We all want to spend less money on the bare necessities and have more money to spend on the things we enjoy. Whether it is a mortgage, car payments, groceries, or bills, there always seems to be something that money needs to be spent on!
While there’s no magic wand to get rid of your spending commitments (if you know of one, please let us know!), there are ways in which you can save money without lowering your standard of living.
One of the easiest ways to make savings almost immediately is to find out where you can spend less on your household bills. Whether it is heating up your home in the winter, keeping cool in the summer, or general energy usage throughout the year, there are little things you can do that, when added up, can make a huge impact on your wallet.
Below is our comprehensive guide as to how you can save money on your energy costs right now. Even implementing one or two of our suggestions will save you money, and hopefully you will be inspired to work at lowering your costs!
Save on Your Heating Costs
If you live somewhere that is cold and/or wet for most of the year (um, anywhere in Canada?), then you’re probably spending most of your monthly energy costs on heating. But even if you only use heating from time to time, there are many small tips you can implement to get those costs down even further.
Just Use Less
Yes, this is obvious, but the simplest and most straightforward way to cut down on your heating bills is to heat your house less.
The easiest way to do this is to turn your thermostat down by a few degrees, or have your heating on for 30 minutes less.
These small changes will be unnoticeable to you but will save you important pennies on your heating bills in the long run. You can turn your thermostat down even more or have your heating on even less by layering up when you are at home.
We don’t need to tell you that wearing more clothes makes you warmer, but it is a nice free alternative to turning up the heat.
Another cheap addition you might consider is using a hot water bottle for bed, rather than leaving the heating on overnight or buying an electric blanket.
Compartmentalize The House
Another tip to bear in mind is that there is no point heating the whole house if you are only using one particular room. Take the time to set your heating levels in various rooms at various times of year, and you won’t be wasting money heating a room that no one is in.
A timed or programmed heater is ideal for this as you can set it to come on and off at various points throughout the day.
Some higher end programmers go even further and let you set different temperatures for each day of the week. Another trick used by some is putting tin foil behind your radiators in an effort to reflect some of the heat back into the room, rather than letting it seep away through the walls. This is a simple DIY solution that could save you big bucks.
Consider insulating your home further to keep the valuable heat inside. Heating or cooling your home is an uphill battle if it isn’t correctly insulated. Insulation will help you to keep the air outside from getting into your home, and it will stop the air in your home from seeping out.
The best places to add insulation are the basement and any exterior walls, floors, and around windows and doors. When it comes to insulation, making sure it is tightly packed is key. Continuing on from that, caulking the outside of your windows and doors is an easy and effective way to improve your insulation requirements. It is also a good idea to caulk light switches as well. You can also wrap your water pipes in foam to help reduce the cost of heating your water—and this will also protect against them freezing in the winter.
Save on Your Cooling Costs
If you live somewhere that has nice hot sunny weather all year round, then air conditioning usage undoubtedly accounts for the majority of your energy bill. When it comes to air conditioning units, many of us don’t really know what we are doing.
But, luckily, there are some simple things that can make the whole process a lot more hassle free.
Check Your Vents
The first thing you should do is to check that the vents associated with the air conditioning units are fully operational. Many people just assume that they will be open, because they have never been closed. But a simple check around the house might surprise you. If you do find any closed vents, simply open them up and your air conditioning unit will be back at full capacity.
With the vents closed, the unit will struggle to keep a room at its target temperature and will need to be on longer to achieve its goal. Some people believe that by closing the vents they will reduce their energy consumption by directing the cool air to the required room, but this is a myth. Closing your vents will only increase your energy costs.
Another advantage of making sure that your vents are closed is that their filters will help to keep dirt, dust, and other unwanted particles from getting into your home. As the air filters get clogged, they will begin to slow the airflow, making your system less efficient.
For this reason, it is important to keep an eye on them and change them every month or so. These air filters can be purchased in bulk in order to save money; just make sure that you size the vents before you head to the shop!
Promote Better Airflow in Your Home
One of the easiest and most overlooked ways of maintaining the desired temperature in your home is managing your airflow. Oftentimes, that is all that is really required. Unless you are trying to manage the temperature of a really small room, your air conditioning unit might have a tough time of maintaining each room at a constant temperature.
