17 Ways Bay Area Property Owners Can Save Money

Written by Karen Bryan

Everyone knows that living in the Bay Area can be fairly expensive in comparison to other areas of California and the rest of the country. Despite the fact that the median home price across the region’s nine counties declined in 2019 for the first time in 7 years, that figure is still at $830,000, which is considerably higher than the national average of $226,000. Of course, homes aren’t the only things that cost more in the Bay Area, as all products and services tend to come at higher prices. With such a costly lifestyle to keep up with, it makes sense that Bay Area property owners would be looking to reduce expenditure in the following 17 reasonable and sustainable ways:

1. Install a Solar Panel System

While the cost of installing a solar panel system represents a significant upfront investment, the long-term savings will more than pay off. Most homeowners will recoup their investment within 5-8 years and after that your property will have access to free energy indefinitely. Most solar panels can last anywhere from 25-50+ years without requiring any form of maintenance, so you’re looking at about 5 decades of expense-free energy.

Leading solar providers in San Jose and other Bay Area cities often provide warranties that cover you from having to pay for premature maintenance. For example, Semper Solaris provides American-made solar panels that are backed by a 50-year Platinum protection warranty. They’re ranked as one of the best solar power companies in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and numerous other cities throughout California.

2. Use Smart Thermostats

Did you know that you can save up to 25% on your monthly air conditioning and heating bills by switching to smart thermostats in your home? How exactly can a thermostat save you money? Well, it automatically adjusts to the ideal temperature and knows when to turn itself on or off, regardless of whether you forget.

This eliminates the potential for human error in terms of setting the temperature too cold or leaving the air conditioning running for long periods of time while away. Smart thermostats can also be controlled remotely, so you can make adjustments to the home’s temperature before arriving home.

3. Optimize Air Conditioning

Check to ensure that the air inflow isn’t hindered or blocked by bushes, tree limbs, leaves, or dirt and debris caught in the filter. Such obstructions can reduce the energy efficiency of your home’s air conditioning system. Likewise, ensure your ducts are properly sealed to avoid the issue of letting cold air escape. You may want to have an HVAC professional conduct a thorough inspection to see if there are any problems that may require repair or maintenance.

4. Reduce A/C Dependency Using Fans

While optimizing your air conditioning system and thermostat usage are necessary steps when A/C is an absolute must, if you really want to dramatically reduce your energy bills, try not using it at all. You might think that’s an insane option to consider in the Bay Area, where summer temperatures can easily have you running for the nearest air-conditioned building. However, you’d be surprised at just how cool you can stay by using powerful fans and spray bottles of cold water. Hypothetically, if you’re willing to deal with the inconvenience of having fans strategically positioned around your home, you could completely eliminate your A/C dependency and reduce your electricity bill by more than 50%.

5. Take Quick Showers

Running the hot water heater can be one of the most expensive actions in the home other than air conditioning, heating, and cooking. Short showers not only save you money on your electricity bill, they also reduce your water usage, thereby lowering your water bill as well. Plus, did you know that taking shorter showers is better for your skin because it keeps cells from getting waterlogged? Furthermore, with California experiencing extended periods of drought and the state recently approving indoor water usage laws that will limit every resident to 55 gallons per day, any property owner in the Bay Area would be wise to start thinking about ways to use less water.

6. Ensure Air Filters Have Been Changed

Dirty air filters could be increasing your energy bill by ten to twenty percent or more. Since air follows the path of least resistance, any obstructions in your air filter could cause air to escape out of poorly sealed spots in the HVAC ventilation system. This could lead to a situation in which cold air is escaping into your walls and attic instead of reaching your living space. Air filters are relatively affordable and easy to change, so there’s no reason to put this step off.

7. Dry Laundry on a Clothes Line Instead of in the Dryer

The dryer is another power-hungry appliance that can be replaced with a bit of work, some sunlight, a rope, and some clothes pins. This might seem like an extreme measure to take, but if you’re looking for legitimate ways to save money, it’s a tip worth mentioning. It may take some getting used to, but once you’ve “gotten the hang” of hanging up your clothes, it’s a process that should only take about 2-3 minutes at the most. In terms of how much you’ll save, it isn’t a groundbreaking amount, but it averages out to something like $15-$30 for every ten loads of laundry, depending on your load sizes and dryer type.

8. Optimize Lighting for Energy-Efficiency

Changing light bulbs is one of the easiest ways to quickly save money on your electricity bill. The amount per bulb isn’t really staggering, but the accumulative effect makes it a worthwhile move in the long run. If every household in America replaced just one incandescent bulb with an energy-efficient alternative, the country would save about $600 million annually. Aside from changing light bulbs, you could also try taking advantage of the Bay Area’s bright sunlight by installing skylights or larger windows for enhanced natural lighting.

