Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill

Is your utility bill killing you? Costs for gas, oil, water, and other natural resources rise steadily. In great parts of Europe, Australia, and Japan the worst price driver is electricity.

Who would have thought that Reddit is a source of wisdom that can help you counter-balance these developments. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s not so surprising. Reddit is a haven for geeks, nerds, and intellectuals, interested in all sorts of niche topics, including energy efficiency and saving money. Moreover, Reddit is a community where everyone can contribute, regardless of education, status, or rank. And most importantly, contributions are evaluated by the community. In other words, Reddit is crowd wisdom at its best and a great resource for solving everyday problems, like gigantic utility bills.

Prologue

I dived into this article thinking I would hammer out a list with tips & tricks sourced from Reddit. To the detriment of my Saturday evening and Sunday morning, I found much more than the expected conventional wisdom and urban legends. Reddit supplied me with a great selection of articles and discussions, which in turn provided significant depth to this topic.

Energy Prices

Depending on where you live, electricity can be expensive. Most importantly, it is a significant factor on your utility bill, especially if you heat your house, heat water, and cook with electricity. Let’s see what Reddit’s wisdom is on cutting those costs!

Electricity Costs   Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill

  • If you have the freedom to switch your energy provider, try to get a better price. You might even be eligible for reduced rates based on your household income.

Buying Decisions

One of the biggest insights was found in a link to a survey. Researchers at The Earth Institute of New York’s Columbia University conducted a survey and published their results on how clueless consumers are in regards to saving energy. The study noted that switching to more efficient technologies was more effective than behavior change, something few consumers realized.

In other words, switching the lights off will save very little energy. Making the right buying decisions when purchasing new appliances is far more cost-effective in the long run. That said, a little behavior change on top of that certainly won’t hurt.

Key lessons learned via Reddit:

EU Energy Label   Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill

Using Appliances Efficiently

Choosing the most energy efficient device you can find makes sense when you have to get a new one. In most cases, however, it makes more sense to use appliances until they stop working. After all, replacing them costs money, too. Meanwhile, pick up all the motivation and discipline you can get hold of and try to change your behavior.

To be honest, these savings will only amount to a significant sum, if you are consistent and manage to address as many points as possible. Hence, I grouped the most effective behavior changes for each item under one action point.

This is what Reddit has to teach you:

  • Your fridge and freezer consume electricity 24/7. Relax the temperature and go only as cold as you really need. Your fridge or freezer will be more energy efficient when full because air doesn’t retain temperature very well. Fill empty space with water containers or other dense materials. If you never need all of the space in your fridge or freezer, consider getting a smaller one next time. Meanwhile, vacuum the coils of your old fridge and freezer to help them cool more efficiently.
  • Up to 90% of energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating water. Modern detergents, however, work miraculously well at lower temperatures. So try washing your clothes with cold water to cut your electricity bill. Generally, try to wear your clothes more than once before washing them, this will reduce the amount of laundry. No, I wasn’t talking of your underwear, silly!
  • Retire your dryer and hang up your clothes on a drying rack. They will dry for free. If you are forced to use a dryer, make sure the vent pipe and lint trap are clean, so it works at maximum efficiency.

Save Energy   Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill

Reddit has surprisingly little practical advice on how to make computers more energy efficient. Possibly because there isn’t much potential. My colleague Matt did the math and found that while you can save energy with your PC, it’s indeed very little. He later followed up with an energy saving masterclass for computer users and a piece on how to build an energy efficient gaming PC.

Heating

This appears to be the most sensitive topic, although it only affects people during part of the year. If you live in a country that gets real winters and snow, heating is very likely the biggest item on your utility or electricity bill. Here is what Reddit recommends:

  • Don’t heat more than you have to! Shut the doors of the rooms that you’re keeping warm. Insulate your windows with window film or bubble wrap and lock them to reduce drafts.

  • Let the sun in during the day and close the drapes to keep the warm air away from the windows when the sun is gone.
  • Put on socks, wear slippers, and extra layers of clothes to stay warm.
  • Turn the thermostat down at night or when you leave the house. Ideally, get programmable thermostats and have an expert help you set them up.
  • Keep your bedroom cool all the time. Use a thick duvet to keep you warm. Put a bottle filled with hot water into your bed before you go sleep.
  • If the humidity in your place is very low, try to get it up to 40 – 50 per cent. Dry air will suck moisture from your skin, which will make you feel chilled, even at warm temperatures. Put a pan of water on your heater or dry your clothes on a rack indoors. Be careful with moisture though, it can also promote molding.

