Skip to main content

How to Cut Costs in Your Electric Bill

As a professional career coach, Marcy has helped hundreds refine their resumes, improve their interview skills, and advance their careers.

Saving a few cents on electricity can add up to many dollars each month.

Saving a few cents on electricity can add up to many dollars each month.

Follow These Tips to Lower Your Electric Bill

Energy costs have fluctuated here and there, but over a period of years, it’s clear that we pay more for electricity today than we did several years ago.

Sadly, incomes don’t appear to be increasing at a similar rate, which means for $100 more you pay per year to keep the lights on and run the air conditioner, you need to cut a similar amount from other expenses just to break even.

Worse yet, power companies sometimes struggle during major weather conditions just to keep up with the demand. Blistering heat waves or protracted periods of cold weather can drain power grids and create rolling blackouts, or even longer interruptions.

8 Ideas for Saving Energy and Reducing Your Bills

You can take steps to reduce your own consumption (and your electric bill!) and help conserve energy. In fact, if every household adopted a few strategies to cut usage, we would likely not have shortages and would see fewer rate increases.

  1. Monitor and Adjust Your Thermostat
  2. Consider a Programmable Thermostat
  3. Maintain Your Air Conditioner and Heating Unit
  4. Use CFL Bulbs—and Turn off the Lights!
  5. Maintain Appliances and Replace Seals
  6. Use Power Strips
  7. Check and Replace Weather Stripping
  8. Unplug Chargers and Appliances

1. Monitor and Adjust Your Thermostat

Small adjustments on your thermostat can save many dollars. Energy experts point out that raising your indoor temperature by even one degree can save about two percent in costs.

Two percent may not sound like much, but if your monthly air conditioning bill is $200 (as are many in hot climates), you’ve just shaved $4 off your bill. Raise the thermostat even higher, and you’ll lower costs even more.

There’s little reason to keep a room at 72 degrees and even fewer reasons to keep it at 68 degrees. Turn on the fans, and set your thermostat at 75 to 78. When you leave home for more than a few minutes, raise it even higher, to around 80 degrees. The house will still seem cool when you step back in the door (especially if it’s 90 degrees outside and humid), but you’ll have saved many dollars you would otherwise have wasted by cooling an empty dwelling.

If you’re used to running your unit at 72 degrees, switching to 78 degrees would save around $12 a month on a bill that’s normally $200. That’s several gallons of gas or a few fast-food lunches. Or money in your savings account.

More than that, it’s also less energy being consumed from your area’s grid and less drain on our natural resources.

2. Consider a Programmable Thermostat

Many people wonder what a programmable thermostat actually is and how it can work. Installing one and (more importantly) using it can help reduce your bill and also relieve you of the hassle of remembering to adjust the temperature when you leave each day.

Programmable thermostats can be set to turn the unit on or off or raise or lower the temperature according to your schedule and when you want to run the unit. It can adjust the usage to match your comings and goings and even turn things on to make the house comfortable before you get up each morning.

Some units allow you to program one way for weekdays and another for weekends. And, of course, you can override it manually if you need to.

In recent years, some environmentally conscious energy providers have begun offering free thermostats and installation to their consumers. This is cost-effective for them in the long run, because if more households have these devices, the overall savings and reduction in fuel usage will offset the cost of providing the thermostats.

Some areas also offer a small rebate if you get the thermostat installed and also agree to have your unit cycled off for brief times during periods of very high usage.

This doesn’t mean you’ll sweat for hours every afternoon during the high-demand hours of 4-7 p.m., it means that if there’s a serious surge in usage during extremely hot weather, your unit will turn off for many 15 minutes at a time to help the system keep up with demand.

Chances are, you won’t even notice the brief interruption. But at the same time, you’re too busy to think of turning it off yourself on those occasions, so the system-wide program does it for you. And you can feel very environmentally supportive for participating in the program.

Check with your electric provider to see what sort of rebates and conservation programs are offered.

3. Maintain Your Air Conditioner and Heating Unit

Most of us turn on the air conditioner every summer and turn on the heater every winter without paying attention to the condition of the units and whether they need to be cleaned or maintained.

