Frugal tips

Lower the Hot Water Heater Thermostat

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the average person uses  64 gallons of water per day. This level of use costs $570 annually. Many homes have their water heaters set at 140 degrees F, which is higher than most people need. The DOE reports that at this temperature, your water heater could be wasting $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 annually in demand losses. Standby losses refer to the energy lost from keeping all that water hot, on “standby” for when you need it. Demand losses, also called distribution losses, refers to the energy that’s lost after the hot water leaves the tank and travels to the faucet. Larger homes require additional pumps to keep the water hot as it travels through the pipes. You can save money by turning your water heater down to 120 degrees. Mr. Rooter Plumbing has a video tutorial on how to adjust your water heater’s temperature.

Fix Leaks

The EPA reports that the average household wastes 10,000 gallons of water per year just on leaks. And 10% of households have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons of water each day. Taking time to fix leaking faucets and toilets can help reduce your water bill each month and ensure you’re not wasting water needlessly. And, the EPA says it could save you 10% or more on your water bill.

Don’t Let the Faucet Run

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average bathroom faucet uses 2.2 gallons of water per minute when it’s running, while a WaterSense-labeled faucet uses 1.5 gallons of water. The EPA developed the WaterSense label to make it easier for consumers to find water-saving faucets and accessories. Either way, letting your bathroom faucet run while you’re brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing your hands uses a lot of water over time. So turn it off.

Use Your Refrigerator Efficiently

Your refrigerator is one appliance that’s running 24 hours per day. Fortunately, newer refrigerators are much more efficient than they used to be. However, there are still ways to make your refrigerator more efficient and cut down on its electricity usage.

  • Don’t put hot foods directly into the refrigerator. It just uses more energy to cool it down. Let the food cool on the countertop and then put it inside the fridge.
  • Set your refrigerator’s temperature to 38 degrees F and your freezer at 0 degrees F. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration says these temperatures keep your food safely cold while reducing your energy use.
  • Your freezer is most efficient when it’s packed two-thirds full. Less than that and the freezer has to work harder to keep it cold. More than that and some foods might get overfrozen while others are underfrozen. If you don’t have enough food to stock the freezer to this capacity, pack it with water bottles that are two-thirds full (to allow for ice expansion) until you do.

Cut Back on Heat

Heating costs can get astronomical during the winter, especially if you live in a cold or damp climate. However, there are plenty of ways to spend less and still stay comfortable.

  • Dress in layers instead of turning up the thermostat. Adding a sweater and scarf can make you feel significantly warmer, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
  • Invest in flannel sheets and a warm quilt for your bed. You can turn the thermostat lower at night and save money all winter.
  • Keep curtains and blinds open during the day to let sunlight heat your home.
  • Change the air filter every 30 days. That helps ensure your furnace or heat pump is operating efficiently.
  • Reverse your ceiling fan blade’s rotation so they turn clockwise. That pushes the hot air down from the ceiling and helps the room feel warmer.
  • Make sure your home has enough insulation. Use the Department of Energy’s insulation map guide to see how much insulation you need in your area.

Cut Back on Air Conditioning

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that air conditioning accounts for 10% of total global energy use. However, that’s the average. Hot, humid climates rely on air conditioning far more than cooler climates. The EIA also notes that in the Deep South, air conditioning makes up 27% of total monthly expenditures, while in the Northeast and Midwest, it makes up only 5%. So someone living in Atlanta, Georgia, needs a lot more air conditioning than someone living in Kennebunkport, Maine. No matter where you live, there are a few ways to reduce air-conditioning costs and save money on your monthly bill.

  • During the summer, set your thermostat at 78 degrees F or higher.
  • Use a smart thermostat.
  • Use fans to circulate the air. Fans can make it feel 4 degrees cooler, and they use much less energy than an air conditioner. Using ceiling or tabletop fans in conjunction with an air conditioner set at a higher temperature can be an efficient way to stay cool for less money.
  • Change your air filter every 30 days to ensure your air conditioner is running at peak efficiency.
  • Keep curtains closed on sunny days to reduce thermal heating. You can also invest in thermal liners for your curtains. They reflect more heat out the window.
  • Make sure your attic is adequately ventilated so heat can escape easily.
  • Don’t overheat your kitchen by turning on the oven. Instead, use your grill to cook outside on hot days. Or use appliances that produce very little heat, such as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or sun oven.
  • Your dryer can also add heat and humidity inside your home. Instead, hang your clothes outside to dry. That helps keep your home cooler, saves money on your electric bill, and reduces laundry costs.
  • Humidity makes the air feel hotter, so do what you can to keep humidity out of your home. Avoid boiling water or taking hot showers on days when the humidity is high.

Turn Off the Dishwasher’s Heat

Your dishwasher uses a lot of energy to heat-dry dishes at the end of the cycle. You can lower your dishwasher’s energy usage by turning off the heat-dry setting and letting your dishes air-dry instead.

Reduce Phantom Loads

A “phantom load” refers to the energy an electronic device uses after you turn it off but while it’s still plugged in. According to an analysis conducted by NOPEC, a nonprofit energy aggregator in Ohio, the annual cost of phantom loads can add up.

  • Two laptops and one cable modem costs $36.14.
  • One game console, one desktop computer and monitor, one inkjet printer, and one cable modem costs $20.04.
  • One coffee maker and one microwave costs $4.60.
  • One LCD TV, two tube TVs, one DVR, three cable boxes, one cable modem, and one audio system costs $90.89. To save money on phantom loads, plug your electronics into one power strip and get into the habit of turning off the strip when you’re not using the devices. That’s especially important at night.

Start a Home Garden

Planting a home garden lets you reduce your grocery bill each month by growing your own produce from inexpensive packs of seeds. According to the National Gardening Association, a well-maintained garden yields 1/2 pound of produce per square foot per growing season. A 600 square-foot garden, which costs an average of $70 to set up and maintain, can yield 350 pounds of produce worth around $634. Even if you don’t have room for a big garden, you can still start a container garden, which can help trim food costs.

Cancel Television

According to a 2020 report by Decision Data, the average cable bill in the U.S. is around $217 per month. That’s higher than many of the utilities you depend on for basic living, including water and electricity. Cutting this expense out entirely by canceling your television could save you a significant amount of money very quickly. One alternative is to cancel cable and instead sign up for a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu that carries the shows you enjoy watching the most. The most expensive Netflix plan costs only $15.99 per month. And a comparable Hulu plan costs only $11.99 per month (but be careful — you can start racking up charges on Hulu quickly as they try to entice you to buy other add-ons, such as live TV and premium channels). Or you can sign up for a bundled package for even more savings. As an example, you can get Disney +, ESPN, and Hulu for $12.99 per month.