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How To Save Money On Electricity

Save On Electricity
Ahh! The comfort and convenience afforded to us through electricity! Whether it's our coffee pot or our central heating and air conditioning, we love the efficiency of the machines and devices that work for us. Then, the utility bill arrives, and we're reminded that our lifestyle comes at a cost.

Most consumers are quite willing to budget for the cost of utilities; however, we do like to know that we've kept the bill as low as possible. We want our homes to function efficiently. The only way to save money on electricity is to cut use -- or at least to cut use during peak hours (more about that later). What are the best ways to save money on electricity?

Big vs. Little
In great-grandma's day when only a few items ran off electricity, turning off the lights when you left the room made a measurable difference at the end of the month. Now, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who recommends turning off the lights as a viable means of saving on the electric bill. It's obvious that wasting any amount of electricity is a waste that adds up and should be eliminated, but if you're after measurable savings, you'll need to do more than turn off the lights. Look at your big users: heating, air conditioning, washer, dryer, refrigerator, and water heater.

Climate control efficiency - Nationwide, the number 1 use of electricity in the home is heating and air conditioning.

Turn up/down the thermostat - You've heard this for decades. It's true. Adjust your body to be comfortable in a cooler home in winter and a warmer home in summer. It's generally accepted that adjusting the thermostat 1 degree saves 3% on the bill. Do the math. Is it worth it to you?

Caulk and winterize - Wrap pipes, install insulation, stop drafts, change filters -- have you checked the holes where pipes enter and exit your home? If cold air has ready access to your home and if heat can escape through cracks, you can save money by winterizing and weather stripping.

Phantom use - Electrical devices that are more than a couple years old are responsible for "phantom" or "vampire" use of electricity. While manufacturers have corrected this energy waster in current production, most of us will have one of the older devices around the house for many more years. Some reports say that 75% of the electricity that is used for electronics is sapped when the device is turned off. In some homes that may be 6% of the electric bill. Ugh...what to do? Yes, it means doing that sweep every night to make sure electronics are turned off or unplugged from the wall, not just at the device.

Smart use of appliances and devices
Energy-efficient appliances - If you're on a budget, it's hard to toss a washing machine that works perfectly well in order to purchase one that is more efficient. Yes, over time, it will pay for itself, but how long does that take? If replacing all the old appliances in your home is not an option, at least consider shopping for Energy Star appliances when one has to be replaced.

Smart steps - The combination of a lot of small changes can help your home operate more efficiently.

Consider a low-flow showerhead - It saves more than water; it saves on hot water.

Regulate the water heater - Keeping gallons and gallons of water heated for showers 24-hours a day (when, in fact, it is only needed a couple hours/day) impacts the electric bill.

Energy-conscious consumers have tried turning down the temperature, insulating the water heater, and installing programmable thermostats. In reality, you may need to turn the water heater down 30 degrees to make a significant impact on your electric bill. Limiting ready access to an abundance of hot water is a switch that consumers may resist, but it will save a few dollars by the end of the year.

Air dry laundry.

Technology
Programmable thermostat - A programmable thermostat does the work of regulating the temperature of your home. You may have memories of visiting grandma who religiously turned the thermostat down each time she left the home, back up when she returned, back down at night, and then back up the next morning. A programmable device remembers to make all those adjustments for you. It is a myth that it's more efficient to leave the thermostat at one setting. Running the heating or cooling system all day when you're not there wastes money and energy. If you can't quite bear to walk in and find the house uncomfortably hot or cold, the programmable thermostat gets it back to the level you enjoy in time for your return.

Solar - If you are building a home or able to remodel a home, you may want to choose a passive solar design. A popular energy-efficient strategy is to install panels to collect sun through south-facing windows and then store the energy for use throughout the night.

Smart devices - Companies such as Belkin and Neurio are providing products to make it easier for consumers to track and reduce energy usage.

Timing
Peak hours - Some utility companies vary the cost of electricity throughout the day. Electricity shifts to the highest-billed tier during peak hours. Key to using this strategy is determining if indeed your utility company charges extra during peak hours and what exactly those hours are for your supplier. Peak hours may be 10 a.m.-10 p.m., or they may be 6 a.m.-10 a.m. and 5 p.m.-8 p.m. If you can avoid running the dishwasher and washing machine during peak hours, you'll save.

Peak days - In addition to daily peak hours, some companies have up to 15 peak days. These are typically the hottest days of summer or coldest days of winter -- the days when there is the highest demand on the overall power structure of the region.

Using electricity efficiently has multiple rewards. Your electric bill drops, you've helped the environment, and you likely feel good about sacrificing a bit of your comfort for the greater good. Check out government resources such as Energy.gov and the Federal Trade Commission for more tips on saving.