You're wasting energy and money if you aren't doing basic maintenance on your heating and cooling units. You can clean your furnace fans and do simple AC maintenance and repairs yourself. All these steps are easy to learn and will save money.

Changing filters helps as well by reducing resistance for the airflow and lowering pollution in the house as well (good filters really do pay off—financially as well as in health terms).

4. Use CFL Bulbs—and Turn off the Lights!

Some of us grew up with a regular mantra from Mom and Dad, “Turn off the lights!” when we left bulbs burning needlessly. It’s hard to imagine that one little light bulb can add dollars to your bill, but it’s true. Better yet, install compact fluorescent bulbs in all lamps and fixtures you regularly use.

Incredibly, converting to high-efficiency fluorescent lighting can save about 25 percent of your lighting costs and energy use for each bulb. The bulbs cost more on the front end, but they last for many years (about eight times the lifespan of regular bulbs) and save far more than the initial expense over the long haul.

Fluorescent bulbs also generate far less heat than regular bulbs. Maybe you’ve noticed how a room suddenly cools when you turn off several incandescent bulbs (such as those huge panels of big bulbs that were popular bathroom fixtures a few years ago). You’re paying more to air condition rooms that are needlessly heated from the lighting.

Cleaning Your Refrigerator Coils Can Save Energy

5. Maintain Appliances and Replace Seals

While you’re installing new bulbs in the house and changing out your thermostat, check your appliances to see whether they’re still in good shape. Swapping out the seal on an old refrigerator can save on your bill; you won’t be sending cooled air between the cracks.

Do you really need that extra (and possibly outdated) refrigerator in the garage? If you absolutely have to have it, make sure the seal is in excellent shape, because it already has to run more than usual just to keep up with being in a hot garage.

Any other appliance that can leak energy should be checked as well. Dryers and dishwashers both have seals. You’ll save more money by hanging clothes outside and turning off the drying cycle on the dishwasher. But be sure to check the seals and keep them in good shape.

Be sure to clean your refrigerator coils to keep it from running harder (and longer) due to build-up of dirt and dust. This can also save you costly repair or replacement expenses if the motor burns out from overheating.

6. Use Power Strips

Do you use power strips on your computers? And are you buying Energy Star computers and printers when your old units bite the dust?

Both of these steps can save many dollars. Computers don’t need to run constantly (how many hours do you spend sleeping each day or at work?). They drain energy and also generate heat (which makes your AC unit work harder).

Simplify your life and install power strips. With one switch, you can turn off several devices and save the money you’ve been wasting.

When your printers need to be replaced, look for Energy Star ratings (almost all are designed this way now). You’ll save a lot over the lifetime of the printer because it will not run needlessly to warm up or cool down.

7. Check and Replace Weather Stripping

Are your doors and windows sealed well from the outside elements? Weather stripping takes a beating from rain, heat, hard freezes and other weather-related conditions. You may well be leaking much of your cooled (or heated) air into the outdoors due to having worn weather stripping.

While you’re checking those areas, assess whether you need to upgrade insulation or wrap your ductwork (another step that can save tons of money).

Efficiency experts estimate that many homeowners can save hundreds of dollars by wrapping ducts (a step that has dramatic pay-back value) and changing out worn weather stripping. Attic insulation is a bit more expensive, but you'll recoup the investment in just a few seasons.

Cell phone chargers drain energy.

Cell phone chargers drain energy.

8. Unplug Chargers and Appliances

Every cell phone or iPod charger that’s left plugged in can drain small amounts of energy even when not charging a phone. Commonly called “energy vampires,” chargers are known for siphoning off energy even though they’re not attached to a device. Unplug the entire charger when your phone (or iPad, iPod, whatever) has a full battery and avoid this insidious drain on the nation’s energy grids.

Some chargers are greener than others (but even those can suck energy when not in use), but if your charger feels warm when it’s just plugged in and idling, it’s definitely draining electricity. And you’re paying for it.

Kitchen appliances can also drain small amounts of energy (and some can even be fire hazards if left plugged in—toaster fires are more common than you think).

