Is it just me or does it seem like utility costs are always going up? There are some good ideas out there to cut down on energy usage for utility savings, but they can be kinda hard to actually stick to. Turning off lights whenever you leave a room is something I’m usually good at, but unplugging devices that you’re not using is a bit trickier for me. I mean, am I really supposed to reach behind my bed to unplug that currently-not-in-use-but-soon-will-be-again device that might be silently draining power? Not necessarily the most convenient option.
But there are better ways! Here is the best way I’ve found to save money, save energy, AND get free stuff. (I love free stuff. And saving.) More and more utility companies are offering programs to their customers that include free products, services, or rebates. Often times these programs can fly under the radar, and many customers are unaware that they even exist. Here are some of the programs I’ve found with our regional utility providers.
Water savings freebies
In my area, it’s the gas company that offers a free water saving kit. (Don’t ask me why the gas company and not the water utility.) I noticed a blurb in their monthly newsletter that comes with the bill, so I emailed. I had to wait awhile and finally decided to email them again, and a couple weeks after that, the kit arrived. It included 2 faucet aerators and a low-flow shower head. I’ll take it! Reducing water flow will definitely help cut costs.
Power company kits
Same thing with the electric utility, all I had to do was fill out a form on their website, and they sent me an awesome kit full of good stuff. There were several LED light bulbs, an air temp thermometer with suction cup to use in your fridge, a nightlight, and an alarm to put on your air filter to let you know when to change it. PLUS a smart power strip meant to prevent vampire devices from sucking energy when they’re not being used. (More on that here.) Great for the TV area what with the DVD player, game console, etc.
All pretty great ideas. I think my favorite is the fact that there were 5 LED bulbs, those things can be a bit pricey to switch to, but they’re most cost-effective in the long run. Plus, they reduce heat in the summer because they don’t get hot like traditional bulbs. Be sure to check with your power company to see if they offer any of these great freebies.
Gas company offers
Just a quick note to remember to check with the gas company as well. Mine doesn’t currently have any offers regarding their commodity, but they do offer free water kits, go figure!
There are LOTS of rebates to be had from utility companies, especially if you’re buying a new appliance. Check with your local utilities to see what kind of rebates are available for certain energy-saving appliances.
We were able to upgrade to a $200 programmable wifi thermostat because the power company covered it completely with a rebate paid directly to the retailer. So easy. I love being able to control our thermostat from my phone no matter where I am. Especially if I’m already in bed. Who wants to crawl out into the cold to crank up the thermostat? Not me!
The free kit I received from our electric company!
Okay, now this one is really neat. Our electric company has a program that offers free home weatherization to its customers. This one took me a little hunting to find out about, since I didn’t know that was even a thing. But now that you do, you know just what to ask about!
Chances are the weatherization would be done by a third-party contractor who would have to do an evaluation to see if your house qualifies for the services. The contractor that evaluated our house said we qualified for everything, so we got the works. First they set up a test system to measure the amount of outside air that was getting into the house. Apparently you need to have some for circulation purposes, but not so much that it’s considered an air leakage problem. After that, they determined exactly which methods would be best for us.
We got caulking around the windows, foam insulation around the pipes under the sinks, and weather stripping around all our outside doors. Plus they sealed around the panel in our bedroom that allows access to our bathroom plumbing on the opposite side of the wall. (We have a crawlspace under the house, so that eliminated a lot of the outside air that had been drifting up.)
I was a bit miffed about that at first because we’re in the process of remodeling our bathroom, but that’s on me because I didn’t follow them around the house to check on exactly what they were doing. Bonus tip: keep an eye out and mention if there’s anything you do or don’t want done.
We have an old attic fan that was disconnected years ago, so they installed a cover over the vent to prevent the warm air from escaping and the cold air from seeping in. I love it. And they also blew insulation in our attic. I don’t even want to think about how much all this would have cost, but it was all completely covered as a service of the power company.
Depending on what your utility provider offers, there might be an income limitation to qualify for weatherization services. In our area it’s only available to those with a household income below $45,000. We had no trouble meeting that requirement, but if your home doesn’t qualify, there are some easy and affordable ways to make some small upgrades yourself. (More on that soon!)
Bonus tip: If you do have weatherization done, they will need to shut off your heater/AC before starting in order to run the air flow test. Make sure to turn your heater up for an hour or so beforehand to keep it warmer as long as possible. Or the AC if it’s summertime.
We’ve only just begun
It hasn’t been that long since we started using these products and had the weatherization done, so it might take a while to see how it will affect our bill. (It might make an even bigger difference come summer!)
But I can say that I already notice a difference in the heat staying in the house better now. And that’s considering that we have an unused, drafty fireplace, plus 50-year-old windows. So if you have newer windows, that will help to maximize the savings even more. By the way, make sure the chimney flue is closed when not in use, because that baby will suck the warm air right out of your house.
Don’t be afraid to be proactive and reach out to your city or regional utility companies. Sometimes these programs are not promoted too well, but they just might be there. Give the company a call or check their website to see what you can find.
And even if no programs exist, at least you know. Better to have checked than to keep going without knowing these awesome benefits were a possibility. And if they’re not available in your area, you can always talk to your utility provider about lowering rates, even if just for a limited period of time. After all, something is better than nothing!
Have you participated in any programs to save money and lower your utility bills?
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