Attention: You Cut Your Electric Bill By Almost Half!

Reader Melissa writes in to tell us that using tips from Consumerist and other sites, she cut her (admittedly outrageous) electric bill down to size. Melissa writes:

I cut my electric bill nearly in half. Here’s the story:

For more than a year, my husband and I have lived on a military base – our utilities were paid, so we really didn’t have clue as to how much electricity we actually used. So, when we bought a home in January and moved off-base and received our first electric bill I was shocked. It was $207 for 18 days ($15 was a one-time fee for who knows what) – it breaks down to $10.67 per a day. I immediately went out to Lowe’s and bought some compact fluorescent lights, turned our water heater down to 120 (it was at 145), and programmed our heater to one degree lower every part of the day. I also applied foam strips to the exterior doors and caulked some drafty areas.

We got our electric bill last week for a full 30 days and it was $177 (so $5.90 a day). Just goes to show that those small changes make a huge difference!

Thanks – keep up the good fight. Love the site.

Melissa

Learn more about cutting your utility bills inside.

Cutting your utility bills means more money for fun stuff every month. Here are some Consumerist posts that can help you be an energy miser like Melissa:

12 Ways To Save On Utilities

How Much Does It Cost To Leave Your Computer On?

Kill-A-Watt: Learn Which Appliances Are Costing You

Save 50% On Utility Bills

Walmart Wants You To Use Power-Saving Bulbs

Saving electricity is fun. We like people who save energy. When you grow up with a dad who is an electrician, and who was so obsessed with saving electricity that he installed CFLs on motion sensor switches everywhere… you can appreciate semi-psychotic energy-saving behavior. (Even if you are semi-traumatized from having to pace the floor while doing your homework… just to keep the lights on.)

It’s sort of endearing. —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: Thomas Claveirole)

Comments

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  1. strandist says:

    I’ve searched long and hard, but does anyone have any good suggestions for reducing power usage for renters? I live in an older (cheaper) apartment complex that suffers from old windows, old appliances and old insulation. All my light are already CFL and my thermostat is well below the recommended 68 in the winter (and above the whatever it should be in the summer). It seems the only things left to do would be replacing appliances (not possible but very needed) or the windows (also not possible but very needed). So does anyone have any more ideas? Or should I just consider my increased power usage a fair exchange for cheaper rent and be happy?

  2. nweaver says:

    Weather stripping round the windows and any drafts.

    If you don’t open the windows, you can get the plastic shrink-wrap film they make to go over the window and effectively make it double paned.

  3. skittlbrau says:

    And if your air conditioner is a window unit, unplug it in the winter (or take it out of the window and weather strip if you have the storage).

    Saved me and my fiancee $5 a month on a $50 power bill.

  4. mopar_man says:

    @strandist:

    Make sure your fridge has stuff in it. My sister-in-law rents (as do I) and her friend runs constantly with a newer model than I have. Her fridge is constantly empty while I keep mine fairly well stocked and it’s well over 25 years old. Those plastic window kits are cheap in the spring (I bought some last spring for $1/package and they covered 3-4 windows). Other than that, you’re pretty much doing all you can.

  5. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    How about turning your lights off when you don’t need them. I’ve been to some people’s houses and they leave the lights on in every room. Also, I think most people turn the tv on for the background noise. Seriously, if you’re not watching tv, then turn it off.

    Unplug appliances and other electronic devices if you’re not using them. Even though the switch is “off”, they still draw a little power. My toaster, coffee maker, etc are only plugged in when I use them.

    If you’re still using a CRT computer monitor, get rid of it. LCD monitors are so cheap now. They use less power and produce less heat.

  6. mikesfree says:

    Uhh, wouldnt the first bill include the hook up fees and things like that?

  7. CaptainRoin says:

    Toasters use power when not plugged in??

  8. AnnC says:

    The submitter should check the dates on her power bill because she just moved in. The power company may have the wrong dates and she may be paying for the electricity used by somebody else.

    As for renters, use light colored blinds to reflect the sunlight during the summer. Wear sweatpants and sweatshirts to bed during the winter. Also use more blankets.

    And turn off the heater and air conditioner if you’re not home.

  9. @Captain Ron, a lot of them do. Depends on the toaster.

    @strandist — I second the vote for those removeable window stripping/sealing sets that come in a variety of forms. You can also get insulated curtains, which help a little in summer (not as much sun heat gets in) but a LOT in winter. And I have one of these:

    http://www.smarthomeusa.com/Shop/Hardware-Cable/Item/LCG1/

    And I ADORE it. It dropped our electric bill relatively dramatically (as my computer setup is “always on” for my home office) … we’re going to install one on the TV and all its peripherals next.

  10. pestie says:

    @AnnC:
    And turn off the heater and air conditioner if you’re not home.

    That’s not always the best idea. If you allow the house to cool or heat too much, it can take more energy to get it back to a comfortable level than you would have used just maintaining it there.

  11. orielbean says:

    Your very basic appliances w/out clocks and programming won’t draw current, like a basic toaster. However, I’m a paranoid who unplugs anything small with a heating element for fire reasons.

