How to save $579 a year in household utility bills

On Tuesday, we told you how Elkhart Community Schools have shed more than $1 million a year by cutting energy costs.

On Wednesday, NewsCenter 16 left the classroom and entered the average American home, one that spends $1900 a year on utilities alone. That’s a staggering figure for the bare necessities of heat, electricity and water.

While Elkhart Schools’ decision to go “green” is widely respected, the shift is often a lot easier said than done.

After all, most people don’t have the time to caulk dozens of windows, the knowledge to insulate every household pipe or the money to purchase Energy Star appliances.

In effort to push aside the more challenging “green” tasks, Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability found four very easy steps that if followed correctly, will save you $579 a year.

1.) Despite costing more, experts recommend filling your home with Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), in place of incandescent lights. CFLs use 75% less energy, last ten times longer and can save homeowners $150 a year.

2.) If you keep your home at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, experts recommend lowering your thermostat to 68 degrees during the wintertime and raising it to 72 degrees in the summer. Experts say that small two-degree adjustment will cut $98 a year.

3.) Unplug household appliances and electronics when they’re not in use. That’s because even when powered-off, items like toasters and televisions still suck electricity from sockets. To make the task easier, purchase a specialized power-strip to lessen the amount of unplugging. This will eliminate $256 in annual energy costs.

4.) Wash all of your clothing in cold water. Then, instead of placing your laundry in an electric dryer, hang it on a clothesline or drying rack. This simple step will save you $75 a year.

"We’re talking very small, minimal, you barely even notice it cutbacks. These are types of habitual habits that you can easily change and make a really big impact,” said Sara Brown with Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability.

Another cost-saving secret lies right in your home's water meter. The valve comes in a variety of sizes. In fact, NewsCenter 16’s Kevin Lewis had a one-inch meter himself. That specific sizing cost him $88 a month, whether he turned on his faucet or not.

After contacting South Bend Water Works in July, Kevin downgraded to a 5/8ths meter and now pays $35 a month, a savings of $636 a year. There is however some overhead costs associated with the work. Kevin paid $200 to a local plumber for the installation and $40 to South Bend Water Works for the downgrade.

Kevin says he experienced no drop in water pressure with the smaller water meter, but recommends checking with a plumber before making a water meter downgrade of your own.

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