Bulletin
Investor Alert

April 22, 2020, 12:34 p.m. EDT

This Earth Day, 5 ways to cut your home energy bill to protect the environment and save during the coronavirus pandemic

As Americans stay home during the coronavirus outbreak, their utility bills could go up if they’re not careful

new
Watchlist Relevance
LEARN MORE

Want to see how this story relates to your watchlist?

Just add items to create a watchlist now:

or Cancel Already have a watchlist? Log In

By Jacob Passy


Getty Images
Installing the right kind of light bulb will use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer.

Americans are spending a lot more time at home these days owed to the coronavirus pandemic. And that could mean a more expensive utility bill.

Residential energy consumption is expected to increase in the near term, according to a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Association . That’s in contrast to the commercial and industrial sectors, which are expected to consume far less energy in the coming months as businesses shut down operations to comply with coronavirus precautions.

“Household usage of electronic equipment such as computers and televisions will increase,” the report noted. “Other uses of electricity, such as for cooking and for heating water, may also rise.”

Also see: This Earth Day especially, ‘remember plants are non-judgmental’ — what it’s like to start gardening during a pandemic

And once summer rolls around, more time spent at home will equate to a bigger electricity bill thanks to air-conditioning. With millions of people out of work because of the disease outbreak, saving money is crucial right now.

Here are five steps people can take to save on their energy bills — and protect the environment while doing so.

Switch your utility providers

In many states across the country, energy markets are deregulated. That means households can choose their electricity and/or natural gas provider. This is true whether you live in a single-family home or an apartment building.

And overall, comparison shopping who provides your utilities can generate major savings.

“While there’s a lot of beneficial moves you can make, whether it be installing a Nest thermostat or changing your light bulbs to all be LED, switching your provider actually changes the rate that you are paying for electricity coming into your house, which can make a significant impact your overall cost,” said Naman Trivedi, CEO and co-founder of WattBuy , an online marketplace for energy providers.

When choosing a provider, you can also opt for a company that uses renewable sources for its energy production. In three states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas — renewable providers are cheaper or the same price as traditional energy providers, WattBuy found. In other states, the rates for renewable providers are less than one-tenth of a cent more per kilowatt.

“In those situations, people can choose 100% wind or solar electricity for the same exact price as they have for the non-renewable plan,” Trivedi said.

‘Switching your provider actually changes the rate that you are paying for electricity coming into your house.’

Naman Trivedi, CEO and co-founder of WattBuy

Make sure your home is well insulated

Building codes have changed over the years, and that has meant that insulation standards have improved for newly built or renovated homes.

Insulation plays a critical role in how much you spend on energy. In the winter, a well-insulated home will retain heat better, while in the summer it can reduce how often air conditioning needs to run.

“If your house is older than the 60s, and even if it’s older than the 90s, there’s a really strong chance that you don’t have very much insulation or you don’t have enough insulation,” said Ben Hood, WattBuy’s chief technology officer and co-founder. Improving a home’s insulation can reduce the energy bill by up to 25%, Hood said.

Of course, improving the insulation in walls and other parts of the home can be rather labor-intensive and might require the services of professional handymen, which may not be ideal given social distancing recommendations in effect right now. But the average homeowner could install insulation in certain parts of their home on their own, such as the attic.

When evaluating the state of your home’s insulation, be on the lookout for signs of asbestos. If it looks like your walls or attic are insulated with loose fibers or if your home is older, then the insulation could be made of asbestos fibers. In that case, don’t touch it and have professionals handle the removal. If there’s any doubt, then assume it’s asbestos and look to get it tested.

An easier, low-cost option for better insulating your home can also be covering the windows, Hood said. Drapes or curtains will prevent drafts in the winter and keep harsh sunlight out in the summer, reducing the amount of energy needed to heat or cool a home.

Look for the energy ‘vampires’

Your electronic devices could be using energy even if you’re not using them.

“Some of them are fine, but some of them just use a lot of energy while you think it’s off,” said Mike Phillips, CEO of Sense , a company that produces home energy monitors. “Your toaster doesn’t use power when it’s not being used, but things like older TVs do for sure.”

‘If it’s warm, it’s using power.’

Mike Phillips, CEO of Sense, on a simple way to tell if a device is sucking up energy

People can buy home energy monitors to determine whether an electronic device is using energy even when it’s powered off or not in use. The simpler method is to simply feel the device. “If it’s warm, it’s using power,” Phillips said.

Consider unplugging these devices when possible or investing in smart plugs that can be automated to turn a device on only when it’s typically used.

Be smarter in the kitchen

With stay-at-home orders in place across much of the country, people are cooking more at home rather than eating out at restaurants or ordering food in.

Read more: Forget baked beans: How to prepare a healthy ‘pandemic pantry’ in an age of coronavirus

All that cooking can use up a lot of energy if you’re not smart about how you approach it. Here are some tips that experts recommend for reducing your energy usage in the kitchen:

• Use your dishwasher rather than cleaning dishes by hand. This may seem counter-intuitive, but newer dishwashers are often more energy efficient than water heaters.

• Reheating food in the microwave uses less energy than ovens do. Similarly, use smaller appliances when possible. A pressure cooker is more energy efficient than cooking on the stovetop, for instance.

• When baking, be sure to open windows to let hot air out of the kitchen. Also make sure your air conditioning is turned off or not in auto mode.

• Match pots and pans to the right-size burners. A small pot on a large burner wastes a lot of energy.

• Defrost in the refrigerator rather than the microwave.

• Think twice before plugging in an old freezer or fridge if you did a big grocery run and ran out of space in your main fridge. Older appliances are less efficient.

One bit of good news: Stocking up on food actually can save on energy costs. “Having a very full freezer is actually a lot more efficient than having, you know, an empty freezer,” Hood said.

Yes, replace your incandescent lightbulbs

It may be a common suggestion when it comes to reducing your energy footprint. But there’s a reason. “If you’re concerned about saving money and saving energy, the main thing is get rid of any incandescent you can find and replace it with an LED,” Phillips said.

LED lights use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer, according to the Department of Energy. When replacing the bulbs throughout your house, prioritize the lights in rooms that you spend most time in — the living room lights are more important than the light in the closet you hardly use.

Jacob Passy is a personal-finance reporter for MarketWatch and is based in New York.

This Story has 0 Comments
Be the first to comment
More News In
Personal Finance

Story Conversation

Commenting FAQs »

Rates »

Partner Center

Link to MarketWatch's Slice.