    The AV equipment, tv, cable, stereo, etc -that ALL sucks a big bunch of juice. I also have that smarthome power strip – it is very useful when you have a suite of related equipement on one strip – like the tv and cable and tuner together. Also is useful for your computer as your monitor and cpu will draw power even if turned “off”.

    Fill up your freezer/fridge. Adjust the temp programming so you aren’t overdoing the freezing or cooling part. The cable box is a punk, especially if it has DVR on it too. Off or on it draws almost the same amount of juice.

    If you have hardwood, buy some cheap rugs (for renters). Be sure to put something to cover the doorjamb, like a towel or something else to keep out the draft.

    For homeowners, get those replacement windows – they work like a charm to cut down the heat bill (which could be electric if you have it).

  12. EvilTapioca says:

    If you have central air keep it on 65 during the winter. Also don’t do laundry every day,consider clothes lines too. Hand wash dishes instead of using a dishwasher,though I don’t have one so I have to hand wash them anyways. During the day open your curtains/blinds for light. Always put plastic over your windows during winter,there this one kind thats completely clear and all your need is a hair dryer. :D It’s like five dollars a box BUT theres enough to do 3 regular size windows.

  13. misterol says:

    I rent, too, and some of these things helped me.

    I don’t know what kind of window treatments you have, but most apartments seem to have blinds. I found that placing drapes on the windows and leaving the blinds (it looks pretty good) really saved energy during the winter as it kept the heat in.

    After reading a lot of posts here and on other sites I have stopped putting my computer to sleep but instead turn it off along with all the external hard drives, modems etc. I have hooked up to it.

    I am not saving a ton of money with these tips, but it’s certainly helping!

  14. Eugene says:

    A couple things to consider.
    First off if your dishwarher is newer then it uses less energy than hand washing provided you use its energy saver setting.
    plugging things into a smart power strip is nice but be careful if you have a CRT monitor or TV, those keep a small amount of power flowing to the tube to keep it warm to prolong its life, if you cut power to them then you will need to replace them sooner, which might not be a bad thing as it will be an excuse to upgrade to an LCD.

  15. acidrain69 says:

    I’m a renter, but this tip applies to everyone. Clean or replace your A/C filter monthly. It makes your A/C more efficient if the airflow isn’t blocked by the dust. Along the same vein, clean the coils on your refridgerator. Sometimes they are on the back, sometimes they are on the bottom. They have a tendency to be neglected, but your fridge can get rid of the heat easier (thus cooling more efficiently) if you use a brush and a vaccuum to pull the crud off the coils periodically. Also, this one is both an efficiency and safety issue: clear your lint trap after every load in the dryer, and make sure the exhaust tube is cleared once in a while. If your dryer can’t exhaust well, it could catch fire in the worst case, or just not dry very efficiently in the best.

  16. rachmanut says:

    awesome photo with this post! not just electricity, but half!!

  17. If your fridge coils are on the bottom and you lean it on the side to clean them remember to wait 24 hours before plugging it back in.

  18. mennomateo says:

    Hey everyone a big one almost everyone forgets about is to clean out the air filter on the furnace, working in heating and air conditioning I’ve seen a lot of people forget to clean them and it makes the blower worker overtime, also newer systems( installed within the last 10 yrs.) have an electric air cleaner (think of a bug zapper for dust) these also suck power if they’re not cleaned… cleaning these hidden systems saves a lot of power and makes them last much longer. so check those Central Vacuum Systems, Heating Systems, and any other Air Circulation Systems

  19. acambras says:

    A little off-topic, but Meghann’s stories about her dad crack me up.

    My dad’s a (retired) lawyer, and being a lawyer’s kid has it’s baggage too — for example, I carry high liability limits on my car insurance because he’s scared the bejesus out of me about getting sued.

  20. Anonymously says:

    Damn that’s a big electric bill. My bill for a whole house with multiple computers, TVs, and central AC averages $50/month. I have gas heating and a gas water heater, but the powers so cheap compared to gas that I wish more things ran off of electricity.

  21. CaptainRoin says:

    @pestie: Heat loss is based on a temperature differential, the higher the difference the more heat loss. You will always save money by turning the heat/AC down when you leave as opposed to leaving it on. Any losses from returning to that temperature are regained all day when the heater isnt doing anything.

  22. Kingpcgeek says:

    Use a laptop instead of a PC.

    I had an A/C guy tell me, and I also saw it on a news story that you should leave the fan running on central air 24/7. So even when compressor shuts off (the energy hog) you are still circulating cool air left in the system.

  23. jrdnjstn says:

    Most electric companies have an “energy program”. You can call them and they will do a free home inspection and do simple upgrades to help your be not be an energy hog. Some of them also have rebates if you buy an energy star appliance. The electric company here will give you 35$ to replace your outdated refrigerator, not much but it’s something.

    I had them come out and they did caulking and put solar screens on all my windows.

    You can buy insulated curtains. Plant some shade trees!!! Not only shades your home, helps the enviornment too!!

  24. swalve says:

    I think you’d be surprised how much energy the fan in an AC system actually uses. I have a box fan and a window unit for my office. The fan uses 288 watts and the AC unit uses 576. Not as big a difference as I would have expected considering that the AC unit actually extracts heat from the room, where the fan just mixes it up or sucks in outside air. And the AC unit is actually a bit oversized.

