How to lower your electricity bill
If any of you are like me there’s nothing worse than bills with variable costs. You have your monthly budget set & then poof out of nowhere you have an outrageous electricity bill & you can forget about that special family outing you had planned. According to The Department of Energy reports, average U.S. household electricity use is 13 times greater than it was in 1950. It’s electric bills like these you can never quite figure out because just when you think you do it’s already changed again from really high, to really low, to somewhere in between. While getting your bill down to exact science may never happen, there are ways to estimate it and cut costs.
Average American home spends 10932 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity according to EIA, this is three times of an average British home at 3800 kWh according to UK government data. You might say the UK is cold most months a year, therefore, they don’t have cooling cost as high as the US and you are right, they have very little cooling costs on average, but that’s only 13 percent of American consumption. If we subtract 13%, US spends 9510 kWh which is still 2.5 times compare to the UK. What makes the US spend so much kWh? A closer look at the daily lives of UK citizens points to the oblivious. It’s How we spend electric in our homes and work.
What are the main uses of electricity in the US homes?
After comparing the typical electricity use of British to American, we created a list of tips to lower consumption for each of these categories. There are six main categories of electric use in your home. We will go into detail of each category.
Table of Contents
Install a Programmable Wifi Thermostat
If your thermostat is too old to program, then it’s time to upgrade. A new WiFi thermostat will do a lot more than your old one by allowing you to adjust the temperature while you are away. They can learn your habits and automatically set the temperatures to your comfort levels. You can lower the average household electric bill by $83 or 10%. In the winter turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60 to 70-degree range, you could save up to 4% on your bill. For a stylish, programmable thermostat check our list of Best Smart Thermostats. You can use to table below as a guide to setting up your thermostat.Turning down the thermostat 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day can lower your heating cost up to 10%/$83 a year.
Change Air conditioner & furnace filters
When your filter gets dirty your heater and you’re a/c will have to work 10% harder, replacement takes only a few minutes, filters should be changed only when they are dirty. Please read our guide if you don’t know if your filters need replacement. You can always get a reusable filter and clean it yourself for even more saving. This could reduce the amount of dust & dirt in the air, which improves the quality of the air you breathe while keeping your house cleaner. Replacing or cleaning your air filters as needed, can save up to 5% on your electricity bill, this will save you $11 to $35 a year. Stay away from 1 inch pleated furnace filters. Check out our guide on How to replace your furnace air filters for more information. While you are at it clean your Heat Pump unit with a hose, make sure the pressure is off tho, pressurized water can damage HVAC.
Use Curtains and Drapes for isolation
Get some modern curtains or drapes for your house. They look very nice and makes your house look rich also it will block the sun during summer so your AC won’t have to work as hard. Blackout curtains block noise for a quiet home and save energy during winter by trapping heat inside the house. The windows cause 10-20% of thermal energy loss. I lived in California and had dark curtains, my home temp stayed below 81 degrees whole summer without running the A/C.
Use Portable Heaters when needed
First of all you should look for Underwriter’s Laboratory stickers on the box, this will mean the heater up to current safety requirements. If you are living alone or living in a very large home you can lower your heating cost by buying a portable heater. The goal here is to heat one room instead of the whole house. Choose are radiant heater if you are going to be directly in front of your portable heater, or in the room for few hours because they directly heat objects in front of them. The idea is to heat the person, not the house, heating a person is easier than heating the whole house. Choose a programmable heater or get a cheap Programmable thermostat for portable air conditioning and heating for reasons above. Do not buy a huge heater, it will defeat the whole purpose.
Air out of your hot-water radiators.
If you have hot-water radiators at home, make sure you let air out every season. The process is fairly simple, just turn the heat on and check for cold spots, they are usually on top of your radiators. Turn the heat off and wait until it’s cold enough to bleed out the air. Your radiators should come with radiator keys, some models don’t require one and a wrench is enough. If you don’t have one you can always buy one, they are cheap. Check the gauge on your boiler, make sure the pressure isn’t too low. Use the lever by your boiler to fill the radiator with water if needed.
You can use radiator reflectors to stop the heat escaping off walls or off the floor. For example, my upstairs and downstairs neighbors turn their heat on so high during winter, I am sweating at home without turning on the heat some nights. Place your reflectors behind and below your radiators, it takes few minutes per radiator and a great way to save on your bills.
