Simple Fixes to Cut Your Utility Bill
These DIY projects can save you hundreds of dollars a year
The cost of energy has never been higher, which means that a few simple home improvements can make a big difference for your budget. Check out a few of these projects: none will cost more than $50, none take more than an afternoon, and each one will save you money on your utilities.
1. Stuff your chimney
This fix is simple, but it can make a huge difference in your monthly bill. Chimneys are the source of 14% of overall heat loss in the average home. You can buy a draft stopper, but a garbage bag full of insulation will also get the job done. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it’ll be out of sight—just make sure to pull it out before you cozy up in front of the fire.
2. Insulate your pipes
Insulating your pipes will not only prevent energy waste, it will also make your faucets more responsive—meaning you won’t have to wait as long for the water to reach the right temperature. All you need is some insulation, duct tape, and a box cutter to get the right insulation lengths. Clean the exposed pipes, wrap them snugly, and tape them off. No sweat!
3. Blanket your water heater
Because it holds so much constant heat, your hot water heater is another huge source of energy loss in your home. A decent heater blanket goes for less than 30 bucks, and you can set it up in minutes. A word of caution: follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly, especially if you own a gas water heater. Improperly-installed heater blankets can block the combustion vents or flue. if you live in a humid area, remove the heater blanket in the spring to prevent condensation and corrosion.
4. Install water-saver showerheads and faucet aerators
Swapping out your old showerhead for a water-saver isn’t much more complex than changing a lightbulb—just be careful to select a showerhead that actually provides enough pressure to take a shower effectively. Some water-saver heads are so miserly that it takes twice as long. On the other hand, faucet aerators can actually provide a more usable stream than non-aerated ones. If the flow from your kitchen faucet splatters on contact with hands or dishes, for instance, a faucet aerator can maintain good pressure while softening the impact. Especially if you live in a region with water restrictions, this project is essential.
5. DIY cooling and heating maintenance
Taking care of your furnace and A/C unit might seem intimidating, but it’s actually very simple. For your air conditioner, just spray down the coils with a hose and vacuum the fins on your condenser. For your furnace, change out the air filter regularly, checking the furnace manual to ensure that your filters are the right grade for your system. For anything involving your gas lines, call a professional.
6. Replace your weather stripping
Installing new weather stripping is simple, but time-consuming, so set aside a Saturday for this one. With new weather stripping and foam insulation, you can substantially decrease the heat loss through your windows, especially if your current stripping is in bad shape (or nonexistent).
7. Install ceiling fans
This project might wait a few months, but when the weather starts to warm up, a few ceiling fans in your house can make a big difference in the cost of staying comfortable. This project is more involved than the others, but not much more expensive. If you already have ceiling light fixtures, the most time-consuming aspect of this project is safety. Make sure you cut the power and use an electrical tester before touching anything, always wear safety goggles and a dust mask, and follow the fan kit instructions to the letter.
Katie White is a freelance blogger and DIY enthusiast who is passionate about sustainability, and loves taking things apart to see what makes them tick. She and her husband recently replaced the gas water heater in their fixer-upper in Dallas, Texas.