Every month of my life after leaving college, I have received a bill for electricity used by my household. Every month, I would get frustrated with the step-sizes our electricity company uses and how they seem to change without cause or reason. The electricity I use in the winter is SUPER CHEAP, but the electricity I use in the summer is UBER EXPENSIVE. I understand that power grids have to keep up with the demand, and as a result they need to charge more to deal with the increased draws on the grid when everyone is cranking their AC’s all day.
That being said, I still felt somewhat powerless to control the numbers written on my electric bill. One day, I decided enough was enough (it was actually the day I received a bill for $265). I read up on all sorts of ways to defeat the energy leeches in my house, and to make my residence a monument to efficiency (still working on that). Without further ado, I present to you the steps I took to bring my electricity bill down by over 50% in less than 1 year. I am still making improvements, and hope to report additional energy wins next year.
Smart AC Control
The number one thing you can do to reduce your electricity bill is to control usage of your AC. Keep the house warmer than you might like… it’s okay to wear a t-shirt and shorts. Use a smart thermostat to control the temp, and set a programmed temp cycle. We use the Nest Thermostat, and love it. If no one is in the house during the day turn the AC off while you are at work, and have it start to cool the house down on your way home, or an hour before. There isn’t any sense to cooling a house no one is in. The majority of people prefer a cooler environment during the night while they sleep, so a programmable thermostat is also useful for setting a nighttime schedule. You may find you don’t mind a higher temperature while you’re awake, but once you get in bed you’d like to use a blanket and not wake up in a puddle of sweat. Keep in mind your AC will not have to work as hard in the cool evenings, so bumping the temperature down a few degrees shouldn’t hurt your savings by a lot.
So there is the first challenge, control your AC usage.
The state I live in has had LED Bulbs on a major subsidy for about two years now. As a result, bulbs that were nearly cost prohibitive to buy before, are now no-brainers. Most of my calculations make back the initial investment in 2 years or less. I changed out 32 light bulbs, and 16 flood lights in one fell swoop. The really amazing thing is that the next bill cycle I noticed an IMMEDIATE drop in our electricity bill. An energy star rated LED light bulb consumes a mere 9W while outputting the equivalent brightness of a 60W bulb. That means, you could run an LED bulb for six hours, and it would still be cheaper than that old light bulb running for a single hour. We personally purchased the EcoSmart 60W LED Bulbs as they ended up being quite cheap (Just $1.84 / ea. at the time of this writing), and we’ve been using them for over three years now. The odd thing, is that these bulbs are so inexpensive, their estimated savings will repay you in about a year. Everything after that is profit, and if you factor in the increased life of the bulbs 14,425 hours vs. an average life-expectancy of 8,000 hours for a compact fluorescent the cost savings are even more pronounced.
Maybe you aren’t in a place where your electric bill is crazy, and it makes sense to go out and purchase the mother-load of bulbs like I did, but I guarantee the longer you delay, the more savings you lose. At the time of this writing it would cost you only about $28 to replace 16 bulbs with high energy efficient LED bulbs.
Time of Day
Many electricity providers offer something called “Time of Day Pricing.” This program changes the cost of electricity to your house. Program participants will pay a premium when using electricity during the day (something like 8:00a.m. – 8:00p.m.) and get a steep discount during the night (the remaining hours of the day) and all weekend long. Additionally, a small daily charge is typically applied as well ($0.30 for me) for a fancy new time of day meter at your house. We use a smart thermostat to crank the AC down after the cheap electricity is available. I also bought a cheap Mechanical Timer for our de-humidifiers in the basement, we do laundry on the weekends, and we try to cook more on the weekend than not.
After buying the mechanical timer, I saw that they came in a Two-Pack for just two more dollars, that might be relevant to you. So far, I have seen a 16% decrease (~$26) in my electricity bill by utilizing Time of Day. That $26 per month will turn into $4,664 if invested and left alone for ten years! After a few more months, I will write a report on just how much money this program is saving or costing us.
It is amazing how energy inefficient some devices and “hibernation” hardware states are. One of the most surprising things about our journey to a more energy efficient house was the realization that some things just continue to draw power regardless of their usage. This constant draw is known as “Phantom Load.” When I went into power-saving mode, I viewed it as a war. I purchased weapons, like the Efergy Elite Combo Kit that allowed me to see my electricity usage in real-time on a web-app and on my phone (see example dashboard below). I could make changes and watch my energy usage rise and drop in real-time. It was amazing, and it allowed me to cut over 300 Constant Phantom Load Watts from our daily electricity usage. That may not sound like much at first… But, that is 300 Watts every hour of every day. Multiply it out, and its an astounding 216kWh every month (roughly 20% of my total electricity usage). This phantom load would have snow-balled into 2,592kWh by the end of the year and if I was paying national average for electricity usage ($0.12 / kWh) that would be $311 per year for literally nothing at all. Phantom load is an efficiency leech worth finding and killing.
Above is an example of the Efergy Dashboard available online from a week of electricity usage at my house. Because I measure, I can ask questions, like the following:
- How does my electricity usage never go to zero? (My smallest usage is 240Watts, in a 2 minute period. This implies that I have a phantom load of 240Watts hiding in my house.
- What are the large peaks to the right of my day’s usage? (It’s my AC turning on, and my grow light activating for my Aeroponics setup)
How is your electricity usage? Have you noticed any good ways to save a chunk of change on that normal bill?