How to Save Electricity and Even Get Paid to Do It

Just because Earth Day 2013 has gone by doesn’t mean energy conservation should be put on the backburner. Finance site explains how homeowners can stay green year-round and save money in the process with these tips for calculating energy usage and cutting back electricity bills.

EL SEGUNDO, CA (April 26, 2013) – When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, utility bills weren’t even a flicker on people’s list of expenses. Little did anyone know that over 134 years later, electricity would become such a bothersome commodity across the modern world — one that we can’t live without, but which hinders our savings as we take great pains to pay our utility bills month in and month out.

Thankfully, you don’t need to forgo heat, air conditioning or go to extremes, like living by candlelight, to reduce your electric bill. And as much as the thought of becoming a nocturnal-housekeeping energy vampire to cut down on peak power usage sounds inconvenient at the least, there are ways we can begin consolidating our energy and saving money with a few small tweaks to our daily habits and schedules.

Plus, there are programs out there that will pay you for it, too.

Household Energy Costs

Utility bills are likely one of the most unwelcome pieces of mail. According to EnergyStar, a recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that a typical single-family home pays $2,200 in annual energy costs:

  • Heating: 29 percent
  • Cooling: 17 percent
  • Water Heating: 14 percent
  • Appliances: 13 percent
  • Lighting: 12 percent
  • Electronics: 4 percent
  • Other: 11 percent (includes miscellaneous power sources like cable TV boxes, stereos and ceiling fans)

EnergyStar and the U.S. Energy Administration (EA) have noted that the average American household pays between 11.3-11.8 cents per kilowatt hour of energy usage. That range varies from state to state. The EA says that households in Connecticut and Maryland pay some of the highest monthly electric bills — over $142 and $143 per month, respectively.

But don’t chalk it up to just Northeast winter heating bills; even residents of bucolic Hawaii, according to the EA, fork out the most expensive energy payments at $203.94.

Calculate Energy Usage

Figuring out how much energy your household expends is as simple as understanding how much power your appliances output. An electronic device’s wattage is its measure of generated power and the basic figure used to determine your electric bill.

Utility companies normally convert total wattage from, say, a microwave oven, into kilowatt hours (or 1,000 watts). Multiplying the total by the utility carrier’s going kilowatt-per-hour rate determines the annual cost. The U.S. Department of Energy gives this example:

Getting an idea of how much power a household appliance or device uses can be eye opening, too. Though a standard 32-inch flatscreen TV only burns 150 watts, and a video game console — like a Nintendo Wii or Xbox — or a laptop PC only use up to 70 watts at a time, it’s the major appliances that take up the bulk of our utility bills.

Dishwashers, according to several sources, can use up to 3,600 watts; clothes dryers, 4,400; central air conditioning, 3,500; and central heating (in cold climates), up to 26,500 watts per use during a frigid winter. Added up over the duration of a year can make it seem like your annual net income pays only for utilities.

How to Save Electricity

Shaving some dollars off your utility bill compels many people to make energy-saving investments that don’t pay off. It may also conjure up thoughts of keeping an empty, unplugged fridge, forgoing central heat or stockpiling candles for your sole source of light. But the frugal minded know that it’s easier to save on electricity than mimicking life from the 17th century.

Turn off (and unplug)

Think about it — what’s the point of leaving the TV on when you’re not watching it, or lights on in an empty room? Turning on appliances only when they’re being used will save you money in the long run, as will unplugging small appliances like cell phone chargers, which continue to drain energy even when they’re not in use. (The same goes for shutting doors and windows to conserve heat — or air conditioning — to specific rooms.)

Skip the spin dry

Invest in a drying rack and take the time to air dry your freshly laundered clothes. It’s not as convenient as a quick 30-minute spin dry blast, but your wallet and wardrobe will thank you for it. Also, experts suggest investing in a front loading washing machine, and washing in cold water. It’ll use less power, water, heat and hence, cost you less.

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