10 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill
April Dykman, Get Rich Slowly (back column)
I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here in Austin, Texas, the heat and drought are the topic of 85% of conversations (that’s science).
As a native Texan, I usually roll my eyes when people lament about the heat. One of my friends summed it up nicely: “I’m tired of hearing people talk about the weather. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Welcome to Earth.”
But this year is different. As of August 5, Austin hit 100+ degrees 52 times this summer.
As a result, the cost to cool our house is getting obscene. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll implement the following practices to try to rein in our unwieldy electric bill:
· Seal up the house. I’m pretty sure we have money leaking through cracks around the doors and windows. It’s simple enough to buy caulk and weather-stripping to seal cracks—in fact, we already have caulk left over from other projects. According to Consumer Reports, sealing leaks can reduce energy costs by 15 to 30%
· Use heat-generating appliances at night. I know this should be a no-brainer, but I like to bake, and because I work at home, I can bake whenever the mood strikes. But obviously a hot oven in the heat of the day forces the AC to work harder to keep the house at a comfortable temperature. The same goes for clothes dryers and dishwashers. Use these at night when outside temps are cooler.
· Wash laundry with cold water. According to Michael Bluejay, A.K.A. Mr. Electricity, washing clothing in cold water instead of hot can save $152 per year.
· Go retro with a crock pot. Speaking of ovens, there’s nothing that heats up our house faster than a preheating oven and a few pans on the stove top. Slow cookers, on the other hand, use less energy and won’t turn your kitchen into, well, an oven.
· Air-dry clothing. I like this idea in theory. I’ve yet to try it because I’m concerned about allergens in the air getting into our clothing, and here it’s always allergy season. But if you have the room to spare, you could dry clothing inside on hangers. We’ve enough space in our laundry room to hang quite a bit of clothing, so I’ll start air-drying more.
· Turn on fans. Fans make a room feel cooler, and the one in our living room quit working weeks ago. We need to fix it. Bluejay says it could save us $438 per year.
· Unplug electronics. I know, I know. It should go without saying. I seem to forget about phone chargers and camera battery chargers, though. Because of this, they stay plugged in, sucking change from our bank account. By using power strips, I could shut off electricity to these devices all at once. Consumer Reports also found that you can save $25 to $75 each year just by putting your computer on standby.
· Consider your light bulbs. Bluejay says you can turn off lights you aren’t using to save $274 a year; turn off a single 100-watt light bulb from running constantly to save $131 per year; and replace ten 60-watt light bulbs with compact fluorescents to save $123 per year (upfront cost estimate: $32).
· Don’t cool an empty house. If you have a programmable thermostat, program it! We don’t have one, which means I have to make it a habit to raise the thermostat when I do leave the house. Close off rooms you aren’t occupying, as well.
· Replace air filters monthly. We’re pretty good at replacing our filter, but we could be more diligent. Dirty filters restrict airflow, causing the AC system to run longer and use more energy. I’ve added a recurring task to my calendar to make sure the air filter gets replaced each month.