When it comes to saving money on your electricity and other utility costs, getting something like a smart thermostat or smart outlet to monitor and optimize energy usage can be helpful. But there are a ton of things you can do that require little to no money or effort, too. Here are eight really easy tasks to do around the house that will instantly save you money on your bills.

RELATED: How to Optimize Your Home's Airflow to Save Money on Your A/C

Turn Down the Thermostat

Your heating and air conditioning use up a lot of energy, making your HVAC system one of the most expensive appliances in your house. You don’t need to freeze or boil to save money, though–tweaking your thermostat by just a couple of degrees can make a big difference.

Specifically, turning up your thermostat during the summer by one or two degrees, and turning it down by the same increment during the winter, can save you a lot of money in the long run. And the best part is that you’ll barely notice such a small difference anyway. And even if you do, it’s unlikely to seriously disrupt your life.

Of course, you can also turn your thermostat off whenever you’re away for the day–which is doable with any thermostat. Or, you can schedule your thermostat to be higher during the day while you’re at work, and turn back down when you come home. With a smart thermostat, things are even easier: you can use its home and away modes to do it all automatically, turning itself up whenever you leave the house, and turning the A/C back on when you get home.

Be More Conscious of Lights and Electronics

If you’re one to easily forget to turn off appliances, electronics, and other devices that use up electricity or other resources, it might be time to kick it into gear and set yourself some reminders to turn these things off.

RELATED: How to Automatically Turn Your Hue Lights Off When You Leave the House

We’re all guilty of leaving lights on, the TV on, and even the oven on, but make an effort every day to perform a quick sweep of your house to see if anything was left on. It takes less than two minutes and could potentially save you a bit of cash thanks to a little effort. And, if you have smart outlets and smart lights, most apps will provide a scheduling function so you can make sure the lights turn off at certain times, or even have them turn off automatically when you leave the house.

Turn Down Your Water Heater

Your water heater is supposed to be heating your water only up to 120 degrees. Any hotter than that and there’s a high risk of scalding. However, many homes have their water heater set higher than 120 degrees.

A good way to test what your water heater is set to if yours doesn’t have a built-in thermometer is to simply run a faucet until it gets as hot as it can. Then stick a meat thermometer (or any other kind of thermometer) under the running water. If it reads higher than 120 degrees, you should turn down your water heater. This will not only save your skin (literally), but it will also save you money.

Don’t worry, though, as 120 degrees is still plenty hot for washing dishes in your dishwasher and killing all the bacteria.

Replace Your HVAC Air Filter

RELATED: How to Optimize Your Home's Airflow to Save Money on Your A/C

When your HVAC air filter gets dirty, it reduces the airflow of your HVAC system, limiting its performance. From there, your house won’t be heated or cooled as efficiently as it could be, using up more energy and costing you more money.

This is why it’s important to replace the air filter whenever it gets dirty, and it’s a super simple job that takes less than 10 seconds. We have a guide that includes info on air filters and how important it is to get the correct ones for your system.

Cover Windows with Plastic During the Winter

This isn’t quite as easy to do as other tasks listed here, but it’s a process that takes about an hour to do and can seriously cut costs during the entire winter. Covering your windows with clear plastic will seal off any drafts that let cold air in, while still allowing sunshine to pass through and heat up your house.

Any hardware store and superstore (like Wal-Mart) will sell window plastic wrap kits, which come with a roll of plastic wrap and double-sided tape, for around $10-$20. The time and money that you put it into doing something like this will easily pay off many times over throughout the winter.

Note that this may give the windows an ever-so-slight distortion. Most of these kits use crystal clear plastic that, when applied correctly, are actually not too intrusive. Just don’t expect them to be 100% invisible.

Seal Up Doors and Windows

If you don’t want to go the plastic route and want a more permanent solution, a better bet might be to use some weather stripping to seal up any weak points around door and window frames where cold air might be making its way into your house.

Weather stripping comes in all different shapes and sizes, so it fits in any specific gaps that you might have. It’s also really cheap. You could even get some spray expansion foam and use it to fill in the gaps around door and window frames.

Open and Close Your Shades or Blinds

During the winter, the sun is your best friend, but it’s your worst enemy during the summer. Because of this, take advantage of your window blinds or shades and leave them open during the winter to let that sunshine through and heat up your house. This acts a lot like a greenhouse, letting in the warmth from the sun, but keeping out the cooler air, so you don’t have to waste energy on the thermostat.

During the summer, it’s best to keep blinds closed so that sun doesn’t shine through into your house. Of course, many people are big fans of large windows and letting in natural light, but it will take a toll on your utility bill as far as air conditioning is concerned. You can optimize this, though, by keeping blinds closed on east-facing windows in the morning, then opening them up in the late afternoon when the sun is no longer shining in.

Use Cold Water When Doing Laundry

Every clothes washer has different water temperature settings that you can use, but to save hot water and prevent your water heater from working more than it should, it’s always a good idea to wash your clothes in cold water. In most cases, it will do just as good of a job as hot water would.

Of course, you still might have some delicate clothing that requires hot water for washing, but most laundry loads can be washed in cold water without a problem.

You can also set your clothes dryer to a lower heat setting, but keep in mind that high heat will kill lice, fleas, and other bugs, as well as kill bacteria, so if that’s a focus for a certain load of laundry, absolutely dry with high heat. Otherwise, low heat can save you some cash in the long run.

Title image from ppaa/Bigstock

Profile Photo for Craig Lloyd Craig Lloyd
Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
Read Full Bio »