How to Keep Electric, Water, and Other Utility Bills Down

Plus what to do if you have trouble paying your bills.

by Maddelynn Horn

The average family in the US spends $2,000 each year on utilities.

Cutting utilities out of your budget isn’t exactly an option, but there are plenty of simple and effective ways to save money on your bills.

Bonus: these hacks will also help you reduce your environmental impact.

To save money on your electric bill

Maintain your indoor climate efficiently

I like to consider myself lucky for not having air conditioning in my apartment. Don’t get me wrong, humid 90 degree days aren’t too pleasant, but I get to avoid the expenses of paying for AC without having to exert any willpower. I get it, it’s hard to resist keeping the AC on throughout the summer months, but there are many tricks to keep your living space cool without AC. Even if you don’t cut out AC altogether, just reducing your usage will help reduce your electricity bill.

Fans use significantly less energy than AC. In fact, 20 Something Finance found that she could save $128 per month switching from central AC to a ceiling fan. I don’t have a ceiling fan, but I swear by window fans, there’s plenty of information out there about how to use different types of fans efficiently. Coordinating open windows and fans is the most effective way to keep your house cool. Just remember the golden rule: only open the windows when it is cooler outside than it is inside (i.e. mainly at night and in the mornings).

It also helps to keep your blinds or curtains shut during the day to prevent the sun from heating your house. Curtains can also help keep your house warm in the winter. Investing in insulated curtains makes a world of a difference, but draping extra blankets over curtain rods can be a cheaper (although less aesthetic) option.

Change your laundry routine

Using cold water = hot, hot savings

Reducing hot-water usage doesn’t have to mean taking cold, short showers (although, if you’re willing to, you can cut roughly $86 annually off your electricity bill alone). Doing laundry with cold water can make your clothes last longer and save you $60 annually on utilities. If you use cold water for 4 out of 5 loads of laundry, you’ll shrink your carbon footprint by 864 pounds. Bonus: while hot water was once more effective for washing clothes, cold water now works better due to changes in detergent enzymes.

Drying clothes without the dryer

Swapping out dryer usage for air-drying clothing can save you approximately $100 per year and 2,400 pounds of CO2 emissions. I have to pay for coin laundry so air-drying my clothes saves me $1.50 per load. I roughly do one load per week, so this saves me $78 per year. Additionally, air-drying is better for your clothing and will make it last longer.

Stop “leaking” electricity

Even when electronics are turned off, if they are left plugged in they still use some energy. Unplugging devices that are not in use can save you 5 to 10 percent on your electricity bill. Unplugging your TV, speakers, or any other large device is a simple habit to form that can help you carve a chunk off your electricity bill.

Reduce your water usage

Reducing water usage can be simple if you’re mindful about how you use it. I’m sure we’ve all been taught to turn off the sink while brushing our teeth by now, but there are plenty more ways to reduce water usage.

When it comes to dishes, only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they’re full. If you hand wash dishes, wait to fill up the sink and wash them all at once instead of constantly running water.

For all the gardeners and plant parents out there: you can keep your plants alive without running up your water bill. Rain barrels allow you to collect rainwater for your plants and yard. Actual rain barrels can be pricy, but luckily you can make your own rain collection system with almost any barrel or large container. Just make sure to look into the laws in your state about rainwater harvesting.

Make sure your equipment is efficient

Without purchasing any new appliances, you can still make sure you’re not wasting water or energy on leaks. Fixing simple plumbing leaks can save homeowners around 10% on their water bills. You can also save about 20% on your heating and cooling expenses by sealing air leaks around doors and windows. After repairing leaks, you’ll spend less money each month without even putting in any extra effort.

The next step up from fixing leaks is purchasing water-efficient and energy-efficient appliances. If you’re living in an apartment or not planning to stay where you are for long, investing in new appliances might now be a good option for you. However, if you’re a homeowner, optimizing your appliances is a great way to cut back on your utility bills.

