Why Should We Care?
Being able to reduce your energy use has two benefits. First, it could substantially reduce your monthly energy bill, and second, you can reduce your carbon footprint. If you don’t believe in climate change, that’s ok. You still get to save money!
How much money?
That depends on a number of factors. But like with anything I say about savings, how much you can save in one month is not as important as how much you can save over a year, 2 years, or even 10 years. For instance, if your monthly electricity bill hovers around $80/month, and you make a few changes and bring that down to about $40/month (that’s the average we pay in our 3 bedroom, 1,000 sqft house with 2 adults and 2 dogs), those $40 savings add up to $480 in just one year, and $2,400 in just 5 years. I don’t know how much money you make in an hour, but if you’re like an average person in the US, you probably have to work a bunch of hours to make those $480 AFTER-TAX dollars. If I don’t have your attention by now, that’s almost 70 chicken burritos at Chipotle… Therefore, I think, saving money in your electricity bill is at least worth a little bit of your attention.
Efficiency vs. Conservation
When it comes to changing the way you use energy (or any kind of utility, for that matter), many people assume big sacrifices must be made. In my experience, that’s true only in VERY FEW instances. Reducing your use of energy is all about improving efficiency and implementing conservation.
Efficiency means changing the products you use or the manner in which you use them. For example, changing your 60-Watt incandescent bulb to a 9-Watt LED bulb (which produces the same amount light) would be an improvement in the efficiency sector by changing the products you use. Implementing a rule to use your drying machine only every other Saturday would be a change in the manner in which you use a product.
Conservation involves cutting energy use in certain parts of your life altogether. This is not about not using your electronics anymore. Rather, it’s about eliminating waste. Here, an example would be to turn off a light bulb when no one is in the room or when you’re leaving the house. Another example would be turning off your A/C during summer, and instead using a fan. You need a healthy combination of both conservation and efficiency to really make an impact on your energy bill. In this journey, you will realize that you can actually reduce your energy use by half or more without much sacrifice.
Heating & Cooling
Cold Months: During the cold months, we like to keep our central thermostat at around 60 F. This is obviously not enough to stay warm inside the house, but we supplement our central heater with a radiator ($30-$40). Even if we set the thermostat to 60 F, this radiator alone will bring the room temperature to about 67-70 F. This would vary depending on how large the heated area is. We also have a tower heater that was gifted to us. However, we avoid using it because we found that heater to be very expensive to operate. A radiating heater is much more efficient (although slower) in warming up space because once the metal casing and the oil inside are heated up, it uses very little energy to keep it hot. Whichever route you take, just remember that the central heating system is the most inefficient way to make you warm because it aims to heat up your entire house, and you can only be in one place at a time. Also, wear more clothing! If it’s 20 F outside, there’s no need for you to artificially make your house feel like Aruba.
Hot Months: During the hot months, we try our best to use our box fans as much as possible. For those of you who have no summer experience in Arkansas, it is indescribably hot, in a very annoying way. It gets stupid hot, and it’s humid. You can take a shower, walk out, and you’re sweating. In light of that, I won’t say you shouldn’t use your A/C. But you can probably cut about a month of A/C use when it starts getting hot, and then cut another month of A/C use at the end of the hot months. Tip: If you are home, it helps immensely to not wear any pants (underwear is recommended, however).
You need LED bulbs. They’ve gotten cheaper and more efficient over the past few years. We use 60-W replacement CREE bulbs. We were really lucky to get these cheap because Entergy was subsidizing them for a limited time. Ordinarily, these CREE bulbs cost about $14, but we got them at a subsidized price of $7/bulb at Home Depot. The good news is that Walmart started to get in the business of LED bulbs and last time I checked, they had their own for about $8.80!
LED bulbs only use 15% of the energy used by the traditional incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light. Talk about efficiency! In terms of efficiency, fluorescent bulbs (the twirly kind, a.k.a. “CFLs”) stand right in the middle of incandescent and LED bulbs. If you want to make changes to cut your energy bill, I recommend that you might as well just go all out and go LED, instead of CFL. LEDs are a tad-bit more expensive, but they’re mercury-free, use less energy than the CFL bulbs and also last a lot longer (about 20 years). Tip: Only one of these 60-W Replacement LED bulbs is enough to light up an entire bathroom or any room. Don’t waste energy filling up every single light fixture where where only 1 or 2 are more than enough.
Big Ticket Items
The appliances that draw the most energy are probably your 1) electric washer, 2) electric dryer and 3) refrigerator. If you’re in a place where you need to make these purchases anew, then, I would recommend buying the most energy-efficient appliances you can find. Over the course of the machines’ lifetime, they could literally save you thousands of dollars. However, if you already have these things, all you can do is to change the way you use them.
Washer: As a general rule, we wash our clothes only once every 2 weeks or so. That’s about the time when M & I start running low on underwear. When we do use our washer, we make sure that it’s fully loaded, and the water is set to cold. I’ve experimented with hot wash and cold wash, top-wash and eco-wash. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference. So, we use the most basic wash cycle (shortest cycle that includes wash-rinse-spin) with cold water (heating up water requires a lot of energy).
Dryer: The most radical change you can make in this department is to STOP USING your dryer. That was probably our biggest step to frugality. We could tell how much this saved us almost immediately. We have accumulated 3 drying racks so far. This is more than enough to dry our 2-weeks worth of clean clothes. If you’ve never hang-dried your clothes before, it might seem like a hassle. But honestly, it only takes like 5 minutes. That’s same as the time it takes you to watch a YouTube video. You can do it! Also, I’ve read that hang-drying your clothes makes your clothes last much longer. This is the link to Mr. Money Mustache’s article on hang-drying your clothes.
Cutting Wasted Energy
Vampire energy. Remember that word. This is the word used to describe the energy consumed while your devices or appliances are on standby, and they can add up quickly! The reason why this merits your attention is because this is money spent for no one’s benefit. It’s just dripping. Our solution to vampire energy was to use a power strips. Our Keurig machine, crock pot, and all that good stuff in the kitchen are ALWAYS disconnected when not in use. The lamp and the chargers in our living room are always connected to one power strip, which we simply switch off before going to bed. The more you have connected to your power strip, the less vampire energy!
If you are paying more than $100/month on electricity, please do know, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it SHOULDN’T be that way. With small changes, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort, yet gain huge savings. Try following my recommendations and watch your energy bill get DECIMATED!
What do you do to reduce your energy bill? Is there anything else I should try?!