save money

What are the best ways to save on bills?

With the holidays and their associated expenses upon us, we’d all be happy to save a little cash. There are a lot of things we can do to cut back, but one of the best is to be more efficient with our use of utilities and services.

Although it can be tempting in the winter months to crank the heat up to 80°, we’d all like to save money and be more environmentally friendly. So we’re here to find out-of-the-box ideas on how to conserve on utilities, from water to electricity, and everything in between.

Why We’re Asking:

It’s easy to forget that our heat, water, and electricity draw from natural resources, some of which are not renewable. But taking these things for granted is what leads to wastefulness, both of our natural and our monetary resources. But with a few conservation techniques, we can all feel better about our contributions to the environment and to our pocketbooks.

So we’re asking our experts for any creative tips and tricks they might have for saving on our bills. They’ll be weighing in right here in the comments. What does this mean? Homeowners will get the raw, unedited answers directly from the experts. It also gives you, the homeowners, an opportunity to ask the professionals for clarification directly.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What are the best ways to save on bills?

What are some tips and tricks for spending less on our utilities?
Including water, hot water, sewer, electricity, heating, or even internet and phone, is there anything we can do to conserve?
We all know that you can just turn off the lights or take a shorter shower, but we’re looking for more creative ideas, like purchasing draft stoppers so you can use less heat.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!

  • Peter L. Mosca 12/09/11

    American wealth and real estate is a combination that has thrived for decades. More Americans have their wealth in real estate than any other investment. Conserving on utilities, from water to electricity, and everything in between is a key to keeping your investments profitable, operating efficiently and marinating value in what for many is their single largest investment of their lifetime. All great ideas, thoughts, actions need a champion. To successfully save on bills, first and foremost you should appoint someone with control over your property to be the energy efficiency and energy savings and overall GREEN/sustainability champion. Your champion, before any plan is implemented, should then conduct a thorough analysis of the current bills. That way, when the following ideas (and many others) are implemented, they have something to compare to when the new bills arrive each month. Second, place an emphasis on technology from on/off electronic and appliance control strips, to thermostat and lighting controls, to window and door retrofits; the opportunities to save are endless. Three, take advantage of energy-saving tax credits on a federal, state and local level. While some credits will expire at year end, there are others and more are likely to follow in years 2012 thru 2016. If you wish to protect your home, protect your income and protect your investment, intelligent design, or being GREEN and being sustainable is the answer.

  • Steve Sparhawk @ DeckTec Inc 12/08/11

    While not necessarily a utility saver in the winter months, the addition of a roof cover over your deck or patio can help reduce energy costs in the summer. Particularly if you have a south or southwest facing deck, roof covers are a great way to keep the heat off the deck and from coming into those back windows. This keeps the interior of the home cooler, which lessens the need to crank up the A/C. A roof cover also provides additional area for the installation of solar panels to generate electricity.

  • Jill Banks @ Happily Better After 12/08/11

    From a home decor perspective, there are a few simple things you can do to save on your utility bills:

    – Use thermal curtain panels to dress up your windows. Open your curtains in the daytime to let in light and ambient heat. On sunny days, the natural light can add a couple degrees worth of heat, so you can keep your thermostat turned down, and still be comfortable. When the sun goes down, close the curtains to help keep the heat in.

    – Install new flow-restricting faucets and shower heads, and limit shower time to 5 minutes.

    – Use knit or flannel sheets on your beds for extra warmth so you can keep the thermostat low while you’re under the covers.

    – Get stylish, comfy throws for the living room, family room, and bedrooms to fend off the chill without turning up the heat.

    – If you have a fireplace, light it up! You’ll get a great heat boost, as well as cozy ambience.

    – Swap out incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs wherever you can. Today’s fluorescents give off warmer, more natural light, use a fraction of the energy, and last much longer.

  • Jason Todd @ QuickHomes America 12/08/11

    Houses are complex and so are people. So when we ask, how can we save money on heating, hot water or electricity bills, the answer will likely not be so simple either.

    For example take conservation: a commitment to using less. If it is the only thing we do, it is often cast aside like a failed New Year’s resolution when we realize it means being uncomfortable too.

    Are you handy? Great, but fix one thing in your home such as some insulation, or a window, you might miss crucial air sealing or an almost dead furnace. Like I said, houses are complex.

    It’s been said that knowledge is power but I say only when it results in action! I will also add that action without knowledge can lead to trouble or at least a solid waste of time! That’s why a home energy assessment is such a great investment. Keep in mind though, that assessments on their own have never saved anyone a penny. Fixing the problem does.

    It has also been said that the home is where the heart is, right? So let’s pretend houses are like people. When you have chest pain do you go to a surgeon and get your heart swapped out for a new one? Or maybe, to save a few bucks, find a fly-by-night specialist that will do it for half price? Of course not, you get a check-up first, maybe a physical. Hey, maybe its heartburn (we tend to eat a lot this time of year). A physical helps establish a plan of action.