If you’re going to be on vacation, unplug any small appliance with an LED display (even your clock radio). After all, you won’t be home to look at the clock anyway, will you?

Small Steps Equal Big Savings

These are small steps, but taken collectively, they can reduce your electric consumption (and your bill) dramatically.

As a nation, we can save millions of dollars and kilowatt hours by adopting these simple steps. In the long run, this will save additional dollars through avoiding the cost of new power plants or increased expenses in fuel purchases.

As individuals, you'll not only feel good about conserving energy, you'll save money you can use for other things.

Which would you prefer—spending hundreds of dollars a year on wasted energy and needless electricity usage or having some extra dollars for that family vacation?


Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 03, 2013:

Thanks, TimTalksTech - glad you found some tips here that will work for you!

timtalkstech on January 03, 2013:

Great tips for saving our hard earned money. Voted up!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on October 17, 2012:

Hi, Mom Kat - we must have the same genes! I freeze easily, and I sometimes keep the thermostat higher than I'd like. I did notice I was able to tolerate lower temps when I bundled up and I lowered it gradually. Thanks for commenting, and stay warm!

Kat from USA on October 17, 2012:

Being a freeze baby, the temp in our home is always set higher :) It saves in the summer, but costs in the winter. This year I'm going to try to tolerate a colder setting on the thermostat... (shutter)

In the summer I don't turn the a/c on until it hits 80* in the house. Windows are left open for breeze & shades are pulled on the windows that the sun is coming through to help keep too much heat from building up.

In the winter I have a hard time letting it get below 76* in the house. Right now we've got it set at 71* and I'm already in long johns & sweaters :)

Excellent hub with really good tips! Thanks for sharing these. I do need to remember to unplug those little energy vampires more often :)

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 19, 2012:

Yay!! I know exactly what you mean - same here. When I tell my friends I keep the thermostat between 78-82 (higher if in not here), they cringe. But the same people are outside each summer enjoying the hot weather!

Thanks for reading & commenting - so glad you like the ideas here!

Sondra from Neverland on July 19, 2012:

Hi Marcy! =) Isn't it amazing how fast the small changes can add up? I have started making tiny adjustments to our thermostat and with our lights and electronics that stay in stand-by mode.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 13, 2012:

Hi, Alipuckett - I'm so glad you found the hub useful! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 13, 2012:

Thanks so much for reading and sharing, Rajan! I was amazed at how much my bill dropped after I installed CFL bulbs. I'm sure that was the biggest part of the savings, and I'm not even that guilty of leaving lights on needlessly!

Wouldn't it be great if more appliances were made without the standby mode (or with greener versions) and without needless electric lights or displays. Who in the world needs a clock on the refrigerator?

alipuckett on July 12, 2012:

Awesome suggestions. Thank you!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 12, 2012:

Great tips Marcy! We hardly think of things like a charger, the TV kept on standby mode and the rest draining energy in small bites. These sure do add up.

I've always tried to make do with CFL as much as possible, also trying to see that lights in rooms we are not in to be shut off. And small things like these that you mention in here.

Voted up, useful and interesting. Sharing on G+1 and tweeted.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 12, 2012:

Hi, Suzette - I'd not heard of the Vaseline tip before; it makes perfect sense! You are absolutely right that we need to conserve now if we don't want to do without someday. Thanks for reading, and for leaving that great tidbit of advice!

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on July 11, 2012:

This is really good, common sense advice. I do all of the above. I have one suggestion. Put vaseline on your refrigerator door strips and they will seal shut much better. Don't put too much vaseline because it will work too well lol. It is much better to conserve energy now than to do without it in the future. Thanks for a relevant and interesting hub. Voted up and shared!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 08, 2012:

Oh, gosh - I'm so sorry you were without power! I know so many people who were hit by that, and it's the middle of a huge heatwave, too. I had to laugh at your comment about maybe saving cash because of it - I confess I always wonder that, too. The old Silver Lining theory, I guess!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 08, 2012:

Hi, i4u - I appreciate your kind comments. The refrigerator trick really does save money on utilities and repairs, and of course if it's not running as much, it's not putting out heat into the kitchen. So glad you like the hub!

