A Few Small Changes Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars on Utility Bills

"Making small behavioral changes can add up."

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Salvador Nobre Veiga, a 32-year-old stock trader and small business owner living in Pennsylvania, reduced his annual utility costs almost 66% by upgrading his home to make it more energy efficient.

When Nobre Veiga and his wife moved into their home near Harrisburg, he immediately noticed that the 2,200-square-foot, 1950s ranch-style house was “leaky,” as he puts it. The problem was costing him roughly $2,200 per year, and he decided that was a problem he could solve.

Utilities are more expensive in Europe, where Nobre Veiga grew up: We don't have oil or natural gas, for the most part. And then we have taxes, so everyone is trying to cut back expenses,” he says. “I don't think the average European family is as wasteful, energy-wise."

Nobre Veiga cut his annual utility costs to $750 and, he says, reduced his household's energy consumption by 80%. To save, though, first he had to spend.

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In all, he invested about $1,200 over a few years: He installed new light bulbs and a smart thermostat, for example, and he insulated his attic. Nobre Veiga outlines his exact steps in a Reddit thread, and says that he expects to have recouped his investment within a year.

Here’s how you can take a similar look at your own utility bills and find opportunities for savings.

Understanding your utility bill

The average household in the U.S. spends around $2,000 per year, a spokesperson from the Environmental Protection Agency tells Grow. Some of the most common significant utility bills include:

  • Electricity

  • Gas (heat)

  • Water/Sewer

  • Garbage

  • Internet and cable television

If you break down the average annual utility bill by spending type, it looks like this:

What you actually pay depends on where you live and your individual setup. Adding solar panels to your home, for example, may help you lessen electricity expenses, especially if you live in a place like Arizona or Florida. And you’ll largely get more bang for your buck by focusing on larger bills, like those related to heating and electronics.

Budget wisely for utilities

Since your cost for utilities will largely depend on where you live, creating a proper budget can be tough. You can probably count on some costs, such as cable and internet, to be fixed. Others, such as water and electricity, will vary from month to month.

Since heating, cooling, and electricity are generally the biggest utility expenses for most consumers, there are things you can do today to help cut your energy consumption and trim your utility bills:

1. Seal and insulate

You can cut down energy costs by as much as 10% per year by installing weather stripping on doors and caulking your windows, according to an EPA spokesperson. You can also buy extra insulation for your attic, which may be a large up-front expense—more than $1,000, depending on the size of your home—but can pay off quickly in savings.

2. Replace your light bulbs

Check your lighting fixtures and replace older incandescent bulbs with camp fluorescent lamp (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Nobre Veiga says this was one of the first changes he made: He was able to cut his energy usage considerably by changing to CFLs.

3. Invest in new windows and doors

Doors and windows aren't cheap, but replacing single-paned windows with double-paned ones can save you hundreds per year by keeping cool and warm air either in or out. The EPA says savings typically amount to between $100 and $580 annually.

4. Get a new thermostat

“Smart” thermostats can automatically adjust the temperature in your house depending on whether you’re home, or if it's day or night, bringing new efficiency to your heating and cooling systems. Nobre Veiga says using one cut his heating bills 30% to 40%.

Nobre Veiga also says that small behavioral changes add up. These include using cold water for laundry or turning off lights when you leave. So it’s worth your time to find ways to tailor your actions with your savings goals in mind.

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