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Odds are, you’ve noticed your utility bills slowly creeping up, and you’re not alone. According to Bloomberg News, the average American paid 15 percent more for electricity this year compared to July 2021—the biggest 12-month increase since 2006. It makes sense to want to slash your spending, but switching to LED lightbulbs and a smart thermostat isn’t enough to keep the expenses at bay. It’s time to look out for “energy vampires” instead. 

Realtor.com defines these money-wasting features as things that are always on, even when they’re technically turned off. Window air-conditioning units, video game consoles, and computer chargers can drain your power simply by being plugged in (the latter can suck a watt of energy per hour, which is an average of $165 per household, per year). But the biggest culprit might surprise you: your water heater. 

Your system, whether tank or tankless, may need to run constantly, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Erin Shine, founder of net-zero smart-home company Attainable Home, has an easy solution: “If you don’t need the water scalding hot, bring down the temperature to where it’s still hot enough for you,” she told Realtor.com. Shine notes that  insulating the hot-pipe side with foam will help prevent heat loss. And don’t forget to put it on a timer, so it only uses energy when you actually need hot water. 

After that’s taken care of, move onto the little steps that can have a big impact. Take an inventory of the gaming systems and light fixtures you actually use and which ones simply sit idle. Then spend five minutes plugging your devices into smart power strips that you can easily program to flip on and off. When your next monthly statement arrives, you won’t find any surprising figures.