    Consider starting with a home energy assessment, one that means something, not a rating or a clipboard audit, a physical for your home, one that you can act on! Some fixes might be as easy as grabbing the antacid. But keep in mind fixing just one thing can be like taking medicine, you have to watch the side effects. Take a look at the whole picture, for efficiency and comfort’s sake!

  • Kerry Ann Dame @ Posh Living, LLC 12/07/11

    Here are a few ways we save on bills at our house:

    Avoid the clothes dryer! We fluff our clothes for 5-10 minutes, then hang them on hangers to finish drying. Clothes last longer and are easier to put in the closet, and the dryer isn’t being used.

    Draperies! Shades and draperies do an amazing job of insulating windows to keep heat and cold out. If you want a sunny room, use sheers to cut direct sun and keep the room from heating up. In the winter, keep drapes open in a sun-facing window to help heat the house, then close them at sunset to keep that heat gain indoors.

    Baths – take a bath instead of a shower, it uses less water and is relaxing too!

    Cleaning supplies – one bottle of Lysol can last for months, and be mixed a few ounces at a time into a spray bottle of water to clean most house surfaces. We use peroxide to clean grout, and a reusable microfiber cloth for tubs and sinks. A steam mop does the floors, with a spritz of Lysol added for germ-prone areas. We rarely buy cleaning supplies, especially all those expensive specialty ones. Research old household cleaning tips for more ideas – those old fashioned remedies really work.

    Slipcover your furniture – pieces will last for years longer, and you can wash them yourself instead of paying to have your sofa and chairs steam cleaned.

  • Tracy Metro @ Home Made Simple 12/07/11

    Warning: Given that all of the sane ideas (about ways in which to cut costs on bills) have already been mentioned, I’m going all gonzo on you. So, don’t say you weren’t warned. Oh and just to be clear, I’ve NOT tried any of these techniques!

    How to shrink heat costs:

    At night, keep the heat turned down to a chilly 63 degrees (brrrr) and have everybody in your family sleep in one big family bed making sure to include Spot –because a dog’s body heat is anywhere from 100.5 – 102.5 balmy degrees. Body heat is the cheapest heat source out there! One caveat, keep Dutch Ovens to a minimum or you’ll irritate your bedfellows!

    How to reduce water usage:

    Stop taking showers. Yup, I said it. 86 them all together… at HOME that is. Join a gym or YMCA (for even cheaper) and shower THERE! You won’t have to pay to heat the water… or for the actual water, for that matter. Besides, it’ll make sure you get your exercise in because really – wouldn’t you feel guilty just driving there to shower when you haven’t even broken a sweat?

    How to cut a home phone bill:

    Actually, I HAVE tried this one tip and it works. Get rid of your home phone all together! Yup, I said it. Keep only your cell phone. Very 21st Century, I know. Listen, I fought it for ages and ages and finally gave in since I really didn’t even USE my home phone anymore. It’s only an issue when you can’t find your actual cell phone and you need the home phone to call your cell to find where it is. See? It’s really not a big deal… yet!

  • Fred Hutchinson @ Hutchinson Plumbing Heating Cooling 12/07/11

    There are a ton of options to help someone save money on their household bills. These little tricks can help save you money and they are not going to require a lot of work!

    Your Heating System:

    1. Similar to your car needing tune-ups to make sure it is running right
    so does your furnace or boiler. The tune-ups not only assure their operating
    properly it also returns them to their peek efficiency. Regular maintenance
    on your heating equipment is relatively inexpensive & will pay dividends in
    energy savings, increased comfort and increased life expectancy.

    2. Set your thermostat at 68 degrees F. during the day and 60 degrees
    F. at night. You can save approximately 3 percent on your heating costs for
    every degree you reduce the temperature below 70 degrees F. ***Special
    Advice to Heat Pump Owners: Heat pumps need to stay at a constant setting,
    unless you have a programmable electronic heat pump thermostat with adaptive
    recovery. Check with your heating or air conditioning contractor to
    determine the type of thermostat you have***.

    3. Turn down your thermostat when you’re out of the home for more than
    four hours during the day. Never turn off your heating system entirely as
    you’ll not realize the expected savings and this may cause pipes to freeze.

    4. Use your bath, kitchen and other exhaust fans frugally. While in use,
    you’ll be blowing out conditioned air therefore brining in outdoor air which
    you’ll need to re-heat, clean, re-humidify, etc. leaving just one exhaust
    fan can remove a houseful of heat in just two to three hours. Remember; turn
    them off when their purpose is complete.

    5. Maintain proper air circulation. Make sure all heating supply
    registers and cold-air return registers and grill are clear of draperies,
    furniture and the like.

    6. You should clean or replace the filter(s) in your forced-air heating
    system each month. While foam filters can be rinsed with water (be sure
    they’re dry before replacing) fiberglass filters should be replaced with new
    ones.