This is the most common cause of high heating bill in a typical US home. During the peak of winter seal off unused rooms by closing the air vents, keeping the doors closed & using blankets or towels to seal the crack at the bottom. Open south-facing window curtains, drapes, or blinds during the day to generate natural heat. Weather-strip & caulk windows & exterior doors to prevent air leaks. According to Department of Energy, weather-strip your double-hung windows save you 5% or 42$ on your heating. Sealing air leaks if you have some can save 10% to 20%, $83-$166. A one-eight-inch gap around a door is equivalent to a 6-inch-square hole inside of your house. Check around your pipes, windows, attic and door corners with and Infrared Thermometer and seal them if necessary.
Peak time energy Usage
Electricity is more expensive during peak hours of the day. You can save more money by not using appliances like stoves/ovens or washers and dryers during the hottest time of the day.
Low-e Storm Windows
This is an expensive solution; this will cost anywhere between $60 to $200 per window. You can always hire someone to do it and it will cost a few grand. According to energy.gov, it can save 12%-33% annually or $100-$274.
Phantom Loads are back
After the One Watt Initiative by the International Energy Agency, we thought the standby power consumption at home was long gone. The initiative required appliances to spend no more than half a watt by 2013. But small electronics are not covered by this initiative, so nowadays phantom loads are back. Most people don’t know that 15% of our electricity wasted by small electronics when they are in standby mode or even turned off. Often referred to as “phantom users” they include things like Older TVs, computers, some kitchen appliances, gaming consoles, DVRs, & mostly anything with wifi. If you like to test it yourself, you can use a kill-a-watt to figure out the culprits. A typical media setup containing a sound system, Blu-ray player, Plasma TV, & game console costs $11 annually while standby. You can check out the list of electronic devices by standby power at http://standby.lbl.gov/ .
Smart Power Strips
The easiest way to fix this is to plug items into a power strip & get into the habit of turning it off when you are finished. A more convenient way of busting phantom users is to purchase a wifi power strip. These power strips can be set to turn off automatically during late night hours or while you are away at work. This will eliminate unnecessary energy usage & save you on your electricity bill. Don’t forget to set sleep mode on your computer to save 4% on electric as well.
Replace Exhaust fans & Timed Switches
Another electric hog in your house is an old exhaust fan in kitchen or your bathroom. Old models are noisy and inefficient, with ancient blade designs. Get a more efficient one, installation is fairly simple. Replace your light switches in your kitchen or bathroom with smart ones. These come with delay settings, you can set the time when your exhaust fan turns off after you turn off the lights. The idial setting for exhaust fans is 20 minutes during summers to dehumidify the bathroom after a shower and 5 minutes during winter.
It looks like 13% is not much but if you are living somewhere warm like California, the cooling percentage of your bill is much higher. Some of the tips we mentioned before apply to your cooling as well. Your air conditioners cold air is always looking for a way to escape; proper insulation is very important for cooling as well. A/C accounts for over 70% of our electricity usage on summer afternoons Set your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home & 85 degrees or off when you are away. You will save 3% percent per degree for each degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees. Ceiling fans cost only 2-3 cents an hour, a huge opportunity to save compared to A/C units which average 50 cents an hour. Using a ceiling or room fan can allow you to set the thermostat a few degrees higher and still feel cool.
Use Ceiling Fans
If your house does not an HVAC, get a Ceiling Fan. An average ceiling fan will spend 800 kWh per year ( Parker,Callahan,Sonne,Su 1999). This is 4.5 times less energy compared to an AC unit. Turn your Ceiling fans setting to clockwise and low speed during winter, this will circulate the cool air upwards in the room and warm air downwards. It won’t change the temperature of the house but it will make you feel warmer. Same tactics work during summer as well, setting your Ceiling fans Counter Clockwise will make you feel cooler. Ceiling fans are designed for places without AC, do not install one if you already have an AC in the house. You will not gain any benefit out of it.
Yes, plant trees around your home, inside temperature will be lower thanks to tree shade during summers. It will also block cold winds during winter. If you want to plant only one tree, plant it southwest of your home, so you get the summer shade. This could lower your A/C cost 15%-50%. You could save $35-$119 according to the Department of Energy. Shading your window-A/C is another idea as well, the effects are minimal, less than 3% savings, but it’s something if you are min/maxing. A long time strategy is to place your AC unit on the north side of your house.
Water heating 13%
Use Your Water Heater Correctly
Heating water accounts for approximately 13 percent of a home’s energy use. Turn down the temperature on the tank to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Install an electronic timer switch to program a daily or weekly water heating schedule. This will make sure you are only heating water when you need it. A timer can save you $25 per year. If you have an old water heater, you are losing electricity every minute your water heater runs & the heat escapes the tank. Luckily this can be fixed very easily by wrapping your water heater in an insulated blanket. Water heater blankets are fiberglass and aluminum and are non-flammable. Cut & fit the top of the blanket around the water pipes & electrical connections using a utility knife. Secure the top of the blanket to the water heater with duct tape & wrap the blanket around the tank. Insulating your water heater tank cuts down your water heating bill for 7%-16% or $20-$45 according to DOE. If you are not going to do all those just turn down your hot water temp in summer. It reduces your AC costs because you don’t have overheated water in your pipes. Turning down the water heating temp can lower your water heating bill 4%-22% or $12-$60 average according to energy.gov. Insulating your hot water pipes can save you 3%-4% or $8-$12, but breakeven point for this project is too long.
