How to Save on Your Utilities

Utility expenses are an unavoidable reality for most of us.  While running water, a warm house, and connectivity to the world are wonderful blessings, the costs can get very high.  Fortunately, there are many small things we can do to reduce our environmental impact and save on our Grand Rapids utility bills.

First, there are several ‘large scale’ improvements we can make to our homes, such as upgraded appliances, new furnaces, energy efficient roofing, added insulation, and more.  However, since these have a high upfront cost, let’s focus on some of the things you can do this weekend to reduce your consumption.

Snowy WeatherManaging your Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling typically account for about half of your energy bill.  So this is a great place to save on your utilities in Grand Rapids.  First, change the temperature just before you go to bed or head to work.  It’s an easy way to reduce the stress on your HVAC system, and you’ll hardly notice the difference.

In summer, turn down the cooling or A/C, and turn on a fan.  In the winter, allow it to get a little colder and use an extra blanket.  Changing your temperature 4-8 degrees can save you 20% over the course of a year, which can really add up in Michigan.

Additionally, the filters on your furnace and A/C make a big difference.  When your filter is full or dirty, your costs can go up considerably.  Change them regularly.  A smart option is to buy a re-usable, cleanable filter… that way, you don’t have to constantly buy new ones, or make an extra trip to the hardware store.

If you’re not using a room, close its registers, and put a door draft guard at the bottom.  That way, you’re not wasting heating or cooling on a room you’re not enjoying.

Escaping air is a huge cost-sucker, because that air takes your heat or A/C with it.  Try re-caulking your door and window seals, and repair poorly aligned windows.   You can also use heavy curtains or plastic seals on your windows to help when it gets really drafty.  This is a great way to save money without drastic changes to your lifestyle.

InspectionAppliances

Your dishwasher and laundry machines can really drive up your utility bill in Grand Rapids.  To minimize the cost, do your laundry and dishes at night.  Since these are ‘off peak hours’ for consumption, you get charged less.  In addition, the plants tend to run more efficiently and with a lower load at night, so you’re reducing your total resource consumption as well.

Wash your clothes in cold water.  This cuts down on energy and water usage, and your clothes can come just as clean.  If you don’t like your initial results, look for detergent that is specially formulated for cold water cleaning.

Use ‘dryer balls’ in your laundry in order to reduce your load times.   These nifty items help maximize your clothes’ contact with warm air, which allows you to run your dryer for less time.  Also, keep your dryer’s exhaust duct clean.  It gets filled with lint, which forces the dryer to work harder.  Cleaning the duct out takes about two minutes, and helps your machine run much more efficiently.  And finally, if your dryer has an ‘auto sensor’ option, use it.  It will cut down on your dryer time and energy usage.

Do a ‘test run’ with your dishwasher to see if you really need to pre-rinse.  A lot of newer dishwashers are great at getting excess food off of the plates, so you might be able to save yourself time and water by skipping your pre-rinse.  Use ‘air dry’ rather than ‘heat dry’ as well to save some added energy.

Water and Plumbing

On average, the water heater takes up about 17% of your home’s energy usage.  So first, consider turning your hot water heater down to 120 degrees.  For every 10 degrees you reduce your water heater, you save yourself about $10 a month on your Grand Rapids utility bills.  And it’s rare that you will need water hotter than that!

For less than $20, you can get a hot water heater blanket, which insulates your unit.  This insulation reduces the amount of energy needed to heat your water, and saves you money in the process.  To go the extra mile, insulate your water pipes as well.

Save money in the bathroom by installing a low-flow shower head.  Many of these are designed to keep the water pressure high while using less water… they really work.  If you want to use less water per flush in the toilet, you can put a bottle filled with sand (or a peanut butter jar filled with rocks) into the top of your toilet tank.  This will reduce the amount of water used per flush, and save you a little money each time.

Finally, you can put in low-flow aerators onto all of your sinks.  These come in different varieties, but all will save you water throughout the day.

UtilitiesElectricity

Start with the basics if you’re looking to save on electricity.  Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room.  If you’re not watching your TV or computer, shut them off.  Unplug your devices once they are charged.  These simple tips can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Try to cut down on your house’s ‘Vampire Energy Drain.’  This is the standby electricity that your devices use when powered down, and it cost Americans over $10 billion last year.  First, you could unplug your devices when not using them.  Alternatively, invest in ‘smart’ power strips.  These devices help cut down on your vampire energy drain, and will easily pay for themselves in a few months.

For some appliances, you can also consider an ‘appliance timer’ – this will stop certain things from running all day.  Finally, consider slowly switching out your light bulbs for CFLs as they burn out.  They run much more efficiently, and last a lot longer than standard bulbs.

Using these tips should help you save on your utilities in Grand Rapids every month.  For more advice, visit the DTE Energy and Consumer’s Energy websites, or consult with your local hardware store.

As always, feel free to contact us at Honeybee Homes at (616) 606-3390 for additional help regarding your home.