    7. Open your draperies and shades open during the day to let the
    sunshine in but close them at night to help keep the heat in.

    8. If you have an open masonry fireplace you should install a glass
    screen or a balloon fireplace damper to stop the loss of warm air through
    the fireplace chimney during non-use.

    9. For your system ductwork which is outside the conditioned area the
    duct joints should be properly sealed to stop conditioned air from escaping
    to the outside. Make sure you use a mastic or tape designed for this
    purpose.

    10. The human body gives off heat so dressing wisely will help you retain
    natural heat.

    Your Cooling System

    1. As with your furnace keep your cooling system well-tuned with regular
    maintenance provided by a licensed HVAC professional service organization.
    Your service representative will tell you how energy efficient your system
    is and how it may be increased.

    2. Make sure your central air conditioning unit is correctly sized to
    your home and is the highest efficiency available. High Seasonal Energy
    Efficiency Ratios (SEERs) should be 13.0 SEER and above

    3. You can install a whole-house ventilating fan in your attic to
    circulate air in your home on milder days when air conditioning isn’t
    required.

    4. Set your thermostat at 78° which is reasonably comfortable and energy
    efficient indoor temperature.

    5. Don’t set your thermostat at a cooler setting than normal when
    turning on your air conditioner. Your air conditioner will not cool any
    faster but it’ll cool your home to lower temperature than you need and will
    use substantially more energy.

    6. Your thermostat shouldn’t be near lamps or television sets as the
    heat from these appliances when sensed by the thermostat will cause your
    system to run longer than required.

    7. Consider using a ceiling fan when your air conditioner’s running. The
    air it moves will accelerate your body’s natural evaporation rate therefore
    making you feel cooler.

    8. You should clean or replace the filter(s) in your forced-air heating
    system each month. While foam filters can be rinsed with water (be sure
    they’re dry before replacing) fiberglass filters should be replaced with new
    ones.

    9. Keep the sun out during the day with vertical louvers or awnings on
    the outside of your windows. Keep your draperies, blinds and shades drawn
    during the day on the sunny side of your home.

    10. Try to cook and use other heat-generating appliances earlier in the
    morning and later in the evening whenever possible.

    Sealing Your Homes Air Leaks

    1. It’s recommended you have a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Health,
    Safety and Energy Audit performed by a certified contractor to identify
    where valuable energy’s escaping your home; such as air seeping around your
    attic door or attic access, around wires, pipes, etc. wasting fuel heating
    or cooling your attic.

    2. Insulate your attic floor to a minimum of R-38 for these spaces. The
    R-values indicates the resistance of an insulation material to heat flow.
    The higher the number the more effective the insulating capability.

    3. Don’t insulate over eave vents or on top of recessed lighting
    fixtures or other heat producing equipment on the attic floor. Also, keep
    insulation at least 3 inches away from the sides of these types of fixtures.

    4. Insulate your heating and cooling ducts in unheated or uncooled
    areas.

    5. To save up to 5% of your heating/cooling cost test your windows and
    doors for air tightness. Add weather stripping and caulk where necessary.

    6. For none double/triple pane windows install storm windows.

    Hot Water Heater

    1. When replacing your water heater purchase a high-efficiency water
    heater. Most homeowners have a .54 efficiency water heater so purchase a
    unit with a high Energy Factor (EF) rating. The highest ratings are those of
    .91 and above. The higher the rating the more efficient.

    2. Make sure your water heater temperature is dialed to 120 degrees F.
    or less, or placed on the “warm” setting.

    3. Insulate the outside of your water heater with an insulation blanket
    to reduce heat loss. Make sure the blanket is correctly is correctly and
    safely installed.

    Laundry

    1. Make sure washers and clothes dryers are full but don’t overload
    them.

    2. Wash clothes in warm or cold water and rinse in cold.

    3. To avoid increased drying time and wasting energy keep dryer’s lint
    screen clean and it’s outside exhaust free of obstructions.

    4. You can save energy by using an old-fashioned clothesline.

    Energy Saving Ideas for the Kitchen

    1. Use cold not hot water when operating your garbage disposal.

    2. Always boil water w/ a cover on the pot. Water comes to a boil faster
    therefore using less energy.

    3. To save time and energy thaw frozen foods before cooking.

    4. When cooking small meals use a small electric cooking appliance or
    ovens rather than the kitchen range or oven as they use less energy.

    5. Don’t preheat or only preheat the oven for ten minutes.

    6. Turn off the oven five to ten minutes before the cooking time is up
    and let trapped heat finish the cooking.

    7. Install a low flow aerator in your kitchen sink faucet.

    8. Don’t constantly open and close the oven door to check the food.
    Doing so allows the heat to escape therefore using more energy to complete
    the cooking. It’s better to watch the clock or use a thermometer and peer
    through the oven window to check temperatures.

