Top 10 Tips for Saving Money ~ On Utilities


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Two weeks ago, I gave my Top 12 Tips for saving money on groceries. This week, I want to address utilities. This topic is hot {pun intended} on my mind because I’ve had two cold showers this week – in part because of my efforts to save money on utilities.

Here are my Top 10 Tips to Save Money on Utilities:

1. Turn back your water heater ~ Not only is it not safe to have your water heater set too high, it also costs more money to keep your water hotter. According to, for each 10 degrees you turn down your water heater, you save 3-5% in heating costs! 120F is a commonly recommended temperature. 120F is hot enough for us in the summer, but I need it a little higher sometimes in the winter because I’m a freak who likes to take scalding hot showers! 😉

2. Turn down your furnace in the winter and turn up your AC in the summer ~ According to the Residential Fact Sheet by the EPA, “in heating mode, reducing your thermostat setting by 1 degree Fahrenheit for eight hours will save about 1% on your heating bill. In cooling mode, each degree you set your thermostat above 75 degrees Fahrenheit cuts your cooling costs by about 3%.” Installing a programmable thermostat can help you better regulate the temperature at your house.

3. On cooler nights in the summer, sleep with open windows and then close them and blinds early in the morning to keep the cool air in your house ~ This might go without saying, but on cooler nights in the summer, open your windows! Get the cool air in your house and then keep it in your house by closing your windows and blinds in the morning.  Keeping the hot sun out of your house during the day is a great way to keep your home cooler without AC. Conversely, let the sun in your house in the winter to warm it up!

4. Upgrade to energy efficient appliances & furnace ~ Not only do more energy efficient appliances save money on energy costs, but they’re also better for the environment because they use fewer natural resources. Energy companies often offer rebates for upgrading appliances and there are even tax credits available. And contact your local utility company for information on replacing appliances. If you live in Iowa and use Mid American, you can read about their rebate programs here. We’ve received rebates for replacing water heaters, washer/dryer, and a deep freeze. Don’t forget about rebates and tax credits!

5. Turn off lights and appliances when they are not in use~ This might be another tip that goes without saying, but always, always turn off lights when you leave a room. I’m not sure how much money it saves, but it conserves energy and that’s got to be a good thing! Also remember to turn off appliances that aren’t being used – did you know that even appliances/electronic devices that are plugged in, but turned off, still use a small amount of energy? For sure turn off your appliances to save, but to really conserve money and energy, you may want to consider unplugging items that aren’t in use, too. Does your hairdryer always need to be plugged in, for instance? How about your toaster? If you don’t want to unplug your electronic devices, consider using a power strip and turning it off when not using your devices. Just think how much money and electricity we’d save if everyone did this?

6. Switch light bulbs ~You really can save money by switching to more energy efficient light bulbs. Check out this energy savings calculator to see how much money you could save by switching over to CFLs. CFLs use up to 75% less energy and last 10 times longer so the savings can add up in a hurry! CFLs are also cooler so they’re not added unnecessary heat to your house in the summer.

7. Use cold water for washing clothes ~ According to Energy Star, almost 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating the water! Switching even a few loads a week to cold water can have a very positive impact on your energy bill – over $200 a year according to this article written for the Christian Science Monitor. And this site claims it costs 26 cents per load to wash on hot and only 11 cents per load to wash on cold! Cold water is also better for bright clothes – it keeps them nicer longer.

8. Turn off the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher ~ Another way to reduce your energy bill is to open the door of your dishwasher once it’s finished washing and let your dishes air dry – or simply turn that feature off. I’m not sure how much this actually saves, but it seems like a good idea! I hate all that steam escaping from my dishwasher, especially in the summer.

9. Use bill pay ~ I love electronic bill pay. I feel like this might be a lazy solution, but not only does it save me money on late fees, but it also saves me time and money on envelopes and stamps. I always sign up for auto bill pay options. This does not mean I can ignore bills as they come in, I always check my bills for errors, but beyond that, I don’t have to think about them much because the money is automatically deducted each month from my checking account.

10. Promptly fix all water leaks ~ I still remember the summer our utility bill spiked big time. The city called us even before bills came out to let us know about abnormally large water usage. Turns out, an outside hydrant we had for my garden had sprung a leak UNDER GROUND! I was so glad they called, because we had no idea. And yet, we had to pay – not only for the extra water we’d wasted because of the leak, but also fees for waste water treatment! It added over $80 to our monthly utility bill – an increase of almost 50%. You might be surprised how much water a leaky faucet or a running toilet wastes! It really pays to fix those problems very quickly.

These are my tips to save money on utilities. How many of these things do you do? What else to you do to save money on your utility bill that I didn’t mention?

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I don’t take cold showers – I draw the line there! 🙂 We have it set to 120, we’ve upgraded appliances, turn lights off when we’re not there, use cold water for most laundry, fix leaks (even though we are on a well so our water, sewer and waste bill each month is about $12) but electricity is what kills us here. Even cooling the house to 81 degrees costs us $270/month in winter up to $380/month in summer – after getting a new A/C!! Before, it could get up to $440/month, and some neighbors pay over $500. And we have no choice in electric company out here so we’re stuck with it. Ouch. 🙁 How about automatic billing to the credit card so you get points at least for utility bills?

    1. Me, too! Bad timing. Too many people taking showers in a row – forgot the water heater was set down. 🙂 Love credit card points!!

  2. These are such important tips! You don’t have any about cooking. I try to plan on baking two or more things at once, or one after the other, when I am using the oven. Baking them at the same time gets more done with the exact same energy; putting in one food as the other comes out saves the energy that would be used to pre-heat the oven again. In cold weather, when I’m going to drain boiling water off pasta or other food, I drain it into another pot and let it stand until it stops steaming; we may as well use the heat (and humidity) in our home instead of let it go down the drain! In hot weather, we use a George Foreman grill for some kinds of cooking that would otherwise be done in a skillet; it uses less energy and puts off less waste heat. We don’t use our full-size oven at all in hot weather if we can avoid it; we don’t have air conditioning, so we’d just be uncomfortable, but if you do have AC you’re increasing its energy use when you heat up the house with the oven.

    You might be interested in my tips for using less electricity in lighting. Using fewer and cooler bulbs is another way to decrease AC costs or keep a non-AC home cooler.

  3. I personally don’t like AC and feel like it is “fake air.” I know it’s neccessary in certain parts of the country. Honestly I don’t turn it on until I absolutely need it. Thus I kind of developed a higher “heat tolerance.” We always shut it off at night and open windows. We have the advantage that we get little to no humidity in Oregon thus making sleeping comfortable without AC.

    I also line dry almost all my clothes in the spring, summer & fall (until the “Oregon rain hits”) and don’t use my dryer as much.

    If you do have leaky faucet, temporarily put a bucket underneath to catch the water. Then pour that water in your washer. Set your washer to a smaller load. We sometimes have to let our laundry sink drip one or two days in the dead of winter if we get a cold spell (to keep the pipes from freezing).

  4. I’m not fond of the a/c myself. I grew up in a farmhouse with 12 inch thick walls. It’s a small battle between my dh and I every year about putting the window units in. I don’t mind doing it in the upstairs bedrooms because they are much hotter. I don’t feel like we need it so much in our downstairs bedrooms.

    I should turn the temp back on the water heater. We don’t need such hot water for showers in the summer, and I doubt my kids will use less hot water. 😉

  5. Great tips! I fully agree with you particularly on points 4 and 10. Switching/ upgrading to energy-efficient appliances makes a huge difference on your electric bill. Same thing goes for water bill, routinely check your plumbing and home for leaky faucets. Thanks! Happy New Year!