CDE Lightband - Clarksville Department of Electricity – Clarksville, TN

When you rent, sometimes it can feel like there’s nothing you can do to lower your household utility costs. Unless something breaks, it’s pretty unlikely your landlord will proactively invest in costly energy-saving upgrades or repairs, like ENERGY STAR-rated appliances or new windows and doors. And thanks to the pandemic-fueled home buying boom, more people have entered the rental market. That means rents are rising and people have less room in the budget for other household essentials like electricity and hot water.

The good news is, there are a ton of low- and no-cost ways to lower your energy bills. We’ve rounded up 12 ways you can reduce your electricity bill to start saving money today. Plus, your partners here at CDE Lightband want you to get the most bang for your buck, so these tips address the biggest energy users in your home—think appliances, heating and cooling, and water heating. Let’s dive in!

Washer, dryer, stove and other household appliances

The smallest changes here can really add up and lower your electricity bill. Here are some of our top energy efficiency tips for your washer, dryer, stove and dishwasher.

1. Wash clothes in cold water on the high spin cycle.

Cost to make this change: $0

Your clothes get just as clean using cold water, so give this tip a whirl. When you wash clothing in hot water, you’ll use more electricity as your water heater works to, well, heat your water! Hot water is also harsh on clothes which can mean having to replace clothing more often. Plus, when you set your washing machine to a high spin cycle, your clothes are less wet when it’s time to transfer them to the dryer. And less time in the dryer means less electricity and a lower bill!

2. Match pot and pan sizes to burner sizes.

Cost to make this change: $0

This one quick fix can save a ton of energy in the kitchen. If you’re using a small saucepan, use your smaller burners. Large burners use more energy, and if there’s nothing there to heat, then you’re burning up easy savings.

3. Skip the dry cycle on your dishwasher.

Cost to make this change: $0

Instead of using your dishwasher’s drying feature, opt to let your dishes air dry. Because, let’s be honest, even with the dry cycle, some of your dishes still come out wet! Once your dishwasher is done, crack the door and let evaporation work its magic. (Pro tip: Washing your dishes in the dishwasher, even if it isn’t a full load, is a lot more energy efficient than washing dishes by hand.)

Heating and cooling

Sure, it would be great if your landlord replaced your 15-year-old HVAC unit that sounds like it’s dying every time it comes on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still rack up some savings in this hefty energy use category. Small actions can make a big difference.

4. Keep air vents open and unobstructed.

Cost to make this change: $0

Your HVAC system is built to provide the proper amount of heating and cooling for a home your size. So, when you close air vents and registers, your system will still produce and distribute the same amount of heat or cool air, but only now with less places for that air to go. That increased pressure can not only put a real strain on your duct work, but it forces your HVAC system to work harder. If you have floor vents, make sure nothing obstructs their air flow, like furniture, rugs or curtains.

5. Increase the thermostat 5-8 degrees in the summer if you’re gone for 8+ hours.

Cost to make this change: $0

Heading to work for the day or going out of town for the weekend? Anytime you leave the house for an extended period of time, like for eight or more hours, increase your thermostat 5-8 degrees before you go. No need to cool an empty house! In general, we recommend keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter (even cooler if you’re gone) and 75 degrees during the warmer months.

Check with your landlord or management company first, but installing a smart thermostat can also reduce your heating and cooling costs by learning to automatically adjust the thermostat based on your activity.

6. Avoid using emergency heat unless it’s a true emergency.

Cost to make this change: $0

We really cannot stress this enough: Emergency heat is only for emergencies! It is not for daily use. A well-functioning heating system will be able to keep up with normal winter temps. But if your primary heat pump goes out, this is the time to switch to emergency heat which kicks on your backup heat pump. Plus, remember this: If you use emergency heat just to heat up cold hands and feet, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg! Emergency heat costs more than your regular heat.

Thinking about a smart thermostat? Find the right one for you in the EnergyRight Marketplace.

Water heating

Percentage of total household electricity use: 12%

Who doesn’t love a long, hot shower? But how much is that 20-minute spa-like experience going to cost you? Heating water makes up 12 percent of your home’s total electricity use, so anywhere you can scale back in this area is going to make a decent-sized impact on your bill.

7. Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees.

Cost to make this change: $0

Most households have the temperature of their electric water heater set too high. By lowering your water heater temperature to 120 degrees, not only will you save money on your electricity bill (because you need electricity to make hot water) but you can also avoid the risk of burning yourself with water that is too hot.

8. Take shorter showers.

Cost to make this change: $0

OK, yes, for long shower lovers this might seem impossible. But if you can even scale your shower time back to 10 minutes (five is ideal but we’ll take 10!), this can help reduce the amount of energy required to heat all that hot water. Lower your electricity bill and avoid pruney skin — a win-win!

9. Insulate your water heater.

Cost to make this change: $30-$50

You insulate and trap heat when you put on a coat or wrap yourself in a cozy blanket. It’s the same idea when it comes to your water heater. When you wrap a water heater blanket around a conventional water heater, it insulates it, keeping the internal temperature consistent. That means your water heater doesn’t have to use as much electricity to heat up when it’s shower time. Tankless water heaters typically don’t need an insulating blanket.

Refrigerator, freezer and everything else

Percentage of total household electricity use: 17%

Last but not least, we have everything else: the refrigerator, freezer, TV and devices, lights and computers. Combined, these items make up about 17% of your home’s total electricity use. There are tons of ways to save energy and money on lighting, devices and more (you can find even more tips here), but let’s start with a few simple tips that can make a month-over-month impact.

10. Switch to LED light bulbs.

Cost to make this change: about $5 for a 4-pack

In addition to always turning off the lights when you leave the room, even if it’s just for a minute or two, you can also make a positive impact on your electricity bill by switching to LED light bulbs. No, you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of new bulbs all at once. But as old bulbs in your home burn out, swap them for LEDs. These bulbs use 75% less energy than regular incandescent bulbs and can last for nearly a decade!

11. Reset your refrigerator temperature to 35-38 degrees.

Cost to make this change: $0

Got 60 seconds? Because that’s about all you’ll need to make this free and effective change. Open your refrigerator, look for the temperature gauge and then adjust the temperature to anywhere between 35 and 38 degrees. This is the most energy efficient temperature to set your fridge while keeping your food safe. When you’re done with that, head over to the freezer and set its temperature to 0-5 degrees.

12. Use a smart power strip.

Cost to make this change: $30-$40

A common energy myth people believe is that if it’s turned off, it’s not using power. But we’re here to bust that myth! Yes, turning off your TV saves more energy than keeping it on all night after you fall asleep. But it’s still using power even when it’s off. We call that kind of energy “vampire energy,” because it’s sucking energy from plugged-in devices which could bump your electricity bill up each month by 10 or more percent.

One way to combat these “vampires,” like your TV, computer, or even your coffee pot and air fryer, is to plug them into a smart power strip. Once a device goes into standby mode, the smart strip registers that shift and can cut off power to the outlet serving that device. And just like that, no more vampires.

For more detailed energy usage information, head over to our Power Partners for an in-depth explanation.