If you’re working toward financial independence (FI), chances are you’re looking to optimize your expenses. By reducing the amount of money you spend each year, you shrink the amount of money you need to reach financial independence by 25 times that amount if you’re following the 4% rule. That means what seems like a small monthly savings can turn into a huge long-term savings if you can keep up the lower spending.
One bill that is a necessity for almost every American is your electric bill. However, your electric bill is highly dependent on your personal habits and your particular home. You can lower your electric bill if you’re willing to invest some money in energy efficiency improvements up front or if you’re simply willing to change a few habits.
I asked the ChooseFI Facebook group for their best tips to save money on your electric bill and compiled some of the best responses, along with some information I researched myself, in this article. If you’d like to read everyone else’s thoughts or would like to add your own, here’s a link to the post in the Facebook group.
Reduce Wasted Electricity Usage
Paying money for electricity you aren’t even benefiting from is a complete waste. Many people noted that leaving lights and ceiling fans on when you aren’t in a room are common issues. A couple members mentioned solutions that can help solve this problem.
The first is installing motion sensor light switches. These switches will automatically turn the light switch off if it doesn’t sense movement in the room after a certain period of time. If you often leave lights or ceiling fans on in rooms you’ve left, these could help you cut your electricity bill, especially if you’re still using incandescent light bulbs.
Speaking of incandescent lightbulbs, switching to CFL or LED light bulbs could offer a huge savings on your electric bill. Many LED bulbs use roughly 10-20% of the electricity an old incandescent bulb uses. If you switch all of the bulbs in one area, you won’t even notice the color difference after a couple weeks thanks to improvements in the technology.
You can even incentivize your kids to cut out wasted electricity from leaving lights, ceiling fans and other items, such as TVs, on when they leave a room. One group member said they charge their kids $1 every time they leave a light on in a room they aren’t in. I think this is genius. It should help their kids learn good energy conservation habits and pay the electric bill at the same time.
Optimize Your Heating and Air Conditioning Usage
According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for 48% of the typical U.S. household’s electric bill. This leaves a ton of room to save money on your electricity usage.
Group members were quick to point out that using a programmable thermostat could be a big money saver. Simply set the temperature warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter for periods when you aren’t home to start saving money.
During the summer, ceiling fans can help you save even more money. Running a ceiling fan will usually allow you to bump the thermostat up a few degrees and still feel comfortable. The breeze will make you feel much cooler and help you save money in the process.
It also helps to make sure your home isn’t building unnecessary heat during the day. If you aren’t in a room, make sure you keep the drapes closed to block out the light and the heat. Room darkening curtains offer the best energy savings. You can also block out the light by growing shade trees around your home.
Finally, if you find yourself spending most of your time in one or two rooms of your home, it may make sense to get an individual room air conditioner or heater. That way, you can heat or cool the room you spend most of your time in and leave the temperature in the rest of the house at a more efficient setting.
Appliance Hacks to Lower Your Electric Bill
What appliances you use, or don’t use, can have a huge impact on your electric bill. Two in particular are your oven and your clothes dryer.
Your oven is an awesome money saving tool when you use it to cook food instead of eating out at a restaurant. However, most times you could save even more money by using a different appliance instead. While a large oven is necessary for some meals, like a Thanksgiving turkey, you don’t need a full-size oven to bake a couple chicken breasts. Instead of heating up a huge oven to cook something small, consider using a toaster oven instead. It heats up to full temperature much faster and the smaller space means less electricity will be used to cook the same meal.
Another way you could start saving on your electric bill is giving up the clothes dryer. Honestly, a clothes dryer is a huge luxury. If you don’t need your clothes right away, simply hang them up on drying racks or a clothesline outside. The clothes will eventually dry and you won’t have to pay a penny in electricity to get the job done.
Don’t Forget to Check with Your Utility Company
The last major category ChooseFI Facebook group members suggested to save electricity was checking with your electric company for savings. In some areas, you can shop around to find the cheapest electricity provider. Even if you can’t choose a different provider, check to see if your provider offers multi-rate billing which could lower your bill. Simply avoid using your biggest electricity hogs during peak price hours and you could save a great deal.
Electric companies often offer incentives to lower your electric use or upgrade to more efficient systems like HVAC systems. Some may even offer incentives if you decide to install solar panels on your home. What’s even more awesome is the fact that many electric companies will come out to your home and perform a free energy audit to show you where you could be saving. They’ll look to see where you need to caulk windows and doors, where you may need additional insulation in your walls and attic or suggest other ways you could save, possibly including rebates.
Saving money on your electric bill doesn’t have to be difficult. Find at least a couple of suggestions above that will work for you and use them to start saving on your electricity bill now. You’ll be glad you did.
Want to read more from Lance? Check out the rest of his articles here.