It was at the beginning of November 2008 when we decide to get serious about reducing our debt...and in order to do that, we had to get a hold on our monthly expenses. Our electric bill was at the top of the list...so that's where we started. At this time though, I was still truck driving cross country, so what follows is really a testament to Melissa's and Gabrielle's willingness and determination to lower one of our most costly bills.
Our entire house runs on electric; heat, air, lights, well pump. We have two meters. One is the Main meter and the other is called the Dual Heat meter. Only our furnace runs on the Dual Heat meter, and everything else is on the Main. The good part about that is we get a slight discount on the Dual meter. Needless to say, our electric bills were quite high, especially in the winter and the hottest parts of summer when we ran our air conditioner.
One of the first things, and the most important, that Melissa decided to do was turn the thermostat down to 63 degrees, bundle up, and supplement the heat with our fireplace. Of course we had never seriously used the fireplace before...it was more for decoration and mood, so there was not exactly a lot of wood laying around for her to burn. Luckily, I had a few days off and was able to cut up some wood before I hit the road again.
Yes it was cold. The fireplace did an ok job of warming the living room, but the rest of the house was quite chilly. Yet, my wife and daughter persevered; extra clothes, big comfy blankets...and very rapidly the electric bill began to plummet.
The second thing we discussed and put into action was our appliances and such. We of course switched all our light bulbs over to CFLs...and then we started doing some in depth research on other ways we could save when it came to our appliances. Most of them (fridge, oven, washer...etc) are older models and there was no way we could replace them with newer, more energy efficient ones, so we had to find a way to deal with what we had.
I looked into the water heater and learned that we only needed to have ours set at 120 degrees. The installer had ours at 130, and with a little turn of a dial I reduced the electric bill. Amazing. One article I read said you could save as much as 6-10% by reducing your temperature setting in this way.
Next was the washer. We always had it set on hot/cold cycle and again...with a flip of a switch...turned it to cold/cold, and set the wash cycle to the quickest setting. I can't be sure how much this has saved us, but using less hot water (hot water heater) and having the washer run for a shorter period has to be doing something. Amazingly, our clothes are just as clean as they where before the changes!
There wasn't too much we could do with the dryer. It was winter and we couldn't hang anything outside to dry even if we had something to hang them on. We did debate unhooking the dryer vent and letting the heat circulate inside the house (another article suggestion), but opted not to do that. However, we did set drying time to 20 minutes and would check the clothes to see if they were done, resetting the time if needed. We used to just put them in for an hour whether the needed that much time or not. Btw, I'm in the process of putting a clothes line up right now...the dryer will be semi-retired very soon.
The dishwasher was easy...we just decided to not use it anymore. There where some conflicting points of view as to whether or not hand washing dishes is more economical then using a dishwasher, but I have no doubts that with judicial use, hand washing is way cheaper than having that machine chugging away. Not to mention our dishes are cleaner now then they ever were before.
Electric can opener...Gone! Seriously, I swear I had more problems using it than the hand held one we use now. Maybe not a huge hit to our electric usage, but now it's not any hit at all.
Refrigerator was next. We had read that a fridge should be 36-40F, and the freezer should be 0-5F. If a fridge is set 10 degrees lower than needed (or freezers set 5 degrees lower than needed), it can increase energy use by as much as 20-25%. Since the fridge is the second largest user of electricity...right behind the air conditioner, we got on this one right away.
With the research we had also learned that having appliances, lamps, TVs, computers, etc...plugged into the wall...even when not on, still used electricity. someone had coined the phase as "Ghost Amps". Apparently, these devices, while plugged in, sit there sucking your hard earned money right from the wall. Solution...we unplug them now when not in use. Some of our stuff, like the entertainment center that has multiple devices in one area, all got plugged into a power strip. That way we can flip just one switch and they all get shut down.
Then there are the other things. We shut off lights when we leave a room, take quicker showers, use towels more than once, watch less TV, use candles, and probably a number of other things I can't think of, because now, in just a short period of time, using less electricity has become second nature to us.
Our electric bill used to run us anywhere between $275 and $350 per month depending on the season. Last year at this time we were using 130 Kwh per day. Almost immediately we saw a savings. The first month we had dropped our daily usage drastically and now we average 70 Kwh per day. For us it's a big difference...our eclectic has been cut in half! Since we wont be using the air conditioner this year we believe that we can get the electric bill down below $100 this summer. When winter comes we'll have a real wood furnace, so hopefully that savings will continue. All that savings and it doesn't really seem like we're doing that much different.