Easy Ways to Save on Utility Bills During Social Distancing

Easy Ways to Save on Utility Bills During Social Distancing

| May 05, 2020

With millions of Americans jobless or furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are experiencing a time of heightened financial distress. And in an effort to “flatten the curve” while the virus spreads around the globe, citizens everywhere are adhering to strict stay-at-home orders. For some, this may mean racking up higher utility bills than usual - lights, water, internet, and the like.

As you remain at home and maintain a safe social distance from others, here are eight ways you can help save on your utility bills.  

Tip #1: Program Your Thermostat

Whether you’re home full-time or not, having the temperature too high or too low can be a big money waster. According to the U.S. Energy Department, you may see annual savings of up to one percent per eight-hour period for each degree you turn down your thermostat.1 The easiest way to make your thermostat energy- and cost-efficient? Program it to adjust temperatures automatically depending on the time or day of the week.

Tip #2: Change Your Filters

Changing the filters in your AC unit regularly allows it to run more efficiently. Depending on the quality of your filter, the manufacturer may recommend either monthly or quarterly changes. When you run an AC unit with clogged filters, the unit utilizes more energy in order to run harder than it needs to. In addition to elevating utility costs, this can also be damaging to your AC unit in the long run.

Tip #3: Be Mindful of Energy Price Variations

Known as time-variant electricity pricing, utility companies will often charge more when people use energy during “peak hours.” These are times of the day or week when energy is at a high-demand. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, there are four ways in which electric companies tend to offer time-variant electricity pricing:

  • Real-time pricing (RTP): Rates vary over short intervals (ex. hours) throughout the day. 
  • Time-of-use pricing (TOU): The day is broken up into two or three large intervals with a varying price for each.
  • Critical peak pricing (CPP): Customers are alerted that a dramatic price increase will occur in the coming hours or days.
  • Critical peak rebate (CPR): The utility company pays customers back for the electrical use they were able to reduce during critical peak time periods.2

If you are able, look into what model your electric company uses and stay mindful of your electrical use during potential peak periods.

Tip #4: Lower the Temperature of Your Water Heater

The average household spends $400 to $600 a year on heating water, which accounts for 14 to 18 percent of the total utility bill.3 The default setting on water heaters is typically 140 degrees, but homeowners have found that setting it to something a little lower, like 120 degrees, is more cost-effective while still providing adequate heating.3   

Tip #5: Utilize Cost-Effective Cooling

Running air conditioners during the warmer months costs Americans $29 billion annually.4 While it’s not always avoidable, there are ways to reduce your home’s cooling costs. For example, switching to an energy-efficient air conditioner could bring you between 20 and 50 percent in energy savings each year.4

Ceiling fans don’t actually bring down the temperature of a room, but they do keep air moving, which makes it feel cooler. Because they require much less energy to operate than an air conditioner, combining the use of a ceiling fan with reduced use of your air conditioner could both keep you cool and reduce energy costs.

Tip #6: Use Cold Water When Doing Laundry

Considering using the cold water setting on your washing machine to cut energy costs. Heating water accounts for around 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate your washing machine.5 

Tip #7: Unplug Unused Electronics

Even if you aren’t using your appliances, those that remained plugged in can still draw a small amount of energy. Make sure you unplug items that you aren’t using such as coffee makers, microwaves, chargers, computers and others. 

Tip #8: Consider Energy Efficient Lightbulbs

Switching out your incandescent light bulbs for LEDs can save money during the lifetime of the bulb. LED lights last 42 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use an impressive 80 percent less power.6 For outdoor lighting, you can use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are designed to stay on for longer periods of time. 

Millions of Americans have found themselves struggling amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you're spending more hours at home than usual, now’s a great time to reevaluate your energy usage and utility costs. Even as things get better, these are cost-saving changes or habits that can help you save every month. 

Bonus Tip: 

Check out Arcadia. See if it's available in your area, connect your utility account to access clean energy and lower power bills in under two minutes. For us in Wisconsin, our usage was defaulted to pull from, mostly, non renewable resources. Not anymore! The kicker for us was clean energy, but while we're talking about saving some cash too, it's worth checking out.

  1. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats
  2. http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2015/01/27/all-electricity-is-not-priced-equally-time-variant-pricing-101/
  3. https://www.energy.gov/articles/new-infographic-and-projects-keep-your-energy-bills-out-hot-water
  4. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-cooling-systems/air-conditioning
  5. https://www.energystar.gov/products/laundry_best_practices
  6. https://www.superbrightleds.com/blog/led-lights-help-get-solar-panels/5301/