Change your cable and internet plan

Compare rates of different plans and providers to try to find the best deal for yourself. Consider cutting out cable altogether and just sticking to a cheaper streaming service. It’s also possible to negotiate a lower rate by calling your cable provider.

Check how much internet speed you really need to see if you can switch to a cheaper plan. If you qualify for Emergency Broadband Benefit, you can save up to $50 a month on broadband internet.

If this list feels overwhelming, try taking smaller steps to reduce your consumption.

Nav.it’s challenge to its users this month: try to spend less on your utilities than you did last month. If a general goal like this feels a little overwhelming, THAT’S OK. Break up the goal into smaller, actionable steps that you can maintain.

By breaking up a big goal into smaller achievable steps, you’re increasing the likelihood of accomplishing long-term goals like reducing your utility bills. In fact, breaking up your goal into monthly money challenges can help you on your long-term goal journey.

What to do if you’re having trouble paying your utility bills

First, don’t panic. There are several steps you can take to get the bill covered, and there may be a moratorium in your area protecting your utilities from being shut-off for non-payment.

Your first step if you can’t pay your utility bill: Reach out to the provider.

They may be able to put you on a payment program to get you through a short-term financial crisis.

Second, look into financial assistance programs.

In light of Covid-19, federal and state agencies are providing homeowners and renters more assistance covering electric and other utilities. In fact, your city may also be using federal aid packages to help their residents cover utility bills.

Assistance by State

Alabama• LIHEAPMontana• LIEAP
Alaska 
• Weatherization
Nebraska• LIHEAP
• Pennies for Power
Arizona • Gas Financial Assistance Programs
• Home Energy Assistance Fund
• LIHEAP
Nevada • Energy Assistance Program (EAP)
Arkansas• LIHEAP
• Weatherization
New Hampshire• Electric Assistance Program (EAP)
• Fuel Assistance Program (FAP)
California 
• Energy Savings Assistance
• LIHEA
New Jersey • LIHEAP
• Universal Service Fund
• Winter Termination Program
Colorado• Colorado Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
• Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy Program (CARE)
• Crisis Intervention Program
New Mexico• LIHEAP
Connecticut • Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
• Operation Fuel
New York • Heating and Cooling Assistance (HEAP)
• Utility Assistance Program (UAP)
Delaware• Delaware Energy Assistance Program (DEAP)North Carolina • Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)
Florida• LIHEAPNorth Dakota• LIHEAP
Georgia • LIHEAPOhio• Electric Partnership Plan (EPP)
• Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
• Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP)
Hawaii• LIHEAPOklahoma • LIHEAP
Idaho• LIHEAP
Oregon• LIHEAP
Illinois• LIHEAPPennsylvania • LIHEAP
Indiana• Energy Assistance Program (EAP)Rhode Island • Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
Iowa• LIHEAPSouth Carolina• LIHEAP
Kansas• LIHEAPSouth Dakota• Low Income Energy Assistance
Kentucky • LIHEAPTennessee • LIHEAP
• Weatherization
Louisiana • LIHEAP
• Weatherization
Texas• Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
• Weatherization
Maine
• Maine Housing
Utah• Home Energy Assistance Target Program (HEAT)
Maryland• Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP)
Vermont• Emergency/General Assistance (EA/GA)
• Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program (VCAAP)
• Vermont Seasonal Fuel Assistance
Massachusetts• Heating System Repair & Replacement Program (HEARTWAP)
• LIHEAP
Virginia • Energy Assistance
Michigan• Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)Washington • LIHEAP
Minnesota • Energy Assistance Program (EAP)West Virginia • Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)
Mississippi• LIHEAPWisconsin• Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP)
Missouri• LIHEAPWyoming • Low-Income Energy Assistance Program’s (LIEAP)

Every little change will add up in utility savings

Just one of these changes might not make a significant dent in your utility bills, but incorporating multiple can make a big impact. Putting in a conscious effort to be mindful of your water and electricity usage can help you reduce expenses and save up money.

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