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9 Surprising Things That Are Making Your Utility Bills Higher

running shower

As we go about our daily lives, we can unknowingly pick up habits that start to increase our utility costs. Before you realize it, you can find yourself routinely faced with astronomical energy and water bills. The good news is that you can reduce these expenses without sacrificing comfort and convenience.

Have your utility bills been through the roof lately? If so, avoiding these water- and energy-wasting behaviors below can help.


1. Closing Air Vents

Many people make the mistake of closing vents in unoccupied rooms, thinking that this will redirect air to places that need it. Unfortunately, when you do this, your heating and cooling system “won’t know” and will keep trying to send air to the same places as before. This creates a problem because now your system is not taking in the same amount of air that it’s blowing out.

As a result, you’ll get an air pressure imbalance in your system. This can strain the components, force leaks in your ductwork, and make your equipment less efficient overall.

2. Keeping the Same Air Filter In Too Long

Trying to save money by using the same air filter as long as possible will actually end up costing you. When an air filter gets clogged with dust, dirt, hair, and other airborne particles, it blocks air from flowing through your HVAC system. This reduces the equipment’s ability to heat or cool your home, forcing the components to work harder. Too little airflow can even cause your system to overheat or break down.

3. Skipping HVAC Maintenance

According to experts at the Department of Energy, neglecting maintenance is a sure-fire way to reduce your air conditioners’ performance and increase its energy use. The longer a heating and cooling system goes without professional maintenance, the more it suffers from problems like dust build-up and loose parts. Those issues increase the wear-and-tear on the equipment while also reducing its efficiency.


1. Leaving the Shower to Warm Up

According to the EPA’s research, an average American household wastes over 10,000 gallons of water each year while waiting for hot water to arrive at a plumbing fixture. You’re probably already used to your hot water taking a while to arrive, so you may turn the hot water on and then walk away to do some other tasks before heading back to check on the temperature. If this is something you regularly do, you may be wasting even more than the average 10,000 gallons a year.

To reduce the time it takes your water to warm up, consider insulating your hot water pipes. You might also want to invest in a tankless water heater, which can deliver hot water to you “on demand.”

2. Neglecting Your Dishwasher

If you own an energy-efficient dishwasher, use it! An ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher can reduce your utility bills by more than $40 a year compared to handwashing. Just make sure you are only running it when you have full loads of dishes!

3. Ignoring Small Leaks

Even if a leak isn’t flooding your home, it could still be strongly impacting your water bill. According to the EPA:

  • A leaky faucet dripping once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons annually--the amount of water you’d need to take over 180 showers.

  • A showerhead dripping ten times per minute can waste more than 500 gallons annually--the amount of water you’d need to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher.

From dripping faucets to toilets that won’t stop running, it pays to get “small leaks” fixed.


1. Leaving The Lights On

When you were a kid, Mom and Dad were always on your case about this one--and for a good reason! A 60W traditional incandescent bulb only lasts for about 1,000 hours, and because they aren’t very efficient, they release a lot of energy as heat.

You can maximize your energy savings by replacing your old incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, which emit far less heat and last for roughly 25,000 hours. Also, if you have forgetful family members, you can install timed light switches that will shut the lights off for you.

2. Washing All of Your Laundry in Hot Water

Most of the time, washing your clothes in warm or hot water is unnecessary to get them clean. When you use the warm or hot water setting, your washing machine will require much more energy. In fact, ENERGY STAR reports that “Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer.” Additionally, a washer using hot water will release more heat and moisture into your home, causing you to run your AC more.

Keep in mind that it’s still advisable to wash bedding in warm water to get rid of dust mites--just don’t use the “bedding” cycle, which typically runs for an unnecessarily long time.

3. Browsing In Your Fridge and Freezer

It’s best to know what you need before you start looking in your refrigerator. According to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, you can waste 50 to 120kWh a year just by being careless with the fridge door. As a frame of reference, you could run your washing machine 50 times with 100kWh of energy.

At 1st Home & Commercial Services, our friendly team is ready to assist you with your home’s HVAC, plumbing, and electrical needs. Give us a call today at (512) 957-2992 or contact us online.

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