Summer’s heating up, and so is your electric bill. Even in winter, the cost to run heat for a large house skyrockets any electric bill far past its budget. Use these time-tested and proven tricks to cut your electric bill in half and conserve energy at the same time.
1. Eliminate “Phantom Energy”
Phantom energy may seem like a term out of Ghostbusters but, in fact, it’s such a real issue that Jacksonville Electric Authority in Florida sees fit to make customers aware of it on their monthly statements. Essentially, phantom energy is energy that flows through electric circuits when items are plugged in but turned off or not in use. It’s wasted energy, and yet, you’re paying for it. The solution? Unplug everything you don’t use. Haven’t had toast or coffee lately? Unplug them. Never use that torch light in the corner? Unplug it too. Attach more frequently used devices into a power strip that you can easily access and switch off when you are gone for the day, at work or asleep. Not only does this prevent phantom energy from raising your monthly electric bill, but it also prevents against devices getting “spiked” during severe thunderstorms. You may be surprised by the items that draw the most phantom energy – washers and dryers, televisions, home computers, and cell phone/laptop chargers. Operate under the simple rule of…if it’s not in use, unplug it or plug it into a surge protector with a timer on it. You’ll be amazed how much your bill will plummet in numbers.
2. Invest in fans
Still, the greatest consumption of electricity comes from the use of household heating and cooling systems, and the problem is, in places like Florida or Arizona, it’s simply a must to have AC during the summer or we’d all be in puddles. Likewise, if you’re a resident of the more northern states like Wisconsin or Maine, you’d be popsicles by Thanksgiving if you didn’t have heat. Keep in mind, however, that the operating costs of fans is far lower than the operating cost of heating and cooling systems. Even old fans are energy efficient and provide ample circulation. In the more moderate seasons such as spring and fall, fans alone may be enough to keep your house warm or cool depending on the direction you choose to tilt the fan blades. In the more extreme seasons, supplement your AC or heaters with fans – the higher energy heating and cooling systems will have to be in operation less frequently, and your house will still keep its temperature (and your wallet, its change).
3. Use the seasons to your advantage.
Keeping the windows open isn’t only good for your health, it’s also helpful for your budget. A nice breeze circulates air naturally – add to that a fan doing half Nature’s work, and you won’t even have to turn your AC on in many instances. During the warmer seasons you can also cut energy costs by running your dryer less. Don’t let a full load of clothes toss around in a dryer for two hours until they’re bone dry – grab some hangers and put your clothes, sheets, and towels outside to dry. Especially in the South and Southwest, by the time you finish folding the little bits of laundry that are dry and putting the next load in the wash, your clothes will be dry, and fresh-smelling too. Oftentimes, our clothes will tumble around damp aimlessly due to a thicker towel that’s not yet dry. Take your towels out! The sun works lovely as a natural dryer, and for those concerned about stiffness, buy a detergent for the wash that is part a softener. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Invest in energy-efficient appliances.
For those necessities that we just can’t shut off–the oven, the refrigerator, the stove, in some climates, the AC – invest in energy-efficient appliances. Older appliances draw more electricity than do newer ones, and that’s a fact. So, instead of “investing” $300 in the decrepit refrigerator to have a new coil put in, buy a new one. In the long run, you’ll save far more in your energy bill that you will have sacrificed for a shopping trip to Sears.
5. Watch your wattage.
Unbeknownst to many homeowners, electric companies bill in two parts based on the level (not just the amount) of wattage used. In a nutshell, higher wattage bulbs cost you more per unit used. Lower watt bulbs, which tend to fall in the 75 or under range, are both more efficient and cost less to use. Tear down those blaring fluorescent kitchen lights and replace them with a nice light fixture that uses two or three 60 watt bulbs. If, due to housing (or money) constraints, you simply can’t afford the new installation, go out and buy “disc lights.” These novelties can be found most places at highly economic price tags. They are easy-to-install and can be attached underneath your cabinets to provide ample countertop lighting. Spare yourselves the 120 watt bulbs and a $210 bill – watch your wattage and once more, if it’s not in use – shut off the lights!
6. Weather-proof your home.
It’s important to insulate your home as well as you can. Proper insulation works both ways, keeping the cold air out in winter, and making sure the cool air stays in during summer. Most of us, however, either don’t have control of the insulation or, if we do, we can’t afford to change what’s inside the walls. So, we go to simpler but equally effective measures instead, such as curtains, closed blinds, and weather stripping. Take a look at your exterior doors tonight. Can you see any rays of light coming through the front door, the pool door, the back door? If so, it’s time to shop Lowe’s for some new weather-stripping. Cheap and with no tools needed to install other than a good pair of hands, new weather-stripping on your exterior doors ensures that there’s as few air leakages as possible. No need to heat the outdoors, after all. A second challenge is to keep your blinds closed even during the day when you’re not home, or in the rooms that are not in use while you are home. By shutting out the light, you’re also shutting out the heat – the AC needs to run less, the fans are more effective, and down goes the electric bills. Finally, curtains can save money as well as add a designer touch to your home. Thick curtains are invaluable during the winter anywhere you are – they are an added barrier to the cold, and act as a secondary layer of insulation for your home, without tearing down the walls.
I challenge you…conserve! Make it a family habit to shut off lights and unplug appliances when not in use. Keep the thermostat set around 80 degrees during the summer and 68 during the winter. With money as tight as ever these days, get smart and save by trying these six easy solutions this upcoming bill cycle. You’ll be astounded and pleased with your savings.