5 Ways to Cut Your Utility Costs This Summer

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Dreading this summer’s trade-offs between comfort and the cost of cooling your home? Instead of sticking it out through another stiflingly hot summer, consider some home improvements and upgrades that could help you.

“I think many people just accept many of their house’s issues — in particular, that there are hot and cold parts of the house,” said Asa Foss, director of residential technical solutions at the U.S. Green Building Council. “That’s nonsense — this can be corrected, often with a few easy actions.”

Here are home improvement projects that can lower your utility bills and keep you cool this summer.

1. Insulate, seal, and ventilate the attic

If your home’s second story gets hot, some rooms are drafty, or your energy bills are too high, they could be signs your attic isn’t energy-efficient, according to Energy Star.

“Air-seal and insulate your attic — hands down, this is the most important thing to do,” Foss said. Adding an attic ventilation fan can help cool the space in summer months.

Upgrading your attic can create a more effective temperature barrier between your roof and your home’s interior. “This will keep your cool, dry air — which you are paying to condition — from getting wasted and escaping outside,” Foss pointed out. Sealing the attic air also will keep out dust and pollutants, thereby improving air quality.

This project’s costs will depend on the size of your home and how accessible your attic is. It can be as cheap as $145 to install fiberglass insulation yourself and up to $2,000 for professionally installed blown-in insulation, according to HomeAdvisor estimates in June 2018. And installing more efficient attic insulation can save you up to $500 per year in energy costs.

2. Check your air conditioner and seal the ducts

Your air conditioner is responsible for using most of the power that cools your home, so making sure it’s running efficiently can help you use less energy and money. An air conditioner tuneup usually costs around $100 to $200, Foss said, and it can help your system last longer.

But don’t stop at the air conditioner — check your whole cooling system. Around 20% of cool, dry air leaks out of ducts after being conditioned, according to Energy Star.

“If you have ducts running in the attic, garage, or crawl space, have them air-sealed,” Foss said. He estimated that sealing of ducts costs up to $1,500, and they’ll keep in the cool air.

3. Upgrade your window energy efficiency

In addition to considering window treatments, you might want to check how energy-efficient your windows and doors are. “Improperly sealed windows can negate energy-efficient temperature settings and can be responsible for 20% of energy loss in the home,” said Larry Patterson, a Glass Doctor franchisee in Dallas, Texas.

The most efficient solution is keeping window frames in place and installing “new low-emissivity (low-E) glass insulated windows,” Patterson said. Each new window can run between $300 and $700, according to HomeAdvisor in June 2018. These windows can cut your energy cost by up to a third in summer and winter, Patterson added.

Alternatively, consider applying a solar film to windows. Living in the Phoenix desert, Marcion Albert, the founder and editor of awning review site NewAwning.com, has tried plenty of home improvements to beat the heat. “One of our favorites is solar film, which is a tinted plastic that adheres to the glass of a window,” he said. It filters heat from entering your home, is fairly inexpensive, and is easy to install yourself.

4. Shade your home

Keeping your home shaded and out of direct sunlight will help it stay cooler during summer months, saving you money on electricity expenses. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this is to plant trees.

“Plant large shade trees on the south and west sides of the house,” Foss said. In fact, trees offer more than just shade. They release water vapor, which further cools the air around them.

Visit a local plant nursery for help with choosing shade trees that will grow quickly and thrive in your area’s climate. Each of these trees can cost $25 to $150 or more, depending on the species and maturation. “It’ll take a few years before they start shading the house, but when they do, the benefit will be noticeable,” Foss said.

Awnings are another option to shade your home. Installing an awning can cost from $400 to $5,500, according to HomeAdvisor in June 2018.

5. Install solar panels

Instead of trying to block the sun, why not harness it to generate your own energy? Installing solar panels allows you to do just that.

“It’s always a good time to install solar panels on your roof if you have a flat roof or a south-facing sloped roof,” Foss said. As solar panels generate electricity, they power your home, meaning you’ll rely less on electricity from the grid. You might even generate enough power to sell some of it back to your utility company.

Don’t wait too long to install solar panels. “The 30% federal solar panel rebate starts phasing out in 2020, so take advantage of that,” Foss added.

How to pay for summer home improvements

Once you pick a home project to tackle over the summer, you need to figure out the financial side. Spend some time researching costs and budgeting for the project. Here’s what to do:

  • Plan out home improvement costs. Find out how much the improvement will cost, including labor and materials. From there, you can allocate the costs out of your available funds or save up for this short-term goal if you don’t have enough money on hand.
  • Pay with cash. It can be tempting to go into debt for these summer home improvements, but resist the urge. Borrowing to improve your home adds interest and fees to costs that already might be high. Put off the purchase and save up until you can pay in cash.
  • If you have to borrow, do it wisely. If you can’t delay the project and need to borrow money to cover it, look for affordable ways to pay for a home improvement. Borrowing through a home equity loan or personal loan for home improvements typically will cost less than paying for the project with a credit card, for example.
  • Manage debt responsibly. If you use credit or a loan to pay for a home improvement project, you can avoid huge interest costs by paying the debt off early. If you pay with a credit card or other form of high-interest debt, see if you can reduce your overall interest charges through a credit card balance transfer or credit card consolidation.

An energy-efficient home: Lower costs and more comfort

These summer home improvement ideas hold big promise. “Many of the improvements that can lower cooling bills will also improve the comfort and indoor air quality of the home,” Foss said.

If you keep costs low and avoid borrowing, you’ll get a better return on the investment from these home upgrades.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 6.990% APR to 14.865% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.255% APR to 12.555% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 1, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.255% APR assumes current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 4.425% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

    To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.See Consumer Licenses.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
6.26% – 14.87%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
6.99% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upgrade
8.00% – 25.00%2$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000Visit FreedomPlus
5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000Visit LendingPoint
6.16% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
6.99% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000Visit Earnest
9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000Visit Avant
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.