Pete Fanning from Virginia on July 08, 2012:

Great tips Marcy, love the videos as well. Our power just came on after the storm that hit last week....during the hottest week of the year (I hope) I told my wife.....I'm hoping it saves me some cash! She was not amused. Voted up and useful!

i4u on July 08, 2012:

Definitely some great tips to save a heck lot of money. I really liked the cleaning of refrigerator idea and I'll make up some time from the daily schedule and do it soon. Other tips are of course for a definite try.

Amazing writing!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 02, 2012:

Many thanks, Randy! It's surprising how painless it can be to save electricity. I appreciate your comments and votes!

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on July 02, 2012:

Very well written and concise article, Marcy! Little things we can do to conserve electricity add up in the long run. Now more than ever with energy costs peaking during the summer. Rated up, of course!


Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 30, 2012:

Hi, Rema - thanks do much for reading, and for your kind comments! So glad you like the hub!

Rema T V from Chennai, India on June 30, 2012:

Hi Marcy,

Loved the hub. Excellent in being practical and very useful. I am sharing this hub for all my friends to read and get to know some great money-saving tips. Cheers, Rema

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 28, 2012:

Lol! Thanks, Margie! I'll save up my credit and trade you for some of the great tips I get on your hubs! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on June 28, 2012:

This is an outstanding hub, Marcy! What great ideas. Some of them I do, but there are many I'd never thought of. Thanks! I probably owe you a few dollars now.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 27, 2012:

Hi, LocalGuy - hope these ideas help you with that goal! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

LocalGuy on June 27, 2012:

I'm all about saving money. Thanks for the tips!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 26, 2012:

Hi, Brian - I agree that many Americans want ultra-controlled heat and cooling. I believe the 80-82 degree temps (F) are summer figures. In much of the country, air conditioning is horribly expensive, yet many of the most populated states are in the sunbelt. Yesterday it was around 103F at the hottest where I live and was above 100 for at least 5-6 hours. Some households and businesses keep their air conditioners on 68-72 degrees. I freeze if the AC is blowing cold air that low, and the bills for it would be in the 100s.

In the winter, some people like it warm enough to go without sweaters (which raises your heat bill), but many will keep the heat set in the 60s or even 50s to avoid high bills.

I'm thinking you were looking at the AC (high) settings people mentioned? But I do agree we are nowhere near as sensible about temp settings as you are in the UK. And if you go in stores in the summer, you freeze to death.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

BRIAN SLATER on June 26, 2012:

Very good advice Marcy in the uk we would add to your list, extra insulation in the loft space, as this as been proven to where most of the heat is lost. And to add double glazing particularly on the north and east sides where the rain and winds come from.

Reading this hub and the comments as made me raise my eyebrows at the temperatures you Americans want to live under. In most uk homes the heating will go off at the end of May if not before and will not be switched back on till mid Sept at the earliest. We may if the weather turns really cold put the heating on say, after 9pm just to make it more comfortable but a lot of folks here just can't afford $150 per month for electric which is the norm so stick to keeping temperatures on the low side. voted and shared.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 25, 2012:

Thanks, Pramod - I agree with you about the high expense for many of the technologies. It seems costly to implement, even though it does save money later on. As you pointed out, it is more expensive for home owners than for businesses.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on June 25, 2012:

I appreciate your tips and guidance for energy saving.New technologies are coming out with more powerful sensors and of early warning ,seems to be expensive for house installation, if price lowers down then can be installed.

Save power --create more power--slogan in India, Power hungry nation

Thank you

Pramod Gokhale

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 25, 2012:

Hi, TFScientist - so glad you like the hub! I can personally attest that these things work; my bill has been halved from what it was a few years ago. Many thanks for reading and commenting!

