The constant “lights on/lights off” battle between my parents has always been a source of great amusement to me. My dad is a creature of darkness (and low electricity bills). My mom acts like she invented electricity and should get royalties every time it’s used. I’ll leave the regular conflicts to your imagination.
When I got married, however, I found the “Battle of the Blaze” had crept undetected into my suitcases and followed me into my own home.
Many household appliances (answering machines, TVs, computers, etc.) use about three to four watts of electricity even when they are “off.” The energy used up by each appliance by itself may seem minor, but all together, the costs do add up.
Tip: Chargers are particularly deceiving. Many people have the tendency to leave cell phone (and other) chargers plugged in 24/7—not realizing that a charger continues to eat up electricity even when it isn’t actually attached to its “chargee.”
2. Invest in energy-saving fluorescent bulbs.
Energy-saving bulbs cost more than regular bulbs, but also last longer (almost a year in some cases) and use up less energy.
Tip: Buy the “warm white” instead of the regular fluorescent bulbs. They give off a nice yellow glow, and make your house look less like a twenty-four-hour roadside clinic. Also, use one large bulb instead of several small ones. One large one-hundred-watt incandescent bulb produces more light than two small sixty-watt bulbs—with 20 percent less energy.
I mean, think about it. Isn’t it just a little silly to turn your room into Siberia—just to bury yourself, blue and shivering, under the covers? For every additional 1 degree of cooling, your air conditioner uses about 5 percent more electricity.
The way to get the most out of your AC (with the least amount of energy wasted) is to set the thermostat at maximum when you open it, cool the room sufficiently, and then turn back the thermostat to a moderate or medium setting.
4. Use less (and cooler) water when washing.
You can save about 80 percent to 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes simply by using less water, and using cooler water. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, the warm- or cold-water setting on your machine will generally do a good enough job. Switching your machine’s temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.
5. Don’t overload washing machines.
When using a dishwasher or washing machine, don’t overload, and follow detergent instructions carefully. Overloading and oversudsing makes your machine work harder—therefore eating up more electricity.
6. Don’t use an electric dryer unless you really have to.
Electricity-wise, dryers are evil. If you must use one, dry clothes in consecutive loads. If the dryer is already warm, you save on initial energy consumption. Also, don’t overdry your clothes. Leaving clothes in the dryer too long causes shrinking and needlessly consumes more energy.
7. When ironing, match temperature setting to the fabric.
By matching your iron’s temperature to whatever fabric you’re ironing, you not only avoid scorching or under-pressing—you also save energy. Also, set a day aside to iron all clothes at the same time. Pressing clothes item by item as needed uses up much more electricity than you think.
The more crowded the refrigerator, the less air can circulate—and the harder it has to work. (On the other hand, the fuller the freezer, the more efficiently it works.)
Organize your refrigerator shelves so you know where everything is, and think of what you need before you open the fridge. This way, you open your refrigerator less, and keep it open for a shorter period of time.
Tip: If you want to be a real geek about it, you can post an inventory list on the refrigerator door, identifying fridge contents by shelves. Also, use clear containers for leftovers so you can see what’s inside right away.
9. Use small electric pans or toaster ovens for small meals.
A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-size oven. Another alternative is to use pressure cookers, turbo broilers, and microwave ovens whenever possible. They can save energy by significantly reducing cooking time.
10. If you must use a big oven, bake more than one item at a time.
If the different recipes call for varied temperatures, say 350°F, 375°F, and 400°F, pick the middle one. And remember, if heated air circulates freely, the oven doesn’t have to work as hard. So don’t let the pans touch each other, the wall, or the door, and don’t place pans directly above each other.
In general, just remember that the more extra heat (or cooling) an appliance has to generate, the more electricity it uses up.… So if you want to lower your electricity bill, just adjust your settings (and your habits) accordingly.