How to Save Money on Electric Bill and Other Utilities
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Electricity equals money, and more so these days. During the economic downturn and record unemployment, it’s key to cut utility expenses on natural gas and electricity. Looking at Energy Star appliances, having a radiant barrier, checking your watt usage, and more are great ways to start plugging the holes in this area of your budget. Let’s start looking at How you can Save Money on Electric Bill and other utility expenses.
It’s more important than ever to cut household expenditures where possible. No matter which side of the global climate change debate a homeowner or renter resides on, nobody will deny that it just makes good sense to save money on monthly bills.
The US government is even willing to entice citizens to move in this fiscally responsible direction via energy tax credits. Although the tax year has passed, the good news is that the second phase has begun.
It is easy to see how small changes can add up to big savings for you and your family! We know the basics like keep your doors closed and shut off all lights when you leave the room, but we will dig in a bit more on ways you can cut costs as you learn a bit more about the electricity your home uses.
Save Money on Electric Bill
The thing to get started with: s a power meter. A power meter, such as the Kill A Watt (KAW) Power Meter by P3 International, can easily tell you how much almost any appliance or electronic device in your house costs to run.
Using the Kill A Watt
About the size of a wall-mounted surge protector, the KAW is simple to use:
1. Plug it into any 110-volt outlet.
2. Plug the device you want to monitor into the socket on the front of the KAW.
3. Run the appliance and wait.
The P4400 model has several buttons across its face, but the money button—and the only one you really need to worry about—is the purple one marked kWh (kilowatt-hour) / Hour. This one tells you how much electricity the appliance consumes over time. Press the purple button to toggle between KWH and the timer.
Let’s say you decide to test three appliances. Here are some sample readings:
Window air conditioner (non-Energy Star) = .40 KWH / hour
Laptop = .025 KWH / hour
29” HD TV = .10 KWH / hour
You can see running the air conditioner uses more power than using your laptop or watching TV for an hour. However, how much does that icy coolness actually cost you? Now you can look at how to Save Money on Electric Bill after you take the next step.
Calculating Your Electric Bill Costs
Pull out your electric bill for the month and locate the charge for KWH. (If it’s not printed on the bill, call your electric company and ask them.) According to the Energy Information Administration, the national average retail price of electricity is 8.9 cents per KWH.
Now do some simple math:
Cost to run device for an hour = [energy consumed (KWH) per hour] x [price per KWH]
Here’s what those three appliances cost to run for an hour at 8.9 cents per KWH:
Window air conditioning unit = 3.56 cents / hour ($.0356 / hour)
Laptop = 0.22 cents / hour ($.0022 / hour)
29” HD TV = 0.89 cents / hour ($.0089 / hour)
To get a more accurate picture, though, you should monitor some appliances over a longer period of time, including when they’re supposedly not running. Some devices, such as cable boxes and microwaves, may draw power while they’re off.’
Kill A Watt Pros & Cons
P3’s Kill A Watt is not the only power meter on the market, but it is one the most inexpensive and easiest to use. I LOVE that fact – after all, who wants to spend a lot of money to try and save it?
Advantages of Using the Kill A Watt Power Meter
- Inexpensive ($29-$35)
- Easy to use
- Built-in timer
- Works with any 110-volt appliance
- Accurate to within 2% according to manufacturer
Disadvantages of Using the Kill A Watt Power Meter
- Can’t monitor large appliances such as clothes dryers
- No battery backup, which means you have to read the display while it’s still plugged into the outlet.
Kill A Watt Power Meter New Models
P3 has recently come out with two new models:
- Kill A Watt PS – electricity monitoring power strip that allows you to monitor multiple devices while protecting them from surge ($78-$99)
- Kill A Watt EZ – an improvement on the original model with built-in cost calculation and a battery backup. ($35-$49)
Replace Electric Drains
Once you have figured out the cost of things and know what you might want to replace with a more energy-efficient model? Then you can start looking at the small stuff and plug those drains on your electric bill!