Rhys Baker from Peterborough, UK on June 25, 2012:

Excellent advice. Even small savings add up, and the average home has dozens of small savings that can be made. My pet peeve at university was people opening a window when it got too hot, rather than TURNING DOWN THE HEAT! (this was in November, and the weather was not to blame)

I am guilty of one or two of these. I shall print off your hub and use it as a checklist around my home. "Look after the pennies and the pounds will follow"

Voted up and useful. Thanks for sharing

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 24, 2012:

Hi, Lambservant - you are so lucky you can use a clothesline! It's against the neighborhood covenants where I live, I do put a few things on hangers, but it would be great to have the outdoor smell of sheets again, as you described! Thanks so much for reading, and for reminding me of that memory!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 24, 2012:

Hi, AEvans - it sounds like your house feels like mine! I keep my thermostat on 80-82 as well, and I bump it higher if I'm gone. It really is easier to live with than people think. My bill dropped dramatically when I took various steps, such as the thermostat and compact fuorescent bulbs (I was surprised at the difference they made!).

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Lori Colbo from United States on June 24, 2012:

Excellent ideas. I unplug anything I am not using except major appliances. I keep my house cooler in the winter and dress warmer, and I have cut a great deal off of my power bill by putting up a clothes line and air drying my clothes. I live in the country so it's wonderful to smell freshness in my clothes. During cold or wet weather, I hang some of my thinner clothes and items on hangers near the heater and let them dry that way. Not many are willing to do such things, thinking it is tacky, but I have cut a significant amount on my bill.

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on June 24, 2012:

Our thermostat sits at 80-82 ; and we run ceiling fans to keep things cool. We can't afford $400.00 electric bills in the heat. Great advice Marcy and the article is sincerely appreciated. :)Thumbs up!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 24, 2012:

Hi, Peg - I'm so glad you can offer personal information about the savings from these things! I've also noticed the heat from my flat-screen TV. Even if it somehow isn't drawing power, it sure is warming the room.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 24, 2012:

Marcy, As usual, you've packed a lot of useful information into a small space. I love the tips on unplugging kitchen appliances. In fact, there is an ongoing struggle with the hubster over the toaster as well as the big screen TV. I've noticed that when it's left on, the room is about ten degrees hotter than the other rooms in the house. I'm always turning it off, the hubby turns it on and leaves the room so I turn it off again. LOL

We've been using the programmable thermostats for years. When we would leave for work and be gone 12 hours, it would turn the heat or a/c on in time for our return. Lots of savings on that alone!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 23, 2012:

Wow, that's a huge tesimony to how those things help. My bill dropped dramatically when I implemented many of these steps, too. Thanks for sharing that, Sis!

Angela Blair from Central Texas on June 23, 2012:

Excellent suggestions and advice Miss Marcy -- my house was "weatherized" a couple of years ago and I can't begin to tell you the difference it made in electric bills -- phenomenal. I try to follow the suggestions you made as I go and have also found that new attic insulation and black window screens make a definite difference. With the black screens one has to forego a bit of sunlight but I've found it well worth it. Super beneficial Hub for all of us -- thanks! Best/Sis

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 22, 2012:

Thanks, Aviannnovice - I was surprised at how my bill dropped when I adopted some of these steps. It really can save money. And when we think we could end up with a shortage of energy, it's even more important. Thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 22, 2012:

Voted up, useful and awesome. In this age where we are experiencing recession, we sure all need to know and use these tips. Those that have jobs are lucky to have them, and now I have to make ends meet on a part time job. It can be done, but we all need the practice on tightening the belts. Thanks for a great article.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 22, 2012:

Thanks, Susan - that was a surprise to me, too! It made perfect sense, once I learned about it and checked the heat coming from my chargers. Wow - what an eye-opening revelation. Many thanks for reading and commenting!

Rika Susan from South Africa on June 22, 2012:

Good, practical money saving tips, Marcy! I wasn't aware that plugged-in chargers may be draining electricity. Out they come!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 21, 2012:

Hi, fpherj! Well, if the hub passed inspection with you, I know I'm on the right track! You are the site's role model for saving money! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Suzie from Carson City on June 21, 2012:

Did someone say "Saving Tips??" Here I am, Miss Penny Pincher herself. Ready, willing and able to take in all the tips and advice all times. Saving, budgeting and money tricks is my game....Your tips are expert.

It does make a difference to the bottom line and it does ADD long as you're diligent and consistent. Thanks, Marcy. UP++