7 steps to save money on electric bills in 2021
Does it feel like your electric bill only ever goes up?
Homeowners are seeing rising energy bills for several reasons: an ever-increasing number of gadgets, more time being spent at home, and, of course, rising electricity prices.
The good news is that there are many ways to slash your electric bills - and you can achieve them without having to compromise on your current lifestyle.
In this blog, I’ll briefly explain electricity price trends, and then tell you what you can do to spend less of your hard-earned money on electric bills - and keep more of it for yourself.
On this page:
- Average electric bills in 2021
- Are electricity bills going up or down?
- 7 ways to save on electric bills
- Switch to the lowest rate plan
- Focus on heating and cooling
- Get an energy audit
- Reduce energy losses
- Be creative
- Change your habits
- Use solar to offset your energy use
What is the cost of the average electric bill?
The average cost for residential electricity in the US is 13.60 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), according to data published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The average home uses 877 kWh of electricity per month. This means that the average energy bill for a home is around $119.
These numbers, of course, are just averages. Homeowners living in states with high electricity rates, or who have large homes, will see much higher monthly electric bills.
Are electricity bills going up or down?
Unfortunately, they are going up.
The national average electricity price went up from 12.81 c/kWh to 13.60 c/kWh between October 2019 and October 2020. That’s an increase of 6.12% over a one-year period.
Overall, electricity prices are trending upwards. However, prices can fluctuate based on several factors, such as the seasons and climate, and the varying cost of electricity inputs (such as the price of natural gas required to run gas-powered plants).
Save money on electric bills with these 7 steps
As electricity prices continue to rise, most people are looking for ways to reduce their monthly power spend.
Luckily there are many ways to achieve that goal in 2021.
Here are the six most effective ways to save money on electric bills right now.
#1 Make sure you’re on the lowest rate plan
Are you on the cheapest electricity rate plan offered by your utility? Many households aren’t, and they are needlessly paying extra every month.
Luckily fixing this requires no money, just a little bit of your time. Reach out to your utility to inquire about possible rate plan options, and evaluate whether or not a different plan better suits your usage patterns.
For example, you could find a Time of Use (ToU) rate plan that charges a high rate from 9-5, but a much lower rate for the rest of the day. If you're typically out of the house during working hours, then a plan like this should save you money.
On a similar note, ToU plans that offer very low rates overnight would suit you well if you have an electric car to charge, or smart appliances that can be set to run at night.
The best part: once you find a rate plan that works for you, all you have to do is call your utility and ask them to switch plans.
Consider this the low-hanging fruit of electric bill savings.
#2 Focus on the biggest energy users: heating and cooling
Your heating and cooling systems are almost certainly the biggest consumers of energy in your home.
The pie chart below illustrates electricity usage for an average home - just look at the share for heating and cooling:
Air conditioning, space heating and water heating collectively account for almost half of home electricity use. Source: EIA.gov
If you can reduce the electricity used in this category, you’ll make a big dent in your overall energy spending. The easiest way to do so is by replacing your current heating and cooling systems with more energy efficient models.
For example, if your air conditioner is 10 years old, you can save between 20–40% in energy costs by switching to a newer, more efficient model, according to Energy.gov.
The older the equipment being replaced, the higher the resulting energy savings are likely to be. Similar savings apply when you upgrade your heating unit.
It is crucial that heating and cooling systems are properly installed and maintained, as this can have a big impact on their performance and efficiency, according to EnergyStar guidelines.
One you have Energy Star-rated equipment, you’ll want to address all energy losses and leakages that make your heating and cooling system work harder than it needs to. This brings us to the next step in cutting your electric bills: conducting an energy audit.
#3 Conduct a home energy audit
In a home energy audit, a professional energy auditor examines your home and performs a series of tests to highlight energy reduction opportunities.
In other words, the home energy audit helps you find out where exactly you’re losing money. Some of the biggest culprits are:
- Missing flashing on your doors
- Can lighting without insulation
- An uninsulated attic
- Air leaks or drafts
- Poorly-insulated windows
- Inefficient lighting
- Old appliances
The audit report you receive will list all such issues with your home, as well as possible solutions for each.
Check if you qualify for a free energy audit
Many municipalities and utility companies offer residents free energy audits. The easiest way to check is usually through your city and utility’s website.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) in Washington, for example, has a page on their website dedicated to signing up for a home energy assessment. The service is free if you qualify.
#4 Reduce energy losses and leakages
There are several measures you can take that will have an immediate impact on lowering your electricity bill.
If a home energy audit was conducted on your home, it’s likely that it suggested one of more of these fixes:
- Fix insulation: Anywhere your home lacks good insulation, work with a contractor to assess and upgrade. Attics, crawl spaces, basements, and even walls can all be spots that need to be upgraded.
- Weatherize: This is where you’ll address windows, ventilation/vents, weather stripping, and more.
- Update appliances and electronics: Look for the Energy Star label or a sticker that tells you how much a specific appliance (TV/washer/dryer/refrigerator) costs to run per year. Look for products that have excellent efficiency; they might cost a bit more upfront, but you will save in the long run.
- Replace lighting: Replace old incandescent bulbs with efficient LED light bulbs, insulated can lights, and more efficient fixtures.
#5 Use creative ways to use less power
The internet is a handy place to find tips and tricks for reducing your energy usage, which in turn reduces your heating/cooling costs. Some creative ways to do so are:
- Invest in a smart programmable thermostat, such as a Nest or ecobee. You’ll have a lot more control over your heating and cooling system, and will even be able to operate it when you’re not home.
- Use window coverings to keep warmth in or out. Energy.gov has a guide to using energy efficient window attachments.
- Use appliances at night, especially during the summer. Appliances can increase the heat in your space, so using them during hot days will just add to already high temperatures. Clothes dryers generate a lot of heat; avoid using one by air drying your clothes instead.
#6 Change these habits
One other thing you can do is introduce simple daily habits to lower your energy usage:
- Run ceiling fans instead of the air conditioner
- Wash small loads of dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher
- Turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms
- Wash clothes in cold water
- Turn down your hot water heater
- Put on more clothes and blankets and turn down the thermostat
Every small change you make helps reduce your energy bill.
#7 Think outside the box: Solar can eliminate your electric bills
If solar is suitable for your home, then this is the best way to save on your electricity bills.
For homeowners in many states, it’s possible to install a solar panel system that can offset 100% of your electric bills and provide a payback of 3–8 years.
Solar panels have gone up in efficiency and down in price. Incentives and rebates are readily available, and financing a solar installation is more doable than ever before.
Using our handy calculator, you can find out how many panels you need, how long your payback period (or ROI) is, and more.
Not only that, but you have more solar installation options to choose from depending on your situation. For those with limited roof space or poor exposure, there are ground-mounted solar panels. Solar shingles by Tesla are appealing to homeowners worried about aesthetics. Community solar is great if you are in a condo or lack both roof and property space.
Going solar is an excellent option in 2021.
- Why energy efficiency upgrades - U.S. Department of Energy
- Residential energy data facts - Energy.gov
- 7 ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency - SolarReviews
- Evaluate your utility’s rate plans and switch to the one that best suits your usage patterns.
- Heating and cooling are the biggest energy users for most households; focus on reducing consumption here first.
- Appliances certified by Energy Star are more efficient, i.e. they use less electricity to perform the same job.
- Energy audits are a great way to identify energy losses and leakages; check to see if your utility offers this service for free.
- There are countless opportunities to reduce your power consumption. Look for creative hacks and reassess your habits.
- Look into solar power. When done right, it can offset your entire electricity usage and offer a quick payback on your investment.
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.