Lower Electric Bills
Lowering Utility Bills
The Best Light Bulbs to Save Money
Conducting a Home Energy Audit
Looking to Reduce the Electric Bill
My electric bill is one that I really struggle with. Reviewing our bills over the past year, even in the cooler months when we use gas heat, our electric bill runs about $390. Our home is 1800 sq. ft. I've recently had my drier fixed, so hopefully we'll see some relief from that, but it vents out through the roof so it still runs longer than it would if it had a shorter venting. Besides caulking around our windows, do you have any suggestions on cost savings?
Savings on Electricity
Here are a list of things that we have found use up a lot of electricity if they are not operating efficiently:
Refrigerator/Freezers - If they are old, they may be inefficient and run constantly.
Electric range (if applicable) - Again if it's old, it may not be as efficient as it could be. Also if you bake/cook a lot, it may raise your bill. Gas is more efficient for cooking that electric (IMHO). I think electric ranges/ovens waste a lot of energy in pre-heating.
Lights - Consider replacing non-essential lighting with fluorescent units or LEDs. We have yard light that gives us as much light as two 60 watt bulbs and uses only about 35 watts.
Dryer - Make sure it is clean and free of lint. Consider the use of an off-peak meter. The power is cheaper, but you have to use during times when overall electrical demand is lower (late evening etc.). Check with your local power company for more information.
Hot water (if applicable) - If you have electric hot water, that could account for a large part of your bill. If possible, switch to gas. If that is not feasible, reduce the temperature of the tank to 130-140 and insulate it with a jacket. The best value for hot water is what is called 'on demand hot water'. It is also known as tankless hot water. It heats the water as you use it. You have a continuous stream of hot water and don't have to heat it while you store it. The initial cost can be prohibitive, but if you have a lot of family members or use large amounts of hot water, you realize savings pretty quickly.
Air Conditioning - If it is an older model, it may not be as efficient as it could be.
Overall, check with your local power company. Some offer programs where they will help you find areas in your house that are using excess power. Some will even help you make changes to become more efficient.
We Reduced Our Electric Bill by 60%
My house is a 3-bedroom home in AZ. I now average $1444 a month on electrity and everything is electric except the water heater. It used to be at $290 per month about three months ago. Here is my strategy:
- Change the furnace filter at least every 30 days.
- Buy a programmable thermostat. See if the Electric company can give you a rebate. They do in AZ.
- Install ceiling fans (less likely to run A/C a long time)
- When using dishwasher, don't use heat dry. Instead do it late at night and open dishwasher to air dry.
- Lower temperature on water heater. Don't go to low or clothes and dishes won't get cleaned properly.
- Wash clothes in cold water as much as possible.
- If you must use the dryer, then place 2 or 3 dry hand towels in with a load of wet clothes. Cuts drying time down almost in half.
- Turn heat down a few degrees at night
- Call Electric Company for tips. Usually they will come out and give you tips. Sometimes they even give free lightbulbs. See what discounts they offer during non-peak hours.
Check your refrigerator and freezer. We had an old refrigerator. It started leaking water inside so I went and bought a new more efficient model. (Turns out the compressor was going out in the old one.) Our first utility bill was down by $32! Old refrigerators or sick ones will run a lot and use up a lot of electricity. Also, a refrigerator or freezer that is heavily frosted up will run up your bills cause it runs all the time.
Several years ago, I lived in a house where my electric and heating bills were outrageous. I finally found out why. My house had the lowest possible amount of insulation required at the time it was constructed. (1950s) I was renting at the time and found that the landlord was not going to add or update any of the insulation so I took it upon myself to curb my bills, doing whatever I could afford to do.
I changed all my lightbulbs to a lower wattage. It is really amazing how much heat they put out! I cleaned the coils on the back of my refrigerator. My fridge ran better and more efficiently. I put weather stripping around all of my doors. Not very expensive, and makes a world of difference!
Instead of caulking around your windows, you could use a foam insulation. It comes in cans and fills cracks much better than caulking! Just shoot it into the cracks and it expands to fill the space. It takes only seconds to dry, then you just trim off the excess.
For immediate results, you might want to think about purchasing small awnings for your windows. It will create more shade over your windows making it cooler inside as well.
For long term results, plant trees and tall shrubs! Plant them around 10 feet from your windows, making sure to find out where power, gas and sewage lines run to and from your house first. In a few years with good care, they will start making a difference. They will shade your windows and home, causing less need for air-conditioning in the warmer months and blocking harsh winds in the cooler months. They will beautify your home as well.
Little things really make a difference, and if you are planning to stay in your home for many years, plan on the long term too. Every little bit helps.
Use 'Natural Dryer'
My dryer was having problems so I got a large retractable clothes line. It saved about $30 one month. Comparing it to a working dryer, I may have only saved $15 but that still helps and the laundry smells better than coming out of the dryer.
Free Energy Audits
Contact your electric/gas company. Many of them offer free or very low cost energy audits. An energy expert will come to your home and test for drafts or other leaks. They will seal up/weatherstrip your home for you.
I work for an electric company and they have a program where they supply low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, window and door caulk, and compact flourescent lighting for common walkways (if a multi-family unit).
During the winter months, use dark-colored curtains in windows. During the summer, use lightly colored ones. This will use the sun's energy to your advantage.
