5 DIY Projects to Cut Your Utility Bill

Some money saving tips from Katie White, a writer and handywoman from DIY Mother who is passionate about self-reliance and conservation. She takes pride in making her home a more sustainable and comfortable place for her husband and two kids. She lives in Dallas.

Especially if you live in an older home, you’re likely already feeling the pain of winter utility bills; but a weekend’s worth of work could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of this winter. Here are a couple of quick, easy, and cheap DIY projects you can tackle, by yourself or as a family, to save on your next round of utility bills.

1. Give your home an energy audit

Getting a professional audit is ideal, but they can be a bit pricey (unless your local utility company offers incentives—check first), so consider doing a home energy audit yourself. Start by checking for air leaks. Do this in the obvious places like doors and windows and feel for a draft. If you want to be thorough, borrow a fog machine and use a box fan to blow the smoke at the area you’re inspecting. Check outside to see where the leaks are. Also check and upgrade the insulation in your home, specifically the attic—look for any leaks, and ensure you have a vapor barrier. Uncle Sam says this could save you anywhere from 5-30 percent on your next bill, so the effort is well worth it.

2. Shag-insulate your fridge

This might seem weird, but it’s popping up all over the green blogosphere. All you need is some spare carpet, insulation board and heavy duty tape! Cover the top and sides of the fridge with insulation board, followed by a layer of carpet. Next add a layer of carpet to your fridge and freezer doors, and you’re done! The fridge can account for up to 20 percent of your electric bill each month, so this can be a great way to cut your electric bill. For extra credit, you can further improve your fridge’s efficiency by keeping it as full as possible—this causes less air flow when you open the door, and therefore, less energy loss.

3. Heater and A/C maintenance

Keep the intake and area around your furnace filter clean and dirt free. Replace your air filter at the beginning of the heater season, and about once every three months during regular use. Clear tall grass and bushes from around your A/C unit, and clean the fins gently with a soft brush (be careful, these are easily damaged). You can also clean the inner coils with a garden hose—they’re designed to be left out in the rain, so you won’t damage them. Air conditioner repair and heater servicing, especially anything involving your coolant or gas lines, should be done by professionals, but basic upkeep can make your system much less expensive to run, and reduce the need for professional servicing.

4. Set up VOIP (internet phone calls)

Voice over IP is pretty simple to set up: first, make sure your computer has speakers and a microphone, as well as a reliable internet connection. Then create a Google Voice account (which will be linked to your Gmail) and you’ll be ready to go! Other services like Skype work well and offer video calls, and because both are free or near-free (international calls will still cost a few cents per minute) you’ll be ready to finally ditch your home phone company. If you have an unlimited data plan for your cell phone, reduce your minutes and texts as much as your provider will allow, and link your phone to Google Voice, using your plan’s data to make all your texts and calls.

5. Wrap up your water heater

It’s been repeatedly proven by agencies like the Iowa Center for Energy that the extra insulation a water heater blanket offers can reduce the energy consumption of a water heater by up to 45 percent(!) Pricier blankets go for $25, and you’ll make that up in as little as 3 months. All you need is said blanket, and a utility knife to cut it to size, and you’re ready to go. Always check your owner’s manual first, but unless your unit is brand new and it specifically says to not add one, you’ll benefit from this cheap DIY fix.