Utility Bills Are About to Skyrocket. Here’s How to Slash Yours

This story is part of Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Fall is here, and as the temperature begins to drop, prices for electricity, natural gas and oil will rise, experts say. Heating bills alone in the US are expected to rise by more than 17% compared to last winter and will be outpaced inflation and hit highest prices in more than 10 years, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (PDF).

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If those higher prices are hitting your budget, you can make changes to reduce energy use and lower your bill. Even small habits like Unplug unused devices, Wash your clothes Another way, Cook for certain devices Set your thermostat to the right temperature can save a bit of money and make your home more efficient.

Here are seven steps you can take to start saving on electricity, gas, water – and cash. For more money-saving tips, see This saves you money on your heating bills in winter, how to waterproof your home to save on billsand how much it will cost you to run a space heater.

Get an electricity audit

Many electricity companies offer a free audit where they examine your home room by room and look at your utility bills to see where you are wasting energy. You can follow their recommendations to lower your electricity bill.

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Even if your electric company doesn’t offer this service, you can easily conduct a home improvement energy audit using the instructions on the US Department of Energy’s website.

Set your thermostat

One of the easiest ways to lower your electric bills is to adjust your thermostat. According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling bills by adjusting your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees 8 hours a day. In other words, a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter.

One easy way to do this is to set your thermostat when you’re either asleep or away from home. if you have one smart thermostatyou can set your thermostat to adjust during these times so you don’t forget.

Turn down your water heater

Many water heater manufacturers set thermostats at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 C). But in reality, most homes only need a setting of no more than 120 F. Setting your water heater to a lower temperature can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Adjusting the temperature of a water heater is a quick and easy solution. The thermostat regulator on your water heater is likely located near the bottom of the tank on the electric or gas control valve. Be sure to check the owner’s manual for setup instructions – and consult a professional technician if you have any questions.

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By customizing your water heater, you can save on electricity and cut bills.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Turn off and unplug what you’re not using

By leaving things plugged in and turned on in your home when you’re not using them, you’re unnecessarily increasing your electric bills.

You can start turning the lights off when you’re not in the room or when it’s bright enough outside to rely solely on natural light. Lightbulbs use 4 cents an hour for 40 watts (although the average American will probably pay more). This amount only increases with the wattage of the bulb. While it may not seem like much, it can add up over time.

You can also save money by unplugging devices you’re not using. Phantom power, the power your devices consume when plugged in but not turned on, can cost an average $100 per year.

Use your dishwasher

It might sound counterintuitive to suggest running a device to save on your electricity bill. And yes, there was a time when dishwashers used a lot more water than they do today. But the Department of Energy regulates how much water modern dishwashers are allowed to use. Every dishwasher made since 2013 is limited to using 5 gallons of water. If it’s a compact dishwasher, it’s limited to 3.5 gallons.

You might think that you surely use less than 5 gallons of water to hand wash your dishes. But the US Geological Survey estimates that it takes between 9 and 27 gallons of water to handwash a load of dishes. (If you’re curious, we also have a tip for you How to load your dishwasher correctly.)

Benefit from additional tariffs

Electricity consumption tends to be higher at certain times of the day and year. First, demand is higher in winter and summer when people run heaters and air conditioners. It is also higher during the day and evening.

Some electricity companies offer usage schedules that increase tariffs during peak hours and decrease off-peak rates. If you have one of these plans, you can save money by running large appliances like your dishwasher and Washing machine early in the morning or late in the evening.

Change your air filters

Your air filter helps capture dirt, dust, pet hair, and more, preventing them from entering your air conditioner. Unless Change your air filters regularly Enough, this debris gets into your HVAC system and clogs it, reducing its efficiency. According to the Department of Energy, replacing your filters on time can reduce your air conditioner’s energy use by 5 to 15%. (Here’s how much you can save by changing your oven filter too.)

More ways to save on your bills

There are many steps, big and small, you can take to reduce your consumption and save money on your bills. The Department of Energy has an entire Energy Saving Tips section on its website. And while many of them come with a price tag, there are many more just like the ones on this list that you can use for free.

For more information, see ceiling fan trick that can help your home stay warmer this winter and how much it costs to run a gas fireplace.

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