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How to Save Electricity (And Your Wallet)

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Whether you’re Earth-conscious/friendly or just looking to save a few bucks, energy conservation makes good financial sense regardless of your intentions. There are several sites online that give you a rough estimate of how much money you’ll save on your bill if you take a few simple steps to conserve wattage.

First things first, large appliances and large fixtures eat up the most electricity. Basically these are you’re heavy hitters: Air Conditioning, Washer/Dryer, Lights, and Refrigerator/Freezer.

Air Conditioning: Consider using a fan or installing ceiling fans instead of using the Air Conditioning. Or consider setting the air conditioning at a higher level and using fans in conjunction. You can expect savings of over 6000 kWh/year simply by using a ceiling fan instead of running the AC. Look at your electric bill, see how much that would save you, and then decide if you want to install some fans. It is estimated that, for cooling, every degree below 78 increases your usage by about 6-8%.

Consider getting a timer, so you don’t cool when you’re not around (it’s a waste!). Timers are cheap and many have reaped the dividends many times over. Also consider replacing your old system with a new one. It is believed that a system made before 1988 probably uses more than twice the energy as one made today.

Another note about fans, they don’t cool the air, they simply move it. As you stay stationary, your body warms the air around you and so you’ll feel warmer. The fan will simply push that air away so you can feel cooler air around you. What that also means is leaving a fan on in a room you’re not in is a waste.

Washer/Dryer: This is where you can save a few dollars without even noticing (unlike the niceties of AC, how you wash/dry clothes probably doesn’t matter as much). If you just air-dry your clothes on a rack instead of using the dryer, you can expect to save about 1500 kWh/yr. You might notice that change because fabric softener sure is nice… but use cold water instead of hot water to wash and you can save 1200 kWh/yr. If you use warm instead of hot, you can still save 600 kWh/yr. And these aren’t difficult changes to enact, you won’t even notice you’re using cold water.

Lights: Here is where there’s a lot of debate between using regular incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs. Fluorescents use significantly less electricity but take longer to warm up and produce a nice “clean” light.

Refrigerator/Freezer: This is simply a matter of figuring out how much energy your current refrigerator is using and how much the newer models are using. A new fridge will probably run you around $500 and will last you maybe twenty years or so. A typical fridge from ten or fifteen years ago probably eats up about 900 kWh/yr so do your math and see if it makes sense. As for standalone freezers, if you can save money by buying in bulk from Costco then you may justify using that freezer. Most are energy guzzlers and if you don’t need it, get rid of it.

Next we will look at the smaller appliances and some appliances you didn’t think used that much power. Almost everything that draws juice will have a label on it that will tell you how many watts it runs on. If it only has amp(ere)s, then multiply by 120 because our outlets are 120 volts (amps * volts = watts) to find out the watts it’ll use.

Key Points:
1. That number is the maximum it’ll draw, the average draw may be lower. Plus it won’t tell you how much it’s really drawing but it will tell you the max it will draw in a month. It’s not an exact science.
2. Advertisements are usually for output, like your speakers are a certain wattage, etc. The draw is probably higher.
3. When off, some things still draw power, even if nothing is being displayed. You obviously expect anything with a display to draw power but even that receiver, when off, still draws power because there is a transformer inside.

GeneratorSales.com has a great list of how much each appliance will draw. It’s obviously just a sample because it’ll vary from brand to brand and from model to model. It’ll give you a good starting point.

There are several ways to check how much things are really using, the easiest is to use something like the P3 International Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. You can use it to see how much energy appliances are using and, if you don’t need it, unplug it. It’s a nifty little tool at a reasonable price. Another great way is to just go outside and look at your meter. The numbers will go up and the dials will turn, it’s a great way to see how much your home uses as a baseline.

I hope these little tips, most of them won’t impact your quality of life or require significant costs, are helpful in getting your energy costs in check. If nothing else, hopefully they’ve given you a few ideas you can build upon for even more savings.

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