Summer and Winter Savings
We have a house about the same size. For the summer, we installed ceiling fans in all the rooms. These help both in the winter and summer. When it gets warmer, we use box fans to push air thru the house. We have a screened in porch and spend a lot of time outside. Try to keep your windows opened in the evening or early morning to circulate the cooler air. Try not to turn on the air until absolutely necessary. If you plan on living in the house for a long time, check on planting shade trees around the house. The local extension office should be able to recommend appropriate trees. Dress appropriately with shorts and t-shirts made out of a breathable materials such as cotton. Try to cook on the grill or use a crockpot or toaster. The oven adds a great deal of heat to the house. Hang out your bed linens, towels, jeans, etc.
Do you have vents in the roof? If so, make sure they are opened and also the ones under the house. If you do not have vents I recommend installing them. Use blinds or curtains to block out the sun. If you do have to turn on the air, keep it set at about 72 and turn it off on cool days when not needed. If you have family members who turn it down, put tape on the thermostat to keep it at your setting.
For the winter, after you caulk your windows, consider using plastic to cover them. There is a foam you can use for your switch and electric plates. Dress appropriately with long pant and shirts and sweaters. Hang out your bed linens, towels, jeans, etc. to dry. Open blinds or curtains to let in the sun. Also use heavy curtains to help insulate windows. Make sure the weather stripping around doors do not need replacing. I usually keep the heat about 65. I turn it down at night and when we are not at home. If you have family members who turn it up, put tape on the thermostat to keep it at your setting. I have a wood burning stove that saves a lot during heating months. My husband cuts down trees and branches so we get wood for free. If you notice someone has had a tree fall ask if you can cut it up and haul it away - you will need a chainsaw and pickup truck or trailer.
Try looking in the want ads for a used gas dryer. They are much more economical to run.
My family's electric bills went from an average of $176 per month to $130 per month (average annual costs) when we installed a setback thermostat on our heating and cooling system.
This type of thermostat is programmed to turn up your heat or air when you need it. The model we purchased has settings for weekdays and for Saturday and Sunday. The cost of the thermostat varies from about $30 to around $90. The most expensive type is made for heat pump systems (which is the type we had to buy). My husband installed it.
You'll get the maximum savings if your house is not occupied during the day, but even if you only save $10 a month, the thermostat will pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time and then save you every month from then on out.
Just a thought, but has Melani C had the seals on her refrigerator/freezer checked? If these are at all old or worn, they may be making these items work harder therefore using up more electricity.
A Penny Saved...
First, your home must be properly insulated. Check local codes for their new construction requirements. Now for all the little things:
- Caulk all joints in the exterior of the house, especially between dissimilar materials.
- Install foam draftstops behind all wall switches and outlets
- Install a programmable thermostat.
- If you have an electric water heater, install an insulation blanket and lower the water temp. setting to 120 degrees.
- Renew weatherstripping on all doors
- Install shading devices on all East, South and West facing windows. This can be accomplished with awnings, solar screens, window tint, etc.
- Install storm doors on all exterior doors
- Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes (dishwasher)
- Keep your refrigerator full. A full refrigerator will cost less to operate than an empty one.
- Cook on an outdoor grill during the warm months. The food tastes better and it won't heat up the house. That's why kitchens were originally either in another building or separated from the rest of the house in the South.
Frank O. III
Useful Warm Air
A friend of mine told me about a converter you can buy at your local hardware store. This converter fits onto your flex hose that directs the heat outside your house.
Why would you want to waste that precious heat and humidity? All this kit is, is a cap that sits onto a plastic bowl that you have filled with water. It then sits on the floor next to your dryer. When the dryer is being used the heat goes directly into your room and alittle moisture, too, which we all need in the middle of winter, therefore saving you a little in heating costs.
Karen from Grand Coulee WA.
Do you have gas or electric water heater? We turn ours off at night and back on again early next morning. Some people I know turn theirs on for a bath, and maybe thirty minutes after, turn it off until they need it again. Theirs and ours is electric. I haven't been doing it long enough to tell if it helps, but this other person has, and she says it definitely does. She saw a drastic drop in her power bill last month. As a matter of fact, a worker from the power company came out to her house and replaced her meter (she says they probably thought there was a malfunction in the meter!).
We own an air-conditioning company in Texas. Unfortunatly there is no way to close off these rooms if you have a central unit. The only way to spot cool a room would be to buy a window a/c to cool your home with. Closing off the rooms with the return air grill will only circulate hot air through your home.
updated: September, 2014
Take the Next Step:
- Subscribe to Surviving Tough Times email newsletter. Each week we'll give you practical survival tools for a challenging economy!
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor: Click Here
Also in Home
- Financial benefits to living in a mobile or manufactured home
- Repurposing an entertainment center
- How to renew your home's doors
- 10 things you don't want to get caught doing in your closet
- Planning your summer garden
- The natural feeding of roses
- Removing mold from your walls
- 6 reasons you shouldn't overimprove your home
- 5 simple and affordable luxuries for your home
- 7 green ways to save money on laundry
- 6 things to do before you buy a home
- 6 ways to save on home heating
- 7 ghastly critters that will eat your house
- Find the best mortgage rates in your area
- 3 ways to use a mortgage calculator
- Mortgage calculator: Calculate your payment and more
- Home equity calculator: HELOC vs. line of credit
- Mortgage refinance break-even calculator
- How much money can I borrow for a mortgage?
- Who offers the most home insurance discounts?