Cutting down on the cost of your electric or gas bill is simple, if you follow certain steps to ensure that you conserve energy.
Get blackout curtains - In the summer, the sun beating down on your house is a really quick way to make it hot, especially on the upper levels of the house. One way to cut down on the cost of cooling your home is to ensure that the windows are closed and the drapes are drawn. This will help to keep out the humidity from the sun from penetrating into the home. If you want to keep some sunlight coming in to your home (as most people do), try just keeping the curtains open in the rooms in your house that don't get direct sunlight.
Cook outdoors on a grill - When the weather is warm, use the grill (or even an electric skillet on your patio) to avoid heating up the inside of your house. This will save your air conditioner from going in to "overdrive" trying to cool the house. Conversely, in the cooler months, doing some extra baking can keep your kitchen (and entire first floor of your home) warm.
Change your furnace filter each and every month that it is used - I used to be so lax about doing this...until I had some problems with our heater. The repairman came out, fixed the issue and "yelled" at me because our filter was beyond disgusting (he is the brother of a friend - so he is allowed to yell at me). He left, and I ignored him. Six months later, we had another problem, the same guy yelled at me because the filter was the one he put in the last time. Six months later, I was paying him $10,000.00 for a new furnace and air conditioner system. Our 15-year old furnace was going to go bad eventually, but I probably could have prolonged that expense by changing a $5 filter on the 1st of each month (which I now do)
Do your laundry and dishes in the morning or at night - The washer, dryer and dishwasher can heat up your home just enough to trigger your air conditioner. Try to use these appliances in the cooler hours of the day (morning and evening) to help save some money (and strain on the power grid).
Take shorter showers - look - I love a nice 20-minute hot shower just as much as the next person. But the problem is, once that shower is done, your water heater needs to heat up all that hot water you just used! Keep it short & sweet and save the long luxurious showers for the days that you are feeling extra-stressed!
Line dry your clothes outdoors if you can, and let Mother Nature dry your clothes. If this is not feasible (many Homeowners Associations don't allow clothes lines), get a portable drying rack and set it out on your patio or deck and dry as much as possible using that. This will help you to reduce your electric bill. You can also use a shower rod to dry your clothes as well.
Install reversible ceiling fans - These will put less pressure on both your air conditioner and your furnace. When it is warm, set the fan to rotate counter-clockwise to pull the warm air up to the ceiling.. When it is cold, you want to the fan the rotate clockwise in order to push any warm air down to where you are . Ceiling fans also help to keep the air circulating, that way you do not have to use your air conditioner as much.
Wash your clothes in warm or cold water - Switching to cold water is hard for me and, truth be told, I only do it for loads that are barely soiled...but I have switched to warm water for everything else. Like taking shorter showers, this puts less strain on your hot water heater.
And lastly -
Become your parents - I don't know about you, but growing up, my parents used to yell at me to shut off the lights and ask me if I thought that they owned stock in the electric company. Now that I have 3 children, I understand why my parents would get so insane when they would come home and almost every room in the house was well-lit. Hopefully, as a grown-up, you have learned to shut off the lights when you leave a room. Now it is time to make your children do it. Be "that mom" (don't worry - parents have been yelling at their children to turn off lights since the invention of the first electric bill - it doesn't make you a bad mom!)
What are some of your suggestions for lowering your electric bill?