Seven Tips to Lowering Your Electric Bill

Whether you are looking to help the environment or your goal is to reduce your monthly spending, lowering your energy usage is a great idea. Though fuel prices are going down, if your primary energy consumption consists of electricity, lowering your energy costs may be somewhat difficult, as the cost of electricity has been rising significantly for over a year at this point. Lowering your electric bill in today’s economy is going to require significantly reducing your electric usage.

A few days ago, I opened up the mailbox and began thumbing through a thick stack of envelopes. I felt a sudden sense of anxiety as my eyes locked on the light blue paper that could only be the packaging for my PP L; Electric Service bill. Knowing that my electric bill last January had been over $360 and the cost per kilowatt hour had increased notably since then, I was very apprehensive as I pulled out my statement for this January, but to my delight, my bill had actually gone down over fifteen percent when compared to the same month last year.

My joy knew no bounds as this was the first time that the electricity bill was nearly half of the regular rate and I think the credit for it goes to the AC that broke down last month, which in any case was giving me troubles but I can thank for providing valuable tips to curtail electricity.

Looking deeper into my statement, I noticed that our electric usage per month had gone down on average 363 KWH per month, or fifteen percent, during the last rolling year. What was more amazing than that, however, was that our January 2009 billing cycle usage was down 43 KWH per day, or thirty-one percent, from the same billing cycle one year ago, despite the fact that the average daily temperature this year was three degrees lower.

Though I know that my family still has a long way to go when it comes to energy conservation, reading these statistics caused me to ponder, what have we been doing to make such a difference? After reflecting for a while, I’ve come up with what have been the seven keys to our success.

Key #1

Use the Chest Freezer Sparingly- As the head of a household of six, several years ago, I purchased a chest freezer so that we could buy groceries in bulk. This allowed us to not only buy our groceries more economically, but to save on fuel also as it minimized our trips to the grocery store. Recently, my wife made some adjustments to the family’s diet that minimized the amount of perishables that we had to buy in bulk. Slowly, the stock in our chest freezer dwindled down until we no longer needed to use it. Since unplugging it, I haven’t had to plug it back in and our electric bill shows it.

Key #2

Clean the Heat Filter Frequently- Our Kenmore heat pump unit serves as the heating and cooling unit for our home. On a few occasions, I have noticed some frost and ice buildup on the copper pipes that lead to the unit. After conferring with a service technician last year, I learned that this buildup was a result of the unit failing to run at optimal efficiency, most likely due to a dirty filter. Since then, I have made a point of cleaning the filter monthly by simply standing it up in the shower and allowing the water to run through it (please note that this only works with the reusable adjustable filters with a plastic surround). Now that I’ve instituted that practice, I no longer have a frost buildup on the copper pipes and the unit is running with more energy efficiency.

Key #3

Act Like Your Dad- We all grow up and want to act as little like our parents as possible. We don’t want to spank our kids, we want to buy them everything they want, and we don’t want to make them finish their dinners or clean their rooms. Did I forget to mention, we don’t want to freak out about lights being left on either? Well, maybe Dad wasn’t wrong about everything after all. If an effort to reduce our energy consumption, several months ago I made a point of noting when lights were left on in rooms after people left. It took about a month, but pretty soon everybody in the house was on board and working together (not to save energy, but to shut Dad up, but I don’t really care, though, because I achieved my goal). I also watched whether or not we needed to use the heat in our finished basement. Though I turn it on if the basement gets cold, because the ground around the foundation helps regulate the temperature of the basement, I do limit how often we run the heat down there.

Key #4

Get Smart With CFL Bulbs- Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past as CFL bulbs are invading homes across America. The compact florescent light bulbs are becoming commonplace because they use about one quarter of the electricity that regular light bulbs do and depending on the manufacturer, will last anywhere from five to nine years. Though the media my try to scare you by pointing out that because of the mercury they contain, these bulbs should not be disposed of in landfills, retailers such as The Home Depot are quieting the concerns around disposal by providing recycling centers for CFL bulbs in their stores. I have only begun switching my house over, but the more I see the results in my electric bill, the more motivated I am to expedite the transition.

Key #5

Soak Your Dishes and Forget About Heavy Duty Dishwasher Settings- About a year and a half ago, I bought my first new dishwasher. It was supposed to be more energy efficient, but I never saw the savings. Seven or eight months ago, I came to the realization that using the “Ultimate Scrub” setting may be a part of the problem. I started soaking my real dirty dishes and running the machine on either “Normal Wash” or “Speed Clean” depending on the size of the load and how heavily soiled it was. In a house where we run one to two loads daily, this has made a major impact.

Key #6

Night Lights or No Lights- For years, night lights seemed to disappear in my house and as a result, a bathroom or hallway light was always left on for the kids’ comfort. After complaining about it for months, one day I decided to do something about it. I went out, bought four night lights and said, “When they’re gone, they’re gone, but no lights are getting left on at night anymore.” Well the night lights have not disappeared yet, but the wasted energy has.

Key #7

Avoid Surges, Bursts, and Inefficient Bulk Usage of Energy- When I was store manager for 84 Lumber Company, I had a rule that the store’s lights had to be turned on in shifts so as to minimize energy surges that caused spikes in our usage and increases in our expenses. My employees laughed at me, but I always beat my utilities budget handily. The same rules can apply at home. In my case, if our house is cold and we want to raise the temperature, we have to turn it up slightly, let the temperature adjust, and turn it up again. This eliminates the use of the auxiliary heat function on our heat pump and allows the unit to run at maximum efficiency. Every home is going to have something different, but knowing how to minimize energy bursts will help you beat your utilities budget at home every time.

What Comes Next-

You’ve heard what I’ve done to reduce my energy consumption over thirty percent, and you’re probably wondering where I go from here. For starters, as I said earlier, I am going to continue with my transition to CFL bulbs. I also plan on replacing my thermostat with a programmable model so that I’m not paying to keep my home at seventy degrees if I go on vacation for a week in the middle of the winter, but my house will be warm by the time I get home. Slowly, I will continue replacing my appliances with more efficient models, and I’ll look into whether or not the KWH charges in my area vary by the time of day. Finally, I plan on investigating the possibility of utilizing solar power.

Spending money on unneeded electric is one of the most wasteful examples of spending that there is. If you’re overpaying on your electric bill, it’s time to do something about it. Reducing your energy consumption is a pretty easy process, and if you don’t believe me, just look at my electric bill.