Lowering The Electric Bill

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

Oh, Home Eccers, I nearly forgot you! I was having a massive freakout over my electric bill this month. With the 20% TVA increase and a possible 5% fuel surcharge that we may or may not be paying, plus a surprisingly cold winter, my electric bill is the highest it’s ever been.

We’re going through the house and finding all the ways we can save on electricity. This weekend I’m going to figure out where’s the least expensive place to buy those curly lightbulbs and switch to them. We recently bought some of the “daylight” style bulbs and we actually quite like the light they produce, so it won’t be the worst.

We also have decided to install a programmable thermostat so hopefully we can fix it so the kids can’t jack up the heat whenever they’re feeling cold. There’s already weatherstripping on our doors, we have heavy curtains in nearly every bedroom but one, and I’m going to be making some of those snake-looking draft stopper things.

I climbed all over the kids about leaving lights and televisions on- they’re actually not too bad about this, but still, a reminder is good. I’m careful about not leaving power chargers plugged in to leech power. My desktop is usually unplugged, unless someone’s using it.

So, does it sound like I’m missing anything, Home Eccers? My bill this month was 60% higher than the bill was this time last year, so although we did have the TVA increase and the colder temperatures, something is not adding up.



26 Comments

  1. somine on December 15, 2010 at 2:22 am

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  3. Dave on March 6, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Buy one of those electric producing wind mills off ebay! They generate power and stores it a battery, don’t think they are too expensive either.

    Do a search on google for “save money on electricity”. There are loads of ways I can’t think of right now but you could do a lot more, times are getting tougher so its worth the effort!

    Nice site by the way.

  4. Atlanta Replacement on February 19, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    While it's not the cheapest way to save money – replacing old windows, if done right, will reduce all of your drafts. Depending on the state of your old windows, you could save a decent amount of money year after year.

  5. Real Vampires on February 8, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    this is the place where one has to think and save his money and make proper use of electricity. i always make proper use of electricity and see that we do not use unwanted electric gadgets at home.

  6. Carol on February 3, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Thanks Ivy, and thank you to all the responders. After getting an awfully high gas bill, and higher then average electric bill, I am going to try to put some of these ideas to use. I just heard about the items being plugged in using energy, when not in use, so I am going to make sure things that don’t get used are unplugged. But my question is, if I use a power surge bar and switch it off, will that still use any energy? I know it is technically off, so I would think it shouldn’t pull any electric, but does anyone know for sure?

  7. Erin on February 3, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Okay, so no one posted this, and I’ve had tremendously results from it: Cover your windows with the plastic…you get it at Home Depot or Lowes or Amazon and it is well worth the money. It is like a shrink wrap layer for each window and noticeably reduces drafts in your home, which means the air is staying in your home. If you do it right, you don’t even see it. Ours is on the window frame/moulding…the curtains cover the edges, so you don’t see it. I even have it on a sliding door that I “retire” for the winter. The first year we did it, my husband was just humoring me, but he was convinced quite quickly. Oh, also, you need to adjust your blinds to just the way you want them if you do it like we do, because you’ll not be able to adjust them again until spring. I know it sounds like a pain, but not being afraid of the Avista bill has been well worth the hassle!

  8. Nancy on January 31, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Nick – The previous owner of this house put in some cheap thingamajig so that the dryer would vent to the house. It was badly clogged with dryer lint when we found it. I’ve also heard that it seriously reduces the efficiency of the dryer like that. If you do decide to go this route, research it carefully.

  9. Nick on January 31, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I’ve noticed drafts in two places:

    1) Our now-dead wall mount air conditioner. I’ve covered it inside and out and I think it needs at least one more layer of insulating material.

    2. Our laundry closet, which is basically part of the kitchen. Obviously what’s happening is that cold air comes in through the dryer vent. Now, we are fans of hanging laundry, and if you do one load of laundry a day, I think you can get the load hung on clotheshorses and dry by the next morning…blue jeans and towels may be the exception. So needless to say the dryer gets used and the vent needs to stay open in the current set-up.

    I live in northern Nevada and daytime temps here are frequently sufficient to get things dry. However, a lot of my neighbors are in love with their fireplaces that items hung outside get that smoked aroma. That would seem to defeat the purpose of, you know, washing stuff in the first place. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of using your fireplace to save on the energy bill, but that’s another story.

    So my question is: does anyone else have the drafty laundry area problem? I could relocate the laundry appliances to the garage and vent from there but that’s awkward…more chances for the door to the cold garage being left open…for all I know, wet stuff could freeze in the washer overnight (and I’m reluctant to add a “empty the washer in the cold garage” to my bedtime routine).