    If the system has a “breeze” mode, that’s probably great. But leaving the fan run 24/7 in an old fashioned system is going to be really expensive. The compressor is an energy hog, but it’s also doing stuff.

    Some people say to use a dehumidifier instead of an AC unit to save power- that’s probably misguided except in certain conditions because a dehumidifier is just an AC compressor.

    For warmer climates, consider using a heat pump in the winter. This is an AC unit that can be reversed in the winter- it blows the cold air outside and the hot air inside. Seems like it would be really inefficient, but it’s actually 4-5 times more efficient than electric heat because it’s actually extracting heat out of the colder outside air. It doesn’t really work when it’s below freezing, so it’s less useful in areas where that happens. Or go nuts: use a heatpump connected to a geothermal loop. You bury tubes below the frost line and let the heat pump extract the heat from the super consistent warmth of the earth. Also works great for AC.

  25. MrWashy says:

    My dinky apartment has some wonderful west facing windows. In fact all of them are west facing. In the winter this is quite nice as there’s more light and the rooms a a bit warmer. In the summer though they’re a curse – without A/C my rooms can easily soar to over 90 degrees by 3:00 PM and keep on heating. Now add that the A/C wall unit is about 25 years old and you can see that cooling is definitely a problem and energy hog.

    What I’ve done is invest in more opaque blinds and darker curtains. This has helped block some of the light and heat. I’m also planning on getting a window A/C unit as the landlord has no intention of replacing mine. Hopefully these steps will reduce my electric bill this summer.

    Has anyone had any experience with the films that can be placed on windows and are supposed to reduce incoming light/heat?

  26. johnofsparta says:

    saving electricity in Winter:
    1. use an electric blanket.
    2. try “zone heating”. only heat
    the rooms you use by using small
    space heaters.
    Summer:
    1. install a water heater timer.
    it turns on and off by command.
    2. cook outside (BBQ grill).
    ALL the time:
    1. microwave what you can, rather
    than using the stove or oven.
    2. use your toaster oven when you
    need an oven.
    3. take showers and no baths.

  27. chickymama says:

    I am a long time renter as well. During the hot summer months the shades remained closed so the apartment stayed cool during the day. No need to turn on the A/C.
    Also use a microwave if you have an electric stove to cook. It takes more energy (thus higher bill) to preheat the oven and keep it at that temp.
    If you are willing to do it try living in a 2nd floor apt as the bottom floor apt will heat up your place due to heat rising. We lived in a 2nd floor unit for a while and our electric bill was smaller due to not having to turn our heat on until late winter.

  28. gardencat says:

    I am always striving to cut my bill in half so that I don’t have to pay those money hungry power utility companies any more than I have to.

  29. Thette says:

    Turning down your water heater can be dangerous, though. If it’s colder than 130 F/55 C, you run the risk of Legionella infection.

  30. mad_oak says:

    OH MY GOD! YOU PAY HOW MUCH FOR ELECTRICITY!!! I get pissed when my 2000 square foot home bill hits $80 without A/C.

  31. arkan says:

    I guess I’m pretty lucky – even though my condo was built in 1980, I’ve never seen the temperature inside go higher than 77 or lower than 70 – pretty impressive considering that I live in central Florida where the summer can be brutal – and summer here is 9 months long. Personally I think the two best things a person can do to save on their energy costs are CFLs and Tank-less water heaters. The tank-less water heaters cost more than a standard water heater, but they save money hand over fist in the long run, especially if you’re replacing a large water heater.

  32. karmaghost says:

    Wow, $177 per month is still incredibly high! My senior year of undergrad 2 roommates and myself lived in a house where we had to pay for all utilities. One summer month, we had 3 minifridges, a fullsized fridge, two window A/C units, 4 computers, an Xbox, a projector, three full sized audio systems, and other random appliances. It was our worst month and reached $120. I’d say that’s an incredibly high bill with a lot of waste (the roommies didn’t want to hear anything about conservation). Does the poster have a dehumidifier? Those are a big draw on the grid.

  33. kjsdoghouse says:

    I started on a power reduction project a couple years ago for our house. Our electricity is billed on tiers. Tier 1 – “baseline usage”, Tier 2 – 101-130% of baseline, Tier 3 – 131%-200% of baseline and Tier 4 – 200%+ of baseline. I don’t know if there’s anything beyond Tier 4, because when it got to about 200% of baseline, I started to make changes. I ran around the house w/ a Kill-a-watt meter and used my existing home automation system to improve the energy efficiency around the house. I’ve done pretty well ( http://kjsdoghouse.blogspot.com/2006/10/power-consumption…. ) considering how many gadgets I got running.

  34. kjsdoghouse says:

    @karmaghost: Comparing how much your electricity bill is really meaningless. You should be really comparing how much your usage is in kWH. Lots of places have REALLY cheap electricity, but for those of us in California, the rates are ridiculous. Check out this thread for how different the cost of a kWH is: http://www.cocoontech.com/index.php?showtopic=3251