Do you feel that cool morning air? That means we are only a few weeks away from the furnace running full blast and your energy bill soaring.
Utility bills may be a fact of life, but there are certainly ways to reduce how much of your budget is used to heat the house and keep on the lights. Of course, we all know the basics like turning off lights and sealing cracks in windows and doors, but don’t stop there.
A number of high tech ways exist to save on your utility bills. Even better, many of these gadgets and upgrades won’t break the bank.
That level of automation may seem a little too ‘big brother’ for some users, but smart meters offer significant energy-saving potential as well. Data from smart meters can be used to determine how your household uses energy and, more importantly, when and how to change your usage to save money.
For example, if your utility charges a higher rate for peak usage, a smart meter can help you determine when your family uses the most energy, and that information can help you make adjustments to take advantage of off-peak rates.
Best of all, in many communities, smart meters are being installed free of charge to interested consumers.
However, there is a new generation of thermostats intended to automate the process of heating and cooling your house. The Nest Learning Thermostat seems to be the most innovative of the bunch. It teaches itself your habits so that it eventually raises and lowers the temperature without programming, and it can be controlled with your smart phone.
In addition, the Nest thermostat works with several energy companies – including Reliant, Green Mountain Energy, Austin Energy and Southern California Edison – to offer rebates for customers willing to reduce their energy consumption during peak times.
The price of programmable thermostats can vary from less than $30 for a basic model to approximately $250 for the Nest Learning Thermostat. Depending on your consumption and savings, you could recoup your investment within a few months.
Smart power strips may be a good choice for desktop computers or other electronic systems that have a number of components. They work by turning on and off all the peripheral devices at the same time as the main device. So, for example, when you turn on your computer, the printer, speakers and monitor turn on too. Then, when you turn off the computer, everything else shuts down.
Other power strips come with remote controls that allow you to easily turn off strips that are located behind desks or in other inconvenient places. It may seem like a small point, but phantom energy can account for 10 percent of your electricity use so it most certainly helps to turn off those power strips when not in use.
Depending on the brand, smart power strips and those with remote controls typically sell in the $30-$40 range.
If you are looking for even more ways to save, you may want to install motion sensor lights, use space heaters to supplement your heat in the winter and install compact fluorescent lights if you haven’t already.
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