    9. To reduce energy uses microwaves and pressure cookers because they
    save energy by reducing cooking times.

    10. Avoid using your broiler; it’s a big energy user.

    Dishwashing

    1. Avoid using the pre-rinse cycle by scraping dishes and rinse with
    cold water before loading them into the dishwasher.

    2. Be sure your dishwasher is full before turning. it on.

    Refrigerator/Freezer
    1. Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold, open the
    refrigerator/freezer door only when necessary, and don’t hold it open any
    longer than necessary.

    2. Test your refrigerator door seals are airtight by closing the door on
    a piece a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If
    you can pull the dollar out easily adjust the hinge or replace the seals to
    make the seal tight.

    3. Try not to place your refrigerator or freezer out of direct sunlight
    or near a stove.

    Saving Energy in the Bathroom

    1. Repair leaky faucets immediately

    2. Take showers rather than tub baths, but limit both your showering
    time and the water flow if you want to save energy.

    3. Install a low-flow showerhead. Not only do they save water they also
    save energy to produce hot water

    4. Install a low-flow aerator on the sink.

    5. Letting water run while shaving wastes hot water and the energy used
    to make it.

    Indoor Lighting

    1. Always turn off lights in any room not being used.

    2. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. They produce three to four times as
    much light per watt as incandescent bulbs.

    3. Halogen bulbs are another energy-efficient choice for indoor and
    outdoor lighting and use about 25 percent less energy than traditional
    incandescent ones

    4. Installing solid-state dimmers as they make it easy to reduce
    lighting intensity in a room, saving energy.

    5. Try to use one larger bulb rather than several smaller ones in areas
    where bright light is needed.

    Outdoor Lighting

    1. Turn on outdoor lights only when needed.

    2. Control lighting with motion detectors or photocell controls

  • Sohail Hassan @ One Stop Green 12/07/11

    We recently featured a blog about One Stop Green’s Twelve Tips for Christmas that include creative tips and tricks to save money and help the environment during this holiday season!

    On the twelfth day of Christmas: Get that closet ready! Almost 100,000 tons of old clothes will be thrown away this Christmas, so if you know your getting a new wardrobe, be sure to get your closet ready by donating your old clothes to a local charity.

    On the eleventh day of Christmas: Avoid buying gifts that require batteries! New gifts at Christmas often mean that households go through a lot of batteries. But remember, batteries contain toxic chemicals, are not biodegradable and are difficult to recycle. As an alternative, One Stop Green recommends using rechargeable batteries or better yet, try buying new USB rechargeable batteries! By opening the batteries cap and plugging it into a USB connector, you can recharge them pretty much anywhere and save them from otherwise being disposed!

    On the tenth day of Christmas: Buy in bulk! Instead of purchasing cans of soda and individual small bags of chips, go ahead and stock up on bulk goods you know you’ll end up using to reduce packaging waste and save on trips to the grocery store.

    On the ninth day of Christmas: Getting a new cell phone or electronic product for Christmas? Be sure to dispose of that old phone or electronic through an e-recycling program. Each year, approximately 130 million cell phones are thrown out that weigh over 65,000 tons. Recycle your old phone or electronic responsibly to prevent hazardous elements like mercury, cadmium and lead from leaking into our landfills.

    On the eight day of Christmas: Buy a Real Christmas Tree and be sure to Recycle! Ninety-eight percent of Christmas trees were grown on farms, not in forests, so it’s not as if you’re cutting down an ancient tree. Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfills and while your tree won’t fit in the recycling bin, you can recycle it through various other methods, one of which is through programs offered by the city to turn your tree into mulch.

    On the seventh day of Christmas: Add Organic and Local Foods to Your Holiday Feast! Support local farms that grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only does it taste better, but its more humane towards animals and you’ll be doing your part for the planet too. Speaking of buying local foods…

    On the sixth day of Christmas: Buy Local Gifts – The impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming so this Christmas, buy locally made and manufactured gifts from places such as fairs and artisan shops that reduce the added costs of transportation.

    On the fifth day of Christmas: Christmas is expensive and that means lots of bills! This Christmas, be sure to sign up for paper free billing and pay all your bills online. Not only will this help you cut down on the amount of junk mail you receive but you’ll save some trees as well!

    On the fourth day of Christmas: Not all gifts have to be store-bought. Give more while spending less by making personal and unique gifts from scratch. Need some ideas? Check out how to make your own Green Terrarium! fwd4.me/0he8

    On the third day of Christmas: Use LED Christmas lights to decorate your home! Save money, use less energy, and invest in long term LED energy saving Christmas lights that will give you all the festive cheer without the holiday electricity bill.

    On the second day of Christmas: Re-use gift bags! Save your gift bag or wrapping paper and re-use them for other gifts to use less paper. Try also using the comic section of your daily newspaper to wrap gifts – it’s free, saves money, and helps the environment!

    And on the first day of Christmas: Buy Green! This Christmas, consider giving the gift of green and give recycled and up-cycled gifts and ornaments!

