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Saving Electricity on a Budget

Electricity Resource Guide

Electricity bills can be one of the most expensive monthly costs in any budget. Luckily, there are many strategies, tips and products that can help you save.

First, you’ll want to find ways to reduce your current usage. From there, you may want to invest in some useful products, like more efficient bulbs or timed power strips. You may be able to make some money back through tax credits and rebate programs that help cover the cost of new appliances and other energy-saving home upgrades. Finally, if you’re still struggling, there may be assistance programs available in your area.

Ways to Cut Back

How to Save Money on Your Electricity Bill: These 10 tips are simple and can save hundreds of dollars per year.

Sample Savings: The charts toward the bottom of this page break down up to $2500 in potential annual savings, mostly in temperature control strategies.

100 Ways to Save Energy at Home: Here are 100 ways to save separated by category. Some of these fixes may be more expensive, like replacing an inefficient roof.

72 Ways to Save Energy without Spending: These energy-saving tips do not require any investment in windows, upgraded appliances or other expensive fixes.

How Much Phantom Energy?: Learn which electronics use the most phantom energy — the energy that’s used even when the device is turned off.

Five Alternatives to Running the AC: These easy DIY tips help you cool the house down without the money-eating air conditioner.

Where to Start with Upgrades: If you’re not sure where to start, do your upgrades in this order to minimize upfront cost while maximizing efficiency.

Take Advantage of Electric Company Benefits

States with Energy Choice: Find out if your state has electricity company choice. You may be able to get lower rates through a different company.

Power 2 Switch: If your state does have energy choice, use this website to decide which company offers the lowest rate.

Energy Assistance Programs: These programs can be used to lower your monthly electricity bill. Search by state and see if you qualify for a discount.

Items and Appliances to Invest In

Consumer Reports Portable Air Conditioners: These reviews and tips help you pick a portable AC unit that can cool down the room you’re in rather than the whole house.

Installing Window Film: These sun-blocking films are easy to install on windows and can block up to 80 percent of solar heat.

Caulk to Seal Air Leaks: Seal leaks around doors and windows to keep unwanted air out and heated or cooled air in. This is a simple project that costs around $10.

CFL versus LED bulbs: Start replacing your conventional light bulbs. Different lighting fixtures may work better with CFL rather than LED or vice versa, so use this checklist to pick correctly.

Clothes Drying Rack: Use these racks that cost $13 to $40 to avoid using an electric clothes dryer. These work best near an open window with a breeze, outside or near indoor fans.

Thermostat Buying Guide: Upgrade your thermostat to save more on heating and cooling bills. Some even let you control temperature, lights and more from your phone.

Smart Power Strips: Advanced power strips can control energy usage with a timer or a sensor that detects occupancy to turn off lights automatically.

Energy Star Products: Learn more about Energy Star appliances and how they can save you money.

Make Back Some Money

Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy: You can take advantage of these 30 percent credits when you install energy efficient heat pumps, turbines or solar energy systems.

Energy Star Rebate Finder: These special offers and cash-back rebates are sponsored by Energy Star partners to encourage consumers to upgrade to more efficient appliances.

State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency: These grants, loans, rebate programs and tax credits are offered by individual states and cities to push for increased energy efficiency.

Tips for Saving on Electricity Bills

Learn Your Energy Usage

Create an online account with your energy provider. Many of them offer charts, both daily and hourly, that break down your energy usage. You can see when your peak hours are and experiment with different strategies to reduce your usage.

Learn About Phantom Energy

Check out the link above on phantom energy. Just turning off your electronics may not be enough. Some, like televisions, computers, printers, coffee makers and even lamps, can use energy even when they’re off. To save the most money, you’ll need to unplug these “phantom energy” users.

Start Upgrading Light Bulbs

Conventional incandescent light bulbs are cheap, which makes them appealing to those on a budget. However, they use a lot of energy and produce a lot of heat as well, which increases summer cooling bills.

The cost per bulb for more efficient lighting is daunting, so upgrade gradually. Even if you just purchase one or two per month, you can get most of your lighting upgraded within a year. These bulbs cost less to run and usually last at least a few years.

Keep in mind the pros and cons when choosing a type of bulb.

CFL bulbs (or compact fluorescent bulbs) are rated to use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last 8 to 10 times longer. CFL light is closest to incandescent color and quality, but can take longer to warm up to full light output when first turned on. Their lifespan can be significantly shortened if they are turned on and off frequently, so try to keep CFLs in areas that are left on or off for longer periods of time. CFLS also contain mercury, which is dangerous if the bulb breaks.

Halogen bulbs are great for outdoor lighting or task-lighting for crafts, reading or office spaces. They produce very crisp light that is fully dimmable to save more energy. At full brightness, they are only 10 to 20 percent more efficient than incandescent, but they can last twice as long. These are not always the most cost-effective option, but they are great options to reduce eye strain and for home security lights.

LED bulbs are overall the best choice for most situations. For starters, they last longer than any other type of bulb. Their life expectancy is at least 10 times that of incandescent bulbs, meaning at 3 hours per day of use you can expect an LED bulb to last over a decade. Some are rated to last 22 years or more. They use 75 percent less energy than incandescent.  There are also color options that allow you to mimic yellow, soft white, blue or other tinted light. The one potential downside, besides the initial cost, is that many LED bulbs are unidirectional. This means in table lamps, for instance, they do not emit light to the sides. GE has started making LED lights that are “omnidirectional” to address this problem.

Focus on Air Conditioning and Heating

Up to 48 percent – nearly half — of your electricity bill may be home heating and cooling.  This, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, can be lowered by nearly 30 percent with some proper planning.

Start with your thermostat. Learn its programming and adjust its set point based on the season. Set a different temperature during the day while you’re away.

Consider new methods, like strategic opening and closing of window coverings, or products that may allow you to heat or cool one room at a time. The more you avoid using central air, the more you’ll save. Focus on the room you’re in at the time by using portable air conditioners and/or heaters.

Prioritize Short- and Long-Term Projects

If you own your home, replacing your windows or insulation may be too expensive of a task right now. However, it’s worth saving up for these upgrades since they’ll save you thousands in the long run.

Set aside a monthly budget and divide it among more expensive long-term projects and cheaper short-term, like portable heating and cooling appliances. Saving for both of these together will ensure you maximize your savings potential.

Avoid Hot Water in the Washer

If your water heater is electric, try to wash your clothes in cold water as often as possible. This will help save the color and fabric of your clothes, too.

Avoid Using Electric Dryers

For most clothes and fabrics, you’re better off using a clothes drying rack. Dryers are convenient, but they are hard on clothes. If you do use the dryer, try to avoid high heat and long-running cycles.

Also make sure to clean your dryer’s lint screen after every use. You’ll also want to clean out the vent with a specially designed tool. These preventative maintenance steps help save energy (and money) and reduce the risk of fire.

Trade in Old Appliances

You can often trade in your current appliances for a credit toward more energy-efficient models. You may also want to consider selling them on Craigslist to get help toward a newer model.

You don’t need brand new appliances to become more efficient. Shop for used Energy Star approved models through appliance stores. They are almost always fixed up to run like new but cost significantly less.

 

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