UPDATED 4/3/2018 For many American families, a high utility bill affects their budget. Those typically come during the two extreme weather seasons – summer and winter. That’s when you realize the efficiency of your home. There are many things you can do around your house to improve your comfort without paying too much for heating and cooling. Here are 20 ways to save money on your utility bill. 

How to save money on your utility bill year round
1. Change your air filters regularly

When your air filter is dirty, your HVAC system works harder to push air through. Inspect your filters monthly, and replace them as needed. If they’re getting dirty quickly, it’s likely a sign of a more significant problem. Consider an energy audit to identify the source of your air problem.

2. Schedule HVAC Maintenance

Regular maintenance keeps your HVAC system running smoothly, and prevents breakdowns. Have a technician inspect your heating and cooling system twice a year to clean, adjust, and check all the parts and components. When your system isn’t working correctly, it cuts down on the unit’s efficiency which costs you money.

3. Get Smart Maintenance

How would you like to use 20-percent less energy? Smart Maintenance customers do just that.

The smart technology gives homeowners and their contractor, unprecedented data about their HVAC system. Remote, monthly maintenance checks analyze 32 parts of your HVAC system. Smart Maintenance monitors and alerts you to maintenance items like replacing air filters and urgent issues.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 70-percent of HVAC systems don’t work as they should. As a result, homeowners use more energy and pay higher utility bills.

Minnick’s is the only Maryland HVAC company offering Smart Maintenance. It’s a “smart” way to maintain your HVAC system. It only costs $49 a year, plus installation.

4. Install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans cool your home in the summer and warm it up in the winter. Yes, they can make a room warmer when it’s cold outside. Of course, you have to run the heat, too, but surprisingly there are winter benefits also.

In the winter, change the direction of the ceiling fan, so it spins in a clockwise direction. That creates an updraft, forcing the warm air that rises down to the occupied space.

In the summer, run the ceiling fan in a counterclockwise direction to create a cool breeze.

5. Seal air leaks

Sealing air leaks is a proven way to lower your utility bill. An energy audit identifies where you’re losing air with a blower door test. It depressurizes your home to reveal the hidden cracks and air leaks. Over time, cracks develop throughout your home.

6. Use a programmable thermostat

Programmable thermostats have the potential to lower your utility bill by 10-percent if you program it. Lower the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day to achieve those savings.

7. Lower water heater to 120-degrees

We all love a hot shower, especially in the winter. However, you don’t need it that hot! Check the temperature of your water heater. If it’s above 120-degrees, lower the setting. According to the Department of Energy, you’ll save up to $400 a year with a setting at 120 rather than 140-degrees.

8. Size your HVAC system

Size matters. If you have heating and cooling concerns, it may be the size of your unit.

Oversized units waste energy and, consequently, raise your utility bills. Not to mention, it’ll shorten the lifespan of your HVAC system.

Plus, it’s difficult to achieve the right temperature in your home when your HVAC unit is too big. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to HVAC!

If you’re getting a new HVAC system, you don’t necessarily need the same-sized system. Older systems weren’t as efficient as the ones on the market today. Through a series of tests, your HVAC technician determines the right size for your system.

9. Schedule an energy audit

If you’re making any of these home improvements to reduce drafts, improve the comfort of cold rooms, and lower your utility bills, then an energy audit is right for you. It identifies every place you’re losing energy. You may think you know it’s your windows, but there are likely other hidden locations of energy loss.

The auditor tests the performance of your home and offers solutions and rebates to reduce the cost.

BGE and Pepco customers qualify for an energy audit at a special rate of just $100.

10. Add insulation

Insulation is an effective way to improve the efficiency of your home. You may think you know where you need more insulation, but an energy audit ensures you’re spending your money wisely.

11. Fill up your appliances

Saving money on your energy bill doesn’t always require a trip to the hardware store or professional help. Sometimes it’s as easy as common sense. Run the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer with a full load every time. They use a lot of water and energy, so smaller loads cost you money.

12. Turn off lights and electronics

While LED light bulbs are far more efficient than their predecessors, turning off the lights is still an easy way to save money on your utility bill. Don’t forget electronics. They’ve also come a long way in efficiency, but electronics still have the potential to drive up your utility bill.

13. Use LEDs

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are an expensive light bulb, which is why some Maryland homeowners still grab the old incandescent light bulbs or Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs). However, the energy savings are significant. They also last longer.

