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5 ways to keep your utility bills in check

Surging electricity prices are giving consumers a jolt

Published: September 02, 2014 04:45 PM

If your electricity bills have been creeping up, the extra hours of AC, or your forgetful kids leaving on their bedroom lights, may not be to blame. The year-over-year cost of electricity rose 3.2 percent during the first half of 2014—the biggest annual increase in five years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unlucky residents in New England saw their bills surge nearly 12 percent, following a sharp uptick in wholesale power prices. No matter where you live, here are five steps you can take to offset the inflation. 

Look for cheap LEDs. If you haven't made the switch yet to energy-efficient LEDs, the steep upfront cost is probably why. But prices are plummeting on these bulbs, even as their performance and light quality improves. Consider the Great Value (Walmart) 60W Soft White A19 LED Dimmable, a $10 LED that delivered superb brightness, warm-up time, and efficiency in our latest lightbulb tests

Switch out your thermostat. Especially if you're one of nearly 50 million U.S. households that heats with electricity, upgrading to a programmable thermostat could save you hundreds this year. Our latest thermostat Ratings of more than 30 models found several intuitive and innovative winners, including the top-rated Honeywell RTH9590WF, $300, the industry's first voice-activated programmable thermostat.

Change the way you do laundry. Still think washing in warm or hot water is the best way to get clothes clean? Think again. Many of our top-rated laundry detergents offer excellent cold water cleanability, which means your water heater won't have to work. When drying, always separate towels and heavy cottons from lighter-weight garments and linens.

Install ceiling fans. This step is really important in homes that use a lot of air conditioning. A ceiling fan will let you raise the temperature by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without any noticeable change in comfort. That alone could cut your home's annual energy costs by about 10 percent.

Pull some plugs. You've probably heard the term vampire power, referring to energy that's drawn from many electronic devices when they're not in use. But did you know that it can add up to 10 percent of your electricity bill? Unplugging video game consoles, digital set-top boxes on seldom-used TVs (say in a guest room), and cordless power tool chargers could help you pocket $100 dollars over the course of a year.  

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)            

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