    I’ve also heard of venting your dryer in to the house itself (and doubling as a giant humidifier) but I’m wary of fire hazards from lint accumulation. Does anybody know of a safe, neat, non-labor-intensive way to do this?

  10. CharmingDriver on January 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I never thought I would say I am ‘glad’ we don’t have central heat & air but due to the fact our ‘new’ house is 104 yrs old and has more doors than a house should be allowed (am still bowled over that we have FOUR doors that go inside/outside) and NOT A ONE is hung level (as the floor is not so much on the level, either), I am pleased as punch we’re not trying to heat/cool the whole thing at once; it would likely cost more than the mortgage. We’re also fortunate that the wall heaters are gas as it’s much cheaper, in my experience, than electric heat.

    That said, we have had to get really creative this much colder than average winter in Mississippi to keep everyone relatively warm and healthy. We bought everyone their own twin size electric blanket and while that in and of itself wasn’t ‘cheap’, it ensures a) they are all warm at night and b) they are much more likely to stay in bed once their in bed at night because it’s toasty, ha!! The kids also all have super thick ‘pajama’ socks and before the heat can be turned up EVERYONE has to be wearing a minimum of two layers (generally long johns + night clothes). Believe it or not, as chilly as it’s been, we’ve been comfortable and not wigging over heating costs. During the day when the sun is out, all curtains and blinds are open to let as much natural light and warmth in, as well.

    As our stove and water heater are gas as well, I try when I have the energy (or assistance) to do ‘big cooking’ once a week, generally on Sunday or Monday and freeze/refrigerate meals for the week. I have no real idea if this actually saves on the gas bill (not having to ‘heat up’ the stove every night) but it makes me feel better and DEFINITELY saves time (and money from ordering out when I feel really bad). Also baths and showers are generally done all at once at night and the littles (6, 5 , and 3) are limited to only short showers during the week and long baths only on the weekends, because those animals will drain a water heater over and over ‘heating up’ their bath water; they think it’s like an indoor heated pool, ha!! C (14) is much easier to tell ‘hey, get outta there’ after an hour long soak than the littles so she is obviously not ‘policed’ and supervised like the younger babes. Also, she helps so much, she deserves a soak to relax and warm up 🙂

    Now that doesn’t help you much with electric costs but I will tell you the other miserly ‘rules’ in effect because I am just as much of a scrooge with the light bill as I am the gas bill!!

    1) The living room tv/dvr (which is used the most) is plugged into a power strip and at night it’s all turned off and the strip shut off/unplugged.

    2) Clothes/towels are hung to dry on drying racks and the dryer is used only to ‘fluff’ them once dry. Exceptions are made when I get way behind on laundry and/or there is a bug in the house resulting in lots of dirty sheets/blankets/towels. We’re fortunate to have a utility room large enough to accommodate lots of drying space but my mom just put them in the living room when I growing up; she didn’t raise no fool and she wasn’t ashamed about saving money, ha!

    3) Excepting in the bathroom, we don’t turn on any lights in the house before the sun goes down. Period. Like I said, our house is super old and has a frillion windows so with the curtains pulled back, blinds up, there is more than enough natural light even on gray days.

    4) I have yet to be able to get all these windows actually measured for insulated curtains but that doesn’t mean the windows aren’t covered. We have what can only be called a ‘mish mash’ of thrift store curtains but they are all lined with SHOWER CURTAINS until I can get proper curtains made or ordered, eventually. Like the doors, the windows are super draft creators and some of the worst offenders, like the bay window in the living room, have towels rolled like the ‘draft dodgers’ under the doors to prevent as much cold air possible from coming in.

    5) The draft dodgers Ivy mentioned are a miracle. We have them under 3 of the interior/exterior doors (the 4th? we caulked shut. that’s right, just caulked it all the way around until we can do something permanent, otherwise the house would be a freezer from that ONE door so uneven it is).

    Keeping in my mind the age of the house and the fact that we are a family of 6 (5 full time and D is home very little, sadly), we haven’t had an electric or gas bill in excess of $100 (highest water bill, which includes sewer/garbage, has been $44) since moving into this house in October and I think that is pretty dang spiffy!!

  11. Jennifer on January 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    BTW, they sell motion sensitive light switches in most big box hardware stores. I find it awfully tempting. And I’ve been meaning to check and see if they have motion sensitive faucets as well. It’s either that or we’re going back to the bowl and pitcher!

  12. Gayle on January 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I was going to suggest turning off your computers when not using them. I was told a long time ago that it was bad to turn them on and off all of the time (not true). When I did an online assessment of my house and realized I was paying $35 a month powering a desktop computer I hardly ever use . . . yeah, that one was an eye opener!!!!

