Woman checking expensive utility bills

How to save money on utilities at home

When you’re looking for ways to save money, don’t forget to look within the walls of your own home. Many of the opportunities to save money at home are not immediate like they would be at the cash register. Finding ways to save on utilities represent a better long-term way of saving money. Making some changes at home can be a sustainable way of saving money for months to come. They can also be decisions that can be made once and then reap the benefits over time.

Program your thermostat to save on electricity

Smart thermostats are a great way to decrease your energy use and thereby increase your savings. Making sure that your thermostat kicks on a couple of degrees later than it normally would can be a great way to save energy costs, especially during times of extreme weather.

The better reason you are saving money by programming your thermostat is because you don’t need to keep your house at a perfect 72 degrees while you’re away. When you are at work and the house is empty, your couch doesn’t care whether it’s 72 degrees or a cold 67 (in the winter) or a hot 78 (in the summer). But your utility bill will definitely notice. 

Some estimates suggest that each degree of temperature away from the natural can save you 1% in energy. That number goes up the further you get away from the outside temperature. So, not being aggressive about controlling your temperature during the hours that don’t matter can save you a lot in the long run. 

Focus on your energy consumption

Energy is a tough place to save money because you only see how much it cost you a month after the time you used it. It can be difficult to understand the implications of your behavior on your energy usage. But a little bit more conscientious attention to how you’re using energy can make meaningful month-to-month savings. How many electronics are always plugged in but rarely used? Can you leverage window light much more than you currently do? 

Most of the changes you can make in your energy usage doesn’t actually change your life at all, it merely changes the amount of energy you use when you’re not actually using the devices that are drawing down energy.

Review your cell phone bill

The cell phone companies love to tout their nationwide coverage. But the reality is most of us do not travel much more than about 10 to 15 miles from our house 90% of the year. A clear-eyed view of where you travel and how you use your phone could lead you to find a plan that is less expensive and doesn’t sacrifice much by way of service or coverage. 

If you’re paying for more than one phone in your household, assessing family plans can also be meaningful. When you’re looking to understand whether you can save money with a different carrier, make sure that you’re assessing all of the fees that they may charge you.

Transition to high-efficiency bulbs

It actually doesn’t make much sense to replace light bulbs with high efficiency bulbs if the old ones are still working. You may save some energy but you’ll lose quite a bit in the cost of the bulbs. However, as the old bulbs burn out, replacing them over time with high efficiency bulbs can soon transform the energy efficiency of your home and thereby save money on your utility bills.

Energy consumption audit

You can have a professional come into your home and conduct an energy consumption audit. They will assess how efficient your home is and what you can do to make it more efficient. 

Energy audits cost money, but you can do an ad hoc review of your house on your own. It won’t be as thorough, but you could easily identify things that need to be addressed. Are the seals around the doors wearing out? Are the windows falling apart? Do you have enough insulation in your attic? 

Fixing some of these problems can cost a little money now but yield savings in the coming months and years. Making your home a little bit more energy efficient can also save money in both the summer and the winter.

Become handy

Home repairs can be a significant cost. Learning to do some of the things around your house on your own can be a great way to save money. Having a plumber come to fix a leaky toilet can cost you $200 or $300 when the parts would only cost $15 or $20. Being able to make simple repairs around your home can save you a significant amount of money. And in the age of YouTube, you can find a video describing step by step how to do just about anything. 

Even if you don’t consider yourself very handy, a significant amount of the day-to-day maintenance in your home or apartment can be done with a handful of tools and a little patience.

Don’t tackle projects that are out of your capability

Yeah, yeah. I know I just said that you could save money by learning to be handy and fixing things yourself around your house, but you also need to know your limitations. Sometimes tackling a repair that is outside of your skillset can cost you money in the long run. You might not have the right tools to accomplish the task, or you might cause problems that will need additional repair. And then, of course, there’s the safety issue. If you don’t have experience doing electrical work, you may not want to tackle that project. Sometimes the best way to save money is paying the right expert to do it right the first time.

Don’t forget water usage to save on your utilities

Municipalities across the country are getting to be much more serious about water usage than they have in the past. This is especially the case in places where water consumption outstrips nature supply. Municipalities are starting to raise the rates on water, so it makes sense to pay particular attention to how you’re using water. Watering lawns at cooler times of the day, being aware of any leaky faucets, and keeping from running the faucet more than is necessary can all help to keep your water bill down.

Some general tips to saving money on your utility bills

The following are some specific things you can do to save money on your utility bill:

Clean your clothes in cold water

If you are an office-worker, your clothes probably don’t get that dirty. Cleaning your everyday clothing in cold water can save a great deal of energy and can mean a lower utility bill. 

Insulate your water heater and hot water pipes

Your water heater is designed to keep the water hot so that it is ready whenever you need it. That means it is maintaining its temperature as heat dissipates. Insulating your water heater can prevent heat loss and mean less energy to keep it warm.

Insulating the hot water pipes can also mean you have to run the water less before you get hot water coming out of your faucet. 

Use a toaster oven

Don’t use a full oven when a toaster oven will do. Don’t use a toaster oven if a toaster will do. The principle here is simple: use only the energy you need to get the job done. 

Consider downgrading to save on utilities

One of the most aggressive ways of saving money on your home or apartment is to move into a smaller and less expensive place. 

Moving can be a hassle, but if you’re living in a place that is more than you need, you could save money on mortgage payments, utility costs, and maintenance by downgrading. Recent empty-nesters may find they are “paying for” bedrooms that are no longer used. Young professionals may find that they are spending more on a fancy apartment in a part of town that offers no benefits to them. Or, someone may simply look at their finances and realize that moving could save them thousands of dollars a year in rent payments. 

How to get help saving on utilities

There are two government programs for households that have a low income, one that will help with their energy bills and one that will help them with cell phone and internet service. 

  • LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) assists families reduce the costs associated with energy bills, weatherization, minor energy-related repairs, and weather crises. You can see whether you qualify here
  • Lifeline can provide assistance for landline, cell phone, or internet service. Qualification is based on income and household size. You can see if you qualify here.

More ways to save

If you’re looking to save money, here are a few more articles you may find interesting. Not everything works for everyone. Here are some ways to save on groceries, here’s how to save on transportation and even ideas to save when shopping.

Picture of Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker