Stop me if you have heard this one before, but turn out the lights when you leave a room and decide what you want out of the fridge before you open the door.
Your behavior can go a long way to saving money on your energy bills, but there are a variety of routes to take for lower power bills. A combination of increasing energy efficiency, reducing consumption and properly maintaining your home and appliances will decrease how much you’re paying each month.
Let’s start with the part that requires up front investment. Most utility companies offer rebates or incentives to install energy efficient equipment.
Rebates and Incentives
Here’s a long, but probably not complete list of all the different items you can upgrade to boost your home’s efficiency and get money back from your power or gas company.
- Smart thermostat
- Water heater
- Air conditioners
- Room air conditioners
- Light bulbs
- Air Sealing
Your utility company probably has more restrictions like just how efficient the new ones need to be and whether they were installed by an approved technician. Rebates and incentives vary and they probably won’t cover the entire cost of the upgrade, but they do help reduce what you’re paying up front so you can pay less on your future bills.
If you already have to upgrade because something is broken or has gotten old then find a replacement that will net you a rebate from your power company and reduce your cost.
Installing Renewable Energy
Installing solar or wind units that produce energy is another area where you’ll receive money back in the form of tax credits. Until 2019, the federal government will credit you up to 30 percent of the cost of installation on your taxes. The federal credit includes systems that are solar-electric, solar-water heating, fuel cell, small wind and geothermal heat pumps. Between 2019 and 2022, the percentage of the credit will drop to 22 percent. If you don’t have all that much tax to offset, you can carry over the extra to another year.
States also have credits that can help offset the price as well. One example is you can receive a tax credit of up to $2,000 on your state taxes for your new system. Check in your state for what benefits you can claim.
There are several websites that will help you find these rebates and incentives or products that qualify. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, or Energy Star.
The three big areas of energy usage are:
- Heating (29 percent)
- Cooling (17 percent)
- Heating Water (14 percent)
The first two are obvious, the third one not so much, but while heating and cooling are seasonal, heating water happens year round. Here are some specific tips, but reducing energy comes down to using less for your needs. So you can either adjust your needs or adjust how you satisfy them in order to save money.
- Don’t use hot water when cold will do, wash clothes in cold water for instance.
- Lower your water heater so it doesn’t reach more than 120 degrees.
- A 20-watt CFL is equal to a 60-watt incandescent and uses less energy plus it lasts longer.
- Set your thermostat to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter
- Adjust it higher/lower when you’re gone for more than five hours if you have a programmable thermostat.
Upkeep of Equipment
- Keep your furnace, water heater and air conditioner running smoothly with seasonal maintenance.
- Set your fridge between 37 and 42 degrees and your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees.
Convenience, but probably not savings
If you have lived in the same place for more than 12 months then you can probably take advantage of your power company’s flat-rate billing program. Your bills will be averaged and you’ll pay as close to the same amount as possible each month. If your usage fluctuates from your previous bills than adjustments may be made.
Before jumping in, make sure the fees and other restrictions make sense for you. This won’t save you money over time, but it will make it easier to plan your budget.
Renewable Energy Credits / Subscriber Energy Programs
Want to help the environment, but don’t want to install solar panels or a wind turbine? Take advantage of your power company’s renewable power initiatives. You can pay a little extra so your provider uses more renewable energy in the form of renewable energy credits. The credits are basically proof that a set amount of power was created using renewable sources, offsetting what would have been created with coal or some other non-renewable energy source.
There are also subscriber programs where you can purchase a set amount of power from renewable sources at a set rate. This program usually locks in the rate for a long stretch of time. Think a decade or more. In theory, your cost for renewable power stays the same while the cost of non-renewable energy will continue to increase. Make sure the program makes sense price-wise and that it really does provide an incentive and take advantage of renewable energy.
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