Smart Consumer Tips

At Huntsville Utilities, everything we do is guided by our goal of reducing costs for you- our customer. However, you play a role in saving money and reducing consumption too. The two biggest drivers of your utility bill are consumption and the weather. If your bill is high, here are a few things to consider:

  • Did you review the weather from the previous month? Your bill reflects consumption from 30 days ago. While the weather may be mild now, it may have been extremely hot or cold in the past 30 days reflected on your bill.   Heating and cooling degree days are listed on the utility bill for your reference.  To learn more see “What are Heating and Cooling degree days?
  • Your home comfort system – (heating and air conditioning) is one of the biggest consumption drivers throughout the home. If your home comfort system is more than 10 years old, it may not be operating as efficiently as it could be. Consider replacing an old, inefficient system with new technology, such as an electric heat pump, or consider installing a programmable thermostat.
  • Do you have any water leaks? Water leaks take many forms; from faucets dripping, commodes that run, and outdoor spouts that run unattended.  Learn more about “How to Check for a Water Leak.”

Refrigerator/Freezer Tips

  • When you reduce the frequency of door openings, you help the refrigerator operate more efficiently.
  • Ideal setting for your refrigerator: 36-38 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ideal setting for your freezer: 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Clean often! When you keep the coils, condenser and bottom of the unit free of dust and dirt, they can work more efficiently.
  • Do you have a manual defrost freezer? If frost build-up is more than ¼ inch thick, it’s time to defrost your unit.
  • Refrigerators and freezers should be situated away from direct sunlight and other heat sources such as oven ranges.
  • Refrigerators and freezers located in garages consume more energy because they are in an unconditioned – and often hot – environment.

Washer/Dryer Tips

  • Cool is Clean & Clean is Cool – Cold Water Wash Campaign
  • Wash with less water, and use cold water. About 90% of the energy consumed for washing clothes is used to heat the water.
  • Clean the dryer lint trap in the dryer after every load.
  • Set your water level according to the size load you are washing. When possible, wash and dry full loads.
  • Your dryer is more efficient when you dry towels and heavier-weight items in separate loads.
  • Use the temperature or dampness sensor on your dryer to ensure you do not overload the dryer or over-dry your clothes.
  • Dryer vent inspections are critical to helping the dryer work efficiently.
  • Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks.

Dishwasher Tips

  • For the most water and energy efficiency, run your dishwasher with a full load, but not overloaded.
  • You can save additional energy if you let your dishes air dry. Use the automatic air-dry switch or turn off the control knob after the final rinse and open the door slightly to allow for air circulation.
  • In the summer, use the dishwasher in the cooler parts of the day or at night.
  • Avoid using the “rinse hold” on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3 – 7 gallons of hot water.
  • Read your dishwasher manual carefully for additional tips. You may be able to lower the temperature on your water heater if your dishwasher has an internal heating element.

Electronics Tips

  • Turn off personal computers, monitors, copiers, printers and fax machines when not in use.
  • An appliance may be “off” but it can continue to draw energy. These “phantom” loads occur in VCRs, DVD/Blu-Ray players, televisions, stereos, computers and kitchen appliances. Phantom loads can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut power to the appliance.
  • Laptops use less energy than desktops; consider buying one for your next computer upgrade.
  • Use rechargeable batteries on all products you can for products like cordless phones, television remote controls, alarm clocks, mobile phones and PDAs.

Winter Tips

  • Zone Heat: In very cold weather, zone heating can help keep your bill low but should not be used on a consistent basis due to possible mold problems. Close the doors and vents to the rooms that you are not frequently using and heat only the most important rooms in the house. You can do this if you have gas heat or an electric furnace but do not try it with a heat pump or an air conditioner since it may cause damage to the compressor.  Also, try not to zone off the area in which the thermostat is located.
  • Open and Close Your Curtains: Open your curtains on the south side of your house during the day. The sun sinks approximately 30 degrees to the south in the winter and will provide significant heating effect during the day. Close all other curtains day and night to reduce heat loss.
  • Seal Your Windows: Check the outside edges of your windows for air gaps. If cracks exist, re-caulking is one of the most cost effective measures that you can take. Storm windows are very cost effective if applied over single pane glass, especially if a vinyl gasket is used.  If your windows are in disrepair, clear plastic can be applied as a temporary measure on the window interior to seal against air infiltration. Window seals kits using  a hair dryer to shrink the plastic until clear are available in common building supply stores.
  • Seal Your Doors: The best way to seal an exterior door is with jamb-up weather-stripping and a threshold. A towel at the bottom of the door will suffice as a temporary measure.
  • Wrap Your Water Heater: Most electric water heaters cost more to operate than natural gas but a little less than propane.  Newer water heaters may have internal foam insulation and do not need a wrap but in many cases, water heater jackets, duct wrap, or fiberglass batts can be a cost effective way to save energy.  NOTE: Be careful when insulating a gas water heater so as not to interfere with its ventilation at the top or the flame at the bottom.  Water heater jackets can be used effectively to save energy for tanks located both inside and outside the heated space.
  • Wrap Your Hot Water Pipes: Foam tubes make for very easy and effective insulation and can be purchased at most building supply stores.
  • Check Your Attic Insulation:  In most homes, one of the most significant areas of heat loss is through the ceiling.  Make sure your attic has a level blanket of insulation that completely covers the ceiling joists.  Insulation levels are measured in R-values and Huntsville Utilities recommends a minimum of R-25 and an optimum level of R-38.  Attic access openings and pull down stairs located inside the structure should also be insulated and weather-stripped.

