A rapid rise in the cost of living will undoubtedly prove to be one of the major stories of the past year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, energy prices rose by 41.6 percent in the 12-month period that ended in June 2022, marking the highest 12-month increase since April 1980.
The significant spike in energy costs is somewhat misleading, as the BLS considers motor fuel prices, which rose more than 60 percent in the 12-month period ending in June 2022, part of the energy category. However, during that same period, electricity prices rose by nearly 14 percent while natural gas prices increased by 38 percent. Both of those increases were more significant than the more publicized rise in food prices, which rose by right around 10 percent.
Families need to eat and many professionals now must return to in-person work after years of pandemic-related remote working, which means they must confront higher fuel costs. That leaves little room to save money in those areas. However, there are ways for families to reduce home energy costs without adversely affecting their quality of life.
• Run appliances during off-peak hours. According to the United States Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the best time to use appliances in a home is when overall electricity use is low. Though this time changes depending on the season and can vary based on geography, the DOE and the EPA both note that after 9 p.m. and before 9 a.m. are generally the off-peak hours in most areas.
• Strategically use your shades and blinds. The energy providers at ConEd estimate that about 40 percent of unwanted heat comes through windows. Strategic use of curtains, shades and blinds can keep heat out on hot days, thus allowing homeowners to turn the thermostat up on their air conditioning units in summer. Opening curtains, blinds and shades on winter mornings and afternoons will allow more sunlight in, allowing homeowners to control heating costs more effectively.
• Reorganize your refrigerator. There are plenty of contradictory strategies regarding how best to store foods in a refrigerator so the unit consumes as little energy as possible while still keeping foods fresh and chilled. But various energy providers, including ConEd, recommend that consumers avoid packing a fridge too tightly. By allowing cold air to circulate within the refrigerator, the refrigerator won’t need to work as hard, and thus consume as much energy, to keep foods cool. It’s important to note that the opposite should govern how the freezer is packed. Packing frozen items tightly in the freezer will help the refrigerator work a little less hard.
• Turn off the lights. Estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that electricity for lighting accounts for around 10 percent of electricity consumption in homes. A concerted effort to turn off lights in rooms that aren’t being used can help consumers save money.
Rising utility bills are compelling millions of people to seek ways to trim their energy consumption. Thankfully, there are many ways to do that without upsetting daily routines.