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16 Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills that could Save You 1500 a Year

Updated on January 27, 2013
Even the Navy has switched to energy-efficient light bulbs.  Public Domain Photograph by the U.S. Navy.
Even the Navy has switched to energy-efficient light bulbs. Public Domain Photograph by the U.S. Navy. | Source

A Note on £/$ Amounts in this Article

Electricity in the UK costs (very roughly) double what it costs in the U.S. Conversely, $1 is (variably!) about £0.60 exchange rate at present (2012). This means that (extremely roughly!) about one GB pound of electricity is the same as about one dollar of electricity.

Although this is extremely rough working, and very sloppy mathematically, this article is trying to demonstrate very broad and average savings, and to show that even small measures build up and can make a worthwhile difference to your household budget - so where I've put the amount of savings as a rough guide and motivator, I've used the same figure for both the U.S. and the U.K. currencies, and used '£/$' instead of putting two figures in each time.

Central heating and air conditioning are surely symbols of modern life – we can adjust our climate at the touch of a button, and instant heat has saved the lives of those – particularly the very old and very young – who might otherwise perish from hypothermia. But many of us have become slaves to convenience, and we pay for it not only by handing over our hard-earned cash to the utilities companies who report billions in profit every year, but also with small but nonetheless significant health concerns.

Is Your Temperature Control Making You Sick?

Air Conditioning
By actively circulating the air we breathe, air conditioners can spread germs more easily from one person to another, and if you are lucky (!?) enough to have air conditioning in your office, car or home, if one of the people who shares this space comes down with a bug, the chances are, you’ll all have it within a few days. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, since air conditioning systems are perfect breeding grounds for Legionnaire’s disease, and anecdotal evidence shows that for people with chronic conditions like asthma, air conditioning seems to make their symptoms worse. Many people find that their skin becomes very dry in an air conditioned environment, and this concern is not just for the beauty-conscious, since dry skin can be at best very uncomfortable, and at worst can lead to infection if the skin becomes cracked and irritated.

Central Heating
It has long been suspected that dry skin, breathing difficulties and sinus problems are exacerbated by turning up the central heating, although hard research results are difficult to find on this. But researchers at the University College in London have found that our ability to control temperatures in our homes and offices is fuelling obesity. So whether you want to breathe easier or lose a few extra pounds, it can be worth turning down the thermostat and finding a different way to keep warm.

Just going for a walk for half an hour every day will improve your circulation, ward off chronic disease, and help your body regulate temperature better to boot! Photo by Henri Bergius, Licence CC-BY-SA 2.0.
Just going for a walk for half an hour every day will improve your circulation, ward off chronic disease, and help your body regulate temperature better to boot! Photo by Henri Bergius, Licence CC-BY-SA 2.0. | Source

Improve Your Health While You Save Money!

So cutting your utilities bills may have a positive impact on your health as well as on your pocket. Here are some tips to help you turn down the heat, or turn off the air conditioning, without making you shiver or break into a sweat.

Get insulated from the cold, and cool down in the heat!

  • The ‘big three’ are loft and cavity wall insulation, and double-glazing. The UK’s Energy Savings Trust estimates that a typical family home would save around £500 on energy bills every year by getting double-glazing installed and loft and cavity wall insulation. Although energy is somewhat less expensive in the US, this still works out to a saving of close to $500 annually.The ‘big three’ can be quite expensive, although the savings on your utilities bills, and the value they add to your home will mean that they do pay for themselves within a year or two. But insulation doesn’t end here, and there are lots of ways you can make your house warmer, or cooler, with even a minimal budget.
  • Don't Heat Empty Rooms. Turn the radiator thermostat right down in rooms that you don’t use so often. You might want the living room to be warm when you settle down in the evening to relax, but if you only spend an hour in the kitchen every day to cook and wash the dishes, is it worth heating that room all the time? Slipping on a sweater to pop to the fridge for a snack might not be the height of luxury, but think of all the extras you could buy as the cash you save builds up.
  • Don't Throw Money out of the Window! Get heavy curtains with pelmet tops to stop heat escaping through the window glass in winter, and use dark blinds to keep out the summer heat instead of turning on the air conditioning.
  • Warm Floors, Warm Room. Be creative! Cold will creep through the floor too in the colder months, so put thick rugs down, or even make your own rugs! In the summer, go the opposite way - roll up your rugs and put down some rush matting instead, which will still be comfy for the feet without hoarding the heat in your home.
  • Personal Touches can Warm up your Life! Throw some ‘throws’ and cushions on your sofa that you can snuggle into while you’re reading a book or watching TV. Whether you brighten a dark room with some snazzy prints, or bring a touch of elegance with some cool tones or rich reds, these scatter items are easily washed and easily changed, so that you can swap your décor to suit your mood without calling in the painters and decorators.
  • Door Snakes Don't Bite! Get ‘door-snakes’ to keep out the drafts and to stop heat escaping through any gaps between the floor and the bottom edge of doors. Even the most well-fitting doors can have small cracks and gaps around the edges, and the more of these you stop-up during winter, the cosier your home will be.

