What a wonderful world it would be if we all had solar panels on our roofs and windmills in our backyards, but those sources of renewable energy are not affordable or practical for the ordinary homeowner. There are still many ways to save money on the electricity bill by using energy efficient appliances and taking simple daily steps to economize.
Retire Your Electric Hot Water Heater
If your home has natural gas service for cooking or heating, dump your electricity-hogging hot water tank in favor of a gas one. Gas hot water heaters are much more efficient than electric ones, and often the local gas company will offer you free equipment or installation as an incentive to switch. If gas is not available to you, investigate a tankless hot water heater. They have high up-front costs but might save money over time and increase the value of your home.
Look for the Energy Star Label
Replace old appliances with newer, more efficient ones. Just because an appliance is new doesn't automatically make it energy efficient, so look for the Energy Star label. Local utility companies and governments regularly offer rebate programs for converting to Energy Star appliances, so check with with the retail vendor or do an online search for any current offers. If you are gradually replacing kitchen appliances, start with the refrigerator, which is one of the home's top electricity users.
Get a Front-Loading Washer
Front-loading washing machines not only save big bucks on water bills, but they also have shorter cycles that save on electricity. Their spin cycles remove water so effectively they also reduce dryer time. Clothes dryers are another of the home's greatest electrical drains. Line drying clothes will save electricity and give you the incomparably fresh scent of clothes dried by sun and air. If you live in community that doesn't permit line drying or have an apartment or house with no outdoor space, you can get an inexpensive indoor drying rack that sits on the floor.
Use Power Strips and Surge Protectors
Plug multiple items into a power strip, preferably one that doubles as a surge protector. When you have many electronics plugged into one strip you can easily turn it off or unplug it when leaving the house for an extended period of time. Even if your electronics are turned off, many of them still draw energy in the off position.
Convert to Energy-Saving Light Bulbs
Old-fashioned, incandescent light bulbs are going the way of the free airplane meal, soon to be just a distant memory. Compact flourescent bulbs, or CFs, use a fraction of the electricity of traditional bulbs, and they last a lot longer. The curly shaped bulbs are disliked by owners of antique light fixtures, but there are now CFs shaped just like incandescent bulbs instead of their more familiar curly shape. Electric companies sometimes offer bulb rebate programs, so check with your provider.
Negotiate with the Electric Company
If you live in an area where more than one electric company competes for your business, play the companies off of each other and negotiate more favorable terms for yourself. See what one offers you and then get the other to better that deal. If you've been a long-standing customer, ask for a valued customer discount. The worst they could do is say no.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Stock up your fridge. When a refrigerator is full and you open the door, it takes longer to warm up and therefore uses less electricity to get cool again. If you live in a hot climate turn your thermostat up to save on air conditioning. Check your electric bill to find out if your power company offers lower rates for off peak hours. If it does, your bill will show a break down. Find out what off peak hours are and try to do power-intensive activities, like running the dishwasher or doing the laundry, during those times.
- Consumer Reports: Storage Tank Water Heaters – Hot Tips for a Better Buy
- U.S. EPA/Dept. Of Energy: Energy Star – Save Energy at Home
- Project Laundry List: Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry
- Federal Trade Commission: Buying a Washing Machine? It's a Load-ed Question
- Environmental Defense Fund: Make the Switch to Energy-Saving Bulbs
Annabella Gualdoni has written newsletters and reports for corporations and nonprofits since 1994. She is a real estate professional and also teaches subjects including international cooking and travel, dating/relationships and personal finance. Gualdoni has a Bachelor of Arts in international development from University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Arts in international relations from Boston University, and a Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School.