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Lowering Utility Bills
I live in CA and am concerned about the upward skyrocketing monthly electric bills I receive. Besides hanging my wash out to dry, turning off my extra storage freezer, not using heat or air-conditioning and getting rid of my fish tanks, I am at loss at what more I can do to conserve. Any ideas? We need a new roof and are tossing around the idea of solar roofing. This seems super expensive though for our budget of $3000.
Replace all regular light bulbs in your house with fluorescent ones. They put out the same amount of light at a lower wattage.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer full. It takes less energy to cool a full fridge than it does for an empty one. If you run low on food, try putting jugs of water in it to take up space. Note that water expands, so if you put it in your freezer, make sure that you leave enough room.
Clean the coils on your fridge (they are either behind it or underneath it). A clean fridge runs more efficient.
Utilize the sunlight as much as possible. Sunlight is free! Use the sun to heat the house as much as possible. If your house is cold, consider opening all your drapes to allow as much sun in as possible. Conversely, if your house is warm, consider closing the drapes to block out the sun (and opening a window instead of turning on the air).
You mention that you may consider some kind of solar roof. Call your electric company and your legislator. See if they have any incentives or rebates for people who use solar energy. There may be some nice incentives that will allow the solar roof to fit into your budget.
Consider installing more insulation in your attic and possibly an attic fan. OK, the fan takes electricity to run, but it could save you money in the long run, because it keeps your attic cooler, which in turn keeps your whole house cooler (especially if the insulation in the attic is inadequate). You could also look into adding insulation to your walls, and make your house ultra energy efficient.
See if your electric company offers peak/off peak pricing. The peak time is during the day, when businesses use the power as well. The off peak times are usually around 7 p.m. to 7 am Monday through Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Depending on when you use your power, and the peak/off peak split, you could save quite a bit of money here.
Try www.homepower.com for ideas regarding solar. Incentives are available in certain states. PV power cells can be very expensive but the return on investment may be worthwhile.
I took out all of my Malibu lights, turned my decorative pond to circulate for an hour a day instead of 8 hours. I do all my laundry and ironing after 8:00 PM. I have changed every single lightbulb to fluorescent bulbs. Anything nonessential is turned off unless I need to use it. I cut my electric bill from about $125 per month to $55 a month.
We live in California too, and she can do the following:
a) If her water heater is electric, turn it off. We did that at home, and are saving almost 1/3rd of our total electric bill. It takes about 1/2 hour for the tank to recover to an acceptable level of hot water. We tried it on a weekend first, when our whole lives wouldn't be crazed if the water didn't get hot fast enough, and found that realistically, with a working parent family, your water heater only needs to be on a couple of hours each day.
b) Get what they call a "green plug" for the refrigerator (and do the standard things like checking the seals/vacuuming the coils. Can save another 10-15% of your electric cost, because it does the same thing as turning off your water heater, but only with very rapid (and short) pulses.
d) Unplug your televisions and/or connect them to on/off switches. I was shocked how much difference it made once we did this.
e) Use crockpots/ electric skillets/ microwaves instead of a traditional stove, and plan everything so that you group work together. E.g.: Bake 3 - 6 things at a time, instead of one.
When we decided to become seriously frugal and debt free (1/99) our electric bill was $110 per month on the equal payment plan (take full years bills and divide by 12, pay same amount each month). This is for a total electric house, well and workshop. Now (4/01) our bill is $60 per month. How did we do it?
#1 Put a timer on electric water heater. Ours runs only 4 hours per day, enough for showers, dishes, laundry and house cleaning.
#2 Put a water heater blanket on the water heater. DH feels this would make a serious difference even without the timer.
#3 Stop using the large oven. Use a toaster oven, use electric skillet and crock pot. I use my big oven to bake bread only, and then I bake enough for 2 weeks at one time.
#4 Boil water in the microwave for dishes or drinks. It boils lots faster.
#5 Keep your freezer full. If you have vacant space put bottles, etc with water in them to fill in.
#6 Buy black out curtains or material and keep them closed during the heat/cold of the day/night. I bought the material and some camping grommets and made simple curtains to hang from hooks during the times I need them. Since they are not permanent they do not have to be hemmed and trimmed and hung from fancy rods. Keep it simple.
#7 Fix meals that require little cooking time. Not only will this save on cooking electricity but also on cooling your home. Again, a crock pot or toaster oven are wonderful. Don't laugh but during the heat of the summer I move my toaster oven to the back porch to cook in. It does not heat up the house that way.
#8 Defrost your freezer/fridge. You can tell how old mine are by my saying that.
#9 Wash only full loads. I still use hot water for towels, cloth napkins and under clothes. I will never believe such things get clean in cold water. I tried it and they did not "seem" clean to me.
#10 Get a rod (broom handle will work) and put cane tips on each end, hang over your bathtub to hang clothes on either during cold or rainy weather or to avoid direct sun exposure.
#11 Many food items say to cook from frozen (turkey breast for example) but you can thaw in the fridge and reduce the cooking time. Frozen = 2 1/4 hours, Thawed = 1 hour. I do this all the time and we have never had a problem.
#12 Turn off ghost loads. These are items which use electricity without you even noticing it. The microwave clock, the VCR clock, etc.
#13 Turn off all lights when not using them BUT use them when needed. I became so cheap about not turning on lights that I now wear glasses. It would have been cheaper to turn on the lights.
#14 Remember - the computer uses power too. The internet is not life's blood, turn it off - this goes for the TV too. Get in touch with a good book or the sunshine or your kids/pets.
I too live in California, and have seen my energy bill triple over the winter, although this was mostly because the price of natural gas has gone up so much.
We have considered installing solar, and I have to agree with Pam that it seems expensive. However, she needs to consider the following.
When you install solar power, you are essentially pre-paying your energy bill. So, if you are paying $10,000.00 for a system, not only are you prepaying the next 10-15 years of electricity, but you are paying for electricity ten years from now with today's dollars. Considering inflation, this can be quite a savings.
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