Whether it’s running the heat during the winter or cooling off with air conditioning over the summer, energy is one of the most important expenses when it comes to homeownership. Heating alone uses more energy and costs more money than any other system — typically making up roughly 42% of your entire utility bill.
According to the latest report from the Energy Information Administration, approximately 31% of U.S. households have trouble paying their energy bills.
The average American family spends close to $2,000 on energy bills, which can be quite difficult to get by, let alone afford other residential essentials.
Sadly, about one in five U.S. households are forced to cut back their food purchases, as well as medicine, and other necessities — some even have to forgo buying food for extended periods of time. Not buying medicine and food just to afford energy expenses.
“Of the 25 million households that reported forgoing food and medicine to pay energy bills, 7 million faced that decision nearly every month,” read the Energy Information Administration report.
Additionally, the study found that about half of U.S. homes experiencing this problem have an annual income of less than $20,000 — more than 40% of which had at least one child inside the home.
“We only conduct the Residential Energy Consumption Survey ever four to five years,” said Chip Berry, who oversaw the survey. “This is the first time in the history of the study (dating back to the late 1970s) that we have [measured] energy insecurity across all households, so there’s not much in the way of historical comparison.”
Homeowners have to not only keep properties comfortable and keep food on the table, but they have to spend money on garbage and recycling services, Internet, and so much more. All of that can add up and cause tremendous financial stress on a family.
According to Move.org, there are a few ways for the average family to start cutting heating and cooling costs, in order to have enough money for other necessities. Here are some great ways to save money on your residential energy expenses:
- Keep your appliances off — Electricity is essential but it’s also very expensive. Don’t just leave your electric devices plugged in and turned on around the home, because that will certainly add up. Homeowners need to get in the habit of turning off computers and electronics whenever they aren’t being used. Turn off and unplug your washing machine, dryer, TVs, lights, and anything else inside your home that you’re not using.
- Replace your furnace air filter — Homeowners should have their furnace air filter replaced at least once every three to four months. But if you’re serious about improving the energy efficiency of your home and saving some money, you can and should replace the air filter much more often.
- Utilize natural gas — The average U.S. household consumed 63 million BTUs of natural gas in 2016, costing about $604 over the course of the year.
- Upgrade to a smart thermostat — Smart thermostats can save you as much as 10% to 12% on heating and as much as 15% on cooling costs.
- Invest in energy-efficient lightbulbs — Investing in a smart power strip and energy-efficient light bulbs can help you ensure that all your electric devices are turned off.
Remember: even some seemingly small actions can save you stress and money in the long run. Something as simple as making sure your attic is properly insulated could save you almost 50% on your heating and cooling expenses. What are you doing this year to conserve energy?