If you can remember back to science class in school, then you will remember that hot air rises. When your house gets hot, the heated air will rise and escape through the higher areas of your home, either the roof or the upper floors. When trying to cool your home, you want the hot air to escape more quickly and you can help push the hot air out by using a fan.
Standing fans require much less energy to use than your typical air conditioning system. There is no mechanism in a fan to actually cool the air, but what it does do is move it around. When the air starts to circulate around a particular room, the temperature level can be maintained much more easily. And when the temperature level is more evenly maintained, your air conditioning unit has less work to do. The key is to position the fans right so they are able to push the air where you want it.
Simply getting the air flow moving and circulating well will help enormously, but to remove hot air, you want to put the fan in a lower position and point it upwards. If you have a ceiling fan then you want it to spin counterclockwise in order to push the hot air up.
Save on Your Power Costs
No matter where you live, we’re willing to bet that you spend a lot of money powering your home and its various gadgets. While these costs are inevitably unavoidable in this day and age, there are a few problem devices that you should bear in mind if you want to save as much as possible on your bills.
There are a few simple things that you can do to instantly save some money on your laundry costs. The first thing you should do is stop using heat as often as possible and try to mainly do cold washes. Other quick tips include making sure that your washing machine is as full as recommended by the manufacturer, and only doing loads when electricity is at its cheapest—in the night time.
According to leading makers of washers and dryers, the heating aspect of these devices is what makes up about 90% of the total energy usage of the machine. While it is probably obvious to most that not using heat will lower your costs, I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as we were about how much energy heating requires. Another added benefit is that on top of saving energy, using a cold wash reduces the amount of work you have to do. In terms of your dryer, heat is necessary to get the job done. The only way around this is to resort to air drying your clothing, although this isn’t an ideal proposition for many.
To get the most out of each load of laundry, always make sure to pack in as many items of clothing as you possibly can. That being said, absolutely stuffing your machine until you can’t fit anything else in isn’t a good idea either. If you plan on using a dryer after you have washed your clothes, then you will need to consider the capacity of the dryer as well. If there isn’t any room for the clothes to move around in the dryer, then the hot air won’t be able to get to work properly.
If the clothes aren’t dry at the end of the cycle and you have to do another one, then you have just wasted an entire cycle, which is incredibly inefficient. The best bet is to only fill the dryer to about 75% capacity, allowing room for movement. For items such as bed sheets and blankets you should leave even more empty space.
Depending on your power company and where you live, you might get discounted rates during non-peak usage times. Some utility companies also offer special plans which offer discounts if you choose to switch to mainly off-peak usage. What exactly your off-peak times are will depend upon where you are located, and each plan will be slightly different. But, if you are willing to switch to mainly off-peak usage then you will undoubtedly save on utility bills. If this sounds like something you can do, then it is as simple as picking up the phone to your provider and learning your options.
Lowering the energy consumption of your dishwasher works in much the same way as lowering the energy consumption of your laundry machine. What that basically boils down to is lowering the level of heat used in order to achieve the results you want, and loading the machine as efficiently as possible. Of course, dishwashers do require some heat in order to do a good job, as a key stage in the cleaning process requires a large amount of hot water. But getting your dishes dry doesn’t. You can usually disable the heated dry element of your dishwasher and either dry them yourself or let them dry naturally.
The heated drying method will prevent water spots from appearing, but the same result can be achieved with dishwashing agents.
Unlike your laundry machine where you can just throw in as many items as possible, your dishwasher requires a little bit more care in order to get it efficiently loaded. One trick is to prewash your dishes beforehand and remove any big bits of food; the residue can be left for the machine. But remember that prewashing uses water as well, and continuously running a tap will lead to waste. When it comes to filling your machine, it is best to put plates on the bottom rack, facing the center of the machine.
Any utensils can go in the specified utensil area, usually on the bottom rack, but how you place them is an important thing to consider. They should all be loaded with their handles on the bottom, meaning the sharp ends stick up, so be careful! It is the ends of the utensils that typically require the most washing, whereas the handles don’t usually require that much attention.
