Homeowner adjusting a thermostat

9 Ways to Save on Your Utility Bill

Follow these tips to prevent the cold temperatures from heating up your energy bills.

Homeowner adjusting a thermostat

You can save 3 percent on your heating bill for every one degree you lower the thermostat. 

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With the country dealing with winter storms and record low temperatures, saving on your utility bills has never been more important. Suzanne Jones, the vice president of the Association of Energy Services Professionals, shared tips on what renters can do to save energy and spend less on utilities.

1. Make minor adjustments to your rental home. There are a few easy and low-to-no-cost energy solutions that can make an impact.

  • Make sure none of your heating registers are blocked.
  • Keep south-facing window coverings open during day to let in the sun’s heat and close them at night.
  • If you have drafty doors, which is especially a problem in older buildings, purchase or make a door snake to catch cold air. A rolled up towel can also do the trick.
  • To stop drafts from windows, purchase window storm kits for inexpensive, temporary insulation. 
  • Check the power management settings on your computer and television to ensure they automatically go into sleep mode when not in use.

2. Control your thermostat. The biggest utility expense in the winter is heating. In fact, heating and cooling typically account for more than half of energy costs in your home. The good news is that you can save 3 percent on your heating bill for every one degree you lower the thermostat, according to Jones. For example, if you normally keep your apartment temperature at 75 degrees and lower it to 72 degrees, you’ll save 9 percent on your utility bill or nine cents on every dollar. The average utility bill for a two-bedroom apartment in the Northeast is $125 to $175, which means a simple three degree difference could save you $135 to $189 per year.

3. Avoid vampire energy charges. A staggering $10 billion is wasted every year on vampire energy, also known as standby power, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "New devices automatically power down computers and other electronics when they are not in use. Otherwise, these television sets, video games and other electronics simply waste electricity," Jones says. Smart power strips can help. They cost about $40 and can save you $100 per year.

4. Invest in energy-efficient light bulbs. Lighting has changed dramatically over the years, and the latest trend, LED lights, are incredibly efficient. For example, a 40-watt LED bulb uses only six watts of power, which is 85 percent less energy than a standard light bulb. Although LED bulbs are more expensive, according to Jones, they are worth the investment. Depending on usage, a single bulb could last up to 20 years and costs only 72 cents a year to operate. Plus, you can take these energy savers with you when you move.

5. Replace your shower head. Do you leave your shower running while you wait for the water to heat up? You could be wasting up to 7,800 gallons of water a year if you have a family a three, according to Jones. Installing a Ladybug showerhead adapter with ShowerStart technology is a simple solution. This device easily installs on your showerhead and conserves hot water by lowering the flow down to a trickle until you pull a cord to resume normal water flow. At less than $30, you’ll make up the cost in savings in only a few months.

If you have access to your water heater in your rental, consider turning the temperature down. Jones says it can save you $10 per month for every 10 degrees you lower it.

6. Visit your utility company website. Jones recommends visiting your local utility company’s website, where you’ll likely find a host of programs, rebates and tips to help you save money and energy. Some companies even offer free or low-cost energy audits. "Utility companies want their customers to use less energy, and their websites are replete with programs and incentives that encourage, and often reward, smart efficiency measures," Jones says.

7. Take advantage of technology. You can use the latest technology for just about anything, and saving money on your utility bill is no exception. If your landlord approves, consider investing in a programmable thermostat. When programmed correctly, you can save up to 30 percent on your home’s heating and cooling bills, Jones says.

8. Pay attention to peak hours. Time of Use rates are based on the time of day you’re using energy, and avoiding peak hours can help you save. Details and peak hours will vary based on where you live, so check with your local utility company.

9. Talk to your landlord about upgrades to your rental. A little investment will save you money as a renter and can be an attractive selling point for a landlord or property management company. "A great strategy for renters would be to talk to the landlord about implementing energy-efficient measures such as wrapping pipes, installing insulation, lowering water heater settings and making sure that hot or cold air is not escaping," Jones says. Your landlord may also be eligible for rebates or tax breaks for certain upgrades, so don’t be afraid to make your case. 

Corrected on Feb. 21, 2014: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Association of Energy Services Professionals.