Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes sunnier weather, longer days and, for us homeowners, heftier energy bills as a result.

Fortunately, sky-high energy costs don’t have to be a given. If you take a few precautionary steps now, prep your home properly, and learn some handy hacks, you can actually lower your energy intake (and those costly bills) quite easily.

Here are 11 ways to get ahead of your spring energy costs starting now

1. Price shop.

If you have several utility providers in your area, make sure to get quotes from each one before deciding who to go with. Then, before re-signing your contract annually, compare rates once again. Make sure you’re getting the best rate for the amount of energy your household typically uses. If you’re a police officer, teacher, or other type of public servant, you also might ask about special discounts.

2. Get a home energy audit.

An energy audit essentially looks at how much energy your houses uses, as well as the measures of energy-efficiency on the property. It can pinpoint areas where there might be room for improvement — and a subsequent reduction in your utility bills. You can typically ask your utility provider to perform the audit, or your municipality’s energy office might offer audits as well.

3. Negotiate (use Trim).

Like with any service, you can always try to negotiate your utility costs. The provider might say no, but if you tell them you’re considering taking your business elsewhere, they might be willing to budge — even if it’s just on minor fees and charges. You can also ask about discount programs based on your income level or job. There are also services like Trim that will negotiate utility services on your behalf (for a fee).

4. Tint your windows.

Adding a tinted film to your windows — particularly larger ones — can help reduce the amount of sunlight that gets into your home, as well as how much AC you need to cool the property. Adding dark curtains, heavy blinds, and drapes can also help.

5. Try a few laundry hacks.

Adding dryer balls to your loads can help reduce drying time (and energy), as can turning off the heated dry function. Washing your clothes on cold can help, too. You should also be sure to clear out your dryer vents often, as this can make your unit more efficient and last longer on the whole. (It’s also crucial to preventing dryer-caused fires!)

6. Use a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats (like Nest, for example) are designed to optimize your home’s temperature and associated energy use. They can turn your AC or heat down when you’re away, and help you regulate household temperatures. Many utility providers offer rebates for these thermostats, as they reduce energy use significantly.

7. Lower your water heater temperature.

Heating water takes up lots of energy, so every effort you can make to reduce hot water use will also help lower your bills. Turn your hot water heater down to 130 – 140 degrees, and consider adding an insulation jacket on the first six feet of piping around the heater. If you can avoid super-hot showers, baths, and prolonged dishwashing, this will also help as well.

8. Use LED light bulbs.

LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy than traditional light bulbs. Wherever possible, swap out incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs as they burn out. To really get the most from your new bulbs, consider installing dimmer switches. This will allow you to use only the amount of light you need, therefore reducing electricity and energy use.

9. Make an effort to unplug.

If an appliance or device is plugged into a wall — even if you’re not actively using it — is eating up energy. In fact, studies show that 75% of most household energy is consumed this way — by turned-off TVs, lonely phone chargers, and unused coffee makers. Always make sure to unplug items when you’re not actively using them.

10. Take care of your HVAC system.

Clear away debris and dust from your intake vents, and change out your air filters at least once every two months. Annually, have the entire HVAC system inspected by a professional to ensure it’s in top working condition. You can also ask them to clean the system as well (meaning cleaner air, too!)

11. Add carefully placed landscaping.

Planting trees, shrubs, and other foliage around your home can help reduce the amount of direct sunlight that hits and heats up the property. Trees that shade your roof or sun-facing windows will have the biggest impact overall.

Get Financial Help

Need funds to make these energy-efficient upgrades and changes at home? A cash-out refinance may be able to help. Contact an Embrace loan officer today to learn about your financial options.