  13. Pam on January 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Our electric bill was also far higher than it should have been — and we heat with natural gas, so it really didn’t make sense! (Of course, our gas bill was nearly double that of the previous month…)

    I looked more closely, and saw that the meter reading was not actual, but an estimate. (The gas bill was the same.) I have a feeling the meter readers had trouble getting to every meter through all the snow, so we got an estimate instead.

    Compare the end numbers from the reading to the current number. If the number on the bill is higher than the current number, call the company and let them know. They should credit you the difference.

  14. Rita - Creatively Domestic on January 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    My husband is a bit of a tightwad and energy guru, so here are a few things we have tried:

    Water heaters use a large chunk of energy (after furnace/AC and frig) so put your water heater on a timer. Ours turns on from 4am – 8am, then 5pm – 10pm. Why constantly be heating water if no one is home to use it? Also, buy a water heater insulating blanket that keeps the hot water hot.

    Buy insulation pads for your outlets/switches (unscrew outlet cover, pop in foam-like pad, screw back on outlet cover) This was helpful especially on the outside walls of the house.

    I second checking out heat registers – we removed the register covers, then caulked the cracks.

    We had an energy audit last year, and the man was truly impressed, so we felt like we were doing almost everything we could!

  15. Christy on January 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Generic CFLs at Target are waaaay cheaper than the name brands. I haven’t tested them enough to guarantee the quality, but they seem to be great.

    Our dishwasher automatically dries our dishes with a heat cycle. I try to remember to turn off that option with every load. I can let the dishes air-dry on their own and save lots of energy!

  16. DANIELLE S. on January 30, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Make sure your fridge and freezer are not leaking cold air through the seals.

    Drying racks are great–be sure to get more than one if you want to do more than one load of laundry and day.

    I whole-heartedly agree on buying the CFL bulbs.

  17. Jennifer on January 30, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Lots of good tips. I second the energy audit recommendation. We paid $15 for ours and received 4 cfl bulbs, a shower aerator, faucet aerators for every faucet, a blanket for the water heater, and insulation for the chimney. Plus I asked the auditor to help me prioritize the list of repairs by bang for the buck. I got a lot of great advice.

    It sounds like you’ve got the cheap and easy covered. Next look at the insulation in your attic and basement/crawl space. There should be batting insulation stuffed inbetween the floor joists to keep cold air from running across the floor. Make sure any blown-in insulation is thick enough–it settles over time. If you have forced air heating, make sure the ducts are sealed and wrapped. If you have radiators, make sure they’ve been bled. When the weather warms up look at the caulking and weatherstripping outside your windows and doors. Check the window glazing to see if it’s still in good shape.

    Get a drying rack to use instead of your dryer. You can fluff things up a bit at the end if you want to. The drying clothes will also add humidity to the house.

    Depending on location and age of your house, you may not have insulation in the walls. Our 1954 Cape Cod in KY didn’t. It’s pretty expensive to add insulation to a house, so what I’m really saying is there may only be so much you can do. Some paints now have an R factor, it’s small, but it’s cheaper than adding insulation and if you were planning to paint anyway…

  18. Rebecca on January 30, 2009 at 9:39 am

    You need an energy audit. Some electric or gas companies will do them for free, and you can also look up the basics online and DIY. Usually 1/3 or more of heat loss is from drafts so thats gotta be what you look for first. Just check everywhere that you have contact with the outside for cold drafts (plug ins, doors and windows, baseboards, door trim, etc). If you feel a cold draft, you need caulk and or weatherstripping.

    Another big one, that was my parent’s problem BTW, is leaks in your heating ducts. If you can see a dark like on seams, its probably leaking. Sealing the seams with mastic tape, and even wrapping the heating ducts in some of the foamy style insulation can save you a bundle if you have a crawl space or cold basement.

    And last but not least, you may have to be willing to replace things. We replaced our front door last February (!) and stopped our major source or air leaks. With the heating bills we have recieved so far this winter, we have saved almost half the cost of the $200 door. (If you have to pay someone to replace it might cost more). Older furnaces take a lot more energy, also, so keep those things in mind.

  19. Katherine on January 30, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Here are some more things that we do:

    Open the curtains and blinds while the sun is out to help heat your home. But, as soon as it starts getting dark close them to trap the heat inside.

    Make sure to shut our outside door when going out “for a minute” instead of leaving only the storm door shut (I follow my husband around shutting the door behind him. LOL).

    We like the “soft white” version of the compact fluorescent as the “daylight” version gave me headaches.

