Lowering Your Bill
Check Your Thermostat
If you're away from home much of the day, consider a programmable thermostat. These can save you money in the winter by lowering the thermostat when you're away and while you sleep, and in the summer by raising the temperature while you're out. Keep in mind that they should be set to to return to your regular temperature about an hour before you return home or before you get up in the morning.
Always keep your central heater and air conditioner filters clean. A clogged filter will drastically affect how well these appliances can heat and cool your home. If you have a heat pump or a central air conditioner, consider having it serviced annually. Low coolant can drive up your electric bill.
Always make sure your vents and air returns aren't blocked. This can restrict air flow, and make your air conditioner or central heater work harder to keep you warm.
If you're in the market for an air conditioner or heater, try to get the one with the highest energy rating. This can save you a lot of money over the life of the unit. Look for a SEER rating of 14.5 or higher. A window unit should have an EER of 10.8 or greater. If you're building a new home, consider a ground-loop heat pump. These units use water filled pipes buried in the ground to provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Since the ground usually stays between 50° and 55° at a depth of four feet or more, this can significantly lower your heating and cooling bill by providing an ample source of heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.
Also keep in mind that your air conditioner should be sized for your home or room. A unit that's too small will run constantly, driving up your power bill without you feeling comfortable. A unit that's too big won't remove the humidity properly, making it seem warmer, and will run more frequently as it cools the air near the thermostat before the rest of the home. Your heating and air contractor should have software to properly size your unit, and for window units always go by the chart recommendations.
Keep in mind that window unit sizing charts are based on volume. So if you have 10 foot ceilings instead of the standard 8 foot, your unit should be sized accordingly. To convert, simply multiply the width by the length by the height and divide by 8: (L x W x 10)/8 = Equivalent Area.
For example, let's say you're wanting to cool a 10 foot by 12 foot room with a 10 foot ceiling. The floor area is 10 x 12 = 120 square feet, but the volume is 120 x 10 = 1,200 cubic feet. To find the equivalent area on an air conditioner sizing chart, we divide by 8: 1,200 / 8 = 150 square feet. So you would find the suggested size for 150 square feet instead of the actual 120 square feet.
Keeping Your Cool
Watch How You Vent
Check Your Water Heater
However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, you should leave your thermostat at its present setting. Check your dish washer manual to see if yours has a booster heater.
A standard water heater runs every time the water in the tank drops below the set temperature. If you have an electric water heater, a special insulated water heater wrap can save you money by slowing how fast the water cools.
If you're going to be away for several days and there's no danger of freezing, consider turning your electric water heater off. That can save a lot of money, especially for vacation homes.
You can help your refrigerator or freezer operate more efficiently if you keep them full. Once the food is chilled, it helps the refrigerator or freezer to maintain their temperature. As bonus, if the power goes out, a full refrigerator or freezer will stay cold longer - provided the door stays closed as much as possible.
Keeping the right temperature can also save you money. Keeping your refrigerator between 36° and 38° will keep food chilled without freezing. Keeping your freezer between 0° and 5° will keep your food frozen. To measure the temperature, put a waterproof thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator, or between the food packs in the freezer, and read after 24 hours.
Leaking door seals can let that cold air leak out, and allow moisture and frost build-up. Replace them if they're worn, split, or not making a good seal.
If you have ice and frost build-up in your freezer, regular defrosting will help it cool better, saving you money.
Keeping the coils free from dust will help your refrigerator and freezer work better and with less electricity. Always use a mild blower, like a vacuum cleaner attachment, to clean the coils. Never brush or rub the coils. This can make a hole in the tubing or break them, which will ruin your refrigerator or freezer, as well as your food.
You can actually save money if you use your dishwasher for full loads. In general, a dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. You can save more by selecting air-dry instead of heated dry. Modern dish washers can handle more food residue than old models, so a quick scrap to remove the heaviest is all you need - you save money by not pre-rinsing.
Your stove is a huge energy user, so it makes sense to keep it as efficient as possible. Keeping both the oven and drip pans clean means better heating, which can save you money. This goes for your microwave, too. Cooking with lids on pots, when you can, helps save energy by trapping heat (of course, always follow the recipe and microwave instructions). Microwave ovens are a better choice than the stove when it comes to warming small meals, and a crock pot uses less energy, and both put less heat into your home than using the stove. Pressure cookers can also save you money by cutting cooking time.
Let The Sunshine In
Just reverse this for the summer. On hot, sunny days make sure the blinds and drapes are closed on all windows facing the sun.
If you water your lawn, consider letting the grass grow a little taller. Longer grass helps shade the soil and loses less water to evaporation than short grass. Better yet, consider grass and ornamentals that need little or no additional water. Native varieties are already adapted to your climate, and usually require less maintenance than more exotic varieties. Not only will it save you money in the amount of time your well pump runs, but it can sometimes save on yard work.
Dodge The Draft
See The Light
LED bulbs, while roughly twice as expensive than CF bulbs, can last up to two and a half times longer and use even less electricy. It takes only 11 watts to produce the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandecent. As with CF bulbs, LED bulbs are not right for every job. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
If you use a night light, consider one of the new LED types. These come in a variety of colors, produce a brilliant light with less heat than an incandescent bulb, use less electricity, and last longer.
Always turn off your lights when you don't need them. Turning the bulbs on and off doesn't appreciably shorten their life, and can save you a lot of money. A single 60w bulb left on overnight costs $27.33 per year!
Speaking of lights, always keep your fixtures clean. A dirty light fixture can reduce the light you see by 25%.
Don't Spring A Leak
You can also save some money by installing low-flow shower heads and aerators on faucets. These work by injecting air into the water, making the flow seem almost the same, but with less water. The less water you use, the less your well pump and water heater will have to run.
This Is The Way We Wash Our Clothes
Not looking for a new washer? There's still ways to save money. Wash with cold water when you can. Every gallon you save is a gallon you don't have to pay to heat. Since washers uses about the same amount of water for both large and small loads, you can save money by washing only full loads when you can instead of several small loads. And always used the high-speed spin cycle. That gets more water our of your clothes, which shortens drying time. You can also try separating slow-drying clothes from fast drying ones so that your dryer does not have to run as long.
We can also save money at the clothes dryers. Dryers don't have Energy Star models (all dryers use about the same energy), but if you're in the market for a new one, consider a dryer with an automatic shut-off. These sense when your clothes are dry and turns off then instead of waiting for the timer to run out. Try to dry only full loads. Dryers use about the same amount of electricity whether they're full or empty. And remember to try to separate slow drying clothes from the ones that dry fast.
Dryer lint can not only cost your money, but can be a safety hazard. Always make sure the duct and outside vent are unclogged. Clogged ducts and vents not only lengthen drying time, but can be a fire hazard. And always remember to clean the lint filter. Like ducts and vents, a clogged lint filter can lengthen drying time.
If possible, consider a good old fashioned clothes line. That's easier said than done in the South, where we can have high humidity, dust, and pollen, but in good weather a clothes line is a good way to save money.
A Little Bit Here, A Little Bit There
A charger, such as for your laptop computer or cell phone, or the adaptors to devices like keyboards, are surprising energy hogs. These devices draw a little bit of current while plugged into the wall outlet, even if the other end isn't connected to anything. That's because chargers and adapters work by stepping electricity down to a lower voltage, and there is always slight energy usage. Utilities face the same thing with inactive transformers on the line. Fortunately, stopping this energy use is easy: When you're not using a charger or adapter, just unplug it from the wall socket.
One Georgia business began following these measures in their office, and was surprised at the savings it made to their electric bill.
All of these suggestions, when used together, can help lower your electric bill.