How Your Home Impacts Your Utility Bill

When shopping for a home, it’s important to remember the factors that affect your energy bill. From insufficient insulation to old appliances that use excessive energy, many things in your house could send your electric and water bills through the roof.

A home inspection is a great way to identify issues like leaky heating, air conditioning ducts, ventilation, and more. A home inspector can also identify major issues impacting your utilities and advise you on how to fix them. Consider the utility efficiency of your home during closing negotiations.

How your home systems impact your utility bill

The best way to determine whether a house is energy efficient is by conducting an energy audit that looks at your home’s energy consumption and performance of various appliances and systems. However, most would-be homeowners choose a standard home inspection that can also reveal the most significant issues affecting your home’s energy efficiency.

  1. Old appliances and bulbs

Old appliances are less efficient than new ones and consume considerably more energy, which drives your energy bill up. While old appliances might add some charm and character to your home in some cases, they could cause your energy bill to skyrocket. 

Your best bet is to upgrade any old appliances like dishwashers or dryers to new ones that have energy-efficient modes and use less electricity than older devices. For example, older top-loading washing machines consume significantly more water and energy than modern front-loading options.

Old toilets can be high-flow and use more water per flush than modern low-flow options. Over time, especially for bigger families, this can mean a much higher water bill than you’re used to.

Your HVAC system‘s condition and age will be noted by the home inspector, and it’s important to pay close attention. If your home inspection report says that the HVAC system is old or has issues, it’s a good idea to negotiate with the seller and ask if they can replace it so you can skip high electric bills.

Old-fashioned, incandescent bulbs can also drain your energy. LED lights are a perfect alternative. While LEDs still look similar to traditional lighting, they also use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.

Expert Q&A

How do you tackle a high energy bill?

High energy bills are most commonly caused by inefficiencies in a home that can be easily remedied through small changes in habits and minimal investments.  

The lowest-hanging fruit is to make sure all lights are converted to LED.  LED lights save up to 90% compared to traditional lighting and last longer as well.  

A smart thermostat is a great investment to save energy, both on heating and cooling.  It can reduce those costs when the home is unoccupied, and the best advantage is HVAC equipment that runs less will actually last longer. Setting your thermostat back 7 degrees at night can save 10% in costs.  

There are also a ton of easy ways to reduce energy that are often overlooked.  A door sweep can reduce gaps, and smart power strips can reduce a phantom power load of equipment not being used.  

If you are looking longer term, adding insulation or energy star windows is a worthy cause, both for energy savings and comfort.

-Jamie Johnson, Verde

What are the benefits of switching to new energy-efficient light bulbs?

Energy-saving bulbs use up to 90% less energy and can last 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. This can equate to worthwhile savings for your bank balance.

Change all your bulbs to them, and you will reduce your energy bills. They also last a lot longer than traditional bulbs, provide a more even light, and are more flexible in their use. You can change the levels and colors with remote control if you have the system fitted.

If you and your family are concerned about the environment, LEDs are even better, as they are more eco-friendly on disposal than any other type of light bulb.

-Emma, Bee Money Savvy

How do I properly clean my HVAC system?

Vacuuming the air ducts and vents regularly is an absolute must, primarily for health reasons but also because it can help enhance your indoor comfort. Ideally, you should clean or replace your filters every three months. Do not forget to clean around your outdoor unit to remove debris that may block the airflow and affect the efficiency, performance, and lifespan of the unit. Pay special attention to the condenser coils. Having regular HVAC maintenance will make it work properly and help reduce your energy bills.

Maid Central

Do smart gadgets make a home more energy efficient?

Smart gadgets such as thermostats, lighting systems, and appliances can make your home more energy-efficient by monitoring and reducing energy consumption. Smart devices will self-monitor your home and control when to turn lights off, turn on and off your heating and cooling systems, and more. 

Smart gadgets also give homeowners the ability to control their devices remotely. No more concerns about whether the lights were turned off when you left the house. That’s one of the reasons many homeowners are building smart homes. With smart gadgets and mobile apps, you can rest easy knowing that everything is being monitored and controlled from afar.

-Michael Hoyt, Life on AI

Which smart gadgets are best for saving energy at home?