9. Cook Outside During the Summer

Cooking inside during the summer can raise indoor temperatures and place more of a burden on your air conditioning system. Cooking outside when it’s hot will keep your home cooler, thereby reducing your A/C bill. Of course, you can still eat inside or you can set up a backyard lounge area complete with shade for a comfortable eating experience out in nature. Additionally, barbecuing food in bulk and meal planning is another way to save money on your food expenses while also having delicious meals prepared and ready to eat within containers in your refrigerator.

10. Weatherize the Home

Weatherizing the home involves sealing doors, windows, HVAC systems, attics, walls, and any other spots where air can escape. California has weatherization programs available to homeowners that will cover the cost of this service, so that’s an option that’s worth looking into if you want to have your home weatherized in the most cost-effective and effortless manner. Reports indicate that weatherization programs are saving the average weatherized household approximately $400 per year on utility bills.

11. Use Blinds to Block Sunlight During Summer

Letting sunlight in can be an energy saver or an energy drainer, depending on the weather outside. If you’re trying to keep your home cool, it may be better to close the blinds on particularly hot days to keep the solar radiation from heating up the surfaces of your home and subsequently putting more of a workload on your air conditioning system. You may want to equip your home with smart blinds that can be programmed to open and close automatically based on current weather feeds and sensors. Alternatively, you could try installing smart glass, which can be remotely controlled to change tint and transparency.

12. Install More Insulation

A lack of insulation could be letting air in or out, which increases your energy bill by stressing the air conditioning and heating systems. While this is a step that might be taken care of during an overall weatherization process, if your home checks out on all other fronts, this could also be a stand-alone job that can be done on a do-it-yourself basis. If you notice that your home is using an outdated form of insulation, upgrading the insulation type could also provide minor savings in the long-term.

13. Use a Water Heater Blanket

Water heater blankets are essentially surface insulators that keep heat from escaping. The result is a more efficient process because the warmth is kept within the water instead of radiating off the top of the water heater. These are very simple and affordable accessories that can improve the energy efficiency of your water heater by up to 10%. Since water heaters are part of the top 5 most energy-consuming appliances in your home, any steps you can take to maximize their efficiency are worthwhile.

14. Check for Water Leaks

Water leaks can significantly increase your yearly water bill and lead to structural wear and tear, mildew, and other problems that might create the need for costly home repairs. As part of your money-saving regimen, it’s best to conduct occasional inspections so that you can discover water leaks before they get out of hand and cost you a large sum of money that would be better spent on something else.

15. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Appliances

Switching to Energy Star Certified appliances can save you hundreds of dollars per year on your utility bills. In fact, each appliance that carries this label can save you $100 or more per year in energy usage in comparison to non-certified appliances. Plus, taking the proactive approach and upgrading your appliances before they stop working will keep you from having to furnish an unexpected expense later on in the form of a sudden replacement or repair.

16. Use an Automated Lawnmower and DIY the Landscaping

Lawncare service can be fairly expensive, especially when you’re paying for a premium landscaper to take care of your grounds on a monthly basis. You can eliminate the cost of this service completely by investing in an automated lawnmower which can be programmed to cut your grass on a scheduled basis. Then, all that will be left for you to take care of will be trimming the yard edges and hedges and other landscaping tasks.

17. Plant Some Shade Trees

Shading your home with trees can be an effective way to reduce the amount of direct sunlight that your roof is absorbing. Of course, if you heeded tip #1 and installed a solar panel setup, then this wouldn’t be a compatible strategy unless you installed the solar panels on a ground array in your yard instead of on the roof. On that note, ground-mounted solar panel systems can actually be ideal if you have the space for them because you can perform maintenance without climbing up onto your roof. Also, opting for a ground-mounted system may help you save on the cost of solar panels in the Bay Area.

However, when going this route, it’s important to choose sturdy tree varieties that can withstand high winds, as you don’t want a branch falling onto your roof.

Take All of the Above Steps and Your Savings Will Be Significant

With each of these measures only decreasing your monthly bills by a small amount, it can be easy to feel like you’re wasting your time to save pennies. However, if you add up the annual savings that you’d gain by thoroughly covering all of the tips listed above, you’ll be saving anywhere from $5,000-$20,000 per year or more depending on the size and needs of your property. That’s enough money to put a down payment on a vehicle, launch a small startup, or go on an extravagant vacation. Better yet, add up those savings over the course of a decade and you’ll have an extra $50,000 in the bank. Ultimately, since each of these steps are so simple to implement on an individual basis, there’s really no reason to keep wasting money as a property owner.