Go Green for Green: Simple Ways to Save Energy and Money in Your First Home

It doesn’t matter who you are — bills are bills when it comes to having a place to call your own.

Whether you live in a small apartment in Minneapolis, or you’re a millennial who finally overcame mortgage rejection to purchase your first home, or you spend your nights in a LeBron James-like mansion in Hollywood, every month, you face a multitude of bills: groceries, mortgage/rent, phone, internet, car payment, insurance, utilities… the list goes on.

For most of those providers — your grocery store, your lenders, your phone, and internet company — you can shop around.

But when it comes to utilities, there are no coupons or sales to take advantage of. That could be why utilities are one of Americans’ largest annual expenses, with the average household spending almost $4,000 on utilities in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But you still have a few options to save money on your utility bill, ranging from smart gadgets to making a light switch.

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Replace Your Bulbs

This is one of the most common energy saving tips; you’ve likely been hearing about the energy-saving benefits of LED and CFL bulbs for years. But have you actually made the switch?

Compared with incandescents, the LED bulbs have a higher purchase price, but they use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer. You’ll more than make your money back, especially when considering that incandescents lose up to 90% of their energy in radiated heat.

Control Your Water Heater

You have a couple of opportunities to save money with your water heater.

If you’re old-fashioned, you can opt to turn down the maximum temperature of your water, which will keep you from losing standby heat. Energy.gov estimates that simple change can save you $61 a year in standby heat, and more than $400 in demand costs.

However, this method has a few stipulations: You’ll want to check your dishwasher for a boost heater to make sure that your water there is still hot enough to sanitize your dishes. Additionally, if you have a weakened immune system, you’ll want to keep your water temperature very hot to discourage bacteria growth in your heater.

If you’re more technologically tempted, you can implement a retrofittable device, like Aquanta, to connect your water heater to your phone.

With the controls in your hand wherever you go, you’ll be able to boost or limit heating or see how much hot water you have, compare monthly and weekly usage, and receive maintenance alerts. Plus, a “learning” function will optimize the heating energy for when you’re most likely to need it.

Watch Your Thermostat

Energy.gov estimates that by dialing back your home’s temperature for eight hours a day — while you sleep or are away at work — you can save 10% on your heating and cooling bill.

You can do this manually or program many thermostats to take care of this for you, or you can go the extra mile and install a smart thermostat, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, which will familiarize itself with your schedule and habits to adjust your house’s temperature to keep you comfortable while reducing unnecessary energy use.

Inspect HVAC for Leaks

But all of the thermostat attention in the world won’t help you if the perfectly timed hot air isn’t making its way around your home due to leaks.

According to EnergyStar, the average home loses up to 30% of its heated air to leaks. Schedule an inspection with a professional, or survey your HVAC system yourself and use metal tape or mastic sealant to ensure no air is escaping before it reaches its destination.

Install Energy Switches

Instead of keeping your eye on your energy bills to stay informed on your home’s energy use, you can now use an energy monitoring switch.

These switches are installed right at on the wall, often as just a pass-through plug, and track precisely how much power you’re using. They’re also movable, so after you have your air conditioner’s energy use reined in, you can move it to your TV or another location. Or, as they cost about $30 each, you could buy several to stay informed on all your electronics.

An added bonus is that many of these switches let you wirelessly control the plug device, letting you can turn the power flow on or off, or put it on a set schedule.

Upgrade Your Power Strips

Traditional power strips are a great way to curb the constant drain of power for electronics in “off” mode — but only if you remember to turn them off.

With the new generation of advanced power strips, you don’t even have to worry about that. The new strips can monitor your plugged-in device activity and turn off those electronics when the activity ends, or just cut power to devices that are already in off mode.

Considering electronics add up to 10% to your monthly energy bills when they aren’t even on, advanced power strips are the perfect low-effort way to trim excess energy spending.

These are just a few of the many ways to save you money every month on your energy bills. For tailored recommendations for your home — which could include replacing weather stripping or adding storm windows — conduct a full home energy audit by contacting a local professional or using the U.S. Energy Department’s DIY guide

Sam Radbil is an author at ABODO Apartments, an apartment marketplace website that makes apartment hunting easier for people all across the country. Check out their available apartments in Minneapolis, MN and follow along on Twitter at @ABODOapts.