When it gets hot outside, naturally, you want to stay in and blast the air conditioning. But cooling the temperature can bring a hefty price tag and add to the total costs of housing. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average electricity bill during the summer months typically spikes. In 2019, it was estimated to be $411 or $137 a month. That’s in comparison to $117 a month during the rest of the year.
And unless you’re willing to spend the afternoon parked in the frozen food aisle of the local grocer — been there, it’s fun for about 15 minutes — expect to be doling out a tad more for your power bill. If you’re frugal like me and are trying to cut costs as much as possible, what are some savvy ways you can go about it? We reached out to some money nerds for their favorite tips:
Draw the Shades
It might seem like a minor thing, but closing the drapes and curtains when the sun is at its peak can cool down indoor temperatures. Another thing you can do is hang thermal curtains, suggests Vicki Cook. These curtains help keep the draft out in the winter and block the sunlight in the summer. In fact, they can prevent 90% or more light from coming in. It can reduce heat by a third. “This can work from anywhere,” says Cook, who lives in the Finger Lakes in Central New York and is the co-founder of Women Who Money.
Suck Out Vampire Energy
Want in on a super-easy way to knock down your energy bill? Just unplug electronic devices in your home when you’re not using them, suggests Ben Huber. “It’s estimated that ‘vampire energy’ could account for as much as 5% of residential energy use,” says Huber, who is a personal finance expert for Dollar Sprout. “If you’re tech-savvy and use more devices than the average person, this figure could trickle higher. “
What’s more, some appliances draw more power than others. Not using your computer? Instead of putting it on “sleep mode,” shut it down, recommends Huber. And don’t forget appliances that don’t get much use. “If you’ve got an old PS3, Xbox, or sound system that’s going unused, yank the cord,” he says. This usually takes a few minutes but could really bump down your electricity bill over time. To make it a cinch, you can plug a bunch of different devices into a single surge protector and just turn off the “off” switch.
Take Cold Showers
This is definitely not for the meek. If you’re not totally turned off by frigid water, then consider taking a 5-minute cold shower when it heats up outside. While it’s a “mind-over-matter” personal challenge for some, such as Ryan Scribner, it also indirectly lowers your power bill. “Not only are you using less hot water, but you’re also spending less time in the shower,” says Scribner, who is the co-founder of Investing Simple. He estimates saving $5 to $10 a month on electricity — plus about 10 minutes of “found time” a day.
Toss a Dry Towel in the Dryer
An out-of-the-box way to save on your electric bill is to toss a dry towel in the dryer with your wet clothes, recommends Austin W. of The Logic of Money. “This will help pull some moisture out of your wet clothes and speed up your drying time,” he says.
Want to save even more money? Consider washing and drying your clothes at night. “Most utility providers will charge you more for using energy at peak usage hours, which are typically during the day when everyone is awake and active,” says Austin. “If you simply do your laundry at night when fewer people are using energy, you will likely get charged a lower rate.”
Using these strategies isn’t going to save you an unbelievable amount of money, but it could very well save you anywhere from $5 to $20 per month, depending on how much laundry you usually do.
Adjust the Temperature in Your Fridge
You can also save about 10% on electricity by tweaking the temperatures inside your refrigerator and freezer, says Austin W. What should the temperatures be? According to Austin, it’s recommended to keep your fridge between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Or to hit the sweet spot, bump it up or down a few notches.
Hold a Money-Saving Competition
Why not put together a competition with a frugal-minded buddy? That’s what Amanda L. Grossman did with a pal at work. Each month, they’d bring in their electric bills and chat it up over the new techniques they had discovered to shave dollars off their bills. “It was hugely motivating, not to mention we both learned things from one another,” says Grossman, who is a certified financial education instructor and founder of Frugal Confessions.
For instance, they discovered kill-a-watt meters. You can plug these into each of your appliances to see which ones are gobbling up the most energy. Not only can you gauge their energy efficiency, but also how much these appliances cost you each time they run. They also installed retractable clotheslines in their garages, unplugged their DVR players when they weren’t in use, and created plug-in centers, where they unplugged one cord before going to bed at night.
Get Paid to Lower Your Electricity Bill
Yes, this is actually a thing. Companies like OhmConnect are willing to pay you not to use electricity during peak usage periods, explains Tom Blake. In a nutshell, it pairs with most smart thermostats to detect energy use in your home.
When there’s a surge in energy usage, OhmConnect alerts homeowners to avoid using electricity for these short bursts of time. “This helps prevent the energy grid from being overburdened and forcing energy providers to rely on more expensive forms of energy,” says Blake, owner of This Online World. If you have an account with PG&E, SCE, or SDG&E for electric service, you qualify to sign up for this service.
Saving on your electricity bill doesn’t necessarily require drastic moves. In fact, thinking out-of-the-box and making minor adjustments can add up to some savings over time. And that’s more money in your pocket to save or put toward something else.