When it comes to saving money on electricity and other utility bills, something like a smart thermostat or smart plug can come in handy to monitor and optimize energy usage. But there are plenty of things you can do that also require very little money or effort. Here are eight really simple household tasks that will instantly save you money on your bills.

RELATED: How to Optimize Your Home’s Airflow to Save Money on Your Air Conditioner

Disable thermostat


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

In particular, if you turn the thermostat one or two degrees in the summer and lower it by the same increment in the winter, you can save a lot of money in the long run. And the best part is that you will still notice such a small difference. And even if you do, it is unlikely to seriously disrupt your life.

Of course, you can also turn off your thermostat when you’re away for the day — which is doable with any thermostat. Or you can schedule your thermostat to be higher during the day when you’re at work and turn it off when you get home. With a smart thermostat, things get even easier: you can use the Home and Away modes to do everything automatically, turn on every time you leave the house, and turn the air conditioner back on when you get home.

Be more mindful of light and electronics


If you easily forget to turn off appliances, electronics, and other devices that consume power or other resources, it might be time to turn it back on and turn on some reminders to turn those things off.

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We’re all guilty of leaving the lights on, the TV on, and even the oven, but every day we make an effort to quickly sweep the house to see if there’s anything left. It takes no more than two minutes and can potentially save you some money with a little effort. And, if you have smart plugs and smart lights, most apps will provide a scheduling feature so you can make sure lights turn off at specific times, or even turn them off automatically when you leave the house.

Get rid of your water heater


Your water heater is supposed to only heat your water up to 120 degrees. It is hotter than this and there is a high risk of burns. However, in many homes the water heater is set above 120 degrees.

A good way to check what your water heater is set to, if you don’t have a built-in thermometer, is to simply run the faucet until it’s as hot as it can get. Then place a meat thermometer (or any other type of thermometer) under running water. If it shows above 120 degrees, you must turn off the water heater. This will not only save your skin (literally) but also save you money.

Don’t worry as 120 degrees is still hot enough to wash dishes in the dishwasher and kill all bacteria.

Replace your HVAC air filter


RELATED: How to Optimize Your Home’s Airflow to Save Money on Your Air Conditioner

When your HVAC air filter becomes dirty, it reduces the airflow of your HVAC system, limiting its performance. From there, your home won’t be heated or cooled as efficiently as possible, wasting more energy and wasting more money.

That’s why it’s important to change the air filter whenever it gets dirty, and it’s a very simple job that takes less than 10 seconds. We have a guide that includes information about air filters and how important it is to choose the right filters for your system.

Cover windows with plastic in winter


It’s not as easy to do as the other tasks listed here, but it’s a process that takes about an hour and can save a lot of money over the winter. Covering your windows with clear plastic will keep out drafts that let cold air in, while letting in sunlight and warming your home.

Any hardware store and supermarket (like Wal-Mart) will sell window wrap kits, which come with a roll of plastic wrap and double-sided tape, for about $10-$20. The time and money you invested in this will easily pay off over the winter.

Note that this may result in very slight window distortion. Most of these kits use crystal clear plastic that is not overly intrusive when applied correctly. Just don’t expect them to be 100% invisible.

Sealing doors and windows


If you don’t want to go the plastic route and want to find a more permanent solution, your best bet may be to use weather sealers to patch up any weak spots around door and window frames where cold air can enter your home. ,

Weather clears come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so they fit any specific gaps you might have. It’s also really cheap. You can even get some spray foam and use it to fill gaps around door and window frames.

Open and close your curtains or blinds


In winter the sun is your best friend and in summer it is your worst enemy. Because of this, use curtains or blinds on your windows and leave them open during the winter to allow sunlight to enter and warm your home. It acts like a greenhouse, letting in heat from the sun but keeping cool air out, so you don’t have to waste energy on the thermostat.

In the summer, it’s best to keep the blinds closed to keep the sun out of your home. Sure, a lot of people are big fans of big windows and letting in natural light, but that will show up on your utility bill when it comes to air conditioning. However, you can optimize this by closing the blinds on east-facing windows in the morning and then opening them in the late afternoon when the sun no longer shines.

Use cold water when washing


Every washing machine has different water temperature settings you can use, but to conserve hot water and prevent your water heater from running longer than it should, it’s always a good idea to wash your clothes in cold water. In most cases, this will be just as good as hot water.

Sure, you might still have some delicate clothes that require hot water to wash, but most washes can be washed in cold water without a problem.

You can also set your clothes dryer to a lower temperature, but keep in mind that the high temperature will kill lice, fleas, and other bugs, and it will also kill bacteria, so if this is focused on a specific load of laundry, absolutely dry with a high temperature. Otherwise, low temperatures can save you some money in the long run.

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