Frugal Living 

How We Keep Our Electric Bill Low

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If you’ve been keeping track of the recent shenanigans involving BG&E in Maryland and rate hikes, rate deferments, council meetings, et cetera … then you’d be aware that the electricity rate caps were recently removed and many families are feeling the pinch. Electricity costs are going up everywhere with the increase in the price of oil so being aware of energy costs is hardly a Maryland phenomenon, though it’s slightly more acute here.

That being said, our most recent electricity bill was for $82.32 and the bill before that was a scant $48.58. Our daily average kilowatt usage was 23.1 kWh in July (73 average temp), 17.1 kWh in June (67), and 27.0 kwH in May (74). This includes a $10 Credit for Air Conditioning Control. I’m not sure why we get it (or if everyone gets it) because I can’t find information about it on the BG&E website. All this to power and cool a 2,400 sq. ft. home (800 sq. ft. is basement) to nice comfortable 75 degrees when we’re home. I know friends who pay at least two or three times that to cool similarly configured homes and I’m not entirely sure why, but I can explain how we keep electricity use low.

1. Programmable Thermostat
This is probably the biggest money saver because we don’t run the AC or heat when we’re asleep or out of the house. I have it programmed to shut off after midnight and turn on at around 5pm, so our air conditioning only runs when we’re actually at home. Some would say that leaving it off all day just means it takes longer to cool down at night and you are probably right, except only when the external temperature exceeds 90 does the internal temperature of the home exceed 82.

2. Shut Off AC Entirely
In a three story house, the top floor will always be warmer than the middle floor which will always be warmer than the first floor. Our master bedroom is located on the third floor, right underneath the blazing hot attic that bakes all day, and there are days when that room can’t get cool even if you run the AC all day (I’ve tried and failed). In those instances, we simply shut off the AC and sleep in the basement on some mattresses we pull out of storage. There’s no sense running an AC you can’t take advantage of so we utilize the natural coolness of the basement.

3. Use Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs
All the crap people say about how CFL’s don’t give you nice light are all a bunch of crap. Do the math and you’ll realize that the cost to run a CFL is one fourth the cost of a regular light bulb. In fact, some of you may remember I wrote about the money saved using compact fluorescent lightbulbs. If you aren’t using CFL’s, get with the program!

4. Turn Off Unused Lights
You’re only one person, you only need one lightbulb right? So, turn off any light sources you don’t need and save yourself a few pennies on electricity and a little bit of generated heat. While it sounds minuscule, and it is, the little numbers add up to a bigger number at the end of the month and represents money you could use to do something else.

5. Don’t Heat Up Your House
We grill instead of bake/broil/use the oven and we air dry instead of use the dryer. If you’re spending so much money to cool down the house, it doesn’t make much sense to do the things that generate the most amount of heat. Sometimes we use the oven because it heats up the kitchen, which isn’t where we spend a lot of spare time anyway, but the dryer generates a lot of heat and humidity that spreads throughout the house (we don’t vent it outside, which is a positive in the winter).

What are you favorite energy saving tips?

{ 13 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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13 Responses to “How We Keep Our Electric Bill Low”

  1. Al Brockman says:

    Here’s one that you don’t see mentioned very often.
    After using the clothes washer, hang the damp clothes on an outside clothes line. The savings are dramatic, particularly in a family with kids. Other than on rainy days, you reduce the KWH to zero for the clothes dryer (and that is a kwh hog)

  2. Posco says:

    Wow. Electricity in Los Angeles is expensive! (compared to what you were paying before your rate hikes) I live in a little two-bedroom apartment. Our daily average electricity use is 10 kWh, less than half of yours, and yet our monthly electrical bill comes out to about $36.00 including taxes (compared to your $48.58).

  3. michelle says:

    CFLs are full of the VERY toxic mercury (says so right on the packaging). If you dispose of your old CFLs in the garbage (which is illegal due to their toxicity), the mercury WILL end up in the groundwater and in our food chain.

    If you insist on using these toxic bulbs, find a safe way to dispose of them. This will be tricky, of course, since the manufacturers don’t tell you how to dispose of them – the manufacturers don’t really care. They’re just trying to make a buck at the expense of their (and your) children & grandchildren.

    CFL bulbs are a short-sighted and toxic approach to reducing energy consumption.

  4. Jude says:

    Venting a clothes dryer directly into the house may seem to save on the heating bills, but it is going to cost you in future maintenance bills and during the summer months. There is a huge amount of water vapor that gets wrung out of the clothes and carried away in the vented air. If it goes right into your home it will cause moisture problems; condensation on windows, peeling paint, or even mold growth. In the summer it takes a tremendous amount of energy for the AC to remove the latent heat of the air caused by the humidity.