Cooking

  • When cooking or boiling food on a stove, use a lid. This decreases cooking time as food is steamed as well as boiled or cooked.

Air-Conditioning

Most Reddit users appear to worry more about heating than cooling as I could find only very little on this topic. The few discussions I did find, however, were very fruitful.

  • Insulate your windows as described above for heating to reduce drafts of hot air.
  • Try to reflect sun that is shining into your room. Solar screening needs to be applied directly onto the window pane, ideally on the outside.
  • Make sure your central AC is clean and check whether it works properly. Ask the landlord to look into it if it doesn’t.
  • Use window AC units to cool a single room rather than a central unit that cools the entire house.
  • Lower your AC, i.e. increase the target temperature when you leave the house. It’s important to keep the AC running to continuously remove humidity as it is harder to cool humid air than it is to cool dry air.

City Heat Wave   Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill

What You Should Not Do!

Reddit is good for debunking myths. Here are the two best ones when it comes to saving energy:

Epilogue

By no means are the tips above the best ones or sufficient. They are what I found on Reddit and nothing more. So can you help us build a more comprehensive list? Please contribute in the comments!

Image Credits: Save Energy via Shutterstock, City Heat Wave via Shutterstock

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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21 Comments -

2 votes

Kannon Y

Great article! Another handy tip that I heard of from a neighbor was to insulate the water heater. Apparently, the tanks that hold hot water aren’t insulated, so they lose heat very rapidly. Apparently, insulating it saves a huge amount on energy bills.

0 votes

Tina S

Great tip for house owners!

If you’re renting an apartment, speak with the landlord.

2 votes

Keith

1. I would dispute leaving the air conditioner running when you are not home. For starters humidity can only build up if there is a source – ie open water, humans, wet items. Secondly heat will flow into a building in proportion to the temperature differential. Better to let the inside temperature rise whilst your are absent. If you must have a cool house to walk into then set the a/c timer to start the unit before you get home.
2. Know what type of electricity metering you have. In Australia we can have ‘time of day’ metering (smart meters). If you do have these then operate energy hungry appliances when the rates are lower.
3. Check your water heater. The relief valve should have the occasional dribble of water. If its a continuous stream then get it replaced. Insulate any outside hot water pipes.
4. I fully agree with your comments about windows. We have cheap outside roller shades on sun facing windows that we roll down in summer, up in winter. On the inside of the windows we have fitted rollup blinds that are ‘back rolled’ so they sit flush against the window sills. In winter the trick is to stop air flow up or down the glass. That is how double and triple glazing works.
5. Use nature. In summer we cool the house by allowing air flow through the house. Then we ‘box it up’ when the outside air temperature rises. We fitted good quality full mesh security doors that allows air flow but gives us full security.
6. Use fans instead of air cons. Save the air con for the hottest days.

1 votes

Tina S

Awesome advice, Keith! Thank you for sharing.

Thanks for offering an alternative point of view on air conditioning. As Lynn says below, it depends on the situation. If humidity can get into the house, then leaving the A/C on just for de-humidifying might actually save energy. If unsure, experiment.

1 votes

Lynn

Keith, in response to #1, you have obviously never lived in Louisiana. Even a well insulated home is not protected from outside humidity when it’s 70% plus air humidity. I use a dehumidifier in the warmer months to help keep things comfortable.

0 votes

Tina S

Using a dehumidifier is another great point. Do you know whether it’s more energy efficient than a full A/C?

1 votes

Philip Clemente

I agree with Keith in Number 1, air conditioners are really a big consumer of electricity here in the Philippines. We don’t need heaters here because the weather is so hot and humid.

1 votes

Steve

We have a bad habit of leaving the TV / disc player / Radio etc all on standby. I have a wireless switch fitted so that the five units are switched off completely, leaving one tiny unit on standby. (Many TVs are not energy efficient on standby). Using CFL bulbs throuhout has made a noticable and welcome drop in our domestic bill.

1 votes

Jim

I have a watt meter that measures power consumed for electrical devices. I have discovered that when I unplug my computer from the recharger vice unplugging the recharger from the wall, the power drawn goes to zero. I have also found the same with all my other recharging devices that I have, i.e., cell phone, tablets and such. They also draw zero power when you unplug them vice unplug from the wall. What I am trying to say is that you save the same amount of power by just unplugging the device instead of unplugging the recharger from the wall. I hope that I haven’t confused anyone.

