A lot of energy-saving tips annoy me. When I hear that CFL's save $35 over the life of the bulb it doesn't make me want to do a dance. They say that a CFL bulb lasts 10 years, so we are only talking about $3.50 per year! Whoop-de-do-da. Not exactly something that makes me run out and stock up on expensive light bulbs. But there certainly are things you can do to make a significant impact on your electric bill.
Heating and cooling your home uses almost half of your energy usage so it makes sense to focus our efforts there.
Get an energy audit. You can hire someone or perform one yourself. Your electric company may even offer them for free. An energy audit will point out any gaps in the structure of your home that allow heat or cooling loss through drafts. Stopping drafts can save you between 5% and 30% per year on your energy costs.
Inspect your unit. Once you have your house all sealed up you want to make sure your heating and cooling units are running efficiently. You can have your units inspected by an HVAC technician for about $75, but if they find inefficiencies in your units or ventilation system it will save you up to 20% off your electric bill. Also make sure you are replacing any filters as needed. Dirty filters require the units to work harder to move air, this increases your costs and your air isn't as clean as it could be.
Get a programmable thermostat. Life is hectic and it can be hard to remember to turn down the heat or cooling when you leave for work. Plus, then when you come home your house will be cold (or hot) and that's no fun. I don't want to spend the first hour home from work being uncomfortable. A programmable thermostat solves both these problems. It will automatically reduce your costs while you are at work, and you can set it so things will be back to normal when you return. According to Energy Star you could save $180 per year with this simple change.
Look into Time Of Use Plans. Call your electric company and see if they offer a time of use plan. When you are on this type of plan, electricity will be cheaper during certain parts of the day. It's estimated that you could save 6%-7% on your electric costs. This works especially well if you use your programmable thermostat to make the most of your time of use plan. Also saving chores such as laundry and dish washing for the cheaper parts of the day will help maximize your time of use savings. You can see that once you set up an energy-efficient home it's not that hard to maintain. Just a few simple steps can save you big bucks. You don't have to change your lifestyle. According to the EPA and Energy Star the average American energy bill is $1900 per year. Let's say that someone followed these steps above and was able to save about $480 per year. (That would be 10% from the energy audit, 10% from a HVAC inspection and keeping their filters clean, $180 from a programmable thermometer, and 6% from a time of use plan.)
What could you do with those savings?
If you are 35 years old and you put $480 per year into a Roth IRA earning 10% per year you will have $86,852.84 at age 65. If you just bought a house with a 30 year mortgage at 5.5% and pay $480 extra per year you will pay off your house 3 years early and save$19,000 in interest. You could put it in savings to build your emergency fund, you could pay down your car loan or credit card balances. You could even put it towards a little weekend get-away with your spouse. But one thing you don't have to do with it anymore is send it to your electric company!