How to cut utility costs: My 10% solution

By January 15, 2016Blog

The following post was excerpted from Personal Finance For Beginners In 30 Minutes, Vol. 1, by Ian Lamont. All rights reserved.

When it comes to saving on other types of utility bills, the experts tend to get into home improvement projects such as adding insulation to your attic, installing double-glazed windows or energy-efficient heating systems, or caulking every last crack and crevice.

That’s great if you are handy with tools or happen to be on a first-name basis with the staff of your local hardware store. But for the rest of us, I advise a much simpler approach that I call the 10% Solution. Here’s how it works:

  1. Determine the sources of spending on electricity, gas, heating, air conditioning, and hot water.
  2. Reduce consumption by 10%.

That’s it. Find those things in your house that consume energy, and then cut consumption by just 10%. For example:

  • If you usually take a 10-minute shower, cut it down to 9 minutes.
  • Reset your thermostat to be a little warmer in summer, and a little cooler in winter.
  • If you have a programmable thermostat, set the air conditioning and heating systems to power down a little earlier than usual. For instance, in the winter, we set our home’s internal temperature to drop after 10 pm when we are in bed and under the covers. We program the thermostat to increase the temperature by 4 degrees the next morning before we get out of bed.
  • Check your hot water heater’s default temperature and drop it by a few degrees.
  • When it’s time to replace lightbulbs, get slightly lower-wattage bulbs or energy-efficient alternatives.
  • Conserve energy in the kitchen, especially when using the stovetop or heating hot water (microwaving hot water or using a British-style electric kettle are not only faster, they are much more efficient than using a gas or electric range to boil water).

Nest thermostat cut utility costsTaking slightly shorter showers, turning down the A/C by a few degrees, or making other tweaks to the ways in which you use energy are hardly noticeable. But they can save hundreds of dollars per year in power, gas, oil, and other energy costs.