Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written for our readers.
Utility bills are usually accompanied by a sinking feeling in your heart and the inevitable lamenting that it’s getting more and more expensive to keep your lights on. What’s more, COVID-19 has had everyone locked inside for weeks, forcing you to use more electricity and gas at home than you would normally do. No wonder that one in three US households struggles to pay their monthly utility bill.
Is there a way to reduce the costs without compromising on feeling comfortable at home, especially when your home is also now your office? The obvious solution would be to install solar panels or buy energy-efficient appliances, but they all cost money.
Fortunately, there are a few budget-saving techniques for you to try – completely for free.
1. Reduce your Hot Water Temperature
No one likes cold water when you shower. But if your water heater thermostat is set at 140ºF by default (which they often are!), you might not only be burning through $61 annually in standby heat losses but potentially also facing a safety hazard—scalding. Reducing your water heater temperature to 120ºF will not only save you money but will slow mineral build-up and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.
2. Insulate Your Water Tank
While you are in the bathroom, make sure you also insulate your water tank. When on standby, your uninsulated water tank is responsible for 25% to 45% energy losses. One of the clever and surprisingly cheap ways to save energy is wrapping a blanket around your tank to stop the heat from escaping.
3. Stop Pre-Rinsing Dishes
This one might very well blow your mind. Most of the newer model dishwashers have pre-built sensors to check how dirty your plates are to determine how long a cycle is needed to clean them. By pre-rinsing your plates beforehand, you might be tricking the sensor into using lighter than optimal cycle and additionally, you might be wasting 6000 gallons of water annually.
4. Switch Electric Suppliers
There are currently 18 U.S. states with competitive energy marketplaces, driving the electricity rates in these deregulated states below the U.S. average. Residents are free to switch electric suppliers and reduce the price they pay for electricity. Switching suppliers is easy, secure and it often involves only a few clicks of your computer mouse. In addition, most suppliers offer additional perks to win you over – attractive rewards programs, complimentary smart home devices, or 100% renewable energy.
5. Use Free Electricity
Speaking of perks, many electric suppliers offer incentives and discounts to customers willing to switch their power usage to off-peak hours. By making small adjustments to your daily routines, like running your washing machine or a dishwasher at night, instead of during the day, the energy you use in those hours might come with a zero-price tag. Get in touch with your power company to see if they offer free-nights or free-weekends electricity plans. Since we are stuck home all day anyway, we might as well save money, right?