We’re well into 2016, but you remember the utility bills from last winter and want to lower those bills. Home improvement expert Bob Vila has some ideas to help.
Audit your energy
Vila’s first suggestion is to ask your utility company to do an audit; however, Westar does not provide that service in Wichita. You can hire a handyman to help you discover areas in your home that use too much energy or do it yourself.
Fill ‘em up
Holes, cracks and gaps around windows and doors can let heat out and bring cold in. Inspect window seals and door frames for air leakage by holding your hand close. If you feel any cold air coming in, you can be sure hot air is going out. Use weather stripping or caulk to seal any leaks. If these remedies do not help, bring in a handyman to help. Eliminating drafts and leaks can reduce a home’s heating costs up to 10 percent.
If you work a traditional job away from home and no one stays at home, turn down the thermostat before leaving for the day. A programmable thermostat can do this for you and it is relatively easy to set. In fact, your smart phone can set some models. You can save up to $180 or more a year by adjusting for the time you’re not at home.
Check your balance
Westar has several options to keep track of the energy you use each month. Track it yourself to ensure your bills are accurate. You can do this for other utilities and other bills as well. Most companies will allow you to see your energy usage and make changes online.
Grow it yourself
Fresh herbs can help make food tasty. However, recipes usually call for a pinch or two and the rest wilts in the fridge. Grow your own herbs instead. Keep the pots in a sunny window in the winter and snip what you need to your favorite recipe.
Reduce water usage
Most of us know that a shower uses less water than a bath. We also know that running the faucet while brushing our teeth uses up water unnecessarily. For more water savings, install aerators to showerheads and faucets. An aerator mixes air into the water leaving the faucet to reduce water consumption. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, installing an aerator to every faucet in the house can reduce an average household’s water consumption by 700 gallons per year, and an average of $48 a month.
Maintain your appliances
Major appliances are some of the biggest energy users in your home. To keep your fridge in top condition and to trim the energy bill, thoroughly vacuum the refrigerator coils at least every three months to eliminate dust and dirt build-up.
Cut back in the kitchen
Substitute the stove for a slow cooker, small electric grill or the microwave to cook meals. These small appliances can be up to 75 percent more energy efficient. When you choose to use the stove, be sure the burners and reflectors are clean so they can reflect heat better and work more efficiently.
Sock away money
The average American family washes 300 loads of laundry each year. That’s a lot of water and energy consumption. By using Energy Star-certified washers, you will reduce your energy by 25 percent and use 40 percent less water. To save an extra $50 each year, wash and rinse clothes in cold water. Be sure to get detergent for cold water.
Hang out to dry
If your laundry dryer isn’t Energy Star certified, opt to line dry your clothes when the weather cooperates and save. Of course, when you need to use the dryer, make sure you are filling it at least halfway. If you have only a few items to dry, add a couple of dry towels. A full dryer promotes better air circulation, drying clothes faster and leading to lower energy costs. Be sure to clean the lint filter and exhaust vent after each use.
Flush it right
Have you heard about toilets that have two options to flush after use? Depending on the type of waste you’re flushing (liquid or solid), the amount of water you send down the drain can be reduced.
Refinancing your mortgage can save you thousands of dollars every year, especially if you plan to stay there for several years. Making an extra, principal-only payment can also reduce the amount of interest you pay and the length of your loan.
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