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‘I expect a tsunami of shutoffs’: 20M American households now can't afford to pay their utility bills on time — here are 3 simple ways to drop your monthly costs

MoneyWise logo: MainLogo MoneyWise 9/4/2022 Jing Pan
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The U.S. consumer price index rose 8.5% in July from a year ago — down from a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. But hot inflation continues to hit consumers hard.

According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, roughly 20 million households in the U.S. — one out of six homes — are behind on their utility bills.

The consequences could be dire.

“I expect a tsunami of shutoffs,” Jean Su, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, tells Bloomberg.

Electricity prices have spiked due to the skyrocketing cost of natural gas. According to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas is the biggest source of electricity generation in the U.S.

A year ago, natural gas traded at $4.31 per metric million British thermal unit. Today, it’s at $9.34 per MMBtu.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that July prices for electricity jumped 15.2% from a year ago, marking the biggest 12-month increase since 2006.

While you can’t control electricity prices, there are small things you can do to lower your energy bill. Every bit counts.

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LED lighting

Compared to big household appliances, light bulbs don’t seem like a big deal in terms of energy consumption. But it all adds up.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting accounts for approximately 15% of an average household’s electricity use.

To lower the lighting portion of your electricity bill, consider LED bulbs. They consume up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to 25 times longer.

The Department of Energy says by switching to LED lighting, the average household can save about $225 in energy costs per year.

That said, LED bulbs tend to be more expensive to buy than incandescent bulbs. To get the greatest energy savings, look for LED bulbs that are ENERGY STAR-rated.

Seal and insulate

Air conditioning is a big part of why energy bills are high in the summer. So you don’t want that nice cool air in your house to escape — or that hot, humid summer air to enter.

You might want to consider air sealing your house and adding insulation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that by doing so, homeowners can save about 15% on heating and cooling costs, or an average of 11% on their total energy costs.

You can use caulk for cracks and openings around door and window frames. You can also try weatherstripping to seal movable components such as doors and windows.

Line dry your laundry

Some clothes require line drying because it’s more gentle to specific fibers. But the technique can also save you money.

A clothesline obviously costs a lot less than a gas or electric dryer. And it costs even less to operate because it relies on the power of sunlight — which is free.

Project Laundry List — a website that promotes the benefits of line drying — says switching to line drying can reduce your electricity bill by more than $25 per month. Plus, sunlight can work as a natural bleaching agent and disinfectant.

Washing your clothes in cold water can also lead to savings on your energy bill.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.



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