Obviously unplugging things that aren’t in use, but still drawing power, will make a difference. This is where all the small appliances add up – from your toaster to your microwave. But lets look at a few other things you can do:
Replace light bulbs
Get rid of those old incandescent bulbs and go with LED! LED lamps to make an energy-efficient replacement and substitute for standard 60-watt incandescent lamps. At 8. 5 watts, each bulb emits brighter light output of 800 Lumen. I like THESE that I found on Amazon
Save Money on Electric Bill: Program your thermostat
If you work away from home during the day, you can easily keep your thermostat set a bit higher. Using a programmable thermostat will set it to turn down and cool off your home about an hour before you are set to arrive. It can also be scheduled to keep the thermostat higher in the evenings, overnight and early mornings when temperatures are at their lowest of the day.
Lower your water heater temperature
Lowering the temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can reduce standby heat loss and save up to 15 percent in annual water heating expense. That adds up to more than you might think AND you never have to worry about burning your fingers when washing your hands.
Save Money on Electric Bill: Insulate doors and windows
If you want to keep that air conditioning in on hot days and toasty heat in on colder days, you need to make sure you plug the leaks on these larger openings in your structure walls. This Old House has great tips for this article.
Replace the air filter
Whether you are talking about your car or your furnace, it is important to do this consistently. If the filter gets plugged, the furnace engine has to work harder and can potentially fail. For a few bucks, you can save a lot of cash on a repair bill and keep it working optimally.
Engage your kids to help!
Save More Money!
Let’s look at a few other ways you can save some cash – credits from the government for upgrading your home. While you DO get the payback at the end of the day when the savings slowly add up, you can get some serious cash back NOW when you invest in these upgrades.
Federal Energy Tax Credits
These energy tax credits are based on Energy Star qualified products, but it bears pointing out that not all qualified appliances and building materials qualify. Always check for updated guidelines before making a purchase or remodeling with a greener building product.
The credit is defined as 30% of the cost of the Energy Star appliance or product up to $1500. In some cases, the cost only applies to the purchase price, not the installation labor cost. This makes DIY projects more attractive. Oddly, only existing primary residences meet the criteria. New home construction gets zero incentive to build green. So what’s included?
Heating and Air Conditioning Systems (HVAC)
Biomass-fueled heaters are big right now. Pellet stoves are the biggest sellers in this arena. The biomass fuel is made from things like wood waste and corn plant fibers. Why load up the landfill when this material can be used for heating? To qualify, the thermal efficiency rating must be a minimum of 74%, and the installation cost for these stoves does qualify.
Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps
Central A/C units have different qualifying numbers for split systems and package systems. For split systems, it must have a SEER >= 1, and EER >= 13. Package systems shake out like this: SEER >= 14 and EER >= 12.
Air source heat pumps are rapidly gaining in popularity because they can provide 4 times the amount of energy that they consume. To qualify, split units need a HSPF >= 8.5, SEER >= 15, and EER >= 12.5.
For package units, HSPF >= 8, SEER >= 14, and EER >= 12. For both air conditioners and heat pumps, installation costs apply.
Insulation and Radiant Barrier Foil
This category is one of the best bangs for the buck that a savings-savvy tax-payer can take a look at. Neither insulation nor radiant barrier foil labor installation costs qualify for the energy tax credit, but they are both easy DIY projects requiring few tools. And the utility bill savings begin right away, in the winter or the summer.
Note that not all radiant barrier foils qualify, although they are all considered insulating materials. One that does is Energy Q, the same product that NASA uses.
Doors and Storm Windows
Installation costs are not qualified for these two items, theoretically because these are potential DIY projects. It’s easy to install a prehung door. Windows are a bit trickier but well within the ability scope of the handy homeowner.
Refer to the Energy Star sites for specifics on eligibility on qualifying for the energy tax credit in this category; there are too many variables to list here, and they change often.
The bottom line is just this; now is the time to save and spend those tax return dollars effectively!
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