The coronavirus pandemic has potentially changed our lives forever, but the good news for some, we’re spending more time at home. Whether you work full or part-time working at home, you might be experiencing inflated utility bills due to lights, air conditioning, and other home-office devices being used constantly throughout the day,  

Thankfully, technology is here to help. A smorgasbord of gadgets is available to cut down on utility expenses, such as Smart Thermostats, which allow you to control your home temperature at home or on your phone. Some can even learn your temperature habits over time. Or how about switching to LED Bulbs, which use up to 75% less energy but give you the same amount of light and last significantly longer. Eco Chargers and Smart Sockets turn themselves off after a device is charged, versus consuming energy, regardless of whether or not you are using them. 

Energy Monitors show you which appliances are draining the most energy; some can even show you how much you could save if you change your energy use. Using Solar Panels provide you with an infinite amount of renewable energy, and because panels have dropped significantly in price and because they save a ton on your energy bill, they pay for themselves in a short amount of time.

-David Novak, Gadgetgram

Does smart home security helps reduce energy usage?

Yes and No. While Smart devices like speakers, cameras, and phones use additional energy for the “smart” features, smart devices like a smart Thermostat help drastically reduce energy consumption and costs.

Heating makes up about 57% of the total energy usage in European homes. Thus an intelligent use of home appliances can lead to a significant reduction in energy consumption. Smart appliances learn usage patterns and preferences of inhabitants and allow smart homes to achieve energy savings autonomously.

– Danny Thakkar, Bayometric

How can insulation help to lower utility bills?

Insulation helps keep the warm air in during the winter and cool air in during the summer. Think of it like a big blanket covering your house.  

The better you insulate your house, the more you can save. EnergyStar.gov says that you can save 15% by insulating your walls and your attic, floor joist, or any place that air might be getting into your house. Suppose you have an older home. Check your windows. A lot of time, the caulking can go bad over time, but by cleaning off the old caulking, you can reseal the windows like new. Finally, check for open vents or places where the lines come out of your house. Any cracks or open spots are places you’re losing money. Get some spray foam in a can and plug those spots to fix this. If you follow these tips, you’ll likely save money every single month.

-Chris Holdheide – StumbleForward.com

How do I insulate wisely?

Energy efficiency in a new home starts with good design. As the budget is built, it makes sense to look at the entire structure as one envelope. The placement of windows and doors and their configuration/location, inswing versus outswing or sliders versus casement, will impact the efficiency of the system.

Traditional framing techniques with single stud walls are less efficient than systems designed with a thermal break. A 2×6 stud has an R-value of 6.88, while the insulation in the cavity is performing at R-21, or better. Insulated studs or other framing techniques can keep the wall system insulation much more efficient. Trusses with energy heels offer the same kind of benefit because the insulation is not condensed at the roof line.

Adding exterior board insulation with rainscreens and proper air exchange can also help your cladding system perform optimally so that the elements are not compromising your home. Once you have energy efficient design, you can choose from many options in the actual products you use, whether you use a mineral wool, fiberglass, blown-in cellulose, or recycled products. No matter the product, the most efficient way to insulate a new home is with good design.

– Kelly Fox, Frontier Building Supply

What to consider when choosing energy-efficient windows?

When looking at options for energy-efficient windows, you want to make sure that the company offers double or triple pane windows. Also, look for an ultra-tight seal. Broken seals are one of the most common problems in windows that causes condensation.

-Tiffany Davis, Homefix Custom Remodeling

  1. Improperly working appliances

When your water heater is set too high, it uses extra energy for heating water to the high water temperature. Home inspectors usually check your water temperature to tell if it’s set too high. Additionally, most water heaters last between 10 and 15 years and can cause higher energy bills as their efficiency declines. 

One of the best ways to reduce the amount of electricity the water heater uses is to lower the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Leaky and running faucets and toilets are some of the most apparent culprits regarding high water bills. The bigger the leak, the more water will be wasted, and your water bill will be higher. A continuously running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons per day.

As a homebuyer, you should address this issue with a homeowner and see if they can take care of it or lower the price since you will need to fix it when you move in.

Q&A with the experts

How long do kitchen appliances last?

While this depends on the manufacturer, modern kitchen appliances consume much less energy than their older counterparts. But they don’t necessarily last longer. For these appliances to reach their maximum life expectancy, they need to be used properly and maintained regularly. It goes without saying that life expectancy also depends on the size of the household and the extent/frequency of usage.