  • Karen Hoxmeier @ My Bargain Buddy 12/06/11

    Washing laundry in cold water can save about $60 per year.

    Use your computer and Skype to make phone calls for Free. All you need is a
    mic and speakers. If you have a webcam, video calls are free as well.

    Getting rid of your landline and using only your cell phone can save an
    average of $50 every month.

    Save $25-$75 per year by turning your computer off every night.

    Lowering the temperature on your water heater from 130 to 120 will save 5%
    on your energy bill.

    When you’re cold, instead of turning up the heat, put on a sweatshirt. You
    can save around 10% a year on your heating bill by turning your thermostat
    back 10°–15° for eight hours.

    Use a programmable thermostat that allows you to automatically adjust heat
    and a/c while you are away.

    The Kill a Watt Meter can help you cut your energy costs and find out what
    appliances are actually worth keeping plugged in.
    http://www.amazon.com/P3-International-P4400-Electricity-Monitor/dp/B00009MDBU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323200980&sr=8-1

    Solar outdoor lighting – Don’t pay to light the yard at night when you can
    tap into the power of the sun for free!

    Efficient Shower Heads – The average American household can save as much as
    15,000 gallons of water per year by installing high-efficiency shower
    heads. Which is double savings because that is 15,000 gallons of water that
    don’t have to be heated!

  • Sam Lazarus @ ServiceMaster 12/06/11

    From a Residential Perspective:

    1. To save utilities, use a timer device on electronics to turn
    off at night and during the day while you are out working. Set them to
    come on an hour before you come home or wake up. This may seem small,
    however considering the number of TVs, DVD and other electronic
    appliances a family has, the savings from the power drain will add up.

    2. Water Heater maintenance: Water heaters end up consuming quite
    a bit of utilities because they are not well insulated and not
    maintained by majority of end users. 2 things to benefit from: 1.
    Drain the water heater after turning it to low or off and stopping the
    inlet one or two times a year. This removes the sediment and thus the
    water heater will not only last longer, it will heat the water quicker.
    2. Add additional insulation as a blanket (easily available at hardware
    stores) and based on where the heater is located, install and leave on
    or remove it seasonally. For example: if the water heater is in a
    utility closet in the basement or inside the residence, add the blanket
    in the summer and remove in the winter. By removing in the winter, the
    heat loss will not be wasted; however small will heat the inside of the
    home. If the hot-water heater is outside or in un-insulated
    environment, keep additional insulating blanket all year round, so as to
    capture and reduce the loss of heat.

    3. Adequate attic insulation: Most residences that are older have
    inadequate insulation. I have observed this on older homes that we
    serve. Even many new homes do not conform to the current governmental
    guidelines that can be found at:
    http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_insula
    tion_table this is a simple solution to save a bundle on heat loss in
    the winter and air conditioning loss in the summer.

    From a Commercial Building Perspective:

    1. Often business are cleaned late at night, this is a tremendous
    waste on utilities, especially on the larger facilities. If the
    cleaning crew were asked to come in and begin cleaning at the end of the
    day and only vacuuming or carpet cleaning etc. to be performed after
    hours, this would save on several hours of utility waste.

    2. Waste Disposal: As we did for our business this year. We
    contacted several companies for bids on trash hauling. I was able to
    get a flexible schedule company, if we do not need their service because
    we do not have enough trash, all we have to do is can a day or 2 out and
    they will not come. During the slower months, we can go from 1 day a
    week to every other week. Contract flexibility was the best part of
    this saving opportunity. We saved money as well.

  • Kris @ HouseBuying-Tips 12/06/11

    A great way to save money is to do an expense audit. Grab your checkbook, banking statements, and credit card statements. First, make a list of all those “junk” expenses you can reduce or eliminate. you’ll be surprised at how much you save every month. Second, make a list of all your regular monthly bills, then shop around and see if you can get a better deal from another company.

    Sure, it’s nice to stick with one company for a long time. And it sounds like it would make sense that by sticking with them you are getting the best deal. But the truth is that for many of those expenses, you can get a better deal by switching to a new company. For example, you might be able to save $500 a year more just from your car insurance. It will take some time, but in the end you’ll save a bunch!

  • Jeff Pizzino @ PizzInovations 12/06/11

    Add wall insulation, do air sealing, and (here’s a new one) seal the INSIDE of your ductwork.

    One of the lowest cost options for improving the energy efficiency of a home is adding insulation.

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, only 20 percent of the houses built before 1980 are considered well insulated. Many homes have no insulation at all, due to the fact that building codes didn’t require insulation prior to the mid-1970s.

    Homeowners have decreased their energy bills by as much as 40 to 50 percent by properly insulating the walls and attic.