Bowls and cups should be placed on the top row with cups face down and bowls placed at a downward angle. If you don’t do this, water will get trapped in them and the overall wash will be less effective for the lower dishes. Tupperware and other thin plastics should go on the top rack as well because the heat from the machine can warp them – this happens less on the top. Large and flat objects such as cutting boards should not be placed either close or parallel to the dishwasher door as this can prevent the detergent from being fully used and you might have to run the machine again, doubling your power consumption.
When it comes to energy usage in the home, most appliances and general electronic devices don’t really eat up much power; on average, they only account for between 15% and 20% of energy usage in a typical home. With that said, there are certain high-usage devices that you should keep in mind if you really want to save as much money as possible:
- Modern video game systems such as Xbox One and PS4
- Electric kettles
- Desktop computers or laptops that are always on
- Television sets, especially those that are plasma based
The only way to reduce your energy consumption when it comes to these devices is to actually turn them off. These days, we have so many electronic devices around the house that it can be a pain to shut them off on a regular basis. The best solution for this is to have everything powered from one power strip, which means that you only have one thing to turn off. When it comes to your computers, just putting them on sleep mode will save you some power, but you can’t beat just turning them off altogether. And if that is still a pain you can set your computer to turn on and shut off at certain times.
There are many other little things that you can do around the house to help combat your energy bills in other ways. Here are our top 8 bonus tips to help you save even more money.
1. You probably hear this all the time, but you should always turn your lights off when they are not in use. Yes, it sounds obvious, but despite the fact that almost everyone knows this information, many still continue to leave lights on when they leave a room.
Try and be vigilant with your lights, and if you have kids, make sure to instill in them the importance of turning off lights. If there’s nobody in a room, there is no need for the light to be turned on.
2. In a similar vein to the previous tip, make sure to turn off any and all appliances and electronic devices when you aren’t using them. Many appliances and devices will continue to use some power, even when they aren’t in use.
This is a phenomenon known as electricity vampirism and the way to avoid it is to turn off your electronics. While you obviously can't unplug the refrigerator or the freezer, there's no reason to leave any other appliances or devices plugged in.
3. Save some energy by thawing your frozen food in the refrigerator or on the counter before you cook it. This will cut down on cooking times and means you won’t have to resort to using the microwave to defrost your foods. It's a small tip and you’ll make a small saving, but they all add up over time.
4. Don’t open the oven door unnecessarily, especially if you can check what’s going on inside through the window. Every time you open the oven door, some of the heat escapes and the oven has to work harder to compensate for the decrease in temperature.
5. The ideal conditions for your refrigerator and freezer are 2°C and -18°C respectively. These temperatures will ensure that your food is at a safe level with the minimal amount of power usage. Putting the temperatures any lower than this is just a waste of energy; temperatures that low don’t keep your food any better.
6. Install a thermostat to help maintain a constant temperature or put your heating and cooling on a schedule. This is an ideal way to make sure that your furnace doesn’t struggle in the winter and will stop you from leaving your air conditioner on all day while you are out or at work.
The most efficient temperature to program your thermostat at is around 22°C in the winter, and maintaining this temperature will save you money.
7. As technology continues to advance, prices go down. This is particularly true these days with regards to LED lighting. They have always been more energy efficient than incandescent and halogen lighting, but now they have been designed to portray the same color and light as the classic bulbs; this means there really is no reason not to buy LED in the future.
For a quick comparison, a 60W LED bulb uses about 9W of energy and lasts for an average of 25,000 hours. On the other hand, a 60W incandescent bulb only lasts for 1,000 hours.
8. Consider changing your toilet to a dual-flush or just retrofit your current one. Toilets are one of the biggest wasters of water in your house hold, and simply reducing the flow can save thousands of liters every year. On a similar note, consider collecting rainwater throughout the year to water your gardens and plants during the summer. After all, rainwater is free water.
Energy-Saving (and Money-Saving) Products
There really isn’t much else you can do without initially investing a little money. But little changes, if made every day, will add up and make a huge impact on your finances. The longer the changes are maintained, the more money you will save over time. Reducing your bills is a great way to save money every month. So here are our favorite energy-saving products that you can buy today to instantly start saving some cold hard cash.