1 votes

Jay

Great ideas. So many still have old mechanical thermostats with a difference of as many as 5 degrees F between the ON and OFF. Electric Baseboard Heaters with an Automatic Electronic thermostats in each room will not only allow you to control the temperature in each room but also automatically lower the temperature to the minimum while you do not need it, at night or while at work. It also produces an even heat, hardly a difference between ON and OFF temperatures with the ability to lower power to the heaters in 20% steps. In doing so you can keep a lower temperature setting as you will not feel any variation in temperature . You will also lower your peak demand in electricity on the provider . No need for an expert to set up. Read instructions.

1 votes

Colven

Consider the system for hotwater storage, hopefully well insulated to avoid losses with often an inbuilt heat exchanger for house heating. These are common place in the UK. No one appears to have given thought to the problem of energy loss in heating up the uninsulated pipe work ( usually copper ) to the kitchen hot water tap before hot water is delivered. The same applies to any other tap remote from the storage tank source. Add to this the amount of water loss in carrying out the practice of heating up the pipe work. Multiply this loss by the number of UK households having such systems and it could amount to sufficient to clear the National Debt. All because no one has thought of insulating the copper “hot” pipes. Not Rocket Science by any stretch of the imagination!!

1 votes

Ben

Living here in NZ, where summer is a-coming, heating now takes a back seat, but something I’ve done to our house is installed old-fashioned pelmets to our windows. The trick is to make them solid-shelved on top. The reasoning is that the heat generated in the room (by whatever means), rises, and spreads out like a mushroom cloud to the outside walls (coolest part of the ceiling), then flowing down the walls and BEHIND the curtains, and across the window panes, releasing it’s heat as it passes. by interfering with that flow and placing a pelmet in the way, the flow of heated air is forced to come down INSIDE the curtains. Works a treat. A bit of imagination with the pelmet design can make it pretty, and just in case you wondered, it’s a great place to store the dust in the house!

1 votes

dragonmouth

If you own a clothes dryer, especially if it is located in an unfinished basement, consider venting it into the living space during the cold months.

If your house has an attic, install an attic fan or a whole-house fan.

Add another layer of insulation around your living space (attic, crawl space)

Based on my usage of CFLs – they do use less electricity and burn cooler. However, I found that they do not last that much longer than incandescent bulbs. Also, CFLs contain Mercury so that they require special disposal methods.

Install awnings over windows that get a lot of sun.yes

0 votes

Arthur Carrillo

The hint of the day that leads the e-mailed version says to unplug chargers in order to save. At the bottom of the article, the author says that unplugging chargers is not worth the bother. Need an editor?

1 votes

Tina S

If the charger is warm to the touch, unplugging it is worth it.

1 votes

Luvred

Here is my energy tip. On electric hot water heaters I have a timer installed (little Gray tmer). I only run the the heater 2hrs in the morn @ 125 degrees.
I have saved 150 to 200 kW hrs a month. You have to fine tune for your family.

0 votes

Stephanie S

Of course, these tips depend on where you live and what types of appliances, windows, etc. you have. The variables are enormous. However, just as a caution, if you have double-pane windows, be very careful on what you put on them to help reduce the loss of heat or cool air. Some methods actually damage the glass/window. Voice of experience speaking here. :( Also, contact your utility company – ours here will send a representative out to make suggestions on how to cut costs. This is a free service. Every little bit you do adds up to savings. Turn lights off when you leave a room may seem like a no-brainer but I was surprised to discover many people don’t. We live in a rental and when we were organizing the kitchen, the recessed lights kept going out. It was driving us nuts. Finally, a bulb just wouldn’t go on at all so hubby climbed the ladder to replace it. He found that in each fixture, the previous tenants had used 100W bulbs! Each fixture also came with a warning not to install a bulb higher than 60W. It is a wonder that the place didn’t catch fire. We removed all the 100W bulbs and installed the CFL equivalent to 60W incandescent bulbs. We have plenty of light in there too. The previous tenant must have had high energy bills because every fixture we checked had 100W incandescent bulbs in them. Like I said, little things help a lot. We got a programmable thermostat for our heating/cooling system which paid for itself the first month! Thanks for all the great tips here.

0 votes

dragonmouth

The previous tenant might have had vission problems requiring him/her to use 100 watt bulbs for brightness. Of course, (s)he could have used 100 watt equivalent CFLs. However, CFLs are expensive in comparison to incandescents. As you say, the number of variables is tremendous.

0 votes

Steve

while it written with UK policies in mind, this free to read book is excellent for debunking energy myths and telling us where we should really be concentrating our efforts:
http://www.withouthotair.com/

well worth reading (i tended to skip the maths bits, trusting them to be ok)

0 votes

Ikari

Not washing as often….? Yeah, that does sound like a very Reddit solution to things.

0 votes

Sabry Krishnan L

nice thought for the winter season!