What are the hidden costs of homeownership?

Between mortgage payments, homeowners insurance and general maintenance, the costs of homeownership can add up quickly. In fact, according to a recent analysis by Zillow, hidden homeownership costs can be as high as $20,000 a year in some metropolitan cities. Zillow calculated its totals based on “three unavoidable expenses for single-family homeowners — property taxes, homeowners insurance and utility payments.”

Of these three unavoidable expenses, there’s one you can chip away at over time — utility bills. Savings from energy efficiency improvements around your house can add up quickly, and there are a few simple things you can do right now to make a big difference.

Easy energy efficiency upgrades

  • Upgrade to a smart thermostat: Installing a smart thermostat can be an easy way to lower your heating and cooling bills with minimal effort. These devices can automatically adjust the temperature in your home to optimize your heating and cooling while lowering energy costs. According to Energy Star, most smart thermostats “learn your temperature preferences and establish a schedule that automatically adjusts to energy-saving temperatures when you are asleep or away.”
  • Replace old home appliances: Older appliances are often less energy-efficient than modern models. You can always buy an energy usage monitor for around $30 to see how much energy your appliances consume. Alternatively, the Department of Energy has a free online energy usage calculator to help you find your home’s biggest energy hogs.
  • Use energy-efficient lightbulbs: Energy Star-certified LED lightbulbs often require up to 80-90% less energy than a standard lightbulb. Those with smart capabilities can be set up with routines that shut them off automatically if you forget.
  • Seal your windows and doors: Windows and doors may be worth replacing if they are relatively old. Still, newer windows and doors can be sealed with foam insulation and caulked to help your home retain warm or cold air.

Best products for energy-efficiency upgrades

Best Emerson Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat

Emerson Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat

This easy-to-install smart thermostat has a large, bright touchscreen display. It tracks humidity, and the screen dims automatically when you aren’t using it. The companion app has an intuitive user interface, and the Alexa voice commands are incredibly responsive. It’s available in black, white or silver, so you can be sure it will match your decor.

Sold by Amazon

Best Black+Decker Dehumidifier

Black and Decker Dehumidifier

If you’re using an older dehumidifier, you may be wasting precious energy. This Energy Star-rated model from Black and Decker can extract 22 pints of water daily. There are various sizes, covering 1,500 square feet up to 4,500 square feet. It has an intuitive control panel and an easy-to-remove bucket.

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Best Energetic 60-Watt LED Light Bulb

Energetic 60-Watt LED Light Bulb

These Energy Star-rated light bulbs cost about $1.00 a year to operate. They’re built to last around 13 years if used for up to three hours a day. They’re dimmable and available in warm white, soft white and daylight.

Sold by Amazon

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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