​​On average, and when used frequently, microwave ovens have the shortest lifespan of about 9 years, dishwashers last between 9 and 10 years, and washing machines live up to a decade. Dryers and refrigerators last approximately 13 years, a garbage disposal can last you between 8 and 12 years, and ranges are likely to last the longest: between 13 and 15 years in total. The average lifespan of range hoods is 14 years.

Lars Appliances

  1. Upgraded home features that waste water 

Buying a home with a pool, sprinkler system, washing machine, or dishwasher that you didn’t have before is also likely to drive up your utility bills. These features require high water use, so don’t be surprised when your water bill goes up. 

Before you purchase a home with any of these features, ask yourself if you need them. A pool sounds like an excellent addition to your home, but it typically adds little value to your property and could also have limited use, especially if you don’t live in a warm climate. 

Likewise, a sprinkler system might not be necessary when you have a small yard that doesn’t require much maintenance.

Smart devices installed in your potential home can use more energy. As homes become more automated, you should remember that not every “smart” device will help you to save money. Among devices that can potentially cause high energy bills are camera systems like Ring doorbells, smart speakers, and anything left plugged in for a long time. 

Q&A with the experts

How can cleaning help reduce water bills?

One of the easiest ways to do this is only to run the dishwasher and washing machine when they are completely full. It can be difficult to wait until you have a full load before starting the washer at first, but you will get used to it eventually. 

The same goes for the dishwasher. Besides, running a half-empty dishwasher is not good for the appliance itself. Also, when washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run continuously – fill one side of the sink for washing and the other for rinsing. By following these simple tips, you can help save water – and money – without sacrificing cleanliness.

Blue Spruce Maids

How can you decrease a water bill?

Even a tiny leak can add up to your water bill. Annual leak detection can save you hundreds by the end of the year. Check common water-wasters like a constantly running toilet or a dripping faucet. Simple fixes can save you money! We also recommend installing water-saving fixtures, and you won’t have to sacrifice water pressure! Special aerator showerheads can conserve water and still simulate strong water flow. Water conservation in the home is important for our environment and our wallets. 

My Rescue Plumbing

How do you make plumbing systems more efficient?

The first thing you need to do if you’re looking to boost the efficiency of the plumbing in your home is to perform an all-out inspection of your property in an effort to detect any leaks. Hidden leaks are a powerful enemy. Significant water savings also require you to update your fixtures and appliances, so if you’re really set on maximizing efficiency, there’s no other way around it. Look into low-flow fixtures and toilets, and tankless water heaters.

Allied Experts

4. Inefficient new construction

When you buy new construction or renovate an old building, you have the opportunity to make energy-efficient choices in the process. These may not always be the easiest or cheapest decisions, but they can really make a difference on your utility bill

This includes aspects like advanced roofing, solar energy, and earth-sheltering. Surprisingly, you can also go energy-efficient by choosing a manufactured home vs. custom construction.

Q&A with the experts

How do I make the roof more energy-efficient?

Choosing an energy-efficient roofing material is definitely the first step. Solar shingles are one option, but not the only one, which is a good thing because they come with a hefty price tag. Even the color of your roof plays a role: darker shingles are more likely to absorb heat and can raise the temperature inside your home. 

Lighter ones are a better choice if you want your home to be cooler. So it really depends on where you live. Another important thing is for your attic to have proper insulation and that your home be properly ventilated so hot air does not get trapped.

619 Roofing

What are the best materials for building green and increasing the home’s energy efficiency?

The best materials are sustainable ones, such as wood, stone and recycled materials. The use of solar panels and insulation on walls, flooring, and roofs help to increase the energy efficiency of the home.

Along with ecologically-friendly construction materials, naturally available resources such as daylight and natural air are considered essential components to create energy-efficient structures.

– Sheryl Morris, SaO architects

Why are homeowners interested in solar?

Investing in a solar energy system has plenty of benefits, including reducing your carbon footprint, earning tax credits, and becoming more energy independent, to name a few.

Here are the top three reasons for going solar, according to the EcoWatch survey:

Homeowners express many different reasons for wanting to go solar, but the benefit that is most appealing is reduced utility bills.

