How to Cut Your Electric Bill in Half Without Sacrificing Comfort

How to Cut Your Electric Bill in Half Without Sacrificing Comfort

Cutting your electric bill significantly while still enjoying the modern conveniences we’ve grown accustomed to may seem impossible. However, with some smart strategies, determination, and a little effort, you can reduce your energy costs dramatically without giving up any of life’s little luxuries. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide in-depth tips to help you slash your electric bill painlessly.

Perform an Energy Audit

I highly recommend starting with an energy audit of your home. This will pinpoint where you are losing energy and money so you can target the most impactful fixes.

Here’s how to conduct a simple energy audit yourself:

  • Examine your monthly electric bills and make note of your average kilowatt-hour usage. This provides a benchmark to compare your future progress against.

  • Tour your home room by room and make note of drafts, lack of insulation, appliances over 20 years old, inefficient lighting, leaky windows, and other red flags.

  • Consider an infrared camera or thermal leak detector to identify hidden air leaks. Your local utility may rent these out cheaply or even conduct a professional audit for free.

  • Review your audit findings and create a prioritized list of fixes that will yield the most savings based on the problems uncovered.

Seal Air Leaks

Air leaks could be bleeding up to 30% of your home’s treated air out into the elements. This forces your HVAC system to work overtime to maintain comfort.

Some common places air escapes include:

  • Windows – inspect window frames and use weather stripping to seal any cracks or gaps. Plastic film window insulation kits can further reduce heat transfer.

  • Doors – inspect door frames and bottoms for openings. Install new weather stripping as needed to seal gaps.

  • Ducts – use mastic sealant or metal tape to seal leaky duct joints. Ensure ductwork is properly insulated as well.

  • Fireplace – keep your damper closed when not in use and seal with caulk or insulation.

  • Plumbing/electrical penetrations – seal openings around pipes and wires with caulk or expandable foam.

  • Attic hatch – weather strip and insulate the attic access door or hatch.

Being diligent about sealing all cracks, gaps, and openings can dramatically reduce the amount of air escaping your home.

Increase Insulation

Heat loss through poorly insulated walls, attics, basements, and floors is another major source of wasted energy.

Here are some handy tips for boosting your home’s insulation:

  • Most homes built after 1980 should already have wall insulation that meets modern standards. For older homes, consider injecting low expansion foam into wall cavities.

  • Attic insulation should be at least R-38 rated. Top up existing insulation or install batt or blow-in insulation to reach the recommended level.

  • Ensure basement and crawl space walls are insulated according to climate zone recommendations. Polyethylene foam boards work well for basement walls.

  • Adding insulated sheathing beneath exterior siding can further minimize air exchange and heat conduction.

Take advantage of rebates and tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades like added insulation offered by the federal government, state, utility, or manufacturer. The long-term savings are well worth the small upfront investment.

Upgrade HVAC Equipment

Heating and cooling accounts for a whopping 48% of a typical home’s annual energy consumption according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Upgrading to newer, more efficient HVAC equipment can produce major energy savings:

  • Furnace – replace an older model with a new ENERGY STAR certified high-efficiency unit. Look for an AFUE rating of 90% or greater.

  • Air conditioner – choose an ENERGY STAR certified central air conditioner with a SEER rating of at least 16. Consider an inverter-driven variable speed model for even better efficiency.

  • Heat pump – swap your electric resistance heating for an ENERGY STAR heat pump which can reduce heating costs by up to 50%.

  • Thermostat – install a smart WiFi thermostat to optimize heating and cooling cycles and quickly pay for itself in energy savings.

  • Ductwork – ensure ductwork is well sealed and properly sized. Upgrade insulation to R-8 or higher.

Upgrading HVAC equipment requires a bigger upfront investment, but new efficient models last 15-20 years and the long-term energy savings are substantial.

Switch to LED Lighting

Replacing inefficient incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs with LED lighting can lop a huge chunk off your electric bill. Here’s why:

  • Efficiency – LED bulbs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They are also significantly more efficient than CFLs.

  • Brightness – LEDs provide the same brightness as other bulbs while using far less energy. The light color quality is also excellent.

  • ** Savings** – Replacing your home’s 15 most frequently used bulbs with LEDs can save about $100 per year in energy costs.

  • Rebates – Many utility companies offer rebates on ENERGY STAR rated LED bulbs, making replacement even more affordable.

The initial investment is quickly recouped in energy savings. Therefore, I recommend replacing all light bulbs in your home with ENERGY STAR certified LEDs.

Lower Water Heating Costs

After heating and cooling, water heating is the next biggest energy user in most homes. There are several easy ways to cut water heating bills:

  • Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120°F. This provides sufficient hot water for most uses while reducing waste.

  • Insulate exposed hot water lines andthe water heater itself with installation sleeves and pipe wrap to retain heat.

  • Install heat traps on hot and cold lines to prevent convection heat loss.

  • If your water heater is more than 10 years old, replace it with an ENERGY STAR heat pump or tankless model which can cut water heating bills by $100 or more per year.

  • Drain a quart of water from the bottom of your tank annually to remove sediment that can impede efficiency.

  • Limit shower length to 5-7 minutes and install low-flow faucet aerators to reduce water usage.

Unplug Appliances and Electronics

Plugged in appliances and electronic devices draw power even when switched “off” in what is known as phantom load. The unused power they waste adds up quickly.

Unplugging unused devices can shave up to 10% off your electric bill. Here are some tips:

  • Unplug phone and laptop chargers, fans, coffee makers, and other items when not in use or use smart power strips that sense when devices are off.

  • Unplug your entertainment center and other electronics when not in use.

  • Microwaves, AC window units, and older electronics consume power even when off, so unplug or get rid of them if seldom used.

  • Enable energy saving modes on computers and game consoles.

Cutting phantom load waste through diligent unplugging of unused devices can further trim energy costs.

Adjust Your Thermostat

Simply optimizing your home thermostat settings and usage patterns can achieve impressive energy savings:

  • In winter, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable when home. Each degree lowered can save 3% on heating costs.

  • In summer, raise the thermostat setting to 78°F – 80°F when running the air conditioner. Every degree higher saves up to 5% on cooling costs.

  • Install a smart thermostat that optimizes heating and cooling for energy efficiency when you are away or asleep.

  • Run ceiling fans on low in conjunction with your AC to allow raising the temperature a few degrees without sacrificing comfort.

  • Keep interior doors open for better air circulation and reduced run times for heating and cooling.

Monitoring and optimizing your thermostat is one of the simplest ways to painlessly trim energy bills.

Bonus Tips

  • Wash full loads of laundry in cold water. Clean the dryer’s lint filter before each load.
  • Enable your dishwasher’s energy saving mode and only run full loads. Avoid heat drying options.
  • Open shades during winter days to utilize free solar heating. Close them at night for insulation.
  • Seal heating and cooling ducts located in uninsulated spaces like attics and crawl spaces.
  • Replace disposable HVAC filters monthly. Upgrade to pleated filters for cleaner air and improved efficiency.
  • Consider renewable energy options like solar panels or heat pumps to substantially boost efficiency.
  • Shop for the most energy efficient appliances and electronics when replacing old models.

The Bottom Line

With some smart targeting of efficiency upgrades and simple habit changes, I’ve demonstrated it’s quite possible to reduce your electric bill dramatically while still enjoying a comfortable lifestyle. Utilize these in-depth tips to identify and implement the savings opportunities with the biggest payoff for your home. With diligence and commitment, you can easily achieve a 50% or greater reduction in your monthly energy costs. A few small sacrifices will be more than offset by the savings. I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of lower electric bills and greater home energy efficiency.