How To Save Money On Utility Bills While Staying Home

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The Nest Learning Thermostat (Eric Risberg/AP)
The Nest Learning Thermostat (Eric Risberg/AP)

Many Americans are home more than usual right now — and some are starting to see how this is driving up their utility bills.

And in these uncertain economic times, many people are looking to cut back on their bills in order to save every penny that they can.

Changing our habits is a quick way to save money, says Mary Farrell, a senior editor at Consumer Reports. She has some tips for keeping those costs down — because every little bit adds up.

Heating And Cooling

“Fortunately, [the weather] has been pretty mild in most parts of the country, although there are some extremes in the south and in the northeast. But typically, if you need to heat, lower your temperature. If you need to cool, raise it. You can kind of experiment with that. But for every degree that you change your temperature, you'll save 3% on your utility bill.”


“If you're cooking a small thing, don't do it in a big oven. You can save even though it's cents on a dollar. It adds up because we're cooking all day. The example we gave was a meatloaf. If you cook it [for an hour] in a regular oven, it's 24 cents and in a toaster oven, it’s 11 cents. And if you cook it in a microwave, it's 4 cents. But it would probably taste terrible. Don't do that.”

Gas Stove Versus Electric Stove

“For both of them, you should match the size of your pan to the size of the burner. So if you have an electric stove, don't use a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner. If you have a gas stove, you just turn the flame down until it's just hitting the pot and not coming up the sides.”


“With laundry, we're going against our usual advice, which is to do everything in cold water. But now the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] wants you to use warm water — as warm as you can. We're saying use bigger loads, and then if you have a high spin cycle, use that because the more water you get out of the wash when it's in the washer, the less time it takes in the dryer. And the dryer actually takes more energy than the washer.”


“With dishes, we've always said don't pre-rinse your dishes and we're sticking to that. If you rinse your dishes in the sink, you're using seven gallons of water a minute. But a dishwasher typically uses three to five gallons per cycle. So that's a huge difference.”

Saving Water

“I was trying to keep this to things you can do without going to the store, but any leaks you can fix will save you money. … So if you have extra washers around that you can put in your faucets, that helps a lot. Take shorter showers, don't leave the water running when you're brushing your teeth and don't use your toilet for anything other than a toilet. And then again, don't pre-rinse your dishes because that wastes tons of water.”

Appliance Filters

“Any filter you can clean will make your appliance run more efficiently, [such as] window air conditioners. People with central air, they have the filters also, and dehumidifiers have filters. If you have an over the range microwave, that thing collects tons of grease. Just wash that off. And then a lot of people don't know that their dishwasher actually has a filter. If you have a super quiet dishwasher, it probably has a filter that you have to clean. One reason dishwashers are so noisy is that they were grinding up all the waste. So you should clean that filter, too. And vacuum cleaners also. They just run more efficiently and some have replaceable filters and some have washable filters, so please check your owner's manual.”

Ashley Locke produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinky RaySerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on April 17, 2020.


Tonya Mosley Correspondent, Here & Now
Tonya Mosley was the LA-based co-host of Here & Now.



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