Frugality Wise

Tips, ideas, and resources for living frugally

How to Keep Costs Down on Your Utility Bill

on April 9, 2014
Image courtesy of ponsulak /

Image courtesy of ponsulak /

Since moving into my own place, I’ve become hyper aware of my energy consumption. I used to be the kind of person who would run the water faucet just a little too long, or leave the light on in a room I was not occupying, or turn up the thermostat to a “tropical” setting because I couldn’t bear to be cold in the slightest…and the worst part is I didn’t give any of these actions a second thought. Funny how when your living situation changes from being a double-income household to a single-income household, as it did for me, you start thinking and caring about such things now that the onus is 100% on you to pay your monthly utility bill. Regardless of how much income you have as a household, we can all be more efficient in our energy consumption. The following are a few tips on keeping your utility costs down.

Turn off the lights.

There’s no need to keep a light on in a room that you’re not in; even if you were occupying a room and leave it with the intention to return to it in 5 minutes. You should be getting into the habit of turning off a light as you leave a room, regardless of how soon you will be returning to it.

Use energy-saving lightbulbs.

Replace your incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. In Canada, this decision was made for Canadians by the federal government, banning incandescent lightbulbs as of January 1, 2014. LED bulbs are more energy-efficient and last a very long time — we’re talking years here — and use up less electricity while providing you with an equivalent amount of illumination.

Light some candles.

If you’re inclined to take the “turn off your lights” concept even further, you can switch off any and all electric illumination even in the room you’re currently occupying and use some candles. Candles provide a cozy ambiance, and the scented varieties can really trigger a sense of calm, peace, and relaxation. Perfect for a little evening meditation! Just ensure that when you use candles you put them in a safe place within your eyesight, you have suitable ventilation, and absolutely never fall asleep with candles still burning. Blow them out at the first sign of tiredness.

Handwash your dishes. 

Your dishwasher, if you have one, uses a huge amount of water when it’s operating. You can save a lot of money on your water usage by handwashing your dishes. If you can’t quite give up the convenience of using your dishwasher, then try not to use it any more than once a week. My own mother runs her dishwasher once every two weeks.

Do laundry the right way.

Smaller loads are not efficient. There is not a significantly huge amount of difference between the amount of water used at a small load setting vs. that of a large load setting. So hold off on doing laundry until you have enough clothes to do a full load. High-efficiency washers and dryers are a better option to have if that is available to you. Also, most clothes can be washed in a cold water setting. I had grown up with the idea that only darks should be washed in cold water, whereas lights should be washed in warm water, and whites in hot water. Eventually, I’ve put to bed this line of thinking. When using the dryer, dry clothes on the more energy-efficient low setting. Finally, if you have the time and patience to do so, handwashing and air drying your clothes is always an option that will save you much more money than even the most frugal use of a washer and dryer ever could.

When using appliances that require a lot of electricity consumption, use them during energy-saving times.

In Ontario, Canada there is a “time-of-use” electricity price structure to help households manage their electricity costs. During off-peak times there are savings to be had in your electricity usage. This is the time you should be running the dishwasher and using the washer and dryer. Off-peak times in Ontario begin at 7 p.m. and end at 7 a.m. during the weekday, and on weekends and statutory holidays the off-peak time lasts for the whole day. Since jurisdictions will differ, do a Google search of what the energy-saving time is in your area.

In the Winter, turn down your thermostat by 1 or 2 degrees. In the Summer, turn down the air conditioning by 1 or 2 degrees.

Winter brings about the biggest increase in heat consumption as households across the city try to stay warm, especially in cities like Toronto that can have harsh Winters (Ice Storm 2013 anyone?). However, just a minor lowering of your thermostat on a regular basis can save you money on your heating cost. If that 1 or 2 degree difference feels a little cold to your liking, put on some warmer clothes, snuggle up under a warm blanket, drink some hot tea, or think warm thoughts! Conversely, while almost everyone loves a warm Summer day spent outdoors, when we get indoors it seems like the warmth is no longer tolerable and we crank up the AC. Summer brings about the biggest spike in cold air consumption. So much so that we’re more likely to experience blackouts due to an overload of demand on the power grid. By turning your AC down, you can save on electricity. If doing so makes you feel a little warm-ish then wear thin and loose breathable clothes, or if you’re alone in your apartment or house get naked! (Hey, why not? Who’s there to judge, anyway?) You could also take a cold shower, drink an ice-cold beverage, or think cold thoughts (perhaps a trip down memory lane of the frigid Winter you had to endure just a few months ago)! Additionally, when you’re away from your home turn down your central heating or AC, or turn it off entirely, until you return home again.

Weatherproof your windows.

In my younger days when I lived at home with my parents I had the misfortune of having the bedroom with the most windows. How is that a misfortune, you might ask? Well, while my room did get the most beautiful and bright natural light, it was freezing in the Winter, and like a sauna in the Summer! During Winter, a heater always had to be on in the room, despite the central heating being on, and during Summer a fan always had to be on despite the central air conditioning. None of the other bedrooms had such a drastic extreme in temperature. We theorized that this was the case because the windows were not weatherproofed and because there were so many of them specifically in my room. If you find this situation going on in your own home, use a weather seal on your windows as well as insulation film. Also, closing the blinds or drapes during extremes in weather can offer some additional regulation of your indoor temperature. Weatherproofing your windows saves money because it helps reduce the extremes that I just described, so you will not be forced to crank up the AC or the heat quite as much in Summer and Winter, respectively.

Additional Resources

Smart Meters and Time-of-Use Prices (This is an Ontario, Canada resource from the Ontario Ministry of Energy website.)

Save on Energy (A Canadian resource for finding energy-saving opportunities for your home. They also have coupons that can be used at participating Canadian retailers.)



2 responses to “How to Keep Costs Down on Your Utility Bill

  1. Valerie says:

    Some more great tips! 🙂 I like the candle idea and should do this one more often! We have all energy-saving light bulbs and we turn off lights when we aren’t in there using them, but candles never occurred to me!

    • Saundra says:

      I’m glad you like the tips! I just started getting into candles myself, especially the scented ones. When we had a city-wide blackout during the Christmas holidays, it’s what we relied on, in addition to flashlights and battery-operated lanterns. People survived centuries ago without the modern invention we call “electricity”, there’s no reason that we can’t either! 🙂

      Thanks for following my blog; I appreciate the support!

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