Check & Replace the Anode Rod every year
You have to replace your Anode Rod as needed. Anode Rod life depends on the quality of water in your community so it can last a year or a decade. You can take it out and check if it’s gone to figure out if you have to change it. Some models are much easier to replace than others, your mileage might vary.
Take a Shower
On average it takes 35 gallons of water to fill up a bathtub. In order to save money, take a shower instead that uses dramatically less water. The less water you use the less work your water heater has to do replacing it. Since water heaters account for 13% of your household’s energy bill reducing its work shift is a great place to start saving. If you really need to cut back, try taking quick 5 minute showers that can save almost 23 gallons of water every time you bathe! I can hear you saying “But the water is cheap”, yes you are right water is cheap but electricity is not. The water heater consumes a lot of energy. That’s why when you install a low flow shower head 1.25gpm or less you save on your electricity.
Low Flow Showerheads
Recent super low flow showerheads have succeeded greatly with attempts to reduce water loss. Switch your showerhead to a low-flow model for significant energy savings. A low flow showerhead can save on water & electricity. If that wasn’t enough it can also save your household’s gas emissions by 10 tons in its 10-year lifetime. Look for an efficient showerhead; they can be purchased for around $30. This is a fantastic way to save money, lower your carbon footprint, & enjoy high-class satisfying showers.
Cover Food & Drinks in the Refrigerator
Putting uncovered food or drinks in the fridge costs you more money because moist air makes the fridge work harder, which uses more energy. While it might not sound like much, taking a few extra steps to cover your food & drinks will add up over time.
Clear the Top of Your Fridge
Make sure the top of your fridge is totally clear. When you place things on top of the refrigerator it blocks heat from escaping & causes your fridge to work overtime to keep things cool. This not only increases your electricity bill but can lower the lifespan of your refrigerator. You can test this if you have an infrared camera at home, you will see that the whole fridge is black color and the top is green.
Don’t Put Scolding Hot Food or Drinks in the Refrigerator
Let hot food or drinks cool down a bit before you put them in the refrigerator. But not too long because bacteria might start to grow. If it’s over the “danger zone”, meaning over 140 °F, keep it outside. When you use the fridge to cool down hot food or drinks it increases its interior temperature which causes it to work harder, which uses more energy. Once again while this might not sound like much, all the little things really add up over time!
Clean the condenser fan twice a year
The condenser fan is commonly located at the bottom or behind of household refrigerators so it clogs easier. It is harder to clean, you have to to be careful of the condenser fan since you might break it. Cleaning condenser coils, on the other hand, have no effects on saving energy (Litt, Megowan, and Meier 1993). You have to make sure that there is good airflow around condenser coils, by this I don’t mean dust. It mean if something much bigger like a large object stuck between condenser coils you should remove it. If you want to go, Rambo, you can use a leaf blower to blow the dust and clean the carpet afterward.
Invest in a New Refrigerator
Typically, the refrigerator is the largest energy-consuming kitchen appliance. If your old one was built before 2001, one of the best ways to cut costs is to invest in a newer one & more efficient refrigerator that is required to use less energy than older models. The EPA estimates that investing in one of these models would save enough energy to light an average U.S. household for up to four months. You can also get a chest freezer with freezer temperature controller to save money, my friend who is homebrewing uses one and can’t stop talking about it.
Dishwasher vs Handwashing
I know you have seen this sentence everywhere “Contrary to popular belief, hand washing your dishes is more expensive than using your dishwasher because you use more water”. Well, it’s not entirely true. First of all, if you are dishwasher lover, make sure to only use it when it’s full because regardless if you run a full or partial load it uses the same amount of water. If you run your dishwasher partially full every day you will spend around the same amount of water as hand washing your dishes (26.4 gallons/100 liters a week for handwashing using a basin vs 28 gallons/106 liters a week for an efficient dishwasher) plus the electricity cost and wearing out the dishwasher.
Handwashing is, of course, cost less in electricity, but it might cost more in water costs because those washing dishes with the tap running constantly if you know any of them at least get them a 0.5 GPM Aerator, it should help with saving some water. They waste 5000 gallons of water compare to a dishwasher according to EnergyStar, which I don’t trust, not even a bit but Google brings it up as first results when I researched the topic so it must be true, right?
