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Save Money on Summer Utility Bills

thermometer showing hot temperature

‘Tis the season for air-conditioning and lawn watering, which can mean high utility bills. Right now is a great time to make quick, inexpensive changes to help you save money on utilities during the summer months.

For instance, did you know that 70 percent of indoor water use occurs in the bathroom? To cut down on this usage, you can take shorter showers. You might also place water-filled soda bottles in toilet tanks so they don’t have to replenish as much after each flush.

You can make long-term investments as well, such as replacing a toilet or air conditioning unit with an energy-conserving model that qualifies for a tax credit.

Want to take your savings a step further? Consider asking for expert advice. Kirsten Shaw, owner of Mesa, Ariz.-based AE³Q, explains that you can hire a certified energy auditor to analyze your home and suggest ways you can conserve energy as well as improve air quality. Shaw, a Home Energy Rating System-certified auditor and multifamily building analyst, says you can find a qualified analyst through organizations such as the Residential Energy Services Network or the Building Performance Institute. Be aware that these services may require you to pay a fee.

Ready to get started? Here are tips to help you save energy—and cash—around your home this summer:

Ways to Save Money on Utilities Inside Your Home

Cool it Down Now

  • Use ceiling fans to cut down on AC use, but only if you’re in the room “because of moisture evaporating off your skin,” says Shaw. “The motor generates heat, so you’re wasting money if no one is in the room.”
  • Open windows in the evening, then close them in the morning.
  • Shut blinds against direct sunlight and doors and vents in rooms you aren’t using.
  • Close the damper in your fireplace to keep hot air out.
  • Raise the temperature on your AC unit. Keep it off when you aren’t home.
  • Clean your AC filter once a month. Have it checked by a professional for operating efficiency each year.
  • Add insulation to your home to reduce air leaks, which will not only help you save on summer utilities, but also on winter ones. Plus, you may qualify for a tax credit.

“One of the most critical air leaks exists between the unconditioned (not heated or cooled) attic and the conditioned home,” says Shaw.

Auditors use a large fan to test for air leaks at the top of walls and around any fixtures installed in drywall.

“If you don’t fill holes on top of the wall, hot air from the attic, or cold in winter, goes down into the wall,” says Shaw.

See the Light

  • Replace traditional lightbulbs with energy-efficient ones. “If you replace a 60-watt lightbulb with a 13-watt CFL (compact fluorescent) or 9-watt LED (light-emitting diode) bulb, you are using only 25 percent of the energy,” Shaw says, noting that both the light quality and price of these energy-efficient bulbs have improved in recent years.
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.

Use Appliances Wisely

  • Turn off and unplug power-hungry devices, such as TVs and computers, when you aren’t using them. Not only do they suck electricity, but also they generate heat.
  • When possible, avoid using your oven and stove, making cold dishes instead.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothing.
  • Hang clean clothes on a clothesline to dry.
  • Consider purchasing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, appliances and plumbing. Check Energy Star to get started.

Watch Your Water

  • Wash laundry in cold water instead of warm or hot water.
  • Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth.
  • For efficient energy and water usage, scrub dishes in a sink filled with a few inches of water rather than letting the water run.
  • Check faucets, pipes and toilets for leaks.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a garbage can, flushing it unnecessarily.
  • Install water-saving shower heads, low-flow faucet aerators and low-flow toilets.

Ways to Save Money on Utilities Outside Your Home

Fix It Now

  • Water your lawn only during dry spells and at the coolest hours of the day. Efficient energy and water usage go hand in hand. Practicing them in tandem will help you save more on your summer utilities.
  • Clean sidewalks with a broom, not a hose.
  • Adjust sprinklers to hit only green areas, not sidewalks and pavement. If there’s a persistent dry spot, water it by hand instead of running the whole system longer.
  • Insulate trees and plants with a layer of mulch to prevent drying.
  • Direct gutters to lower-lying landscape beds or into a bucket for watering.
  • Let your lawn go dormant in the winter. Water it every three to four weeks in the summer (or less if it rains and has snowed a lot that year).
  • Spend time in the shade and eat outdoors to avoid using energy inside your home.

Invest for the Long Term

  • Plant trees and shrubs, especially in the sunniest areas of your yard, to increase shade and reduce the amount you need to water.
  • Replace water-thirsty lawns with drought-resistant plants.
  • Choose plants native to your area and group them according to water needs.
  • Install a rain sensor on your irrigation controller to avoid unnecessary watering.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]