7 costly energy habits to break this summer.


By Melanie Fourie

Did you know that 20% of Americans were unable to pay their power bills in the last year, and at least 28% had to cut down on essentials like medication and groceries to meet their utility costs? While this 2021 Help Advisor survey points to the somewhat unpredictable culprits of inflation and energy price hikes, that’s cold comfort to those impacted by these difficulties.

Unfortunately, everything adds up: cranking the AC, running dehumidifiers, using the pool, taking longer showers — you name it. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to cut back on utility costs. Steer clear of these bad habits this summer to save money on your power bill.

1. Using hot water for laundry instead of cold.

Summer activities, events and traveling may mean you’ll have more laundry to do every week. Hot water usage accounts for about 18% of your utility bill. Switching from hot to warm water can lower your energy usage in half, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). When possible, lower the temperature on your washing machine for extra savings this summer. 

2. Overindulging on water usage.

To break some bad water usage habits this summer, be mindful of how much H2O you use in the home — and on the lawn. Here’s how:

  • Reduce time spent under the showerhead. If you tend to shower more often to beat the outdoor heat, try keeping the extra showers short — and reduce the time of your regular showers to keep your water usage at net zero.
  • Avoid drenching your yard. It’s estimated that 50% of outdoor water usage is actually going to waste. Consider using a drip irrigation system to limit water waste — and make sure you know how much water your grass type, flowers and other plants should get in the first place. 
  • Watch your laundry loads. Try to cut back on smaller, more frequent loads if you can — and when you do want to run a small load, remember to adjust the water-level setting.

3. Ignoring energy use in the kitchen.

As you host family gatherings and dinner parties at home this summer, you may find yourself in the kitchen a bit more than usual. When you’re cooking and cleaning, try to follow these DOE recommendations:

  • Cover cooking pots and pans when they’re in use.
  • Fully load the dishwasher before running it.
  • Make fewer trips to open the refrigerator door with just a little careful planning.
  • Keep your range-top burners and reflectors clean.
  • Set your fridge and freezer to the right temp (experts recommend you keep it between 35° and 38°F for the fresh food compartment and 0° F for freezers).
  • When possible, consider taking the cooking outside to avoid heat build-up in your home — which may in turn tempt you to crank up the AC to cool down.

4. Relying on old appliances.

During the summer, you’ll likely use your appliances more often. If you have an older AC system, fridge, dishwasher, washer or dryer, consider upgrading to high-efficiency models with an Energy Star label. These appliances may significantly reduce your water and electricity consumption.

Here are a few signs it might be time to replace your appliance with a more energy-efficient version: 

  • You see a sudden spike in your utility bills, but your usage has remained consistent. 
  • Your appliance has extended its expected lifespan. Check your warranty or manufacturer’s guidelines to find out if it might be time for an upgrade.
  • You notice weird sounds and smells. Again, this could be a sign that your appliance has outlived its expected lifespan and is operating less efficiently.

If you think it’s time for a change, hire a home appliance professional near you.

5. Forgetting to replace your air filters (again).

The HVAC system in your house consists of air filters that require replacing on a regular basis if you want the system to work properly. These filters capture dirt, dust and other airborne particles — and when they clog up, your HVAC system must use more power to draw in fresh air. 

Change the filters every three months to keep your system as efficient as possible and avoid wasting money on energy. Not sure how to replace them? Contact a top-rated HVAC professional near you.

6. Overlooking hidden leaks.

Just because it’s summertime — and probably raining less — that doesn’t mean your home isn’t susceptible to leaks. Dripping water may seem irrelevant at first, but it accumulates over time. What’s worse: wet areas caused by summer humidity and hidden leaks may lead to the formation of mold, mildew and other issues in your home.

Always pay attention to the parts of your house that are fair game for leaks. Check around kitchen sinks, toilets, drip irrigation systems, outdoor spigots, garden hoses, ceilings, basements and plumbing fittings. Avoid letting little leaks get out of hand

Remember also that your faucet or shower head could be leaking due to a damaged washer or a faulty seal. Contact a plumber near you if your taps are still dripping after you’ve turned them all the way off.

Pro tip: If humid temperatures and leaks have led to mold issues, contact your nearest mold remediation professional to eradicate it. If your home is mold-ridden, your family's health is at stake — and the resale value of your property may be affected as well.

7. Avoiding proper swimming pool maintenance.

Operating a swimming pool is expensive enough. This summer, avoid driving up your bills even more.

  • Use a cover for your pool. A decrease in water evaporation is expected when you use a pool cover. By reducing evening heat loss, the cover may also help you save money on heating.
  • Turn the heat down when not using the pool. Or better yet — turn it off completely.
  • Backwash your filter correctly. Doing this too often could waste water — but not backwashing can waste energy. It’s a balance.

If you need help maintaining your pool, hire a pool cleaning service near you.

Hire a Thumbtack pro to help you reduce your utility bills this summer.

Fixing things like a swimming pool filter, faulty appliance or even a toilet tank flapper can be challenging if you don't have the knowhow. Reducing your utility bills in these instances is as simple as hiring a Thumbtack professional near you to assist. 

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