The Nest series of thermostats garnered much attention when first launched, primarily because of its unique learning technology. This model is the 3rd generation and, in our opinion, is the best looking of the lot. It is easy to replace your existing thermostat with Nest, allowing you to control the temperature from your phone. It will learn when and how you like your temperature, and save you money on your energy bills.
The sleek design is well considered and strikes the right balance between elegance and practicality. The whole device is incredibly intuitive; it allows you to adjust the temperature instantly. The device’s navigation is incredibly easy with the menus and settings laid out in an easy-to-use way. Included in the product will be the Heat Link, a device which plugs into your boiler and tells it when to turn on or off.
The important part about the learning abilities of Nest is that you are also able to set the temperature manually or use a schedule. During the first few weeks of use, set the temperature to what you want during different times of the day. After a while, Nest will begin to learn your pattern and adjust accordingly throughout the day. This means that you will only have to adjust the thermostat on rare occasions.
- Voice control operates with Alexa in English, French, Spanish, and Dutch
- 24-bit color LCD screen with 480 x 480 resolution at 229 pixel per inch
- Works with almost all 24V heating and cooling systems, including gas, electric, air, heat pump, radiant, oil, hot water, solar and geothermal
- Can heat in three stages and cool in two
- Nest app for phone or tablet
- Learns your schedule
- Still quite pricey up front
- Energy savings not guaranteed
- Requires constant power connection
2. Seabreeze SF14TA "Off the Wall" Outlet Mountable Bed/Bathroom Heater with "SMART ThermaFlo Technology”
Seabreeze SF14TA "Off the Wall" Outlet Mountable Bed/Bathroom Heater with "SMART ThermaFlo Technology”
This off-the-wall mountable Seabreeze heater makes use of a new smart ThermaFlo technology. It is incredibly easy to use and no tools are required, meaning that you can set it up in minutes. This heater is outlet mountable, and comes equipped with its patented technology that can automatically sense which level of heat output at which the unit needs to operate in order to keep your room at the perfect and comfortable temperature. Its size makes it ideal for a bathroom or bedroom, and it comes with its own night light as well, which can be used at your discretion.
- Can be mounted via an outlet
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- Its ThermaFlo technology works to keep you at the right temperature
- Comes equipped with a night light
- Doesn’t require any tools or an electrician to install
- Operates incredibly quietly with a steady, warm flow of air
- It’s cord free so there is nothing to trip over
- Not as powerful as some more expensive models but it is a great cheaper alternative
Much like its sister product above, the Seabreeze SF8T works for you by making use of its patented Thermaflow technology to keep you at a comfortable temperature every day.
With this mode active, you will save money on your energy bills by using just enough energy to feel comfortable. This is because the heater automatically senses and selects the appropriate heat output necessary to maintain a particular temperature. It is completely energy efficient and has the added bonus of operating almost silently.
- Will help you save up to a third on your bills with ThermaFlo mode
- So quiet that you’ll never even know it’s there
- Triple safety features include manual reset cut-off device, back-up fuse and flame retardant cabinet
- Power light provides visible reminder of operating mode
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- Can only really be used in small- to medium-sized rooms; any larger and the benefits begin to drop off
The Lasko 101 Personal Heater is the ideal way to stay warm during the cold winter months. This personal electric heater can provide up to 200 watts of warmth, which is the perfect amount to keep one or two people feeling comfortable.
The Lasko My Heat personal heater is designed with a 3-step ceramic safety system and it comes fully assembled so all you need to do is turn it on. The product description says that this device is perfect for use in an office space, in the car and even on camping trips, however it requires a plug socket in order for it to work.
- Really simple to use; the only switch is the power switch
- Automatic overheat protection which shuts the unit off if it reaches a dangerous temperature
- Energy friendly with its 200W rating and has a cool touch housing
- Compact and portable at 3.8" x 4.3" x 6.1"
- ETL listed for safety
- Not the strongest of heaters available on the market
- For home use only, cannot be used in a car or out camping
- The unit does not have a tip-over switch, which would turn the heater off in the event it gets tipped over.
Whitney Design offers this simple and easy-to-use portable umbrella clothing dryer as a great way to save energy while creating new drying space at home.