Energy Saving in Lots of Small Ways Adds up to Big Savings

  • Use energy-saving bulbs. Some energy-saving bulbs might not be bright enough to read by comfortably, but do you need more than a soft glowing lamp to add some warmth and atmosphere when you’re watching TV?
  • Switch the light off when you leave a room. If you like to leave a light on for security at night, or leave a radio playing to give any opportunistic burglars the impression someone is at home when you go to work, get a couple of timer switches for the plugs to a lamp and stereo. If a light or some music comes on intermittently, it gives a more realistic impression anyway, as well as saving you money on electricity.
  • Turn things off fully, not just to ‘standby’. That little standby light on your TV might only cost a few pennies every night, but do you really want your appliances spending any of your money while you’re sleeping? If you leave a lot of different things on standby when you go out to work, or go off to bed for the night, those pennies can quickly add up and inflate your energy bill.

Don't Just Save on Bills - Get Healthy Too!

  • Eat Right - Spice Up Your Life! It’s astonishing how simply eating right for the weather can make a difference. On cold mornings, have a substantial hot breakfast, because hunger will make you shiver even if you turn the heating right up. And don’t underestimate the warming power of spices: whilst we often associate spicy foods with hot countries, tossing some warming chillies into your casserole or stir-fry will raise your temperature too on a winter night. If you don’t like very spicy food, turmeric is a warm and comforting spice without being fiery and just like chillies it improves your circulation if eaten regularly, which will help your body regulate its temperature so that you aren’t at the mercy of the whims of the weather quite so much. In hot weather, eat light and often, and go for Mediterranean-style spreads that you can nibble at, like chopped fruits, pita breads, tapenades, and bowls of olives and cheeses with crackers and garlic breads.
  • Get sweaters and cardigans for cold days, instead of flicking on the space heater, and get a face mister to spray on yourself in the heat rather than turn on the air conditioning during the summer. Putting your body under a little thermal stress occasionally is good for your metabolism and your waistline, and keeping warm or cool in more natural ways like this will help give you a broader temperature tolerance, as well as saving money.
  • Exercise. A brisk ten minute walk to the shops will raise your temperature and increase your circulation and metabolism rates. One of the bonuses to this is that if you keep busy and active to keep warm instead of reaching for the thermostat, over time you’ll also get fitter and healthier. In the warmer months, when you really can’t face walking in the dreary humidity and blazing sun, try going for a swim at your local pool instead. One tip to remember is that very recent research has shown that if you drink warm water before exercising, you will actually retain less heat – so before you exercise in hot weather drink warm water, in cold weather drink cool water!

Water, Water Everywhere can make Money Flood out of your bank account

  • Shower Quickly, and have a Weekly Bathtime Pamper Session. Switching to a metered water system can save you money, but only if you watch your water use. If you take a long luxurious shower you can use a bath-full of water or more, so take quicker showers, and save your pamper-time for a weekend afternoon when you can soak in a bubble bath and get out all those creams and lotions and potions as a treat.

  • Do the Dishes like your Granny Taught You! Be aware of how much water you use when you wash the dishes, and wash them the old-fashioned way in a sink full of hot water, and rinse them in a sink half full of cold water, rather than washing each one separately under a constantly-running mixer tap or popping them in a dishwasher that sucks up both water and electricity.

  • Know your Washing Machine. Use the lowest water temperature setting you can, and look around for washing powder or tablets that work at this temperature. Try to fill your machine every time, rather than waste electricity (and water) by throwing in half a load on a ‘full load’ setting. When it is time to replace an old washing machine, look for the ones that are ‘eco-friendly’ – they will use less electricity and less water and will save you money.

  • Get a rain barrel, and use this water on the garden instead of getting the hosepipe out to keep your grass green in the summer.

So how much can you save by cutting down your energy consumption?

Estimates vary wildly, but adding up the average savings:

  • Insulation, double glazing and measures like stopping up the gaps that cause draughts and fitting heavy curtains to stop heat escaping through the windows: £/$500 every year.
  • Needing less heat (or less air conditioning) by eating right for the weather, slipping on a sweater and keeping active instead of turning up the thermostat: if you can turn down the thermostat on your central heating by a couple of degrees, it’s estimated that you can reduce your heating bill by 10% - so if you can turn it down even further, and turn down (or off) the radiators in rooms that you don’t use so much, this percentage could be a lot higher, and the cash will be in your bank account, instead of the energy company’s.
  • Using energy-saving light bulbs, switching off appliances at the plug instead of leaving on standby, and using water-saving and energy-efficient appliances all add up – each small measure you take, even if it’s just fixing that dripping ‘hot’ tap, can save £/$10 to £/$40 per year, so if you incorporated 10 small ways, the savings you make could be anywhere up to £/$400 every year!

Added together, all these different things can make a difference of hundreds or even thousands of pounds in the long-term - and depending on how 'energy conscious' you are right now, you might be able to save up to £/$1500 every year by doing everything on this list!

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    • PenHitsTheFan profile image

      Amy L. Tarr 5 years ago from Home

      Voted useful and interesting. I never thought much of the correlation between diet, health, and temperature but it makes sense.

