Frugal Living 

Money Leaks: Unnecessarily Wasting Electricity

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Power MeterElectricity is wonderful, isn’t it? It powers so many of the devices in our home, it makes life more comfortable during periods of extreme heat or cold, and we probably wouldn’t have as much fun without it. It also happens to be a pretty big budgetary line item for many families and one that deserves additional attention – especially if you’re looking for money leaks.

When I talk about unnecessarily wasting electricity, I don’t mean those days when you turn on the A/C because it’s too hot or humid outside. We all have personal preferences and doing the things that make you happy isn’t considered a leak. It’s only a leak when you don’t realize you’re doing it, like having your A/C turn on when you’re on vacation during the week. That would be a leak (and a prime example of unnecessarily wasting electricity!).

This is the latest edition of our series called Money Leaks.

Turn Off Unused Lights

When I was younger, we had a rule that each person could only have one light on at a time. Back in the days of incandescent, instant-on light bulbs, this made perfect sense. Having the light on in a room that you weren’t in was wasteful and lazy. Nowadays, with CFLs and other bulbs with lower energy consumption rates (and are harmed by constantly being turned off and on), this rule is a little more relaxed. We typically turn off lights if we don’t anticipate being in that room in another fifteen minutes.

Phantom Electricity Usage

Another example of wasting electricity has to do with phantom use by appliances with “instant-on” features. Appliances without a hard on-off switch, that breaks a circuit, will still draw electricity when “off.” This is most obvious in the case of microwaves, which obviously use power to light up the clock, but less obvious for appliances like televisions. The easiest way to handle this is to run everything through a surge protector and shutting that off when it’s not needed. Just remember to keep your DVR plugged in so it records your favorite shows. 🙂

One appliance you really need to watch out for are high-definition cable boxes and DVRs – those things use a lot of power. We keep our non-DVR cable box unplugged when we don’t use it.

Adjust Your Thermostat

One of the best secrets to reducing your electricity bill is by tuning your programmable thermostat. Adjusting your thermostat by a degree can result in big savings throughout the season and you may not even notice a change in comfort level.

Those are just three ideas on how you can reduce electricity usage to reduce waste but it’s a good start. Just walk around your house and see what devices are drawing energy and whether or not you can reduce it. It may not save you a ton of money but it’s better for those dollars to stay in your wallet, rather than go to the utility company.

(Photo: daveknapik)

{ 9 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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9 Responses to “Money Leaks: Unnecessarily Wasting Electricity”

  1. STRONGside says:

    The programmable thermostat is a great tool. I paid about $100 for mine, but it was simple to install myself. I have had the device installed for about 3 years now, and I consistently save about $75 -$100 per year from what i was paying before. Well worth the investment.

  2. echidnina says:

    Saving electricity is a win-win situation – good for your wallet, and good for the planet. Green in two senses of the word! 😉

    Right now I rent and the utilities are included, so I don’t have to worry about it so much, but I still turn the lights off as I leave the room out of habit.

  3. mannymacho says:

    You also can get “smart” surge protectors that will automatically turn off some of the plugs when connected devices are off. Pretty useful if, like me, you’re too lazy to remember to turn surge protectors on and off all the time.

  4. ImpulseSave says:

    Smart ways for using electricity always hits home to me. I was SHOCKED to realize that the average person in the US use the amount of energy in one day that a person in Bangkok uses all year. Of course there is an increase in energy consumption in developed nations but we use 5,000 more kW/hr than even other superpowers like Britain or France (World Resource Institute via Wikipedia). Our energy consumption is always characterized as gluttonous indulgence, but what I hear you saying here is that many of us do not even know the number of things using electricity in our homes.


    • skylog says:

      wow! i suppose if i thought about it, i would have guessed it would have been a drastic difference, but that number is truly insane.

  5. Don’t ask why, but I unplug my living room and home office strips every morning when I leave the house and at night when I go to bed. Plus setting the thermostat at 84 when I’m normally out, and I never really noticed much of a consumption difference. Then again, in Florida it’s so hot that no matter what we do down here the bill will be high except in December and January when we’re lucky enough to have normal weather.

    • Shirley says:

      A word of warning about power strips (not necessarily surge protectors) used on computers and being turned off or unplugged:

      If you forget to turn the computer power to OFF before reactivating the power strip, you could be looking for a new power unit or even seeing fried motherboard on your menu.

  6. Alan says:

    Another thing to keep in mind is that most utility companies will give you a rebate for upgrading your thermostat to a programmable one. Minimum of a Mon-Fri (each day) and weekends.

  7. Kenny says:

    Just some ideas on how we economize on our utility bills……Powering down devices that are programmed to your liking like the TV with Favs is tough cause you would waste enough electricity flipping through useless channels.

    Use the 80-20 rule…..80% of your (electric and gas) usage comes from 20% of your appliances. So, if you manage your AC/Furnace, Refrigerator, Electric Iron, Hair Dryer, Hot-Water Heater, High Powered Light Bulbs and other Motors in the house, then you do not need to worry about the night lights, chargers, DVRs, clocks, microwave lights etc.

    We use 90% tube-light bulbs, we aggressively use our programmable thermostat (for both upstairs and downstairs ACs and Furnaces), turn down Refrigerator settings down in the winter and up in the summer, turn down hot water heater settings (winter vs summer), put electronic timers on almost everything we can, and minimize the use of hair-dryers.

    We hang our clothes dry to save on gas, wash our clothes only on full loads, use our towels/napkins/night-dresses for 3-4 days (before washing), wash cars at home, and use a TON of NIGHT LIGHTS.

    If I can tell people TWO THINGS:

    1. Program your Thermostats (takes 5 min to learn)
    2. Use LOTS of Night Lights

    These two will be your BIGGEST IMPACT.

    Our Electric Bill: $30-$40 (winter) and $100-$150 (summer)

    Our Gas Bill: $10 (summer) and $150-$200 (winter)

    None of the above is meaningful without telling you what we have family of total 4 members living in over a 6000 sq ft home with finished basement, with both adults working full time (so you know that in the daytime, it is cold in the winter and hot in the summer, since the utilities have been turned to no-one-home-mode).

    We are proud of our economizing attitudes, and choose to live debt free with a few sacrifices (our normal style of living).


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