4 ways to save money on energy bills

Woodrow Aames | Improvement Center Columnist | July 23, 2012

Electric energy bills have risen for five straight years. The increase marks the highest surge since the energy crises of the 1970s, according to a study conducted by USA Today. Consumers now have to cough up $1.50 for every $100 dollars they earn to pay off monthly electric bills. The five-year jump has jacked up average utility bills by $300 a year.

If you find yourself lighting dollar bills on fire to keep your house warm, consider the following ways to save money on your electric bills:

  1. Buy replacement windows and doors: The California Energy Commission (CEC) estimates that 45 percent of a home's energy bill comes from heating and cooling costs. Thirty percent of heated or cooled air is lost through leaky windows and doors, the CEC reports. If openings to the outdoors are not sealed tight during hot summer and freezing winter months, you have a fully operational, unwanted ventilation system. Is it time to consider an upgrade?
    Consider installing replacement windows with high thermal performance, non-metal frames and glass with low-emissivity ratings. If you live in a warm climate, choose tints that curb excessive solar heat gain. You'll find a good selection of energy saving products in most window styles.

  2. Schedule an HVAC tune-up: ENERGY STAR reports that closing up leaking ducts can save you up to 20 percent efficiency in your heating and cooling costs. An HVAC inspection can detect leaks, clogs or other shortcomings in your system. At the same time, consider installing a programmable thermostat that keeps your energy setting consistent. Newer, programmable models allow you to even control your HVAC from a computer or smart phone, curbing costs when you're away, or operating the furnace and AC during off-peak rate periods.

  3. Improve insulation and weather-stripping: The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) reports that 37 percent of homes are heated entirely by electricity. Adding insulation to your exterior walls and in the attic may cut your cooling and heating costs by as much as 30 percent, according to the ASE. In many cases, you can do the job yourself for $200 or less.

  4. Change your consumption habits: Replacement windows and doors, new insulation and installing a digital thermostat will go a long way. Still, you can save even more by changing your habits. Turn off computers, chargers, peripherals and appliances, when not in use. That includes unplugging the TV, computer, toaster and other appliances -- rather than letting them gobble up juice in stand-by mode.

Stop the energy trickle out, stop the bleeding. Conserve energy today and keep hard-earned money in your pocket tomorrow.

About the Author

Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.