I am a Phoenix native; born and raised. If you aren’t familiar with Phoenix weather in the summer, let’s just say that my daughter learned to count to one hundred and twenty when she was still in her play pen. There were thirty three days last year (2011) where the temperature was over a hundred and ten degrees. This does not a low electric bill make.
Remorseless Phoenix heat aside, the electric bills go up for everybody in the summer; in fact, energy costs are on the rise no matter what the season. Since most of us like our money to go places other than the electric company, we need to find ways that really work to keep that money in our pockets.
My guess is that you don’t want to have to spend a lot of money replacing appliances, etc., to lower your electric bill; you would like to just save the most money that you possible can every month and want to know how. If you’re up to breaking some (simple) old habits and acquiring (simple) new ones, I’ll show you how, and you will be very happy with your electric bill next month. And the month after and the month after…
Let’s take it one step at a time.
Before you do anything, have your house inspected.
Have you been in a room in your home that feels drafty and when you check one of the windows, there’s a teensy bit of air coming in the where the window is sealed? You have just found an energy-waster.
An energy inspection doesn’t have to cost a lot. Some electric companies have contractors that can be hired for around a hundred bucks, with some stipulations. Check with your electric company to see if they have a cheap home assessment contractor, or have them recommend someone who can.
The cost for fixing problems that the inspection exposed can vary widely. There are programs that have duct test and repair rebates; do some research online or talk to someone in your community to see what you can find out.
The inspection will also point out other energy savers, like upgrades; for instance, did you know that if you upgraded from single-pane to double-pane windows that you could save $600.00 and up per year?
Okay, now the fun stuff! Since I don’t know what your electric bill runs, let’s use a $300.00 electric bill as our base, and go through all of the tips. How can we control how to slash this nightmare of a bill? At the end of the article, we’ll add everything up and see how much we saved.
Let’s look at the big electricity hogs first.
Hog #1: Your air conditioner.
Air conditioning accounts for at least sixty to seventy percent of your bill, sometimes more.
Tip #1: Set your thermostat at 79 degrees or higher (I try and keep mine at 80 degrees). For each degree that you raise your thermostat, you will save 2 – 3 percent on the cooling part of your electric bill. Here’s some air conditioning math for you:
The electric bill is $300.00. Sixty five percent of that bill is your air conditioning, which comes out to $195.00. You had your thermostat set at 74 degrees. At a savings of three and a half percent ($6.30) per degree and raising it five degrees, you will save $31.50 per month, or $378.00 annually.
Tip #2: Use ceiling fans. Because they keep the air circulating, it’s automatically cooler in whatever room a ceiling fan is in; this can help you raise the thermostat an easy two degrees (at the least) and you’ll stay just as cool. (Don’t forget to have the fan spinning down so that it’s cooling the room and not the ceiling.) According to Supercheapelectricity.com, if you have multi-speed reversible fans, this will save you around $5.00 per month for two occupied rooms.
Tip #3: Close the vents in the rooms that you aren’t in very much or don’t use. I went to get something in my downstairs bathroom the other day, and it was freezing in there! The only time it’s used is when people come over, which makes it a big waste of air conditioning. I closed the vent, thus directing the air into the living room, where it was a bit hot. Nowadays (thanks to re-routing the air), not so much.
(Note: Don’t close more than two vents on your ground floor. Air conditioners release the cold air to every vent. If too many are closed, then the continuance in rushing air will put extra pressure on the ducts, creating leaks. The duct work is hard to access, so you won’t even know if/where you have leaks. Now not only is your bill higher, but you have the added cost of calling someone to check and fix the duct work.)
Tip #4: Change your air conditioning filter at least once a month. According to EnergySavers.gov, this is the single most important air conditioning maintenance task you can do. If you have a dirty filter, it will block the normal air flow and “reduce a system’s efficiency significantly”. Keeping the filters clean can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent (depending on how dirty it is) simply because the air conditioner doesn’t have to work so hard. If you can lower your bill by $9.00 per month (five percent) or $108.00 per year by just changing the air conditioner filter, then you should do it.
Hog #2: Your heater
Gee, the heater is a hog? What a surprise. Your heater can account for thirty to forty percent of your bill, if not more.