More than half of the respondents who either have or are interested in going solar say lowering their energy bills is the main attraction to switching to solar energy. This motivation is followed by wanting to help the environment and wanting to take advantage of solar tax credits and rebates.

A handful of homeowners also cite wanting to increase the value of their home and having more control over their electricity usage as their reason for going solar.

EcoWatch

Should homeowners get an energy audit before installing a solar system?

Completing an energy audit on your home is essential before installing any kind of solar/wind off-grid electrical system. You need to know how much power your new system must provide.

“Energy audit” sounds complicated, but you can learn a lot in most cases by looking at your electricity bills over a twelve-month period.

Most people I work with designing and installing off-grid energy systems are surprised at how much power their household consumes and how expensive it would be to create an off-grid energy system to match this need.

This is why reducing electricity consumption is usually the first and most important thing people need to do when planning and building an off-grid energy system. This involves shifting all the big heat-related loads from electricity to something else such as propane, natural gas, or wood. 

Air conditioning is another thing that’s expensive to power via off-grid systems. A growing number of natural gas-powered air conditioning systems are available. These are less expensive than electrical AC to operate, so they make sense whether you go off-grid or not.

– Steve Maxwell, BaileyLineRoad

What are the benefits of solar panels for saving energy?

The most well-known aspect of solar energy is that it is a pure, environmentally friendly kind of energy. Solar power doesn’t consume any additional resources or emit any greenhouse gases. With the price of solar now cheaper than fossil fuels, it’s a critical step toward increasing energy efficiency and combating climate change, all while saving money on our energy bills. Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy is renewable, and with the help of storage batteries, people can save excess energy for later or, in some instances, sell it back to the grid. It’s a win-win situation.

-Seth Leitman, Green Living Guy

How do I design an energy-efficient kitchen?

Designing an energy-efficient kitchen is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In fact, all new appliances are designed to save you money through energy savings, which paves the way for a lower environmental impact. If you want to minimize your carbon footprint, it is really important to invest in new household appliances. The higher the Energy Star rating on an appliance, the better its energy efficiency.

Ten Key Remodels

What are the pros of having a house with electric? heat vs. gas?

  1. You can easily zone many areas of your home and manage different temps for each room. Doing this can save on energy.
  2. You get residual heat from the heating elements once the unit turns off versus forced air heating which stops the flow of warm air immediately.
  3. Using electric heat means you do not have to manage another utility bill for gas or oil
  4. The electric baseboard heating fixtures last a very long time and they are inexpensive to replace when needed.

-Eric, Dream Home Financing

Will adding a new room to the house impact utility bills?

Homeowners who are contemplating whether to add a new room to their house seldom consider soaring electric bills because the benefits of getting another room outweigh everything else. But if this concerns you, there are so many practical ways to make your new room energy-efficient, so make sure you discuss getting energy-saving lighting and appliances with the architects and designers before the beginning of the project.

Lars Architecture

Expert tips to save on your utilities

While it takes extra effort to make your home energy-efficient, there are many easy ways to cut back on your utility bills. From using cold water to wash your laundry to replacing your shower heads and air-drying your dishes, there are plenty of quick tricks you can use daily to reduce energy consumption. 

Replace your showerhead. According to Energy Star, switching to a low-flow showerhead is a great way to cut down on your water consumption and reduce your electric bills by an average of $145 per year. 

Use cold water to do your laundry. Cold-washing your laundry is an old trick that can help you to save a good chunk of money. Since many detergents are designed for cold water, you will lower your electric bills and get cleaner clothes. 

Install a programmable thermostat. If your home has an old-school thermostat, it’s a good idea to replace it with a new one. Make sure to get a programmable thermostat like Nest or Ecobee that has different modes and can be easily programmed.

Negotiate. The best way to save money on your cable bill is to negotiate or have someone negotiate your bill with your service provider.  If you call the retention department and threaten to cancel, you’ll unlock retention offers that can save you $10-$50 a month.  Be aware that cable companies are wise to this game so you’ll need to make sure they don’t call your bluff.

-Allison, BillSmart

Pay attention. My best advice would be to pay close attention to what you are wasting your money on. Save all your receipts and ask yourself if you need to spend that much on something or how you can reduce the bill. This way, you start understanding what you are paying for and how necessary that is. Following this, you can start looking for coupons and keep track of sales.

