10 Tips to Help You Lower Your Electric Bill and Save Money

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You don’t need to be an economics major to realize that reducing your use of electricity will save you money, but there are collateral benefits in addition: when enough individuals lower their electricity consumption, this contributes to reducing the need to produce as much electricity, and consequently diminishes the production of unhealthy greenhouse gases. This guide will provide some useful tips to help you save on your electric bill, and, along the way, help protect the ecosystem.

1. When purchasing new appliances (especially large, electricity-guzzling ones such as refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, or clothes dryers), make sure to check the energy rating. In the US, Canada, Japan, EU, and many other countries: check for the Energy Star label — products carrying this logo generally consume 20-30% less energy than required by federal standards. Europeans: check the EU Energy Label, and try to buy “A” (or “A+” or already “A++”) or “B” rated appliances, but do not settle for anything less than a “C”. Avoid energy-inefficient “F” or “G” appliances at all costs!

2. Buy washing powders that work in cold/warm water and eliminate the need for a pre-wash. Cutting out the pre-wash will save you 15-25% on your electric bill as compared to a cycle with pre-wash, while washing in warm water instead of hot will save you another 30-40%. Washing a complete load instead of two half-loads, and using an energy-efficient program (if obtainable on your washing machine), can reduce your electricity needs by 30-45%.

3. The clothes dryer is one of the heaviest energy guzzlers in the house. If you can line dry your laundry — already just some of it, part of the time — that will save you a heck of a lot of electricity. If you DO decide to dry your clothes in the dryer, choose a faster spin cycle if your washing machine allows: drying clothes that have been spun dry at high speed will take less electricity than clothes that have been spun dry at lower speeds. There is no meaningful difference in the electricity consumed by a washer with a spin cycle set at 400 or 1,000 rpm, while the savings in electricity needed to dry clothes from these two wash cycles can reach 40%.

4. In the aggregate monthly electric bill, lights play a big role. The easiest way to save here is to make sure you turn off any lights you don’t need whenever possible. For those lights you DO have to have on, try switching to low-strength compact fluorescent light bulbs (here also: look out for the Energy Star label!). True, they are more expensive than regular bulbs, but when you consider that they use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, you’ll soon start seeing a return on your investment.

5. Install dimmer switches. If/when/where you NEED to have the light on, at the minimum just use only as much as you really need.

6. Care for a cup of tea or coffee? If you’re using an electric kettle, make sure you’re boiling just the amount of water you need. By boiling just the water you need for 1-2 cups, you can save about 40% of the electricity you need to boil a complete kettle.

7. If you’re buying a new TV, make sure to get an LCD, not a plasma, which consumes 5-7 times (!) more electricity on average than an LCD. For those who nevertheless have CRT (“picture tube”) TVs, they use about 30-50% more electricity than LCDs.

8. Save money on your electric bill by unplugging your appliances when not in use (or use a strength bar with a switch). Many appliances will not truly turn off when you hit the strength button, but rather go into standby mode, and standby strength alone typically accounts for some 5-10% of residential electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Also make sure to unplug chargers (cell phones, iPods, etc.) when you’re not truly charging the devices, as they continue to draw strength as long as they’re plugged in.

9. Now for the real heavy hitter: air conditioners. ACs can really be lifesavers on a hot summer day, but improper use will see your energy costs go by the roof. If you learn to use them correctly, however, you won’t already have to take out a second mortgage to pay for your electric bill!

  • If you’re buying a new AC, make sure it carries the Energy Star label.
  • Set the thermostat two or three degrees higher than you typically do: instead of 72-74 degrees, try setting the thermostat to 75-77 degrees. Every degree you set the thermostat higher saves you 2-3% in your energy costs.
  • Make sure all your doors and windows are sealed shut when the AC is on, otherwise the AC’s efficiency will be markedly reduced (and, consequently, its electricity consumption will increase as it works harder to try to cool the surroundings).
  • Close your curtains/blinds during the heat of the day, as the sun coming by a window will warm up the room, forcing the AC to work harder to keep it cool.
  • When you’re not in the house, turn off your AC, or at the minimum set the thermostat several degrees higher. If you keep the AC on at night, also program the thermostat higher when you’re asleep.
  • If you’re installing air conditioning in your house, instead of getting a central AC for the complete house, get a few smaller ACs to cool smaller areas of the house, and only cool the areas you’re in. If you’re sitting in the living room for the better part of the day, do you really need to be cooling all of the bedrooms in addition? And does your living room need to be cooled at night when you’re fast asleep in the bedroom? Just make sure to keep the doors of the areas you’re not cooling closed…

10. Shop around for a cheaper electricity provider, if you live in a deregulated state. In Texas for example (the largest consumer of electricity in the US, and in the top ten worldwide), there can be a price difference of 2-3 times (!) between the rate plans of various Retail Electricity Providers (REPs). An important tool obtainable to Texas energy consumers in the battle against the high price of electricity are sets provided by various websites, such as BestPowerDeal.com, which allow residents to compare all of the REPs in their area and choose and switch to the provider with the lowest rates. Residents of Texas and all other deregulated states are urged to take complete advantage of these free sets in order to save on their monthly electricity bills.

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