For additional energy saving tips, visit TVA’s EnergyRight web page.

Summer Tips

Electrical usage is at its’ highest during the summer months and for most homeowners, cooling costs are the largest portion of the utility bill.   Here are some energy tips that can help you reduce your energy costs.

  • Adjust Thermostat:  For central systems, in hot weather, a two degree increase in the thermostat setting can result in cost savings of 5% or more.
  • Use Ceiling Fans:  Ceiling or floor fans use very little energy and can make the room feel five degrees cooler than the actual temperature.
  • Keep Curtains and Blinds Shut:  This is especially important for east and west facing windows. Trees, awnings, window tinting and/or solar screens are cost effective measures because they stop direct sunlight before it enters the home.
  • Keep the Doors Closed:  Contrary to popular belief, most storm doors are not effective as a heat transfer barrier. Try to close the prime door whenever entering or exiting the house.
  • Change Air Filters:  Clean or change air filters every month on a window unit or a central system. This practice is especially important during heavy usage months. Dirty filters can decrease comfort, cause inefficiency, and may shorten the life of the air conditioner.
  • Have Your Air Conditioner Checked:  Air conditioners compress refrigerant and then allow it to expand again in order to produce cool air temperatures. If your unit is not properly charged, your bill may skyrocket. To avoid this scenario, have your unit serviced at least every other year and from time to time, take a moment to listen to see how long it runs. If it does not cycle on and off frequently at night or in moderate temperatures, you could be in for a large utility bill. Also, when the unit is serviced, make sure the coils are cleaned and your duct system is checked for air leakage.
  • Insulate Attic Access Door:  If your home has an attic access door or pull down stairs that are located in conditioned space, make sure they are insulated and weather-stripped. This measure is one of the most cost effective you can take.
  • Reduce Moisture:  Air conditioners not only cool the air, they also use energy to remove moisture. Homeowners who reduce moisture levels inside the home, will also reduce their cooling costs. Make sure that bath, kitchen, and laundry room exhaust fans are used whenever possible during the summer months. Install gutter extensions to keep rain water away from the house and if you have a crawl space, make sure a plastic sheet covers 100% of the ground area. Flower beds located in contact with the house, may allow rain run-off or water from the hose to seep into the outside walls. It is a good idea to move beds a few feet away from the house if possible.

For additional energy saving tips, visit TVA’s EnergyRight web page.

Inside Water Saving Tips

  • Check all toilets for leaks. Leaks into the overflow pipe and through the flush valve are the most common and wasteful.
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers.
  • Don’t let water run continuously while shaving or washing your face. Brush your teeth first while waiting for water to get hot, then wash or shave after filling the basin.
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Install energy efficient shower heads. You will save on energy, water and sewer bills if the new shower head reduces the flow to less than two gallons per minute.
  • Install aerators with flow restrictors on faucets. New replacement faucets should have aerators and flow restrictors built-in.
  • Operate automatic dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or properly set the water level for the size of the load you are washing.
  • Hand wash dishes wisely. Wash dishes in soapy water in one sink and rinse in clear water in the other sink.
  • Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run every time you want a cool glass of water.
  • Insulate water pipes. You will get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.

Outside Water Saving Tips

  • Don’t over water your lawn. Generally, lawns only need watering every 5 to 7 days in the summer and every 10 to 14 days in the winter.
  • Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces loss from evaporation.
  • Position sprinklers so that the water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not on the street, driveway or sidewalk.
  • Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses are examples of water-efficient methods of irrigation.
  • Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly.
  • Avoid overfertilizing the lawn. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
  • Mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulching also helps to control weeds that compete with plants for water.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely clipped lawn.
  • Use a broom to clean driveway or sidewalks. Using a hose to clean a driveway can waste hundreds of gallons of water.
  • Outfit the hose with a shut-off nozzle which can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn it off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.
  • Use hose washers between spigots and water hoses to avoid leaks.
  • Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended.
  • Check all hoses, connectors and spigots regularly.

Gas Efficiency Tips

  • Turn off the furnace pilot light during the summer.
  • Do not set the thermostat at a warmer setting than normal when the heat is first turned on. It will not warm up any faster and may cause the customer to forget to reset to normal setting.
  • Clean or replace heating system filters at least once a month. A good reminder is to replace the filter when paying the utility bill.
  • Heat only the rooms you use.
  • Make sure the temperature setting on the water heater is no higher than 140 degrees.
  • Adjust the flame on the burner on the range to the size of the pan being used so it does not heat the air around the pan.
  • When buying new gas appliances, look for ones which have electronic igniters instead of pilot lights.


Below is a filter change reminder to add to your calendar, works with iCal and Microsoft Calendar.

HVAC Filter Change Calendar Reminder

Ways to save $$ on energy cost

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Huntsville Utilities is an equal opportunity residential utility service provider. We do not discriminate in the terms, conditions, or provision of services based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

Huntsville Utilities es un proveedor de servicios residenciales publicos (electricidad, gas y agua) que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades. Nosotros no discriminamos en los terminos, las condiciones, o las provisiones de nuestros servicios basados en la raza, religion, color, sexo, discapacidad, estado familiar u origen nacional.