17 Ways Smart Spenders Save Money on Utilities

Tired of paying what feels like way too much for your utilities? Use these money-saving tips to lower your bills today.

17 Ways Smart Spenders Save Money on Utilities
Updated May 13, 2024
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Few bills are as unpredictable as utility bills. You may not think you’ve changed your consumption habits from one month to the next, but your utility bills tell you otherwise. Between turning the lights on when you wake up, taking a hot shower, washing dishes, and all the other countless daily habits, it feels almost impossible to avoid racking up your utility bills each month.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to save money on utilities, you’ll be happy to know you don’t have to resort to candlelight and infrequent showers to make it happen. We’ve put together a list of ideas so you can learn the different and easy ways to lower your bills.

Here’s our list of 17 ways to save cash on utilities (plus a bonus money-saving tip).

In this article

How to save money on heating and cooling

1. Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically regulate your home heating and air conditioning. Programmable thermostats can save numerous temperature settings for each day, and allows you to create a recurring schedule for when and at what temperature your heating and air conditioning system runs. Some newer smart thermostats will also communicate via Wi-Fi and even account for outdoor weather.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by raising the temperature in your home by up to 10 degrees while you’re out of the house. So you might set a programmable thermostat to maintain a temperature of 75 degrees during the summer when you’re home and 85 degrees anytime you’re away. You can follow the same strategy during winter months by setting the thermostat to 70 degrees while you’re home and lower while you’re asleep or out of the house.

2. Set up zones with your thermostat

You can set up zones in your house to optimize the temperature throughout. This is especially helpful in two-story homes because of rising heat. Having one programmable thermostat downstairs and another upstairs to heat or cool specific areas will help improve energy efficiency while maintaining comfort levels in your home.

You can also do this manually by shutting vents and doors to certain rooms that don’t need to be heated or cooled. If parts of your house are unoccupied, there’s no sense in wasting energy to keep the temperature in these rooms at the most comfortable levels.

3. Install weatherstripping

Weatherstripping doors and windows in your home can stop the air from leaking out of your house. Sealing cracks and air leaks, especially in an old and drafty house, can save you more than 20% on your heating and cooling bills, according to the Energy Department.

Weatherstripping comes in a variety of materials, with some more cost-effective than others. As you’re shopping for weatherstripping, choose products that will best withstand weather, temperature changes, and normal wear and tear.

4. Install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans circulate air in the room to create a draft throughout. Although a ceiling fan doesn’t alter the temperature, it creates a wind-chill effect that will help keep you comfortable. Because of the cooling effect, ceiling fans may allow you to raise the thermostat setting by a few degrees without sacrificing your comfort.

When shopping for a ceiling fan, look for an Energy Star certified model. On average, a ceiling fan that earned the Energy Star label circulates air 20% more efficiently than a standard model.

5. Hang sun-blocking window treatments

During summer months, a majority of the sunlight that hits standard double-pane windows makes its way inside as heat. Window treatments that block sunlight prevent that heat from entering, which then helps reduce the energy needed to cool your home.

Energy-saving window treatments can include shades, blinds, curtains, and shutters. Window films can also be applied to the glass to block solar heat from penetrating. With this much variety, you can choose window treatments that save energy while also fitting the style of your home.

6. Cook indoors in winter and outdoors in summer

You can reduce the amount of energy it takes to cool your home during the summer by avoiding using appliances that generate large amounts of heat, such as your oven. Instead, consider cooking the majority of your meals outside. You can take the traditional summer approach of cooking on a grill or use a portable propane or electric burner.

The opposite is true for winter months. If you do all your cooking indoors, the extra heat from the oven can help heat your home.

7. Replace heating and cooling units with energy-efficient models

You can implement all the aforementioned energy-saving tips, but if your heating system and/or air conditioner are old and inefficient, you won’t see as much savings as you could. Replacing your older system with an energy-efficient model will be an investment, but you will see more savings in the long run.

How to save money on electricity and gas

8. Switch your service using Arcadia

You may feel like you’ve reduced your energy usage as much as possible. Is there anything else you can do to lower your electric bill? Or maybe you want to move away from fossil fuels and use cleaner energy like solar or wind, but your current provider charges more for that. If that sounds like your situation, consider using Arcadia.

Whether you rent or own, connecting your utility account to Arcadia could lower your power bill while also giving you access to clean energy. After you sign up, Acadia will match you with a new energy provider and work to lower your rates. It’s free to join, so lowering your bill will really cost you less.