In conclusion, handwashing in a bin will cost me less, because dishwashers are not free and people run them partially full, oh yeah and electric costs on top of all that. I also wash the dishes with my wife, it’s nice to do something together after dinner. It makes me feel more connected and it’s a form of meditation in my opinion. I think you should try it sometime.
Scrape Your Dishes
Let the dishwasher do the work. Instead of pre-rinsing your dirty dishes, just scrape them. This not only saves you time but water. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if you rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher you could use up to 20 gallons of unnecessary extra water and if you pre-rinse with hot water you are just wasting money.
Invest in an Energy efficient but good Dishwasher
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using an efficient dishwasher will save you on average 730 gallons of water & 230 hours of time per year compare to others. To put it in perspective efficient machines, use 4 gallons of water per cycle, while other average machines will use up to 6 gallons a cycle. But make sure it’s a good dishwasher at first. Because if you have to run the machine twice to clean your dishes because it didn’t do a good job at first, you are doing it wrong.
Use Air-Dry Setting
Most of the new dishwashers come with an air-dry button. If you get into the habit to use it you can save 15% to 50% on energy used by your dishwasher according to California Energy Commission. If you have an old dishwasher, turn off the machine after the last rinse. You don’t have to burn electric to dry your dishes, keeping the door open will dry your dishes in few hours.
Wear Clothes a Few Times
A lot of our clothes don’t get very dirty from wearing them once. Try to wear clothes several times before washing them. This not only cuts down on your water usage but also your laundry & that almost sounds too good to be true!
Dry Your Clothes with a damp washcloth or tennis Ball
Use 1 or even 2 tennis balls when drying your clothes. They help speed drying time, which means you use less energy & save money. They also are great in helping reduce static & more cost effective than dryer sheets in that they are reusable. Make sure they are not cheap ones; those will dye your clothes. You don’t have to use ice cubes like people suggest, they are not necessary. For years I just throw in a damp washcloth. It’s faster steam. Also, if you want to speed dry an article of clothing, don’t dry it by itself. Throw in a bunch of dry bath towels to suck up all the steamed moisture, it will tumble better & dry faster.
Hang Your Laundry Up to Dry
If you really are looking to cut back, take advantage of the beautiful sunshine & wind to dry your clothes outside on a clothesline. You could even try switching off every week with your dryer to cut back on energy usage. I know, so is never turning on the lights, and not surfing the net. But it’s good exercise and your clothes will last longer!
Wash Clothes with Cold Water
90% of the energy consumed by your washing machine is spent on heating the water. The new generation laundry detergents let you wash your clothes in cold water. By switching to cold water washes for one year you will save enough electricity to power an average home for two weeks. Cold-water washing also keeps colors bright, reduces wrinkling & won’t set stains. Hot water will wear out your clothes faster, they can fade or shrink as well. You should run washing mashing hot once a month to prevent possible molding.
Don’t forget to clean the Lint Trap
Most of the people never clean their Lint Trap, and when I say clean I mean using soap and toothbrush in warm water. If you are using a dryer sheet during laundry, clean your lint trap once a season and if you are using liquid softener, clean it twice a year. Of course, do not forget to lift the lint off the trap after every load.
Use the Right Light Bulbs
Electric lighting accounts for an average of 12% of your electricity bill, so it’s one of the best places to start saving dough. Replacing your top 5 frequently used light bulbs with LED can save more than $75 a year in energy costs. LED’s use 75% less energy, & last 6–10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills & replacement costs. Remember to always turn off your lights when leaving a room. Turning off just one 40-watt incandescent bulb that would otherwise burn eight hours a day can save about $10 per year. The electricity used by 1 incandescent light bulb through its lifetime will cost you 5 to 10 times the purchase price of a LED. You should really get motion-sensor lights for outside lighting. There are numerous smart lights that can do all kinds of amazing things. You can voice order your phone to turn the lights off in the kitchen and dim the light in the bedroom before going to sleep. But be careful and don’t go overboard with smart appliances and electronics, most of them are connected the internet and waste a lot of electricity even when you are not using it.
Please inform me if any of the resources vanish from the internets, I have the documents saved, I will publish them here on this site.
Litt, Barbara, Megowan, Andrew and Meier, Alan, 1993. “[Refrigerator] maintenance doesn’t necessarily lower energy use,” Home Energy Magazine, January/February 1993.
Parker, D., Callahan, M., Sonne, J., Su, G., “Development of a High Efficiency Ceiling Fan, ‘The Gossamer Wind’,” Florida Energy Office, Department of Community Affairs, Tallahassee, FL. 1999