If you’re like most people, you probably think you spend too much on your electric bill. And you may be right. Many of the causes of high electric bills are related to the way you use electricity in your home, some of which you might not even be aware of. To help you start saving money, we’ve highlighted five ways in which you’re probably using too much electricity, as well as some tips for using less.
1. Letting Vampire Appliances Bleed You Dry
One of the main reasons your electric bill may be high is that you have a host of items that stay plugged in whether you’re using them or not. While that might not have been such a problem years ago, most modern appliances and gadgets draw electricity when turned off. This is mostly because much of modern technology never really turns off. Instead, DVRs, computers, televisions and all sorts of other gadgets transition to a standby mode so they can be turned on faster or carry out a scheduled task like recording a TV show or brewing a pot of coffee.
Problem is, these devices are sucking electricity out of your home while waiting for a command from you or waiting for a scheduled task to run. And anything with a clock, such as microwave ovens and coffee makers — and even older technologies, like VCRs — need power to keep time while turned off.
Solution: You can start saving energy by connecting devices to power strips and turning off the power strips when you’re not using them. That way, off will really mean off.
2. Feeding Energy Hogs
Big appliances, like dishwashers, clothes washers and clothes dryers have insatiable appetites for electricity and using them too often can drive your electricity bill way up. In fact, the average American family does almost 400 loads of laundry a year and uses almost 40 gallons of water for a full load.
Solution: For your dishwasher, make sure that you fill it to capacity before you run it, choose an appropriate wash cycle and make sure that you use no-heat drying. For clothes washers and dryers, try having only one laundry day each week, fill your loads to capacity and select low heat for drying.
3. Misusing Lights and Ceiling Fans
When it comes to lighting, many people make the mistake of using lights to affect the brightness of an entire room, which can contribute to high electric bills. However, lighting is efficient only when used directly to provide light to specific areas of a room, such as couches, chairs, kitchen tables and workspaces. You’ll also pay more on your electric bill if you keep lights on when nobody’s using them.
Likewise, ceiling fans only affect the temperature of the room in which they’re installed, so it makes no sense to leave a ceiling fan on if nobody’s in the room. Additionally, ceiling fans have a toggle switch that allows the blades to switch direction for optimal efficiency based on the season. If you’re not switching the direction of your blades according to the season, you’re wasting money when it comes to using your ceiling fans.
Solution: Use lighting only for specific areas that are occupied and make sure to turn off lights when those areas are no longer in use. Additionally, change out inefficient incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient CFL blubs to save money when the lights are on. For ceiling fans, turn them off when nobody’s in the room and be sure to set the toggle switch so that the blades run counter clockwise during the summer and clockwise during the winter to circulate air more efficiently.
4. Using Appliances Past Their Prime
Using old appliances is probably one of the bigger reasons why you’re paying more on your electric bill. The fact is old appliances simply use more energy than new energy-efficient models. If you don’t want to upgrade your refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, clothes dryer, stovetop or oven, you should probably settle for spending more on your monthly energy bills.
Solution: This one’s easy. Upgrade your appliances with new energy-efficient models. A new energy-efficient refrigerator, for example, uses about four times less electricity than an older model.
5. Charging Mania
Look around your home at all the technology that uses chargers: cell phones, MP3 players, iPads and tablet PCs, electric razors, electric toothbrushes, laptops, portable game systems and a whole slew of similar devices. The more tech- and gadget-oriented you are, the more likely you are to have these devices plugged in and sucking energy from your home — and the more likely you are to pay an expensive electric bill because of them.
Solution: Unplug AC adapters and chargers from sockets when not actively charging a device, as they’ll pull electricity simply from being plugged in. Also, make sure to only charge your devices when they need it. Unnecessary charging not only costs money, it can shorten your gadget’s battery life.
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy website, “Consumer Resources: Dishwashing.”
ENERGY STAR website, “Clothes Washers Best Practices.”
ENERGY STAR website, “Dishwashers for Consumers.”
ENERGY STAR website, “Fans, Ceiling for Consumers.”
ENERGY STAR website, “Standby Power and Energy Vampires.”
“GreenSpace: Cold War on the Inefficient Old Fridge,” The Philadelphia Enquirer, March 21, 2011.
LearnVest website, “Save Energy And Save Money By Slaying The Energy Vampires In Your Home.”