save money on electricityEven if you own your house or apartment, living there isn’t free. From property taxes to power, continuing expenses can be, well, expensive. But even though everyone uses electricity and water, we often don’t realize that we’re literally pouring money down the drain with the inefficient use of energy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A few little-known tips and tricks can save you real money.

Here are some of the top ways to reduce your energy use and save money on your electric bill.

Use Cold Water in Your Washing Machine

It’s best to wash your clothing with cold water. Not only will it prevent shrinkage, but it will also save on your power bill. According to LG “about 90%” of your washing machine’s energy usage is due to heating water. Washing with cold water cuts that usage dramatically. Advances in technology and detergent mean that washing in hot water is unnecessary for nearly all types of clothing. In fact, for delicate pieces, cold water is less likely to shrink or distort the fabric.

Lower Your Water Heater Temperature

If your water heater temperature is set too high, it’s costing you extra. Some water heaters are set to 140 degrees by the manufacturer—even though 120 is sufficient for most homes. Reducing your water heater’s temperature from 140 degrees to just 120 will help you save money on electricity. (Plus, 140 degrees is probably too hot for your skin, anyway.) This video from energy.gov explains more, including how to make the change. Your wallet—and your skin—will thank you.  

Change How You Load Your Dishwasher

A disorganized dishwasher isn’t just a less efficient way of washing your plates, it’s also more expensive. When you fit fewer dishes in, you’ll have to run the washer more often, jacking up your water and electricity bills. Plus, poor organization often leads to subpar results, which forces you to wash those same dishes again. Check out this guide on the best way to load your dishwasher.

Seal Your Windows With Caulk

If you’ve got drafty windows, you’ve got a problem. And no, it isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s costing you money. When it’s the middle of the summer and the AC is on full blast, those drafty windows are leaking your cool into the unforgiving sun. The same goes for the winter—all that heat is drifting into the cold outside. Luckily this problem has a solution. That solution? Caulk. Just buy a tube and caulk the exposed areas that are leaking. Energy.gov has a great guide with everything you need to know.

Install Solar Panels

Installing solar panels allows you to move from paying for electricity to generating it yourself. In some states electricity companies are required to buy any excess electricity you generate. This means that you are not only getting free electricity—you’re making money off your system.

Installing solar panels isn’t cheap, but the price of solar is dropping significantly. So significantly, in fact, that it will soon be the cheapest way to install new electricity. If you live in a sunny area solar panels may be a great investment to help you not just save money on electricity, but earn money, too.

If you live in California…

If you live in California you should download Ohmconnect. It’s an app that alerts you when electricity is more expensive—and then pays you to reduce your consumption. You don’t need to retrofit your house, or buy new lights, you just need to be more careful about turning off lights in rooms when you aren’t using them. The best part is the app pays you money for doing this, which not only makes it much more fun, but also really encourages you to make a change.

And if you happen to have fancy energy storage systems or an electric vehicle, Ohmconnect can even help you schedule when you purchase electricity, saving you even more money.

Calculate your Energy Usage

Since your energy bill doesn’t itemize which appliances use the most power, it’s easy to overlook the major uses of energy in your household. This handy calculator from energy.gov will help you discover which appliances are pushing up the price of your electric bill. Popular appliances like the Playstation 4 use a lot of power, so you’ll want to be sure to turn them off when not in use.

A few simple steps can save you real cash each month. From simple steps like changing how you load your dishwasher, to caulking your windows or even installing a complete solar panel system, there are a multitude of ways you can reduce your energy bill.

How are you saving money on your energy bills? Let us know in the comments!

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Alex Webb is a freelance writer and founder of Take Risks Be Happy, an online magazine for creatives and entrepreneurs.