Tip #1: Heat only the parts of the house you use. Just like the air conditioner, if you have the vents closed in the rooms that you don’t need heated, it will steer the heat to the rooms that you do.
Tip #2: Turn the thermostat down to at least 68 degrees; lower it more at night. Once again, every degree that thermostat is lowered full time, you save 3 – 4 percent on the heating part of your bill. If you lower your heater another ten degrees other different times (like when you go to work or when you go to bed), you can lower the heating portion of your bill by another 14 percent. Thus, if you have kept your heater at 72 degrees and lowered it to 68 degrees, and at night you lowered it another ten degrees, the math would look like this:
Thirty-five percent of your $300.00 bill is $105.00. By lowering it by ten degrees at night, you have saved $42.00 (14 percent of $300.00). By lowering it four degrees full-time, you have saved $14.00 of your bill (three and a half percent of your bill per degree). This is $56.00 per month off your bill, and $672.00 annually.
Tip #3: Keep yourself warm. Ya think? It may sound like a no-brainer, but if you are warm, you won’t need the heater as much. There are all kinds of new gadgets that you can use to keep yourself warm, like a neck warmer that uses a rechargeable lithium battery or battery-charged hand-warming gloves, just to name a couple And put some (more) clothes on! Lots of layers mean that you can raise the thermostat.
Hog #3: Your washer/dryer
Pretty easy to save energy with these…
Tip #1: Wash your clothes in cold water and/or turn the temperature down. Ninety – yes, ninety – percent of the energy used in washing one load of clothes goes to heating the water. If you aren’t heating the water, you are lowering that percentage to – well – nothing.
Tip #2: Line-dry your clothes. I told you that you were going to have to adopt some new habits that you may not like. I hate line-drying clothes! But a dryer can account for up to 18 percent of your electric bill. I know people who swear by line-drying clothes: A friend of mine said that since she gave up using the dryer, her bill has been about a third less than it used to be.
I hate line-drying clothes.
Tip #3: Change the filter in your dryer after every load. Same principal as the air conditioner. When the drier filter is full of lint, it blocks the air flow – something that is pretty important in driers, wouldn’t you think? If the air flow is blocked, then it takes a lot longer to dry your clothes, hence more energy, hence a higher bill.
Hog #4: Your refrigerator
Actually, this appliance can be the second biggest hog next to the air conditioner.
Tip: If you have an older refrigerator, you may really want to think about getting a new one that is EnergyStar compliant. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, refrigerators account for almost 14 percent of your electric bill. If you have a non-EnergyStar compliant refrigerator, you are missing out on saving at least $100.00 a year.
Hog #5: Your water heater
Oink, oink! This is a big one.
Tip #1: Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Your water heater accounts for eighteen percent of your electric bill. For every ten degrees you lower your water heater, you save three to four percent of your water heating costs. Here’s the math:
Tip #2: Take showers instead of baths and keep ‘em short. Baths use almost twice as much water as a shower does. And make your showers shorter so you don’t use as much hot water. (Duh.)
Tip #3: Keep the temperature of both showers and baths down. This is a drag in the winter, but you’ll survive. (Another habit you have to get used to; sorry.)
Water heating accounts for $54.00 of a $300.00 water bill. (Eighteen percent of $300.00). If your hot water heater was at 140 degrees and you lowered it to 120 degrees, at 3.5 percent per ten degrees, you have just saved $3.80 on the water heating portion of your bill, or $45.60 annually.
Now that we have gone through the things that hog your electricity, let’s go through the things that you do to hog your electricity and what you can do to fine-tune your electric bill.
- Get a programmable thermostat. This way, you can schedule when to turn the thermostat up and down and not have to do it manually. By doing this, you can have the thermostat be at whatever temperature you want it at when you want it. If you go on vacation, you really don’t need to heat or cool your empty house while you’re gone.
- Unplug the stuff that isn’t on! You may not know this, but every time you leave your cell phone charger plugged in (and it’s not charging your phone), it’s using energy. Every time you leave a blow dryer plugged in, it’s using energy. If your DVD player is plugged in and you aren’t watching a movie, it’s still using energy. Even in standby mode, gadgets use electricity. And on that note…
- Turn off your surge protectors! Think about it: If it’s not on, it doesn’t need to be protected! So every night before you go to bed, switch off all of your surge protectors. Even better: Put everything in the house on a surge protector, and then switch them off. Yes, it’s another obnoxious habit, but when I did it, I started saving about $25.00 a month! For stuff that wasn’t even being used.
