What are your home’s energy bills like? If your response is “too high,” you’re not alone. According to the Energy Information Administration, 31 percent of American households reported difficulty with paying their energy bills. Overall, homeowners spend about one-fifth of their total income on electricity—a staggering amount that has only increased in recent years. Saving energy and money is a priority.

In this article, we will review some of the most-effective ways to cut down on energy use and lower your bills, from AC and furnace tune-ups to adding insulation. If your home has been struggling with ever-increasing energy costs, consider scheduling a home energy audit with a local, certified professional. This report can give you an individualized look at how you can make your home more efficient and put it on the path to long-term savings in the coming years.

Get the most out of your HVAC systems

For most homeowners, cooling and heating costs represent the single-largest part of their utility bills. The average American spends 47% of their energy bills on cooling or heating their home—more than the next five highest areas of energy use combined. In other words, any efficiency improvements made to your HVAC systems or to your home’s ability to conserve cooling and heating can have a big impact on your electric and gas bills.

Schedule annual tune-ups

A professional tune-up for your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace can greatly improve not only its performance, but also its energy efficiency. By scheduling a winter maintenance heater tuneup, you can cut down on your energy bills in the season ahead. A checkup allows an expert technician to pop the proverbial hood on your system and identify any issues or configuration problems in advance of the air conditioner or furnace seeing heavy use in the summer or winter.

Is it time to upgrade to a new system?

While they can lead to an efficiency boost, a tune-up can only do so much for an aging HVAC system that is no longer able to operate effectively or efficiently. If your air conditioner or furnace is more than 10-15 years old, not only is it less efficient than it was the day it was installed, but it has also been greatly surpassed in that category by newer models released in the past few years. If you’re facing skyrocketing energy bills accompanied by repair issues, you might want to consider upgrading.

Make your home upgrades count

When it comes to energy efficiency improvements, there is a nearly endless list of projects that homeowners can tackle, from adding weatherstripping around doors to having their ducts professionally sealed. If you’re just getting started, here are three upgrades to think about first:

Insulation

Adding attic insulation can reduce lost heating and cooling in your home, helping you conserve energy and save money. Even 3-12 additional inches of attic insulation can result in a 10-20% drop in your cooling and heating costs.

Lighting

Replacing your older light bulbs with CFL and LED ones is a relatively inexpensive upgrade that saves homeowners an average of $75 annually on their energy costs. You can even take it a step further by adding motion sensors or timers to your lights, so that you reduce the chances of accidentally leaving them on when you’re out of the house.

Appliances

Just like your air conditioner and furnace, older appliances like dishwashers, dryers, and ovens use more energy than newer, Energy Star-certified ones. In fact, just replacing a washer and dryer alone can result in 25% less energy use while doing laundry. 

When it comes to appliances, don’t forget about your water heater, too. By reducing the water temperature by 10 degrees or more, you can cut your energy bills by up to 5%. If you’re at the point where you need a new water heater, consider upgrading to a demand-type system. By heating water as its needed instead of storing it in a tank, these systems use far less energy.

Small changes make all the difference

In addition to the home upgrades discussed above, there are many things you can do on a daily basis to reduce your energy use. For example, use fans to cool yourself down instead of turning the thermostat. When not in use, unplug electronic devices that may still be drawing power when off. Make use of your window shades and curtains to block sunlight from entering your home in the summer. Once you start making these adjustments on a day-to-day basis, they’ll become habit and part of your long-term energy-saving strategy.

Looking for other ways to cut your energy bills? This infographic from the team at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing in Hayward, CA contains even more great tips for how to lower your energy bills. Be sure to check it out!