If you have the time to spare, then you should always dry your clothes the natural way—with wind and sun. This indoor or outdoor clothing drying rack features a tripod like base, allowing it to be moved around as and when needed.
The 2-piece aluminum center post comes with a snap lock, and the vinyl clothesline provides 64’ of drying space in 3 sections with 6 lines each. It comes pre-strung so you can use it straight away. When you’re not using it, the dryer conveniently folds away to create more space—opening and closing with a single swift action.
- It comes pre-strung with 64 feet of vinyl clothesline
- Has 3 sections which can each hold 6 lines
- Extendable base and center post makes it easy for you
- 72"H x 52"W base x 62" diameter at the top
- The different lines are close together and it will be hard to dry thick towels or blankets without removing a clotheslines or two
- Make sure you load it evenly in order to avoid it tipping over
The Belkin Conserve Energy plug extension is a great piece of kit to accommodate any devices that always need to be on such as your modem or router, telephone, or video recorder.
The standard model comes with 8 outlets, but if you need any more, you can purchase the 10-outlet unit. The battery on the portable switch lasts for a very long time (it is an LR23A battery).
The Belkin Conserve surge protector means that you can shut down most of your components completely in order to save on energy costs while keeping two outlets reserved for electronics you want to keep "always on"; surge protection for cable/satellite RF lines; sliding safety covers for outlets; wireless remote included for power on/off.
- You will be able to control the power to your whole computer system with a single click
- The wireless remote switch lets you shut off power, including devices on standby power, up to six devices at the same time
- Comes with 2 always-on outlets that stay on constantly for devices that need continuous power, like those mentioned above
- Come with a generous 4’ of cord length
- It will be shipped to you in certified frustration-free packaging
- Is a bit more expensive than other options out there but it is our best pick. In this case it is worth investing more in a quality product that will be with you for years.
You might not have really given this much thought before, but your windows can take a chunk out of your energy bills. Gila’s Window Films, which are basically window tints, are starting to be used by more and more people who say that it helps them reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 50%.
Window film reflects the majority of the sun's heat coming through your windows in the summer and does the opposite in winter. In addition to providing energy savings, this window film will block out annoying glare and reduce the amount of UV light that gets through, helping to maintain your interior furnishings.
Gila films are certainly the brand leader when it comes to DIY (do it yourself) window films. Their coating and adhesive technology are what give them a higher performing and longer lasting film that is up there with the best on the market. Due to some confusion in the past, it should be noted that this window film is not able to:
- Block out noise pollution or sound
- Reduce window drafts or leaks
- Give you an extra layer of insulation
- Using this window film at home can cut your cooling costs by up to 50%
- Is equipped with a Low E coating to help retain heat in the winter
- Blocks up to 99% of UV light from getting through your windows
- Blocks up to 67% of sun glare from getting through your windows
- Help protect your interior furnishings from fading caused by the sun
- Tiny bubbles can appear if you don’t perfectly place the film, though this is only really a cosmetic problem
As your bills rise, the best and most efficient way to keep them in check is to stay on top of your devices and appliance by knowing exactly which ones should be plugged in. You can connect any of these devices to the Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor, and you will be instantly able to assess how energy efficient they actually are.
It has a large LCD display which will show you your energy consumption by the kilowatt hour, the standard measurement used by utility companies. From this you, will be able to calculate your electrical expenses by the day, week, month, and even the entire year.
This is an important tool in determining which, if any, of your appliances or devices are on the fritz, so you can get them fixed before they are even more of a drain on your bills.
- Modern LCD screen helps you keep track of your consumption by the kilowatt hour
- Is easy to connect to household appliances for efficiency assessment
- Can break down your electrical expenses by the day, week, month, or year
- Checks the quality of power by monitoring voltage, line frequency and power factor
- The device is fairly bulky and may block some of your other plug sockets
So, there you have it; that is our comprehensive guide to saving money on your energy bills all year round. It starts with the little things at home and these small changes become big savings, and your bills will start to go down in no time. But if you have the cash to invest in some money-saving devices up front, this should really be a top priority. We highly recommend all of the products mentioned above, and each of them will save you money over time.