In keeping with the theme of simplifying finances, I would like to share how for 3 months in a row my electric bill has been between $64.00 and $72.00. No, my family doesn’t walk around bundled up like the brother in Christmas story, we just apply logic…and bank $100 per month. Below is the practice of our logic applied to each category that uses the most electric;
Lights – This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s not commonly done: turn off the lights when leaving a room. We’ve even taught our 4 year old to do this before he leave his room, the bathroom, the kitchen etc. I am adamant about turning off ALL of the lights when we go to bed. I grew up this way but recently re-instated the habit. Just this alone reaped significant savings.
Television – As I’ve written before, we cut the cable cord a long time ago. Now our TV is used for Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and DVDs. We don’t have much time for even that, but not having cable means that now the TV turns on less in the first place.
If you do watch TV at night, turn it off before going to bed. Before Dylan, Michael and I had a habit of lying in bed at night to watch a movie or one of our shows. Inevitably, he and I would fall asleep and the TV would be left on overnight. As I became more aware of how screens and electronics as a whole interrupt sleep patterns, we’ve since removed the TV from the bedroom. Now we save money and rest better!
Heat/Air – This area is a personal preference. I set our thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees. I have found that when we dress appropriately this works for us. Granted we have had a very mild winter this year, but there were a few days that stayed below 20 degrees. On those days we used our fireplace every night and set the temperature for 72 and we were quite comfortable. Once the cold snap was over, we put the thermostat back to where it usually is.
I want our home to be comfortable and a joy to be in so I don’t freak out about the thermostat. However, if someone is cold we reach for a heavier sweatshirt first and then after a few minutes if that won’t cut it, we raise the temperature in the house. Once we are comfortable, I will lower the heat back down so that it doesn’t come on every few minutes. I also keep it low when no one is going to be home for the day. These small adjustments really add up.
When it comes to the central air, last year I was able to keep the windows open with only ceiling fans going for the majority of the summer. When it got really hot, we used the central air and kept it set consistently so it didn’t have to continually turn off and on. The trick is to raise the thermostat when no one is home and shut it off completely whenever it makes sense to.
Lastly, don’t neglect basic maintenance of your HVAC system. We replace our filters every three months, we cover our central air unit in the winter with a weatherproof cover, and we have our duct work cleaned as recommended by our professional. Keeping things tidy and well maintained will keep the HVAC unit more efficient and therefore be less costly to run as it won’t have to work as hard.
Electronics – I have all of our device chargers plugged into a surge strip. When we are not charging anything, we unplug the strip completely. This not only saves electric because there is always a continual current going through the chargers and cord, it also saves from a possible fire…because there is always a current going through the cord. Shutting down waste, no matter how insignificant it seems, adds dollars to your account at the end of the month.
Laundry – I have worked a system so great that I have to YouTube it for anyone that wants to save 6+ hours per week: I only do laundry 2x per week. Granted we are a family of three, but we live an equestrian lifestyle and that should account for something. In a nutshell it goes a little something like this;
For load #1, I do sheets, towels, pajamas, underwear and socks. These get washed together in hot water. Once done they go into the dryer. The other weekly load is all clothing. I wash clothing together on cold or lukewarm water. I don’t separate darks from colors because in all my years I’ve never had an incident and therefore don’t see the point. Also, using cooler water is better for the longevity of the garments. Once they are done washing, I take them out of the washer, give them a snap, and hang the clothes to dry from clothes lines in my basement using either hangers or clothes pins. This means that I only use hot water for laundry and the clothes dryer 1x a week. Even if there are a few extra loads that I have to do separately because they are extra “horsey” or because I get a little behind, this system still saves major bucks, not to mention time.
Alternative Provider/Provider – Last year I signed up with Direct Energy and was able to lock in a lower price per kilowatt hour than my electric company was offering. When my bill was in the $170 range, this difference added up to be about $25 per month in savings. Now that I’m ringing in $70 per month invoices, it’s about $5 in savings per bill but that still comes to $60 over the year. When my contract came up for renewal, I went onto my electric bill online and got my average monthly kilowatt per hour, (we use less than 350 per month which is way below average) from there I made him tell me how much my bill would be with his service and without his service. It definitely paid me to re-up.
Some States don’t have an alternative provider option, while others have providers that offer “free electric weekends”. It really is worth getting on to your electric company’s website to see what you can sign up for. Don’t stop their either, engage the powers of Google to see if there are alternative providers in your area that work with your electric provider.
In this day in age with pipelines and oil spills, it may seem like there isn’t much that we can do to help our carbon footprint, but the above is all the proof needed. If 20% of the households were to lower their electric bill by 50%, what kind of message does that send to “big oil”?
Today there seems to be challenges with making and keeping our money but truth be told, we are the ones who have the power. The power as a consumer is what will make or break a business, no matter how big a corporation is. I obviously have to use electric and gasoline, but how I use it creates more profits for me…not them. These lifestyle adjustments are not difficult and in fact, outside the initial thinking of them and implication, you will never even notice them. Make no mistake about it though, $300 in 3 months is a big deal. At this pace, that is a savings of $1,200 in one year.
Take the one year of savings at $1,200 and invest it at 7% with a contribution of $100 per month from the electric savings for the following year, and you will yield
$8,849.54 in 5 years from electric that you’ve never even missed.
Who should have that money? You? or them?
Of course the square footage of your home will be a major factor here, this is one of the reasons that Michael and I purposefully opted for a smaller house. However, I say that no matter how big, I bet you that you can get your bill down by at least 20% of your average bill. In fact I challenge you!
Pass this post along to anyone who can benefit from not giving the power company so much of their dough.