  • Shel Horowitz @ Painless Green Book 12/06/11

    Switch to a duplexing (2-sided) printer. I cut my paper costs 40% doing this!
    Bump up your screen imaging size so you don’t have to print as much
    in the first place. I used to print anything longer than about two
    pages. By using a larger font in my e-mail program and a larger
    percentage in MS Word’s View menu, I am now comfortable reading
    documents on screen up to about 15 or 20 pages.

    For outside-wall outlets and switchplates, insulate both with foam
    insulating pads (usually given away by your utility company if you
    get an energy audit, or very cheap at the hardware store–and fill
    any unused outlets on outside walls with baby-safety outlet
    protectors, also very cheap. The foam takes about 1-1/2 minutes per
    outlet to install, and an outlet protector, about ten seconds.

    Turn the water OFF when brushing teeth, except when you’re actually
    using it: wet the toothbrush (small stream of water), turn off the
    faucet, brush, wet again to rinse.

  • Alex Roberts, President @ Mr. Handyman 12/06/11

    1. Sealing cooling and heating ducts with duct wrap or mastic
    sealant can save up to 25% on your energy bill.

    2. Fix plumbing leaks. A single drippy faucet can waste 212
    gallons of water a month.

    3. Insulate your hot water heater. Doing so can cut your home’s
    CO2 emissions and save you around 4% to 9% in water heating costs. You
    also reduce standby heat costs by 25%-45%. To see if you need to
    insulate, touch your heater. If it’s warm to the touch, it needs
    additional insulation.

    4. Replace shower heads with low-flow heads and replace faucets or
    just the aerators. Low-flow shower heads can save you between 10% to 16%
    of water heating costs and reduce your water usage by 20,000 gallons per
    year.

    5. Install low flow toilets. This will save you 3.5 gallons per
    flush.

    6. Install ceiling fans. This will cut air conditioning costs by
    40% in summer. Alternatively, in the winter, these ceiling fans work to
    circulate warm air from the ceiling back down to the floor to save
    heating cost.

    7. Plug overlooked energy leaks around the house! Use low VOC
    caulk and foam strips around windows and door frames that leak air. Add
    door sweeps and door shoe gaskets. A 1/8″ space around your door is like
    having a brick size hole in your wall. Imagine one of these for every
    door in the house! Did you know that your light switches can be an
    overlooked source of air leaks? Hold a wet hand in front of a light
    switch plate or outlet and if you feel air, you have a leak. Installing
    foam gaskets behind all the light switches and outlets can stop these
    energy leaks.

    8. Insulate. For maximum energy efficiency, your home should be
    properly insulated from the roof down to its foundations.

    9. Install a hot water heater timer if you have an electric water
    heater which can turn hot water off at night and on again in the
    morning.

    10. Replace your light bulbs. Energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs
    last 8 to 12 times longer than incandescent. Just one bulb alone can
    save at least $30 in electric bills over its lifespan and reduce
    greenhouse emissions from power plants. Just 5 bulbs could save you 50%
    of your annual lighting bill.

    11. Replace old windows with new high performance dual pane windows
    with low-e coatings. Or self-adhesive reflective film on the windows.
    These films reduce air conditioning bills. In addition, reflective film
    can eliminate interior upholstery fading by blocking harmful UV rays.

    12. Insulating your hot water pipes. Not only does this raise the
    temperature with a lower water temperature setting, you also conserve
    water since you don’t have to wait as long for warm water whenever you
    turn on a faucet or a shower! Or install a hot water recirculating pump
    and get almost instant hot water every time you take a shower.

    13. Install outdoor solar lighting. It’s easy to install and virtually
    maintenance free. Best of all, it provides free electricity.

    14. Install shades, drapes, awnings or sunscreens to block light on hot
    sunny days and keep cooling costs down. In colder times, closing these
    drapes can retain warm air. This may seem like an old-fashioned and low
    tech, but it’s surprisingly effective and time-tested tactic.

    15. Add lighting controls and timers. Motion detectors outside can
    increase security and decrease energy expenditure. Timers can be set to
    turn lights off and on and predetermined times. This is an easy energy
    saver.

    16. Reuse and Recycle. How about donating perfectly good cabinets,
    sinks and other appliances to Habitat for Humanity Reuse store? Get a
    tax write-off, help someone else in need and save room in the landfill –
    a win win situation. Our customer service representatives can connect
    you with Habitat, with whom we have a relationship.

    In many cases, you will save more on your energy bill by making these
    changes than you will spend on making them!

  • Neal Walsh @ Aeroseal 12/05/11

    What do experts say is the single most effective upgrade you can do to your home to save energy? Upgrade windows? Install a new Energy Star-rated furnace? Insulate your attic or your basement?

    While these are the answers most often given by homeowners, if you chose any of them, in most cases, you’d be wrong! According to recent studies, the single home improvement upgrade with the highest energy savings potential is air duct sealing! In fact, in their report, Unlocking Energy Efficiency In the U.S. Economy, industry analysts McKinsey and Company found air duct sealing to have the potential of saving twice as much energy as upgrading a furnace and about five times that of upgrading windows.