  5. EMF says:

    @ michelle
    This site,1607,7-135-3585_30068_30172-90210–,00.html suggests that the production of the additional electricity to power the incandescent light exceeds the mercury in the CFL.

    You don’t want to vent the clothes dryer into the house in the summer. In the winter, the humidity is low so the chance of damage is reduced.

    The dryer needs to pull in air to replace the air it vents. So in the summer, I vent the dryer exhaust to the outside. Also, I open the window in the utility room with the dryer and close the door. That way, it pulls in air from outside rather than the expensive air that’s been cooled and dehumidified by the air conditioner.

  6. Scott says:

    As has been alluded to here, beware of the potential emergency costs of CFLs. Story I heard recently involved a woman who was replacing all of her old bulbs with CFLs when she accidentally dropped one on the floor. It broke and it cost her $2000 to have a professional come clean and remove all the mercury. Handle with care.

  7. Joe says:

    The $2000 clean-up as a result of a “CFL-spill” is not quite accurate:

  8. Deb says:

    To add to the dryer dilemma…our dryer hose is fitted with a plastic box contraption that is screened and can open to vent in the house in winter or close to vent outside in the summer. It’s pretty neat.

  9. Fas says:

    I am an energy saving nerd but not to the point where I am uncomfortable and have to make drastic changes in my lifestyle.
    1) Ok, if you have a hot water heater, please know that this appliance is without a doubt the most inefficient thing in your house. All the hot water heaters I’ve seen can have there thermostat adjusted by simply unscrewing a plate towards the bottom and adjusting the gauge (normally with a screwdriver). So perform this test. Go into your bathroom and turn your tubwater on as hot as it will go. If you cannot comfortably hold your hand under it, chances are it doesn’t need to be that hot for your showers, washing machine or dishwasher. Over the next several days, adjust the temperature on the heater and do the test again until you find a good temp. For mine, I have it as low as it can go and it is plenty hot for me. In the winter, you may have to adjust it back up if preferred.
    2) If you have a dishwasher, do not select the auto-dry or warmer or whatever it is called. If you simply open the dishwasher after running it, the warm dishes will dry pretty fast, thus avoiding the 30 minutes of running that heating element.
    3) If you have an attic, you may find it very much worth your while to invest in a $100-150 attic fan. If you are handy, you can install it yourself easily. If you have a fan, you can open some windows on the bottom floor of your home and the fan will draw air from the outside (usually at night after it has cooled off), thru your home, up to the attic and out the vents in your roof. This effectively gets rid of all the 100 degree air that is trapped in your attic after a hot day. Run the fan for several minutes, close the windows and then your A/C will have an easier time cooling the house.

  10. SAHM-CFO says:

    I’ve heard that venting indoors can present a fire hazard as well as introduce mold, and circulate allergens into your home. It’s not worth it to me.

    I want to know about that AC credit. I could use that on my bill! You’ve got a great bill for that ac temp considering the rate increase.

  11. cooliojones says:

    I don’t know if I could bring myself to do that, other than the fact that I live in an apartment right now so it’s not possible. 🙂

    Then you have to iron the clothes and fold them or hang them up. SO I just get them dry cleaned. 🙂

    My New Hustle | Make Money Online
    More than a noun, it’s a lifestyle.

  12. MW says:

    I live in Alaska, I’m currently taking energy efficient courses and learning valuable information. 1. I agree with FAN above on the dishwasher by allowing dishes to air dry after running the dishwasher in lieu of dry feature. 2. Clean lint trap on dryer after every use (noticed a huge savings after 2 months of 9 loads a week). 4 Turn off dryer 6 minutes before it automatically shuts down and allow the dryer cavity heat to finish drying my clothes. 5. Don’t vent dryer hose back into the house – causes most major house fires. 6. Switch to LED light bulbs as each older bulbs burn out – no mercury and earth friendly. 7. Clean the coils under your refrigerator since it can impede airflow and make the heat transfer less efficient, forcing the appliance to work harder. 8. Keep your refrigerator away from heat sources (oven, stove top, microwave, heat vents or baseboard heat, etc.) 9. Make your own pet food – certainly cheaper, healthier pets and allowing your pets to live longer. 10. Check out various energy efficient websites for subject matters applicable to you (where you live, home, lifestyles, etc.) Your state or city may have great information too.

  13. TeaQ says:

    Simply unplugging what you are not actively using and plugging your things in only when you are going to use them cuts down your bill dramatically.

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