9. Insulate your water heater

If your water heater is warm to the touch, it’s possible this heat loss is costing you money. Whether you’re running on gas or electric, you’re using more to keep reheating that water. But just like insulating your walls, insulating your water heater can help reduce heating and cooling costs each month.

A newer model hot water heater will likely already be insulated, but an older heater might not be. According to the Energy Department, your water heater should have insulation with an R-value (thermal resistance) of at least 24. If it doesn’t, consider adding extra insulation to your water tank.

10. Air dry your clothes

If you're managing money in the laundry room by washing with cold water instead of hot water, using a lower heat setting on the dryer, and not overfilling your dryer with clothes, you may consider ditching the dryer altogether and opting to air dry your clothes instead.

On top of saving you money, you’ll better preserve your clothes. Although convenient, dryers weaken the fabric’s fibers and they end up in your lint catcher and then your clothes eventually come apart and end up in the trash. Therefore, hanging your clothes out to dry will save you money in multiple ways.

11. Swap out your light bulbs

Swapping out traditional incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient lighting is one of the easiest ways to cut your energy bills. 90% of the energy produced by incandescent light bulbs is given off as heat, which means you’re essentially throwing away money every time you turn on the switch.

Thanks to modern technology, we can now swap those old bulbs for energy-efficient halogen incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs. Although the initial price of these bulbs will be higher, they not only consume less energy, but they also last much longer than a traditional incandescent bulb.

12. Use smart power strips

Although you may think simply turning off electronics that are plugged in stops their energy consumption, it doesn’t. Electronics that are turned off can continue to use energy. This continued use of electricity is known as standby power, leaking energy, or vampire loads.

But a smart power strip can detect when electronics and appliances go into standby mode and cut off these vampire loads. Just be sure to read the details when you shop for new power strips, because not all of them are smart, and the regular ones won’t save you money. And of course, this is all much simpler than unplugging your electronics all the time.

13. Invest in new energy-efficient appliances

When you purchase a new appliance, you have to consider both of its price tags: the purchase price and the cost of operation. Although energy-efficient appliances may sometimes have a larger price tag, they pay for themselves over time by helping you save money on reduced energy use.

Whether it’s a dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, or any other appliance, swapping out old appliances for new, Energy Star labeled ones could go a long way in helping reduce your energy costs.

How to save money on water

14. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full

If you think you’re using less water by hand washing the dishes, you’re wasting more than just time. An Energy Star labeled dishwasher can save you more than 7,000 gallons of water a year over hand washing.

You can make the most efficient use out of your dishwasher by running it only when you’ve accumulated enough dirty dishes for a full load. Running the dishwasher only when it’s full can prevent 100 pounds of carbon pollution and save $40 a year on your energy bill.

15. Install a low-flow toilet

Older toilets can use more than 6 gallons of water each time they’re flushed compared to the one or two gallons per flush of modern, low-flush toilets. If you have an older toilet, it could be the greatest source of wasted water in your home.

Newer toilets that carry the WaterSense label are independently certified and must meet rigorous criteria for both performance and efficiency. Replacing old, inefficient toilets with a WaterSense labeled model can reduce water usage by nearly 13,000 gallons every year.

16. Install water-saving showerheads and faucets

Although federal regulations require newer-model showerheads and faucets not to exceed more than 2 1/2 gallons per minute at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch, you can buy water-saving fixtures that reduce your consumption even more.

Quality, low-flow showerheads shouldn’t run you more than $20 each and could result in savings on your water bill of 25% to 60%. For maximum water-efficiency, look for an aerator for your faucets that restrict flow rates to no more than 1.0 GPM.

17. Get new water-efficient appliances

Swapping out old, inefficient appliances for new, water-efficient appliances may be the best way to reduce the amount of water you use. If you don’t want to spend a large amount of money at once, you might formulate a plan to replace one appliance at a time. There are also zero-interest credit cards that are great credit cards for making large purchases. You essentially get free financing and at least a year of time to pay off your money-saving appliances.

Bonus money-saving tip

Consider paying your utility bills with a credit card. Many different types of utility companies allow this now, and if you use one of the best cashback credit cards or best travel credit cards, you could earn money or rewards just for paying your monthly bills. If you’re not paying with a rewards credit card, you’re essentially paying too much for your utilities.

Bottom line

Although your utility bills will fluctuate according to your usage, you can save money on utilities by implementing these cost-cutting tips. Although the upfront cost of replacing older, inefficient appliances or heating and cooling systems with energy-efficient models might be expensive, they will pay for themselves over time.

And once you start saving on these utility costs, don’t stop there. The next areas to focus your attention on are lowering your internet bill and lowering your phone bill.

Author Details

Matt Miczulski

Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.