, use blinds and outside canopies to reduce sunlight penetration.
- Time your usage. Some local power companies (such as SoCal Edison) charge less for electricity at non-peak times. Ask your supplier if they run a "time of usage" program.
- Use cold or cooler water instead of hot in your washer when you can. And do fewer but bigger washes.
- Similarly, try to fill your dish washer with pots and crockery before running and use a cooler setting for your dishwasher. To make it easier, wash the big items and those with stubborn food residue by hand.
- Air dry your washed clothes -- but if you do this, make sure you don’t infringe any local codes, such as CC&Rs, about outdoor drying.
- Unplug! Did you know that all the equipment, appliances and devices we use around the home consume small amounts of electricity when they're plugged in, even if they're not in use? This applies especially to devices that have a standby mode -- they're responsible for $10 billion worth of power wastage throughout the US ever year.
- Cook cooler. Your oven will heat up the entire kitchen, placing increased demand on you’re A/C. Using a microwave or cooking outdoors can help you stay cool indoors.
- Turn your water heater down. If it's too hot, you'll only have to cool it. The ideal setting is 120 degrees. And, again, if you're going to be away and length of time, using the "vacation" setting on your heater if it has one. Otherwise, turn it off.
Looking for more ways to save on utilities? Try visiting your energy company's website or searching for tips online. You should also contact your energy firm if you're having difficulty paying your utility bills.
Cutting Water Use and Costs
For more frugal ways to save on utilities, here are 10 ideas for cutting down on your water usage:
- Fit a low-flow shower head. Modern devices use only a third of the amount of water that older ones do without affecting the "quality" of the shower. New, "intelligent" devices can even cut the flow to a trickle if you're not actually in the shower, once they detect the water is warm enough -- then you restore flow with the press of a button when you get in.
- How about a shorter shower? Many people like to luxuriate in a shower when they could be out and drying themselves. With a conventional showerhead, you could be using up to 10 gallons a minute. Cut out a minute each day and you could save more than 3,500 gallons per person per year. You can buy shower timers online.
- If you need to run your faucet for a while until it's hot, collect the cold water in a bucket and use it in your garden. The average faucet uses around two gallons a minute. Recycle whenever you can. You can use almost any water from the kitchen to irrigate your veggies or even flush the toilet
- Likewise, turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth or while you're washing your hands (after you've wet them!).
- You can also slow down the flow from your faucets by installing cheap low-flow aerators that reduce the water volume without any noticeable difference.
- And don't wash your vegetables in running water. Put water in a pan or stoppered sink and rinse them there.
- Use a high-efficiency, low-flush or dual-flush toilet, which use between a half and two-thirds of the water of a conventional toilet. And don't use a toilet as a disposal system for tissues, cigarette butts etc.
- Don’t want to pay for a low-flush? Put some sand or gravel into a plastic bottle (to provide weight) and put a couple into the toilet tank. This will reduce the amount of water that passes through for each flush.
- While we're on the subject of plastic bottles, if your refrigerator doesn’t deliver chilled water, try filling a couple of bottles and keeping them in the fridge so you don’t have to run the kitchen faucet until the water is cold in order to chill out.
- Sweep instead of hose your driveway. And use a pail instead of a hose for washing your car.
With a little bit of thought, you can make some big savings on your summer utility bills. It may take a short while to get used to some of the frugal habits -- but it'll pay you back in the long run.
* Source: California Public Utilities Commission, April 2015