Your electric bill is an unavoidable expense that must be paid in full every month. Delay payment even a few days past the due date with some utility companies, and you come home to a red note on the door stating your power has been shut off. Rectifying the situation often requires a hefty reconnection fee, not to mention the discomfort you face if it is July in Phoenix and no technician is available for a day or two. While you cannot make your electric bill go away, you can make it far less of a hassle with these seven money-saving tips. They offer you ways to lower your electric bill without impinging on your lifestyle or comfort.

Turn Everything Off at Night

This sounds like common sense, but most people would be shocked at how many items they unnecessarily keep powered at night. Examples include charging devices, exterior lighting, ceiling fans in vacant rooms and laptop computers. Each of these items costs anywhere from $10 to $50 per year to power through the night. Habitually keeping several of them running results in a noticeable increase in your electric bill.

Take an extra three to five minutes before you go to bed, and make a quick sweep of your entire home. Power off any devices that are needlessly pulling electricity. Your first bill after getting into this habit should be a pleasant surprise.

Lower Your Water Heater Setting

Many people, often unknowingly, have their water heaters set to unnecessarily high temperatures. Even if you like piping hot showers, a water heater setting of 120 degrees is more than sufficient to give you the hot water you desire. Water heaters set to higher temperatures add as much as $60 per year to electricity costs, even when idle, because of water heat losses. Worse still, when your water heater has to heat room-temperature water to 160 degrees rather than 120 degrees, the extra energy it uses can add several dollars every month to your electric bill.

Change Your Air Conditioning Filter Every Three Months

This is an easy task that many people neglect to do often enough, whether out of forgetfulness or simply not wanting to go to the store and purchase new filters. You can buy a disposable filter for $5 or less, and the amount you save by keeping a clean filter in your system more than amortizes this cost. A permanent filter saves even more money in the long run, since it can be removed, cleaned and reused rather than thrown away when it gets dirty.

If saving on your electric bill is not enough motivation to change your air conditioning filter every three months, consider the effect a perpetually dirty filter has on your HVAC system. The unit gets clogged with dirt, has to work much harder and ultimately goes bad sooner when you neglect to change your filter. The bill to repair or replace an HVAC unit is usually even more oppressive than an unnecessarily high electric bill.

Install Energy-Efficient Appliances

The biggest drawback to upgrading your existing appliances with energy-efficient models is the initial cash outlay. For homeowners thinking long-term, however, it is a wise choice. Your appliances represent some of the biggest electricity drains in your house, and generally, the older they are, the more inefficiently they use power. Consumers have reported electric bill savings of as much as 50% simply from replacing all their old appliances with energy-efficient models.

Not to mention, you can usually get the money you spend on energy-efficient appliances back in April in the form of a tax rebate. Most states offer tax breaks for green home improvements; these savings, combined with your energy bill savings, provide a strong incentive to consider energy-efficient appliances.

Dodge the Draft

Drafty doors and windows run up your electric bill by allowing cool or hot air, depending on the season, to escape your home, which forces your air conditioner or furnace to work much harder. For every outside door in your home, examine the crack between the door and the floor and ensure it is minimal. Additionally, inspect all windows and door frames for small fissures that may not be noticeable with a casual glance. You can usually fix these tiny cracks with caulk you purchase for next to nothing at a hardware store. The savings it has on your electric bill make the job worth the minimal time and money.

Reset Your Thermostat Before Leaving for Work

If no one is home during the workday, you have no need to keep the thermostat at 72 degrees. During the summer, even a setting as high as 80 while you are gone keeps the house from being oppressively hot when you return, and it uses much less power. The inverse is true during the winter; a setting in the low 60s saves money while still keeping your house from feeling like a meat locker at 5 p.m. The easiest way to get into this habit is to purchase a programmable thermostat.

One caveat: Make sure you fix any draft issues before taking this step. Otherwise, the unit has to work too hard to bring the temperature back to a comfortable level when you get home. This can use as much electricity as simply keeping your home at 72 degrees all day.

Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, use far less wattage than incandescent bulbs while still providing the same amount of light. They are slightly more expensive, but the money you save on your electric bill more than makes up for the extra cost. As an added bonus, CFLs last much longer than incandescent bulbs.

For every incandescent bulb you replace with a compact fluorescent, you can expect to save $12 per year, or $1 per month, on your electric bill. Many people have a dozen or more light bulbs they use regularly in their home; switching bulbs adds up to a lot of monthly savings for making such a simple change.

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