    In a recent feature on the importance of air duct sealing, the U.S. Department of Energy cites evidence that residential and commercial buildings typically lose between 20% and 40% of heating and cooling energy through the multiple leaks found in a typical air duct system. Can you imagine filling up your tank at the gas station and losing that much gasoline before your next fill up? In fact, it’s been estimated that Americans could save about $5 billion a year through improved air duct sealing.

    It’s easy to locate and fix some of the more accessible air duct leaks in your system. Pass a smoke device such as a stick of burning incense along the surface of the exposed air ducts. Pay particular attention to the seams and places where sections of the ductwork are connected. When the furnace is on, any heated air escaping through holes in the ductwork will disturb the smoke pattern of the incense enough to alert you to the location of the leak. You can seal these exposed leaks using special metal tape or mastic sealant – both of which can be purchased at your local hardware store. However, DON’T try to seal duct leaks with duct tape. It turns out this is one of the seemingly few applications where duct tape is ineffective!

    Since most of a home’s duct system runs inside walls and under insulation, finding and manually taping many of the leaks is a near impossible task – that is until recently. In the last few years, new aerosol-based duct sealing solutions have entered the market. Applied as a mist that is pumped through the inside of your ductwork, the aerosol technology works in much the same way as fix-a-flat works to seal leaks in your tires. Working from inside your ductwork, it can locate and seal even hidden leaks and those that would otherwise be impossible to reach. While this can only be done by a duct sealing professional, it is 95% effective at sealing all leaks, saving home owners on average $600 to $850 a year in heating and cooling costs.

    Effectively sealing air ducts is such a critical part of home energy savings that many heating and cooling professionals insist it be done as part of any furnace or air conditioning retrofit. As it turns out, the energy savings you realize from the duct sealing will surpass that of the new furnace alone. Together, you will have a system that will not only save you a significant amount on your monthly utility bill, but will also help keep the inside air cleaner and rooms more evenly heated.

  • DeAnna Radaj 12/05/11

    I just wrote about this in a recent blog & my radio show (CasaVerde)….Here are tips I offered:

    1. Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather-stripping, wood putty & caulk any holes you see that allow heat to escape. Make sure doors seal properly.

    2. Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the wall or ceiling or floor has the potential to waste energy. Plumbing vents can be especially bad, since they begin below the floor and go all the way through the roof. Seal them all with caulking or weather­stripping. This is a HUGE one!!! Check ALL vents to the outside to make sure they are sealed properly.

    ***According to field research performed by the California Energy Commission, you can save roughly 10 percent of your heating bill by preventing leaky ducts.***

    3. Electric wall plugs and switches can allow cold air in. Purchase simple-to-install, pre-cut foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate and effectively prevent leaks. This one was new to me. A quick trip to Home Depot helped solve this one for me & is a super easy & inexpensive fix!

    Check Your Insulation

    1. Insulate your attic. In an older home, that can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs. Before energy efficiency standards, homes were often built with little or no insulation. As a result, large amounts of heat can be lost through walls, floors and – since heat rises – especially ceilings. The home I currently home wasn’t insulated when I purchased it 7 years ago, needless to say, living in WI, this was the 1st thing I did before I moved in. Energy bill decreased over 20% that 1st winter compared to the previous owner’s bills. I recommend spray foam if you can afford as this is more efficient & offers better coverage, however, the traditional insultation by the roll is easier to install for the DIY-er. Make sure you install the correct “R” rating & that you aren’t blocking any vents & soffits.

    Check Your Heating System

    1 Replace your heater’s air filter. Your heating system will work less hard, use less energy and last longer as a result.

    2. Use a programmable thermostat. This allows you to program your HVAC system to turn down the heat when you’re at work or sleeping, & then increase the temperature to a comfortable level when you’re at home. Remember – it takes less energy to warm a cool home than to maintain a warm temperature all day long. Proper use could cut your heating costs 20-75%.

    3. Reverse the switch on your ceiling fans so they blow upward, toward the ceiling. By reversing the fan’s direction, the blades move air upward in winter. This is especially valuable in high ceiling rooms, where heat that naturally rises is forced back down into the room. This is fairly simple to do & anyone handy w/a screwdriver is good to go.

    4. Make sure all hearing vents are opened and unblocked by furniture or other items. This will ensure that the air is evenly distributed through the home. HUGE one I deal with when space-planning a client’s home!

    Hope this helps!

  • Emily Widle @ Pegasus Lighting 12/05/11

    Most people think of dimmers in terms of aesthetics, not efficiency. But dimming the lights is one of the easiest ways you can save energy. Dimming a light just 10% results in 10% energy savings and doubles the life of the light bulb. Dimming a light further, of course, results in more energy savings and an even longer lifetime.

    Most homeowners enjoy the effect of a dimmer. In the dining room, it can create the perfect setting for a meal. In the bathroom, it can soften your morning routine and make for less jarring trips to the restroom in the middle of the night.