-Monique, One Income Dollar

Being consistent with your habits at home will help you save the most on your electric bills. This means only using light in the room you are currently using and shutting it off as you leave. If you have natural light coming in, open the blinds or curtains more to take advantage. Utilizing natural light is free.

-Jennifer Schreiner, Inspiring Savings

One of the most important things to do is to vacuum regularly. This not only removes dirt and dust from surfaces but also helps to remove pet hair and other debris that can block air vents and reduce airflow. It’s also important to clean appliances such as refrigerators and dishwashers regularly. 

Making sure your refrigerator coils are clean will help it run more efficiently. Dust and dirt can build up on these appliances and cause them to work harder, which uses more electricity. Finally, it’s a good idea to declutter your home. Clutter can block air vents and make it difficult for heat to circulate, leading to higher electric bills.

Oasis Natural Cleaning

What percentage of a budget needs to be saved for utility bills?

Paying for everyday expenses like utilities is a necessity. Today, utility expenses are rising because of inflation driving prices higher. As a result, people should plan for these expenses. Most estimates suggest planning on spending between 5% and 10% of your annual income on utilities. For instance, suppose you earn $50k annually, then you should expect to spend about $2,500 to $5,000 on utilities.

This dollar amount sounds like a lot, and it is. Of course, you can reduce usage or increase efficiency, but there is a limit to this strategy. People typically have difficulty saving on utilities because there is usually only one choice for gas, electricity, and water. Of these three, water bills are probably the most stable. Conversely, gas bills tend to fluctuate based on demand and supply factors not in your control. Electricity bills are probably somewhere in the middle. In any case, budgeting for utilities is a necessity. Homeowners and renters should save 10% of their yearly income dedicated to utilities as part of their emergency fund.

Dividend Power

What is your best advice to reduce water usage at home?

Reducing water usage at home to save money on your water bill can be done easily by targeting the high water usage activities in your day-to-day life. For example, make sure you repair a leaky toilet in the home. In addition, you could abide by the saying, “when it’s yellow, let it mellow.” 24% of our daily water (270L per person per day) is from toilets. 

Next, faucets comprise 20% of our daily water usage. Instead of letting your tap run to get your drinking water cold, you could have a water filter or jug kept in your fridge when you feel like you need a glass of water. If you’re washing dishes by hand, make sure you don’t let the water run while you are soaping up the dishes. Better yet, load your dishes in the dishwasher (and don’t pre-rinse them). If you use the dishwasher, less water is used than by washing them yourself.

Genymoney.ca

What is your best advice for managing utility expenses?

If you’ve ever heard Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “a small leak will sink a great ship,” then you’ll appreciate my advice on managing – and lowering – utility expenses, especially as we’re heading into the cold winter months. If your goal is to become financially independent, you need to start cutting costs everywhere you can, and the number one place I’d recommend to start trimming expenses where you’d least likely look: Your outlets. Believe it or not, your outlets are essentially holes that are cut into your insulted home walls and are often access points for cold air (or hot air, in the summer months) to leak into your home, putting a strain on your utility costs. 

To better manage this excess utility expense, you should consider completely covering your wall outlets, which can save you up to 2% each month on your utility bills! Imagine how much money you would save in 10 years by implementing this trick. I’ve seen outlet covers (including outlet plug covers) cost up to $10 for over 30 pairs, so the cost of the remedy is worth it – especially in the long run.

-Fiona Smith, The Millennial Money Women

How do I set a budget for utility bills?

First, you need to determine how much you typically spend on utilities each month. This can be done by looking at your past bills and averaging out your costs. Once you have your average, you can start to set a budget. Next, you need to consider how much you can realistically save each month. This will require you to take a close look at your spending habits and make some changes if necessary. If you are spending too much on unnecessary things, you need to cut back to free up some money for your utility bills. Finally, you need to make sure that you stick to your budget. This can be difficult, but it is important to keep your costs under control. If you are consistently overspending, you may need to re-evaluate your budget and make some changes.

-Brian Meiggs, Founder at Smarts

Conclusion

Remember that many factors can impact your utility bills when buying a home. While some of these factors can be easily identified and remediated, others might be less obvious. A qualified home inspector will help you get a detailed picture of a property and its critical components that could affect your electricity bill.