The Electric Slide: Cut Your Electricity Bill In Half
Now that you’ve put those Christmas lights away, we’ll show you how to lower your electricity bill by up to half. In fact, it’s almost wrong we haven’t written about this yet. Neil is an electrical engineer whose specialty is power and energy. And I used to develop curriculum for a green energy education company.
Together, we’re an energy-saving team with an electricity bill of less than half the national average. The average residential US electricity usage is 911 kWh per month; ours was just 371 kWh per month in 2015. We’ve watt-metered a few devices in our day and can show you how to cut your energy use without wasting your life on silly tasks like unplugging your toaster.
The Electric Slide
The average American electricity usage slides slowly up each year, even with all the HE options now available. I’m sure expanding home sizes and technology use are partly to blame. We’ve found ways to fight the upward slide without living in the dark or giving up modern conveniences. In the last five years, we’ve doubled our human occupancy but steadily decreased our usage. Mostly our improvement is owed to the power of tracking. We’ve recently made much of why we don’t budget, but we do track our expenses and continually seek ways to reduce them.
In fact, utilities are a prime example of an expense for which tracking is superior to budgeting. Seasonally variable costs and fluctuating rates make utilities a slippery item for budgeting. Paying an average “budgeted” plan lacks precision as you’ll almost certainly over- or underpay. So people are left with two options: guess, or budget what you spent last month. The latter is essentially the same as tracking, but lacks the power to adjust behavior unless it’s compared over time.
Tracking in an organized, graphic fashion where you can watch the trends over time is the best way to fight the upward electric slide. No one needs to read a whole post about turning off the lights or unplugging electronics. The behavior that can actually change your variable utility costs is tracking them.
The “No Impact” Myth
Failure to track electricity use perpetuates the “no impact myth” that turning off a light or two won’t make a dent in your bill. But you’ll never know if your changes are helping if you don’t track your bill month by month. The myth that your behaviors won’t substantially impact your utility costs is not only fatalistic, it’s false. Thus tracking is the first step toward lowered utility bills.
Pricey home meters can be installed to track your usage, but of course we’d never pay for something we can easily accomplish for free ourselves. To slide your electricity bill down instead of inevitably up, help yourself to our free utility tracking spreadsheet. Our data is there for example, but you can easily overwrite it with yours. Check your past usage, available online through many utility companies.
Of course, tracking alone can’t alter your bill; you need some changes to track. In this post we’ll tackle the topic of lighting, going beyond the obvious “turn off the lights” to simple strategies that will save money and improve your quality of light. And Wednesday we’ll share a few other heavy-hitting cost reducers that help us keep our bill below half the national average without sacrificing time or convenience.
Evict the Incandescents
It’s hardly news that indcandescents are becoming obsolete. Even though compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and LED bulbs cost more upfront, they pay for themselves in energy savings. An LED bulb uses 1/6 the amount of energy as a comparable incandescent, and lasts 20 times as long. LEDs have recently dropped in price, making them an affordable and highly efficient option for the average consumer. If you have ANY incandescent bulbs in your house, I urge to replace them with equivalent LED bulbs.
If you’re overwhelmed by switching out every bulb in the house, begin with most-used bulbs in living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and entryway chandeliers. Then work your way to bedrooms and bathrooms (which might already have fluorescents). Newer technology in CFLs and LEDs produces a higher quality of light than old-school types; in some studies their light quality has been preferred by consumers to traditional bulbs.
You may be able to score some free bulbs by contacting your local energy provider about promotions or energy savings kits.
Let There Be Light
We use daylighting as much as possible, opening the blinds even when it’s partly cloudy to supplement or replace electric lights. Try turning off lights one at a time to see how much of a difference they actually make during the day. Often it’s negligible.
If this sounds time-consuming, rest assured that it quickly becomes second-nature, especially as you soak in the all the sun’s benefits. Studies have demonstrated that sunlight improves people’s mood, productivity, and health. I don’t know a human who doesn’t feel happier on a sunny day than a gloomy one.
I’ve noticed that in many homes, most lights are left on all the time. But why compete with the most powerful light source in the solar system? We take the opposite approach by turning off all the lights and adding one or two as needed. Kids can complicate the equation as they notoriously forget to shut off light switches, but we’ve noticed that our son has picked up on the habit through our modeling rather than nagging. He even tells us not to waste electricity!
Again, tracking is your first step toward lowered utility bills. Savings across several bills could add up to well over $100 per month. I’d be mad if I lost $100 bill every month, which is why it’s well worth it to me to employ a few simple steps to save that sum. Please check our free utility tracking spreadsheet, enter your numbers, and watch the magic begin. Happy tracking!
Do you track your electricity usage? How do you save on lighting costs?