Everything is so expensive these days, and paying utility bills is no exception to that rule. Where I live, my heat is electric, so electric is my primary utility concern; as natural gas is only used for cooking (which is negligible cost) and running the water heater for my apartment. Electricity is very expensive in Maryland where I live, at around 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, so finding ways to cut the bill down helps a lot.

Before I get started, I'll explain how electricity is billed for those who don't know. Your electric bill usage is based on how many kilowatt-hours you use. What this means is, if you use something that uses 1000 watts for 1 hour, you have used 1 kilowatt-hour. Pretty simple and easy to figure out. For example, a standard incandescent light bulb might use 40 to 100 watts depending on how bright it is. Assuming we pick a 60 watt bulb, and it runs for 8 hours a day, this light bulb would use 14.4 kilowatt hours in a month. Given the price per kilowatt-hour I mentioned above, that light bulb would cost me about \$2 a month.

A great way to save energy is to switch from standard light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. If you don't like the cold look that flourescent bulbs can have to them, look for warmer spectrum bulbs which are commonly available. Most light bulbs will mention a color temperature, which for a warmer bulb that would look more like natural light, would be 2700k.

Say the average house has 10 light bulbs in it and they are all used for 8 hours a day. To show how much money you can save by switching to compact flourescent bulbs, let's add up how much they all cost a month as incandescent and as flourescent. I'm going to pick a variety of bulbs to use, let's say the average house has 3 100 watt bulbs, 5 60 watt bulbs and 2 40 watt bulbs. That adds up to 680 watts per hour, 5.4 kilowatts per 8 hours of use per day and 163.2 kilowatts per month. Given the price of electricity that adds up to just over \$21 a month.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use about 1/4 of the energy as a standard light bulb, so a 100 watt equivalent uses 26 watts, a 60 watt equivalent uses 15 watts and a 40 watt would use 10 watts. Adding that up, replacing all the bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs would use only about \$5 a month compared to \$21. That will save you almost \$200 a year. The more light bulbs you have, the more you'll save.

Regardless on whether you have electricity for heating, or gas or some other utility, one of the primary ways that heating gets lost and your heating system loses efficiency is by escaping through windows. Standard blinds that you commonly see on windows are not very energy-efficient, you can save some money on your heating bills by better insulating your windows. A good way to do this is by installing thermal curtains on your windows. These curtains are made of a heavy material with a special thermal backing, so that they help prevent heat from escaping and cold from entering through the windows. The brand name I have used is Eclipse, and they make very nice products. The curtain panels are not expensive either, which is nice. They seem to run around \$10-20 per panel, and most windows will need 2 panels. These curtains are also very good at blocking out light and help reduce outside noise as well.

I hope these ideas help you out on saving some money on those pesky utility bills. I've put them to use to help me control my utility bills on my tight budget. Thanks for reading!