    Use the large appliances efficiently. Only run full loads as to not waste electricity (and water for dishwasher and washing machine).

  20. Diaper Cake Becca on January 30, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Living in Phoenix means you become an expert at Electric Bill reduction (you should see the bills in the summer when AC is going all day just to keep your house at 80!)

    This is what we do:

    UNPLUG things you don’t use when you are not using them (Stereos, can openers, lamps, computers, toaster ovens, televisions, etc.) If you have a rec room with a tv and dvd player that only gets used on the weekends….unplug ALL of it during the week. Ditto on the computer the kids use during the week for homework…unplug all of it during the weekend. Appliances DO use electricity when not on but plugged in. It isn’t tons but it is enough to merit unplugging items.

    Lower your thermostat before you go to bed and make sure everyone is tucked in well before going to sleep yourself. We do this in the summer out in Phoenix. You may wake up to a hot house…..but fifteen minutes of “juice” will have you good as gold!

    See if your Electric Company has a time of use plan that offers lower rates on electricity during non-peak times. If they do, sign up. THEN only run the dishwashwer, vacuum, washing machine, etc during the lower priced times.

    No more mini-loads in the washer. COMBINE clothes and run the MAXI loads. Electricity is just about the same for mini versus maxi….get more clothes washed for your buck!

    NEVER use the “more dry” feature on your dryer. Use the timed dry and set it in 30 minute increments until clothes are dry.

    Place empty milk gallons containers filled up with water into the empty spaces of your freezer. It will make the compressor work less hard which will save you money on the electricity and give your fridge a break (extending the life). Empty spaces lose cold air quicker when door is opened whereas a space with something frozen sitting in it doesn’ really lose momentum.

    Overhead lights tend to have the most bulbs attached to the switch (overhead chandeliers, row of lights in bathroom, multiple cannister lighting in the kitchen). Remove every other lightbulb in canister and lighted rows and replace chandilier lights with lower watt. Encourage your children to use lower watt floor and table lamps instead of the multi-bulb overheads!

    Before going to bed one night you should do a walk around in your bare feet and see if you can find any “cold draft” spots in your home. If you do….see if you can plug them yourself (under the sink….you can use that canned expanding foam around the pipes). Use bean snakes and rolled blankets in front of doors to block drafts. Make sure your dryer vent hose is attached firmly and that the hold where the hose goes out to the vent doesn’t need a shot with that foam around it!

    (Wow that was a long post…..sorry for hijacking!)

  21. Abbie on January 30, 2009 at 10:16 am

    If you have a fireplace, close the damper when you’re not using it! And check the thermostat on your water heater. You can reduce the temperature a few degrees (I think my energy company recoments setting it at 120) and insulate the water heater with one of those blankets, a lot of heat is lost that way.

  22. Mom of three on January 30, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Be careful disposing of those new bulbs. They have mercury in them. It can be dangerous if not disposed of properly.

    We are trying all that too. And just being colder. Our bill is always high due to the pool in summer and Christmas lights, heat in winter. But that last one really stung.

    I use a space heater when working at my desk. That way only around me is warm. Then I keep the rest of the house cold. IF I am in other rooms it’s cleaning and I like them a little cooler.

    But I am not willing to get sick to save money on electricity either. A few doctors visits and you are counter productive.

  23. Layla on January 30, 2009 at 7:41 am

    It’s probably not a huge help if your kids are already leaving the tv running, but newer tvs (I don’t know if this is true for the old tube kind or not) can pull 30% of the electricity they use while they’re actually turned off. If you haven’t already, it may be worth it to plug your tvs into a power strip that you can switch off.

  24. Jean on January 30, 2009 at 7:03 am

    be careful going “cheap” on the compact flourescent bulbs. We did and got some that are slow to come on, hum and flicker (not noticeable to everyone, but my husband gets migranes and these trigger them). The more expensive ones are fine for us.

  25. Kaci on January 30, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Switching to those “curly” light bulbs did save us money, LED bulbs use even less electricity, but they are quite expensive. We also turned down our thermostat very low and are using space heater to warm up the rooms we are in most of the day. This has cut our heating bill by a third. We turn the thermostat down even further at night and use electric blankets on the beds. If you have ceiling fans make sure you have reversed the direction to blow the heat down from the ceiling. If you major appliances are old, you may find it would pay to replace them, as new appliances use considerably less electricity.

  26. Jeffrey on January 30, 2009 at 3:46 am

    i experienced the same freak out this month! damn TVA. have you checked the weather stripping around your doors and windows? you can lose TONS of energy if it’s not sealed up nice and tight…and it’s super cheap to fix if it’s not.

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