How to Use Less Electricity
Stuff That Uses Electricity and How to Cut Back
Lowering any utility bill is a matter of using less of the power you are being billed for. It's almost as good as having cheap electricity suppliers.
There's some really good news here. There are more devices on the market today that use less power than ever before. In some cases, they actually beat the increase in electricity prices. I firmly believe that, with repeated breakthroughs in this area, we can cut our dependence on coal and reduce electricity usage. Cheap electricity may be a thing of the past, but you can still save by cutting down on what you use.
This article will explain the electricity suppliers common terms, how they apply to your bill, and what you can do to reduce your usage.
A watt is a measure of power usage over time. Almost all devices with a listed power usage assume that one hour of time is the typical usage. So a 100 watt bulb assumes that the bulb will be lit for one hour. A watt on a device and on your electric bill really means watthour. Kilo means thousand, so a kilowatt is one thousand watts...or a kilowatthour.
If your electrical device does not list wattage, and it's surprising how many don't, you can figure it out yourself by looking for the power requirements on the device. All electrical/electronic devices will list voltage and amps used. Wattage is determined by multiplying the two numbers. So a 120 volt device that uses 2 amps consumes 240 Watts of power per hour. Remember that volts X amps = watts.
Compact Fluorescent Light
This is my favorite power saving device. A bulb that provides the amount of light of a 100 watt filament bulb that uses about 23 watts. Since you are being charged for the power you use, and that power is measured in watts every CFL, your use cuts your power usage to about one fifth (20%) of what it was with a regular bulb. The savings don't stop there either. CFLs last up to five years compared to filament bulbs that last about a year.
The bulbs aren't cheap, but the are often given away by utility companies trying to cut power usage. In fact, you could call your local electical utility and ask them for some of those bulbs. Why not? All they can do is say no.
If you replace five of your light bulbs with CFLs you could cut a 500 watt usage charge to just slightly more than 100 watts. That's not bad!
Because a microwave cooks the food and just the food, most of the energy used by the microwave goes directly into what's being cooked and not into the oven itself. If you cook something in your microwave (assuming it's a 1500 watt model) and you only need ten minutes of time to cook it you've used 250 watts. Compare that to an oven that uses 2000 watts and requires 20 minutes of cook time. The standard oven, in this situation, would use about 650 watts. That's a difference of 400 watts.
Toaster ovens use less energy than a full sized oven simply because they are smaller and there is less area to heat. The savings are nowhere near what you get with a microwave, but because you have so much less space to heat, you will still use less wattage. I like to use both the toaster oven and microwave. The microwave to get my food to a reasonable temperature and the toaster oven for the browning.
The toaster oven still takes less time to cook than a full sized oven and that alone will save you money on your electric bill. A convection toaster oven is even better because it forces the hot air around the food.
Heating air to cook food is an inefficient way to transfer heat. Air is a natural insulator. All ovens (except microwave) heat air to cook food.
Heating & Air Conditioning
In the winter, try lowering your thermostat five degrees below where you normally have it. In the summer, raise the thermostat five degrees. This may be uncomfortable for a few days, but do try it; you may find you get used to the temperature difference and the savings will be noticeable. Of course, I can't give you figures on the savings without knowing what you are paying now, the size of your home, and the type of heating/cooling you are using.
- CRT: If you have a television set in the 25" to 37" inch range, it is using anywhere from 75 to 150 watts of power per hour. This is for the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) type.
- Plasma: If you have a plasma television set (flat screen), then power consumption is considerably higher. A plasma screen on average consumes 300 watts of power.
- LCD: A Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) needs to be back-lit even though the liquid crystal circuits themselves don't use a lot of power. Figure about 220 watts for one of these.
You can also calculate about how much power each of these television devices use by square inch. To calculate square inches measure horizontally and then down. Multiply both measurements for square inches.
H" X W" = Square Inches
So, for example, a thirty-seven (37") inch HD TV is about 560 square inches. If that set is a plasma model then power consumption is 196 Watts. If the set with the same square inches is an LCD then power consumption is 168 Watts. For a rear projection TV of the same size it's 84 Watts. Here are the watts per square inch for each;
- Rear Projection TV: About 0.15 watt per square inch
- LCD TV: About 0.30 watts per square inch
- Plasma TV: About 0.35 watts per square inch
The solution, of course, is simply to turn it off if you aren't watching it. Almost every television made these days is remote controlled which means that they are never fully off. Remote controlled televisions are in a standby mode which also uses about 30 watts of power.
