11 - 2010

Check In To Keep Electricity Bills Low

electricity wind

photo by phault

Ah, the end of summer. Vacation is great, but it’s almost time to get back to the grind, and if you’re like me, you’re about ready to give up the hot weather, too.

Ready or not, fall is a good time to take a breather and look at your home’s efficiency when it comes to electricity. And because we really still have weeks of summer left, it’s a doubly great time to check your electricity use — especially in places like the city where I live, where we have been hit with tiered pricing for electricity this year, meaning those who use more, pay more.

Two things reminded me to write this post: One, a reader, Sheryl, sent in a link to her article about 10 Ways to Save Money on Electricity Bills. Two, some of my friends on Facebook were having a conversation about how they were saving money on their bill.

Our home consists of a family of three living in a detached single-family home in Denver, a city in the Rocky Mountains (i.e., our nights cool down — read and weep, Southerners). The “higher use” benchmark set by Xcel Energy is 500 kwh (kilowatt hours) per month. In the past 12 months, we have only passed that mark once, in January, when we were using electric blankets to warm up our cold beds and we hit 569 kwh. For the last four months, we haven’t topped 350 kwh.

In addition to Sheryl’s tips, here are some things we do to keep that bill low:

  1. Hang laundry out to dry. I’ve estimated before that I save about $80 per year doing this. You’ll save more if you have an old, inefficient dryer.
  2. Live without A/C. In some places, this won’t be a comfortable (or healthy) option, but do what you can. We have an evaporative cooler, which uses a lot less energy than air conditioning. We use fans to circulate the air — the sense of moving air makes a big difference. In the evenings, when it cools off, we open windows and place fans in them, blowing inward to bring in the cool air. In our bedrooms, these run all night. In the morning, we open all the windows, too, and then when the sun gets warm, we shut everything up. If you have a whole-house fan, you can make this process even easier. Our house really wouldn’t need cooling if we had a whole-house fan (so yes, it’s on the list … eventually). You can also save money with some utility companies by signing up for a service (Xcel’s is called “Saver’s Switch”) that periodically turns off your A/C to save energy throughout the whole system.
  3. Change your light bulbs. Obviously, switching to CFLs saves electricity (and money in the long run), and you’ve probably done it by now. One room where you should definitely make the change is anywhere light with can lights — those big, recessed bulbs. We have 12 of them in our finished basement — through the family room, hallway and bath. By changing those bulbs to CFLs, we could reduce the energy usage every time we flip on the family room lights from around 1,000 watts (ten bulbs x 100 watts each) to 160 watts (16 watts per CFL). Clearly, this will knock down the electricity bill, especially because you probably use this room a lot. Bonus: The 100-watt lights are HOT, so by switching you’ll need less cooling in this room, too.
  4. Ditch the unused freezer or refrigerator. Take a good look at that extra fridge in the garage. Is it three-quarters empty? If so, squeeze everything into your main refrigerator (which is likely newer and thus more efficient too) and unplug the old one. It’s an energy vampire, and unlike Edward, it probably doesn’t even sparkle. Your utility might pay a bounty if you turn it in — ours will give $35.
  5. Close the blinds. I love sunlight, but especially if you aren’t home or aren’t using a room during the day, shut the blinds to keep out the sun (and the heat) in summer, and keep the heat in during the winter.
  6. Insulate. Be sure your attic has enough insulation. Check around your windows for air leaks — just as important in summer as in winter. For ideas, see this post about winterizing windows or this one about how I insulated a couple of other (literally) gaping holes in our home’s envelope.

What have i missed? Share your tips here, please — and if you like, share how low you go on your electricity bill!

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