- Quit turning the TV on if you’re not going to watch it. If my daughter walks into a room and there’s a TV in it, she turns it on. And will maybe walk out. Then I started to notice that the TV wasn’t turned off when we left the house sometimes, that it was on all day long, that TVs were being left on in rooms when people were in another room…Turn the TV off when nobody is in the room, and turn it off when nobody’s watching it.
- Change your light-bulbs from just a plain old light bulb to a brand new CFL light bulb.
There are regular light bulbs, and there are CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs; the new, hip, incredibly inexpensive, intelligent way to light up your house. A compact fluorescent light bulb uses about 75 percent less energy than a traditional one, and lasts 10 times longer. One regular light bulb lasts around 1,000 hours, and a CFL light bulb has a life span of 7,000 to 10,000 hours.
(On a side note, you can recycle them, too.)
Okay, this is a biggie – it’s like the sleeper of the energy savers: One single CFL light bulb can save you $28.00 per year. One. Just one. Let’s say you have one light bulb (just one) in the living room, the kitchen, one bathroom, one bedroom, and one porch light. That’s just five light bulbs (and you know you have way more than that). This is a total savings of (drum roll, please): $140.00 per year, or $11.70 per month.
Lighting in your home runs $60.00 per month (twenty percent of your bill). Let’s say that you run ten CFL light bulbs (because you know you have way more than five). You are now saving $23.40 per month, or $280.00 per year. (Except it’s probably more; you know that you have way more than ten.)
One added bonus: One bulb has an average life span of five years.
- Close the blinds. Or not. In the summer, keep ‘em shut to keep out the sun. In the winter, keep them open to let the sun in. Simple enough.
- Don’t use appliances all at the same time. Especially with the air conditioner on. Especially during the day.
- Turn your computer off or put it to sleep. There is a lot of speculation regarding whether you use more power if you leave your computer on all night, turn it off and on every time you use it, etc. The one thing that everybody agrees on, however, is that if it’s on, it should not be at full power. Put it to sleep if you’re going to be away from it for awhile.
- Use your laptop instead of your desktop, if you can. Reason being, laptops take eighty percent less energy than a desktop! Enough said.
- Use your dishwasher; don’t wash the dishes by hand. I am not kidding. Running a full load in an efficient dishwasher will use less hot water than washing up by hand in the sink if you use the “air dry” cycle. You’ll save 2-4 percent of your bill that way, which – at three percent – adds up to $9.00 a month, or $108.00 annually.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now. Let’s add the up the ones I calculated:
Air conditioning: Save $31.50 per month, or $378.00 annually.
Changing the air filters: Save $9.00, or $108.00 per year.
Heater: Save $56.00 per month, or $672.00 annually.
Ceiling fans: Save $5.00 per month, or $60.00 annually.
Refrigerator, (non-EnergyStar compliant): Save$8.30 per month, or $100.00 annually.
Hot water heater: Save $3.80 per month, or $45.60 annually.
Dishwasher, full load: Save $9.00 per month, or $108.00.
Lighting: Save $23.40 per month, or $280.00 per year.
Turn off surge protectors: $25.00 per month, or $274.00 per month.
Total savings on a $300.00 electric bill per month: $171.00.
That, my friends, is a savings of fifty seven percent. And that doesn’t count the rest of the list.
Think of this: By implementing only the tips that were calculated, you have $171.00 extra this month. To celebrate (this one month only; you don’t want to defeat the whole purpose), take a short trip to the mountains, take a weekend and go stay at a hotel, go out to dinner, see a movie …do something! You deserve it after all of the hard work you put in to saving money on your electric bill this month. So just take some times and do it!
And don’t forget to turn out the lights.
[Editors Note – Who doesn’t like tricks? Especially when they are a bit crazy and ESPECIALLY when they save us money (and quite a lot!). We found this video which we though you and probably anyone you know might find quite useful This guy not only found a neat method (anyone can build it) to cut your bill by a further 75% or more…BUT also a “loophole” you can use to get the electric company to pay you cold hard cash. You can watch it by clicking here.