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13 Tricks to Cut Down on Summer Utility Bills

Don't sweat it: Our money experts divulge their favourite strategies to save on summer utility bills.

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Save on summer utility billsPhoto: Shutterstock

How to Save on Summer Utility Bills

Summertime and the living is easy… Until you open the bills, that is. Between blasting the AC and overdoing water consumption, those seemingly innocent warmer-month habits have a way of adding up. Before you open another bill, though, first shift your attitude about saving, advises Prudential’s financial wellness advocate Tiffany Aliche, aka The Budgetnista. “I don’t believe in being overly restrictive when it comes to saving money, because your attitude toward money affects so many other areas of your life,” she says. “It affects your stress level, physical health, state of mind, family dynamic and even your work performance.” When you treat money as a tool to help you achieve your goals, rather than something you need to go without or limit, you’ll be more likely to stick with cost-saving measures, she says.

We asked financial experts for their favourite strategies to save on summer utility bills. Here’s what they recommend.

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Save on summer utility bills - shower shorterPhoto: Shutterstock

Put time on your side

You know how it is. You step into the shower for just a “quick rinse,” and ten minutes later you’re lost in thought . The average shower lasts eight minutes and uses 75 litres, but experts recommend a five-minute shower instead. The simplest shower-shortening method is to use a timer, suggests Aliche. “You might be surprised at how long your average shower lasts, and how easy it can be to save money on water, and the energy it takes to heat it, by simply shortening it a few minutes,” she says.

Here are more showering mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

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Save on summer utility bills - AC maintenancePhoto: Shutterstock

Give your AC some love

Have you changed your AC filter recently? (Don’t worry, we haven’t either.) But small swaps and maintenance checks can ensure your appliances are operating efficiently. “I get my AC filter automatically shipped to me every 90 days during the warmer months, so that way I don’t have to think about it, I just know that’s the time to swap out my filter,” shares Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group in Brighton, Michigan. It’s also a good idea to get your air conditioner and furnace checked every spring and fall respectively, to ensure that your units are running well and not using too much energy.

Find out exactly how often you need to replace everything in your home.

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Save on summer utility bills - use smartphone appsPhoto: Shutterstock

Channel your inner tech geek

“The easiest way to save on summer utility bills is to use digital technology to your advantage,” Foguth says. This handily eliminates all of the “did I or didn’t I?” feeling when you’re not at home, wondering if you left the AC on. Use it to be creative, too: Perhaps you can raise your programmable thermostat a few degrees overnight when you’re in REM sleep and won’t notice the difference. Same with your lights: Smart-home technological advances are making it easier these days to save energy by using timers and remote controls (often via an app on your smartphone).

Check out more things highly organized people do on their smartphone.

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Save on summer utility bills - close blinds and drapesPhoto: Shutterstock

Keep your cool

It’s perhaps the most simple—yet often, in the morning rush, overlooked—way of keeping a house cooler during the day: taking a minute to close the drapes and blinds. “You know how, in an airplane, they want you to lower the shades on the windows to keep it cool when you’re landing in a warm destination? Well, the same principle goes for your home, and it makes such a difference,” says New York–based debt-resolution lawyer Leslie Tayne, author of Life & Debt.

Here are more practical ways to cope with summer heat.

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Save on summer utility bills - power barPhoto: Shutterstock

Watch out for “vampire energy”

Did you realize that your appliances are using energy simply by being plugged in? It’s called vampire—or standby—energy, whereby an appliance still uses energy when turned off. “Anything that you have plugged into an outlet could silently be seeping off energy without you realizing it,” says Aliche. To combat the vampires, she advises plugging electronics (except, obviously, appliances like your fridge) into an outlet strip, then unplugging the strip every night (turning it off isn’t enough). “One of my clients used this piece of advice and ended up saving $30 a month,” she says.

Find out more money mistakes that are costing you thousands.

