6 Costly Mistakes To Avoid With Your Utility Bills While Staying at Home During the Pandemic
With vacations put on hold and COVID-19 cases continuing to rise even as many states work to slowly reopen, it’s safe to say that many of us will be spending more time than usual at home this summer. And that means using more electricity and water than normal.
That’s why we asked the energy experts to share the most costly mistakes that lead to sticker shock with your utility bill. Here are six errors you’ll want to avoid to keep your summer bills in check.
1. Leaving windows unlocked and uncovered
Sure, blasting the AC will keep your place cool this summer. But if all that cold air is just leaking out, all you’ll have is a partly cool space and a huge electric bill.
Keeping cool air in, however, goes beyond simply closing your windows and doors, says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor.
“That’s not a proper seal,” he says. “You must also lock windows and doors to create an airflow seal.”
Another thing to watch out for is letting the hot sun melt away all your cold air. For this, Roberson recommends installing UV-rated window film or even a set of awnings.
“Certain window films can provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays, shielding the interior of your home from sun exposure,” says Roberson. “Awnings are also good—providing some shade without obstructing views.”
2. Ignoring draft drain
Another way to quickly lose the cool indoor air this summer is by letting it leak through gaps in your home’s construction.
In fact, drafts can waste up to 30% of a home’s energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But homeowners can reduce this impact, says Joshua Miller, vice president of technical training at Rainbow International Restoration.
For instance, Miller recommends caulking and applying weatherstrips on doors and windows with small gaps. For larger openings around baseboards and door frames, he recommends using foam sealant—or, as a last-minute solution, a towel.
“If you need an immediate solution, a rolled towel along the base of drafty doorways or windows can get the job done without an added expense,” Miller says. “Though it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the most effective method.”
3. Forgetting to replace AC filters
AC units aren’t just working hard to keep your home cool, they’re also pumping all that cold air through a filter.
“The job of an AC filter is to remove debris from the air before it enters your system,” says Marla Mock, vice president of operations for Aire Serv. “When things clog up, the unit will not cool as well and, in fact, will work much harder and use more energy—causing a substantial rise in the electric bill.”
Dirt in the filter can also cause significant damage to your air conditioner, and even put unnecessary strain on the motor. The best way to avoid this series of unfortunate events is to replace your air filters monthly.
4. Neglecting your pipes
Check your pipes for leaks this summer if you’d like to save on your water bill. Leaks can happen for a variety of reasons—especially when your outdoor hoses and sprinkler systems are frequently running and putting extra stress on the pipes.
“Even just a small leak can waste a huge amount of water every day,” says Ryan Thompson of Plumbing Informer. “Apart from saving you money on the water bill, it can also prevent water damage, which can end up being very expensive.”
You should also check your pipes’ insulation.
“People waste a lot of water waiting for showers and sinks to become hot,” says Thompson. “One way to reduce the amount of time it takes the water to heat up is to insulate your hot water pipes.”
Check out this tutorial for more details.
5. Leaving devices plugged in
We all do it—run the vacuum, make some toast, or charge our devices—and then just leave everything plugged in.
“Just because you turned the device off, doesn’t necessarily mean it stops using electricity,” says Cisco DeVries, CEO of OhmConnect. “Things like cable boxes, game consoles, microwaves, coffee makers, space heaters, phone chargers, and even powered toothbrushes can all continue to draw electricity when turned off.”
In fact, cable boxes and DVRs can cost an extra $96 per year when left plugged in, while coffee machines can run up to an additional $156 per year, DeVries says.
The solution is to get a smart power strip—or several.
“Smart plugs or smart power strips will detect when you’re no longer using a device and turn off the power supply,” he says.
6. Not having a thermostat
You and your family might be winging it when it comes to maintaining comfortable temps indoors, but we’re here to tell you you’ll save on your bills (and all the temperature-related family feuds) by just installing a thermostat.
“Smart thermostats save you up to 10% to 20% on cooling bills annually,” says Mock. “They can also help your family reduce its environmental impact, boosting efficiency via energy usage data and tips.”
Easily installed with mobile apps, which allow for remote temperature control, these smart thermostats will help you regulate your home’s temp, and keep all those pesky electric bills in check.
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