Utility Bill Blues: Making Home Appliances More Cost-Effective

It’s easy for your utility expenses to creep up on you. Not only do they vary seasonally, but it can be easy to overlook how often you use some of the appliances in your home.

As it is, the average American household already spends over $2,000 a year on utilities. When that number starts to go up, it can be devastating. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to save money. It all starts with your home’s most expensive appliances.

Heating and Cooling System

Your heating and cooling system (also known as your HVAC or central air) is probably the most expensive appliance in your house. Central air can exceed 10-cents per KW-hours, which is often more than half your entire monthly utility bill.

This is especially true during northern winters. Beyond the expected costs, though, if your heating/cooling bill suddenly skyrockets, then you probably have a problem.

Common HVAC problems include old insulations, old filters, and ripped or torn ducts. Like a burst pipe, a ripped or torn duct can waste hundreds of dollars as cool or warm air escapes the system.

If you suspect this is what is happening to you, locate the rip in the ductwork and go over it with duct tape. Yes, you fix the duct with duct tape, and you can do this yourself. If you cannot find a tear, call a specialist.

Another common problem is old or broken air filters. Faulty air filters can congest your HVAC system and cause it to use more power than it needs. Make sure you are regularly cleaning and replacing your air filters.

Finally, if you have more than one unit in your home, at night you should turn the second one-off. Only leave the unit closest to the bedrooms on, otherwise, you are wasting electricity cooling (or heating) rooms that no one is using. This simple tip can save you hundreds of dollars.

  • Average cost: $0.33/hr
  • Average HVAC repair cost: $300

Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are far more cost-efficient (and energy-efficient) than standard ones. While upfront installation cost is higher, it will save you money over time.

Especially in smaller residences, tankless water heaters can save homeowners $100 per year. It may not sound like much, but considering less maintenance is required on these water heaters, it will save you a bundle on repairs as well.

To limit water heater use, consider taking shorter showers as well. Keep showers between 5-10 minutes will reduce your gas bill and your water bill.

  • Average water heater repair cost: $483

Washer and Dryer

If you have a big family, especially one with kids, then your washer and dryer bills could end up costing you. To cut down, you can buy more energy-efficient units, or you can set your washer to wash with cold water only.

Another option to cut down energy usage is to air-dry some of your smaller loads. This can protect the integrity of your clothing, as well. Delicates maintain their structure better when they are air-dried.

  • Average cost: (hot/warm wash): $0.69/load


One main reason refrigerators use up more energy than they should is that people usually keep them far colder than they need to. Check the thermostat inside your fridge and see if it’s set between 35F-38F. Any lower than that is both unnecessary and costly.

Beyond that, you should also try and open the fridge only when you know what you want (no browsing!), and remember to occasionally replace the gaskets as worn out gaskets can cause the cool air to seep out.

  • Average cost: $6.60/month


If used properly, a dishwasher can be a fairly efficient appliance. The issue is that many people fail to scrape off their dishes before loading them in. As a result, your dishwasher filters get clogged and the machine ends up using more power than it needs to for cleaning your plates and cups.

To efficiently use your dishwasher, you should scrape all food remnants off your dishes and carefully rinse them before placing them in the dishwasher. Also, make sure to turn off the heat-dry option and let your dishes air-dry.

If you let plates sit through the night, they will be dry by the time you are ready to unload them in the morning. If they are still damp, just finish drying them off with a towel.

  • Average cost: $0.46 per load
  • Average dishwasher repair cost: $159