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Save on summer utility bills - watering the lawnPhoto: Shutterstock

Use water during peak times

Peak soaking-in times, that is. “You waste water when you use it during the heat of the day, because you lose a lot to evaporation,” says Foguth. Watering your grass and garden during early morning or evening ensures the water soaks in where you need it: into the soil as opposed to the air.

Get to know more things you should never do to your lawn.

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Save on summer utility bills - line dry laundryPhoto: Shutterstock

Ditch the dryer

When’s the last time you’ve actually air-dried, say, a towel? Exactly, says Tayne, who recommends the old-fashioned clothes-line technique. “Take advantage of the warmer months to take a break from the dryer now and again,” she says. Just thinking of that fresh smell should be incentive enough to keep it up all summer. According to the Saving Electricity website, line-drying can save you nearly $200 a year (cost depends on dryer and energy rate; use this chart to calculate your savings).

If you absolutely can’t line-dry, make sure you avoid these mistakes that shorten the life of your washer and dryer.

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Paying summer utility billsPhoto: Shutterstock

Eliminate the surprise factor

Avoid the sticker shock that comes with warm-weather bills: Did you know that many utility companies offer an Equal Pay program? “This way, you’re paying the same amount every month, based on your estimated annual expenses split in 12, so you can better plan ahead,” says Foguth.

On the other hand, here are some money saving tips you should definitely ignore.

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Save on summer utility bills - child light switchPhoto: Shutterstock

Make it a group effort

“When I was a kid, my dad would leave the electric bill out so we could see the charges from last month and the current month,” says Aliche. “Then if we saved money month-to-month, he’d contribute to our family vacation pot. It was a way for him to engage the whole family with decisions we made throughout the house, like turning off the lights or taking shorter showers. And let me tell you: It worked!”

Here’s what experts advise cutting out of your budget during a pandemic.

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Save on summer utility bills - electricity metrePhoto: Shutterstock

Call in the experts

Where are you wasting the most energy in your home? You may not be able to see it, but an expert can show you the blind spots. “Take advantage of your utility company experts, and ask them how to be more energy-efficient,” suggests Tayne. “They’ll come out and take a look for you.” Your utility company can either do an energy audit themselves or recommend an expert to assess and detect air and/or fuel leaks and inspect your appliances.

Find out more energy conservation tips that could save you money.

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Save on summer utility bills - neighbours competingPhoto: Shutterstock

Try to keep up with the Joneses

Tayne laughs as she offers a unique yet always-effective motivator for saving money: competition. “My utility companies show me a comparison to my neighbours in terms of how I’m doing with energy, and I’m always like, ‘why are they more efficient than I am?’ and then it becomes this competition,” she says. “I’m sure I’ve saved money just from seeing how I rank with others!”

Discover 12 sneaky ways your home is draining your bank account.

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Save on summer utility bills - pay by credit cardPhoto: Shutterstock

Get comfy with your credit score

“Let’s face it: Having a low credit score leads to an expensive life,” says Aliche. “Even if you’re not borrowing money, even if you’re just turning on your lights, getting new cell phone service, or getting new car insurance—any situation where you’re going to be making regular payments—credit does matter.” Depending on your score, utility companies can charge you a down payment, or even charge you more for their service.

Check out more simple home hacks that will save you money.

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Save on summer utility bills - put in insulationPhoto: Shutterstock

Think long-term

When Aliche bought a draughty older home, a contractor suggested that she install insulation—for $2,500. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money,’ but he said, ‘It’s going to be worth its weight in gold,’ and he was right,” she recalls. “Before we even moved in, our heating bill was up to $500 a month. As soon as we insulated, our bill went down to $102 the next month. Now it’s under $120 monthly. Think about the lifetime savings of that simple step. That’s why I tell people not to be afraid of a big up-front cost because it will usually pay off—sometimes surprisingly so!”

To save even more money, check out these tricks to keep your house cool—even without air conditioning.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest