Cut Your Electric Bill

Planning & Saving
on March 11, 2001

Much of the $2,400 annually spent on utilities by the average American family goes to the electric company. Fortunately, electricity costs can be reduced dramatically with a little work. Take these steps to save hundreds of dollars on your electric bill:

Conduct an energy audit. Many utility companies offer energy audits (including savings suggestions) for free. Such audits often save about $100 per year.

Control heating and cooling costs. The greatest savings will come by making your home energy efficient. Check insulation around all exterior walls, floors, and ceilings. Close fireplace dampers and vents to unused areas. Plug gaps around pipes, ducts, fans, lights, electrical receptacles, and exterior wall vents. Simply caulking and weather-stripping can cut your bill by 10 percent. In the winter, let the sun shine in and lower your thermostat as much as comfortable. Reverse the process in the summer. An automatic timer can reduce costs by managing temperature changes while you’re asleep or away. You’ll save 3 percent for every degree increased in the summer, or decreased in the winter, on your thermostat. Clean or replace air filters monthly, and have your heating/cooling systems checked and cleaned annually to keep them running efficiently.

Save on appliance energy. Reduce your water heater temperature to 120 degrees to save $40 per year. Set the refrigerator at 38-40 degrees and the freezer at 5 degrees—the ideal temperatures for each. Make sure your refrigerator door seals airtight. Keep your appliances clean, allowing them to run efficiently. Lint in your dryer’s screen and outside exhaust impedes the airflow, taking longer for clothes to dry.

Open your oven sparingly when you’re baking, because you lose 25 degrees every time you open it. Better yet, use a smaller appliance to do the job and cut energy costs in half.

Finally, consider new appliances. Some use 30 percent less electricity than models 10 years old and older.

Watch lighting costs. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can provide lighting at half the cost. Although they’re initially more expensive, CFLs use one-fourth of the electricity and last up to 10 times longer. Other options to cut lighting costs: keep bulbs and fixtures dust-free, use translucent lamp shades, and place lamps in corners where they can reflect onto more surfaces and thus appear brighter. And remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room for more than 10 minutes.

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