Utility Bills Debt
The average American household spends approximately $2,000 per year on energy bills. Like any other component of a household budget, heating, gas and electricity bills should be managed properly to minimize costs. The good news is that it’s actually quite easy to do, as implementing just a few minor tweaks can save hundreds of dollars per year.
Minor Changes Lead to Heating Bill Savings
For starters, if it’s cold outside, during daytime hours, be sure to keep any blinds and curtains open to allow the warmth of the sun into your living space. Warming your house this way will allow you to keep the thermostat lower until later in the day. At nightfall, be sure to reverse the process. Doing this as a daily practice is an easy way to save on heating bills. It’s also easy enough to wear an extra layer or keep blankets handy at home. Merely adding a sweater or sweatshirt, and having soft blankets in the living room while relaxing in front of the TV will keep things cozy at home while lowering your energy bill. You may also be able to program your thermostat lower for those times when your dwelling will be left vacant for multiple hour stretches.
Next, take a look at your hot water heater, and lower the temperature setting toward 125 degrees if the factory setting was significantly higher. Your hot showers will stay hot, particularly if you add a touch of external insulation in the form of pre-cut jackets. Similarly, consider installing window film insulation to help retain the heat in your home. Another viable energy bill saver involves examining ceiling fans for a switch that can reverse blade direction. During the cold months, if you set the switch to turn ceiling fan blades counter-clockwise, the fan will push down warmer air from the ceiling and help circulate heated air throughout the room.
You Can Lower Your Electricity Bill
Air conditioners remain a significant driver of high electricity bills during the summer. If you’re using an air conditioner, make certain to change the filters on a monthly basis. Additionally, remove any leaves and soot that may be blocking the flow of air to the unit. Next, take a look at the light bulbs you rely upon. If you’re still using incandescent bulbs, replace them with light-emitting diodes (LED). The amount of money that can be saved here is not insignificant, as these newfangled LED bulbs not only last up to one hundred times longer than incandescent bulbs, but also result in energy savings approximating $50 or more over the life of the bulb. This is an easy change to make, and if your house uses ten or more bulbs, the savings will add up quickly.
If You Have Roommates, Pay Attention
There are instances when a previously harmonious shared living situation can lead to a sticky situation involving unpaid utility bills left in an individual’s name. In fact, it is not uncommon for an unpaid utility bill to inflict damage upon an otherwise healthy credit score and profile, particularly if the bill has been turned over to a collections agency. Therefore, it is a good idea to get written or e-mail confirmation that any utility bill accounts previously held in your name have been closed when you move out of a shared living situation. Be sure to confirm that no outstanding balance remains thirty days later, as well, as a partially unpaid month can still be owed on an account after it has been closed.
As another precaution, you can access free credit reports with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion through annualcreditreport.com to ensure that no surprising inquiries have been placed by utility companies and collection agencies. If you do find such an inquiry on any of your credit reports, take action to dispute the debt with the collection agency and credit bureau reporting the information. Put your dispute in writing and send it via certified mail, return receipt requested. If at all possible, provide evidence that you were living elsewhere when the debt was incurred – ideally with a printed copy of another utility bill coinciding with the time frame of the outstanding utility bill debt. This can aid in your efforts to have any damage to your credit profile mitigated. Nonetheless, you may still be held liable for the debt if the utility bill was indeed left in your name, so be certain to avoid this situation entirely by ensuring that all utility accounts are closed and fully paid upon exiting any shared living arrangement.
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