Powering Down-Saving Money on Utilitiesby Chemain Evans
Utilities have the surprising power to consume a lot of cash flow each month. From electricity and gas, to water and phone service, here are several ways that you can cut your utility costs.
We all know to turn off lights and unplug unused electrical appliances in order to cut back on electricity consumption. (Many, if not most electrical appliances will draw power if they are plugged in, even if they are not turned on.) But what you may not know is there are other, perhaps even more effective ways to save on electricity.
To save as much as hundreds of dollars a year on electricity, make certain that any new appliances you purchase, especially air conditioners and furnaces, are energy-efficient. Information on the energy efficiency of major appliances is found on Energy Guide Labels required by federal law.
If you have the hookups for it, use a gas dryer instead of an electric one. They are little more expensive up front, but the money saved on energy costs alone will quickly add up.
Keeping your appliances clean, tuned up (if necessary), and working properly also reduces the amount of energy they use. Vacuum off those refrigerator coils once in a while and notice how much less the refrigerator cycles on and off.
Some electric utility companies offer off-load management programs and off-hour rate programs. Enrolling in one may save you up to $100 a year in electricity costs. Call your electric utility for information about these cost-saving programs.
First of all, a home energy audit can identify ways to save up to hundreds of dollars a year on home heating (and air conditioning). Ask your electric or gas utility if they can do this audit for free or for a reasonable charge. If they cannot, ask them to refer you to a qualified professional.
Keep your furnace clean and tuned up for maximum heating efficiency. Replace the filter(s) every 3 months during peak use. The same goes for your air conditioner or swamp cooler. The dirtier these appliances are, the more energy they require to run.
If you have an electric furnace, know that it is probably a lot more expensive to operate and a lot less efficient than a gas one. Buy the most efficient model you can afford. Making this switch alone can save you a lot of money.
Finally, check the insulation in your roof, if that's possible. Adding extra insulation can help stop heat loss and lower your heating bill.
Some areas of the country may not need to be as concerned as others about preserving this natural resource. If water conservation is important in your area, there are several steps you can take to help lower your water bill.
The biggest waste of water actually occurs outside your home. Most people inadvertently overwater their plants, trees, flowers, and shrubbery. Check watering levels with a simple rain gauge. Even more important, don't water outside in the heat of the sun. Most of it evaporates and you're paying for it! Watering in the early morning hours is best, or late evening if that's not possible. Repair or replace leaky hoses, as well.
Around the house fix any leaky faucets, running toilets, etc. You could be wasting hundreds of gallons of water each day. You can also take shorter showers, and remember to turn off the faucet while you shave or brush your teeth. These small changes really do add up in the long run.
Local Telephone Service
Check with your phone company to see whether a flat rate or measured service plan will save you the most money. If you're not home most of the day and/or use your cell phone a lot, you may be paying for more home service than you need.
Check your phone bill to see if you have optional services that you don't really need or use. Each option you drop could save you $40 or more each year. If you like and need all those options, see if your service provider offers them in a cost-lowering package.
Finally, you'll usually save a lot more money by buying your phone rather than leasing it from the phone company.
Long Distance Telephone Service
The price of staying connected over the miles has certainly cheapened with the flood of more competition for your long-distance telephone service. It pays to shop around for the best deal, comparing not only cents per minute, but also connection fees or call fees, membership fees, dropped call reimbursement, etc.
If you make more than a few long distance calls each month, consider subscribing to a calling plan. Generally, long distance calls made during evenings, at night, or on weekends can cost significantly less than weekday calls, but some plans offer the same rate anytime, any day. It all depends on the carrier and program you choose.
Whenever possible, dial your long distance calls directly. Using the operator to complete a call can cost you an extra $6.
It is possible with a little foresight and planning to save money on your utilities. You may honestly be surprised at how much of a difference it can make in your lowering your monthly expenses.
© Simple Joe, Inc.
Chemain Evans is a quality control specialist for Simple Joe, Inc., makers of the popular Simple Joe's Expense Tracker PC software. Expense Tracker is a quick and simple way to keep track of your expenses and stay within your budget. Expense Tracker is ideal for tracking personal, business, home and club expenses.. This article may be freely distributed as long as the copyright, author's information and an active link (where possible) are included.