Friday, March 30, 2012

Ways to Save on Your Electric Bill

I don't know about you but sometimes I cringe when that electric bill comes in the mail.  I have made it my goal to keep my electric bill under $200 in the summer months, under $150 in the winter months and under $100 in the spring and fall months.  Now for those of you thinking I must live in a two room shack or an apartment to keep it that low let me assure you I do not!  My home is a three bedroom, two bath, kitchen and dining room, a living room and a den.  How is that possible you ask... well let me share!

1)  If you are not using it, turn it off!
I'll start by stating the obvious; turn off lights, TVs computers and other electric devices when not in use.  That's a no brainer.  But did you know that even if some appliances are turned off, if they are still plugged into an outlet they are STILL pulling power?  I just recently found this out and it blew my mind!  So, when your cell phone or laptop charger is not in use, unplug it from the wall.  If you have multiple devices you may want to invest in a docking station that you can use to charge every device on one outlet then in the morning when you remove the devices you simply unplug one outlet and you're good to go. 
When your computer is not in use, be sure it is not just sitting there with the screen saver on constantly, either put your computer to sleep or even better turn it off if you are not going to be using it for a while.  Also, keep your printer turned off when not in use.
If you really want to go a step further, be sure to unplug other electronics such as TVs, DVD players and gaming systems when not in use, or when you leave for the day.  If it is troublesom to reach behind the entertainment center, plug everything into a power strip that you can simply turn off; power strips do not draw electricity when turned off. 

2)  Be mindful of your thermostat setting
Set your thermostat as low as your comfort level will permit. Each degree over 68°F can add 3 percent to the amount of energy needed for heating your home.  I typically keep my heater set on 65°F throughout the winter months.  Now this obviously means that you cannot run around in shorts and a tee shirt inside your house in the middle of January (unless you are living in Texas this year where it has been 70° every day for two weeks now!)  But if you wear sensible pants and a long sleeve shirt or a light jacket or sweater and socks you will still be toasty warm. 
If you have a fireplace use it, if you have a blower on that fireplace use it!  Firewood is fairly easy to come by, and I actually see signs from time to time for free firewood if you just come cut it and haul it off.  Now I realize that is not an option for some, but if you have able bodied men in your life that would be willing to spend an afternoon cutting some wood, you can have a winter's worth of heat at little to no cost!  Simply check your local newspaper, Craigslist or Freecycle for listings of free or inexpensive firewood.  Also put the word out there to your friends that you are willing to cut down and remove small trees for free if you can use the wood. 
Lastly, during winter time, try to open the blinds and curtains to let in as much sunlight as possible.  Light equals heat and will go far in adding a degree or two of heat to your home!

3) Be aware of the settings and use of your large appliances
Keep your refrigerator at 37°- 40° F and your freezer at 5°F; these temperatures are completely safe for food storage and will save you significantly on your electric bill over time.
Use the self-cleaning cycle on your oven only for major cleaning jobs. Begin the cycle just after cooking dinner, this way the oven is already hot.
If you know you are going to need to rearrange oven shelves to accommodate cooking, do so before turning your oven on – and don’t peek at food in the oven! Every time you open the oven door, 25°-50°F is lost, not to mention the change in temperature can affect your cooking times and turnout of food.
Only run your washing machine when you have enough clothes to fill the machine (this same rule applies to dishwashers), and set your water temperature to cold when possible.  I only use hot water to wash sheets and towels.  This also eliminates the need to separate light and dark colored clothes, with a cold water setting you will not have to worry about the colors running.  Even where hot water is necessary for your washing, you can rinse clothes in cold to conserve energy.
On nice days dry your clothes outside!  I realize this may seem primitive to some, but once you realize that the typical household clothes dryer will cost you about $0.70 per load and you do the math, it may very well seem worth it!  If you have never had a clothes line, or have one but have never used it, read up on the benefits you just may be surprised!

4)  Take small steps
Did you know that incandescent bulbs use 75% more electricity than screw-in fluorescent bulbs, and flourescents last at least 8 times longer.
Clean your light fixtures regularly, if the light is having to filter through a dusty cover, it produces more heat, therefore sucking more energy.
Open windows on a nice day.  When the temperature outside is favorable open windows and doors and give your air conditioner/heater a break.  I even go one step further and put a fan in front of an open window to draw some of that fresh air inside!

These steps alone may seem trivial but if you combine even a few of them you can see significant savings on your electric bill in no time!

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