They use 75-percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lights, according to The Department of Energy.

how to save money on winter heating costsWays to save money on your winter heating costs
15. Add a chimney balloon

If you have a fireplace you never use, it probably costs you money. How can that be when you don’t use it? It’s drafty! It’s designed to remove smoke and hazardous gases from your home, so that path to the outside allows warm air an escape route.

Closing the damper makes a difference, but it’s not airtight. As a result, a chimney balloon makes a more significant difference. It creates a seal like a damper can’t.

16. Check your fireplace damper

Fireplaces are warm and cozy, but they also leak air. They’re not the most efficient appliance. As a result, close the damper when the fireplace is not in use. That only adds to the efficiency problem, by allowing your conditioned air inside your home a way to escape. It’s like keeping the window open in the window.

17. Add a water heater blanket

If you have an older water heater, consider a blanket. It insulates your unit allowing you to save energy. You’ll save 7-16-percent in water heating costs, according to the Department of Energy. A blanket costs around $20. It’s one of the free energy saving devices you get for FREE with a BGE and Pepco energy audit.

There are safety concerns if you use a gas water heater, so check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

17. Add heavier curtains

Curtains are not just for aesthetics. They’re functional too, holding in the heat in the winter and the cool air in the summer. However, you need heavy curtains to make a difference. Even cellular shades and honeycomb blinds add extra insulation to a room and cut down on drafts.

18. Install barn doors or curtains in doorways

Curtains are not just for windows. Consider adding them in a doorway to close off all or part of a room that’s colder than the rest. Barn doors work, too, and they’re trendy.

19. Add storm doors and panels

Don’t have the budget for new windows? Adding storm panels to a single-pane window lowers heat loss by as much as 50-percent, according to the Department of Energy. You can install them on the inside or outside of the window.

Storm doors also go a long way toward protecting your warm home from the cold air outside.

As mentioned above, also consider an energy audit and insulation.

20. Weather-strip and caulk your windows and doors

Your windows and doors are two familiar places for air leakage. While you feel it the most in the winter, it’s a problem in the summer too. You’re letting cold air escape.

Add weather-stripping, caulk, and door snakes to openings to prevent the cold air from rushing in during the winter months. It’s a low-cost way to make your home less drafty.

Ways to save money on summer cooling costs
21. Add houseplants

Like the landscaping outside, houseplants improve the look of your home and they naturally cool it. Ask a nursery for suggestions as you need specific plants for the cooling effect. A long-standing NASA study also identifies common houseplants that improve air quality. They’re a low-cost solution with multiple benefits — nice decor, better air quality, and lower cooling costs.

22. Have your ductwork inspected

Did you know that your ductwork leaks air? In a study by the North Carolina Alternative Energy Corporation, 90-percent of ductwork leaked. It affects your comfort, health, and utility bill.

Homeowners waste up to 30-percent of the energy used to heat and cool their homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It escapes through drafts, air leaks, and leaky ductwork.

Ductwork leaks for a variety of reasons including wear and tear, improper installation and design. Fixing duct leaks is a proven way to lower your summer electric bill.

23. Add landscaping

Landscaping spruces up the outside of your home, and it also helps cool it. Adding tree shade to the south and west side of your home lowers your cooling costs by 15-50 percent. Having one well-positioned tree has the daily cooling effect of five air conditioners running 20 hours a day!

While it’s great to lower your costs in the summer, you have to be careful in Maryland so you don’t keep your house too cold in the winter. For that reason, avoid evergreens near your home. They’ll block the sun in the winter when you need that extra layer of warmth.

Vines also provide extra insulation. Since they grow faster than trees, you’ll see energy savings faster.

According to the Department of Energy, the average return on investment for landscaping is less than 8 years. If you plant trees as saplings, they’ll begin shading your windows within a year.

24. Add window awnings

Window awnings on the west side of your home are exceptionally useful. They’ll reduce heat gain by as much as 77-percent, according to the Department of Energy. Synthetic fabrics are used in most modern-day awnings so they last longer. A light-colored awning reflects the most sunlight.

In addition, consider ventilation with awnings. That way hot air doesn’t get trapped near the window. Something as simple as a grommet or another opening toward the top of the awning achieves the ventilation you need.

25. Tint your windows

Finally, tint your windows or add high reflective films to block the summer heat. It’s possible to tint your windows without changing the look of them.

While making all 25 home improvements may not be possible, each one goes a long way toward lowering your utility costs in the summer and the winter. Let us know how we can help!