The cost of living, especially in the New York metro area, has increased significantly over the last five years, making it difficult to effectively budget household expenses.  The rising costs of cable, utilities, real estate taxes and water usage makes it difficult to plan for the future and manage your income successfully. By being a little proactive, you can cut some of these costs and manage your finances a little more effectively.

The best way to reduce your gas and electric bills is to use less of it. Be more mindful to turn off lights, unplug small appliances that are not being used and seal drafts around doors and windows.  By lowering your thermostat in the winter and increasing the temperature on your thermostat in the summer, by even 1 degree, you will save on your gas and electric bills. If you do not have a programmable thermostat, consider installing one. It can save you up to 10% on your utility bill.

Energy Star estimates you can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling costs by effectively insulating your home. By adding insulation in your attic, in the exterior walls or in your basement, your energy bills can be reduced significantly. Consult with a professional to identify if there are other areas of your home that may benefit from additional insulation.

For further energy savings, insulate electrical outlets and switches. This smaller project is one that’s often overlooked because homeowners do not realize that outlets and switches can be sources of air leaks, especially when they are placed on outside walls.  There are specialized outlet and switch plate seals that can be found at your local hardware store, and insulation that is made specifically for electrical outlets and switches.

If your appliances are more than 20 years old, consider purchasing an energy star rated, refrigerator, dish washer, washing machine, heating or air conditioning system, or water heater. They use a fraction of the energy than non-rated appliances.

When washing clothes, use the cold cycle. 90% of the energy that your washer uses goes to heat the hot water that goes into the machine. Considering that most families do about 400 loads of laundry per year, switching to cold water can provide a significant savings.

Next, try saving water by turning off the faucet while shaving or brushing your teeth.  Consider turning off the shower while soaping up. You may even want to consider waiting to turn on your dishwasher or washing machine until there are full loads.  Some simple water savings tips can save you about 8 gallons of water a day, which translates to over 275 gallons a quarter.

When it comes to water usage, check your faucets, toilets and hoses to ensure there are no drips or leaks.  The average American home wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water per year from easy to fix leaks and wasted use of water. If your faucet is leaking, check to see if you can repair it with a wrench for a quick fix. If not, consider replacing your faucet with a new one or call an experienced and licensed plumber.

To check your toilet for silent leaks, put a few drops of food coloring into your tank and watch for about 10 minutes.  If the water in your bowl turns color before flushing, it may be time for a new rubber flapper.

Lastly, if you have not replaced your shower head in the last 10 years, consider doing so. A low-flow shower head which only uses about 1.5 gallons per minute, as opposed to 4-5 gallons of water by older shower heads. This investment can save you almost $100 per year.

If your cable bill seems outrageous, call your cable provider to see if there are any current programs that may reduce the cost of your monthly bill. Many homeowners have chosen to keep their internet service and have opted to stream their television and entertainment, saving hundreds of dollars a month.

If it is hard to manage the high cost of gas in the winter and electricity in the summer, ask your utility provider to place you on a budget to spread out your annual costs evenly over 12 months.

When it comes to saving money on your household bills, identify the items in your home that consume the most energy and water. Set aside some time for this worthwhile project and start saving some money now. It will help you in the long run.

Lastly, if you believe your real estate taxes are too high, they may be calculated incorrectly. Every homeowner has the right to challenge the assessed value of their home with the NYC Tax Commission. Many homeowners have been successful in correcting and reducing their real estate tax burden.  For more information contact 311 or visit:

As with all Home Improvements and related matters, if a task seems too big, consult with a licensed and insured professional that can provide you with energy efficient options and ways to save on your home bills.

Tom Scarangello, General Manager       Scaran Heating & Air Conditioning

(718) 984-0805