Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 21, 2015

Do It Yourself

Lowering an electric bill

It has been hot. It has been so hot my husband and I purchased a window air conditioner unit and placed it inside our living room window just to keep the main living areas cooler. Between the months of June through August an electric bill in the U.S. averages around $395, which is down approximately 2.5 percent over the last couple of years.

Obviously, this is not including water, gas, and/or any other expenses that might be included in a household bill. Everything is totaled together in our monthly bill, which includes water, gas, solid waste fee, sewer fee, and mosquito repellent, and our average bill during the hottest months is around $550. Unfortunately, there are all too many people during the summer months that are not able to afford the large bills in their monthly budget.

I have been on a quest to lower my electricity bill by making small changes with little to no expense. We have good windows, good insulation, and weather stripping; however, if you do not have these three things and can afford it, I highly recommend investing in them.

Adding additional insulation, re-caulking windows and doors, and replacing any weather stripping are all inexpensive, but can make a major difference.

More ways to keep the high spike of a bill down in the summer include:

– Make sure your refrigerator is an “energy plus’’ model and that you do not own one larger than needed. Refrigerators are on the top of the food chain of kitchen appliance energy-eaters in a household.

– Cable boxes are continually communicating with external sources even while you are out or asleep. In 2010, a study showed 160 million cable boxes in the U.S. totaled $2 billion a year in electricity bills to power when no one was even watching them. Make sure when you are done watching television to power the cable box off. If you would like to take it a step further, have all of the entertainment on a power strip and then hit the switch off when finished watching television.

– Many chargers waste electricity because they utilize outdated technology. The state of California has established tougher in-state efficiency standards to deal with this problem and the U.S. Department of Energy is working on its own regulations to make chargers more energy-efficient, which could mean massive savings if adopted nationwide. In other words: unplug those chargers; yes, including those cell phone chargers.

– Microwaves suck the majority of the electricity when they are doing absolutely nothing. An Appliance Standards Project study found that a microwave is only used about 70 hours a year, but during the other 8.690 hours in a year, it burns as much as 35 kilowatt hours to illuminate the clock and keep electronic push button controls in standby mode. I am sure my microwave has been plugged in consistently for 10 years, until this week of course.

– Gaming consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation do have energy saving standby modes with less than one watt of power usage, but many people, including my husband, leave them plugged in every day of the year which can cost around $100 more dollars a year. Needless to say, this was unplugged in my home this week as well.

– Electric dryers when being used will suck more energy than any other item in your home, and make the space hotter as well. To save energy make sure to dry clothes on the lowest setting, this will not only save energy, but also keep clothes looking better longer. My husband is kind of obsessed with not having any heat used in drying clothes so fortunately this is one I actually have been implementing for a long time now.

– Remember, heat rises so if you have an air conditioner unit running on the lower level of a home, make sure to close all the doors on the second floor so the air will not have to cool those areas. Also, close any vents in areas that are not being used.

Ultimately, it can be easy to shave money off your electricity bill when you know where to make cuts. A high electric bill can be a source of great stress for many struggling consumers. This summer, do not fret over a costly bill, but instead find ways to slice and dice that bill!

April Sherrill is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald. Contact her at april@dailydata.com.