    • warchild75 profile image

      lee 5 years ago from Worthing, west sussex, england

      I'm hopefully just about to move into a large house with my wife and will need to be frugal so this helps a lot!! Thanks! Marked up

    • Redberry Sky profile image
      Author

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Cheers, PHTF, and good luck with your house move, warchild75 :)

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Red. I´m right behind you on this one and one of my first hubs was suggestions on how to save money and stay out of debt, I touched upon some of the things you have writen about on this hub. As you know, I live in Spain and can´t believe how many people here use a tumble dryer instead of hanging out their washing !!!! In Spain with almost year round drty weather, this seems like madness to me. Recently I have been looking at estate agents site´s back in the UK and am really surprised to see almost all the houses there now have taken up the carpets and replaced them with wooden flooring...are they MAD!! The floorings look great, but in the UK climate you need carpets and rugs..Spanish houses all have either tiled or laminate flooring, the rugs go down as soon as the temperatures start to drop, and are taken up for the summer. One thing they have also in Spain are roll down blinds on all the windows,they are built in to double glazed window units now. Shame you can´t get these in the UK not only for more protection from the elements, but also for security reasons. Great hub Red and fantastic advice. Voted you up etc.

    • Redberry Sky profile image
      Author

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Hi bac2basics. Wow, I thought in the summer months Spain itself would be a bit like a tumble dryer! Yes, wooden and laminate flooring everywhere now - the house I live in already had it in the main living room when I moved in, and that room got *really* chilly in winter until I got a couple of nice big thick rug to put down in there.

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Red...yes spain is like a tumble dryer in summer that´s why I can not understand anyone using an electric one...the thinking is it makes your clothes and towels feel softer...personally I´d rather save the dosh. Have linked this hub to one of mine because it goes really well with my thinking.

    • Redberry Sky profile image
      Author

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Cheers bac2basics - I linked one of your recipes in one of mine a couple of days ago because they had something in common too - great minds think alike an' all that :)

    • Ann M Reid profile image

      Ann M Reid 5 years ago from Lancaster County, PA

      When we lived in a drafty Victorian flat right off the North Sea in Saltburn, we had no central heat-- and learned lots of these wonderful tips for keeping warm and keeping cool no matter the temperature outside. In the winter, we didn't heat the unused guest bedroom and used it as a "chiller" to augment the eensey-beensy size our of UK standard, slightly-larger-than-a US-dorm-room-fridge. We stored fruit and veg in the dressers, and cartons of juice, yogurt, extra milk and beverages on the windowsill behind the heavy drapes and pelmet. In winter, on most days it was 40 degrees F on the sill and 45-50 in the unheated bedroom-- a perfect temperature for keeping fruits and veg! Everything worked out fine until my sister came over from the States to visit and wondered why the dresser drawers in the guest room smelled of onions and cabbage!

      We also used calico snakes to exclude drafts from the unheated rooms into the main hallway and our "lounge" which was heated (barely) with a sputtering, fuse-popping electrical "fire."

    • Redberry Sky profile image
      Author

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Wow, Ann, that sounds great (in a way!) - cheaper than running a large fridge to keep all your food refrigerated at least! I used a much smaller version at uni and kept my milk cold on my tiny window sill in winter (8 students, 1 fridge - not enough room!). I remember my mum used to store apples from the tree in our garden in the drawers of a big old welsh dresser too - they used to keep for weeks and weeks wrapped up in newspaper in cold weather. I love the thought of your sister's face at the new 'cologne' of her sweaters after she unpacked her things on her visit! Great ideas, Ann, thanks for sharing them :)

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 5 years ago from New York

      Very helpful! Many of your tips promise to make your living quarters more comfortable along with saving on utilities.

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 5 years ago from Bangkok

      Voted up and shared. Our utility bills always go up during summer days. I'm hoping it will go down now that it's rainy season once again.

    • Arren123 profile image

      Arren123 5 years ago from UK

      Very interested indeed, some good info, thanks for sharing, voted up and useful :)

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      Nice article, well written.

    • thom w conroy profile image

      thom w conroy 5 years ago

      All great points and useful tips - very nicely done!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      If the weather is not as hot, I make sure I don't use the air conditioner. :) Also we make sure to open the windows to let in fresh air.

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination. Click this link to join the Hubnggets fun. Read and vote too okay? https://hubpages.com/community/A-HubNuggets-Hike...

    • Redberry Sky profile image
      Author

      Redberry Sky 4 years ago

      Windows are the only air con I have, but that lets in the bees from the garden. Dilemmas dilemmas :+)

      Cheers Ripplemaker, I'll go read and vote now.

    • toomuchmint profile image

      toomuchmint 4 years ago

      Great hub, Red! Curtains are awesome for keeping out drafts in winter and sunlight/heat in the summer. They're so easy, but so easily overlooked. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on your HubNugget nomination!

    • Redberry Sky profile image
      Author

      Redberry Sky 4 years ago

      Cheers, toomuchmint :)

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Excellent hub with great practical advice.

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