    We actually just launched an informative campaign about dimmers on my company’s website.

  • Andrew @ Money Crashers 12/05/11

    We all know that we can scale back our usage of energy in our day-to-day habits, but beyond that, there are some awesome projects that you can implement that will save a ton on your energy bill without you even needing to change your habits. It’s all about jumping on the “green” train and getting your home into the 21st century. There are some awesome ways to reduce your energy bill that are inexpensive but extremely effective. Some of my favorites are adding attic insulation to keep cold air out and warm air in during those brutal winter seasons. Also, be sure to install a programmable thermostat. That way, you can allow your house to get a little warmer in the summer and colder in the winter when there is no one home during the day. Then, you can set it to automatically return to a comfortable temperature before you get home. Lastly, want a little bit more exercise? Start hand washing your dishes and clothes. It will take a little extra work and time, but will save a lot on your energy bill. And your clothes will thank you for it since they will likely last must longer!

  • Tanya Stock @ Vida Verde 12/05/11

    The biggest rule is USE LESS. That seems to be easier said than done but it’s possible.

    Ways to save on heat:

    Get a programmable thermostat – set on a timer and allow yourself to be a little cooler than you will like. Sweaters and socks work well as personal insulation.

    Add insulated drapes or close off rooms when not in use.

    Ways to save on Electricity use:

    Run washing machines/dishwashers at odd non-prime hours. Using less energy during prime kwh use time will reduce your bill immediately.

    Get power saver “smart” cords for all electric appliances – including Television, PC’s and yes even the bigger ones. They will also reduce use during those prime times.

    Ways to save on Water:

    Believe it or not you can run a load of wash in a small load cycle. You do not need as much water as you think to clean clothes.

    Add a bucket or catcher in showers or sinks where you run hot water. Catch the cold water and use it for plants or to clean with.

    Ask your utility for your own “benchmarking” guide to see when you use utilites most and energy costs that parallel those times. Many offer free services to assist you in learning about your energy use and ways you can effectively adapt your home and usage affordably.

    Yes it may be time to weatherize your home and make significant improvements in order to really reduce usuage overall but start with the small steps and see big savings first.

  • Ron Martin @ Grand View Builders 12/05/11

    We can all make decisions that will affect the costs of our bills, including energy-usage at home. At Grand View Builders, it is important for us to build energy efficiencies into our homes so our homeowners start out saving energy, time, and money. Here are a few things you can do to save on bills when house-hunting:

    1. Choose a home with environmentally-friendly appliances, like EnergyStar. At Grand View Builders, our homes are Energy Star qualified to create energy savings. Our builders work with Home Energy Raters to carefully select features when planning and building homes, including insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts in home foundations, efficient heating and cooling equipment, and lighting and appliances.

    2. Ask your realtor or builder about energy-efficient features in your home. They’ll know what’s in your home that will save you energy, and what could be replaced or upgraded.

    Pay attention to lighting. Purchase energy-efficient lightbulbs to replace lighting sources in your home if moving into a previously owned or leased home. They’ll last longer, produce less heat, and use less energy than regular light bulbs.

    3. Take note of windows in your home. How do they open? Do they open? Are they double-paned? Make sure you can easily open windows for extra ventilation and light when the weather is nice so you can enjoy the fresh air, extra lighting, and use your A/C or heater less.

    4. Before moving into a new home, ask the builder or inspector of a previously-owned/leased home to review the home’s insulation with you. Make sure its in good shape, or repair it, to keep warmth in in the winter (so you’ll use less heat), and cool in the summer (less A/C).

    5. If you’re designing your own home or building it from the ground up, ask the builder what you can include in the home’s design that will help reduce energy, water, and electricity in your home. Incorporating these features in a new home from the beginning will pay off over and over again in the future. If you live in the Houston area, our personalized Design Center can help you!

    Overall, consider upgrading appliances and features in your home if it means saving on energy in the future. You’ll be more comfortable in your home and you might end up with a little extra spending money in the end!

  • Rob Jones @ Build Direct 12/05/11

    I think the first stop on the whole ‘reducing your energy bill in winter time’ journey may be fiinding out where you’re losing the most heat. For this, an energy efficiency inspection can make all the difference.

    An energy inspection is designed to zero in on problem areas where you can begin to make cost-effective improvements that are unique to your property. There are various methods employed in an efficiency inspection. But, what the process is designed to do is examine your home’s thermal envelope, meaning your home’s capacity to retain the heat that your HVAC system is generating.

    It also takes into account some simple information that can have an effect on how you use your heating. For example, are there any rooms in your home that you rarely visit? Is there anyone at home during the day? What temperature is your thermostat normally set at? All of these details can have an effect on the outcome of your energy bills, and are worth examining. When you know your specific situation, you’ll have a better idea on where to concentrate on saving energy, and saving money.

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