If you are using a computer, and if you are reading this you certainly are, it's good to know that you are actually using power on at least two devices that make up the computer. The computer itself (the box) uses power and the monitor uses power separately. If you dont' want to turn the computer off, and this is recommended by many geeks out there, you can at least turn off the monitor when you aren't sitting at the computer using it.
The monitor typically uses more power than the computer itself.
An LCD monitor in the 17" to 19" range uses about 200 Watts. A CRT type monitor, the tube type, in the same size range uses 250 to 300 watts. This isn't a huge difference frankly and the reason is that if the flat monitor didn't need to be back-lit it would use considerably less power.
This also applies to printers, faxes, scanners, and other devices you use with your computer. Turn them off when not in use. My brother and I hook these things up to a power strip. When not in use the strip power switch is turned off. It makes a difference.
Game & Computing Gear
Of course video games and other devices use power too. Here's the breakdown;
- Playstation 3: About 200 watts
- XBox 360: About 190 watts
- Nintendo Wii: About 20 watts
- SlingBox: About 10 watts
- Personal Computer: About 80 watts (see it is lower than the monitor)
- Wireless Router/Hub: About 10 watts
- Digital Video Recorder (DVR): About 35 watts
There are a number of things you can do to make your refrigerator use less power. There are so many in fact I'll list them as bullet points.
- Keep the refrigerator full. The more food items stored in there the better. An empty or near empty fridge is just wasting power keeping a few things cool. A well stocked fridge has a thermal mass that actually takes less power to cool.
- Allow any cooked leftovers to come to room temperature before storing them in the fridge. If you put hot food in the fridge for storage you are just making the fridge use power to cool that hot food.
- Lower the thermostat. It isn't necessary to have the fridge at the coldest setting. If you have the refrigerator at the highest (coldest) setting already, lower it and come back in a day and observe the result. Naturally you don't want your milk to go sour or your food to spoil, but you also don't want or need to have the fridge so cold it's near freezing. If you have a thermometer the ideal temperature range for your fridge is between 35 and 38 degrees.
- Don't leave the door open. This is frankly a bad habit of mine and I'm sure for others as well. We stand there with the door open and browse our choices. Bad idea. It only takes a second or two for all the cold air in the fridge to be flushed out.
- Check the seals around the door. These are the rubber seals inside the door surfaces. Most of these are magnetic which is what holds the door shut. Make sure there's nothing in the way of this seal or that the seals aren't cracked or broken. If they are consider getting them replaced by a professional appliance repair person.
- Clean the condenser coils. (see photo above) These are the metal tubes at the back of your fridge. To clean them unplug the fridge, pull the fridge away from the wall, and using a duster or vacuum with brush attachment clean all the dust off of the coils. These coils are small tubes and the fluid/gas inside them is what moves the heat from the inside of your fridge to the outside. Dust and dirt will reduce how well these coils conduct heat.
- Consider replacing an older fridge. Many power companies offer cash or billing rebates for buying a new fridge with a better efficiency rating. You can find out simply by calling your power provider.
The water heater is another potential power waster. As with the fridge above there are a number of ways to save power with this. Of course the biggest problem with a water heater is that it sits there most of the day, unused, simply keeping up to fifty gallons of water hot.
- Lower the thermostat. If the water coming out of the tap is scalding hot you probably have the water heater set way too high. Lowering this will have a number of benefits. It will lower power consumption and prevent the possibility of scalding.
- Wrap the water heater in a fiberglass blanket. The more heat you keep in the water heater the less often the water is reheated. The thermal jacket or blanket will prevent heat from escaping into the air and keep more of that heat in the water. Important: Do not put any of the insulating jacket on the top of the water heater. Of course this is where most of the heat escapes, but a fire is very likely if the blanket is anywhere near the top. These blankets are roughly twenty dollars at a hardware store. Use a blanket whether the water heater is electric or gas.
- Every six months flush the water heater. This is a step that is most often missed. What it does is circulate the water in the bottom of the heater where most of the particulates in the water settle. If those particulates settle on the heating element, which is also at the bottom, then you are heating water and whatever settled onto the heating coils.
To flush the water heater, get a small bucket, a short section of garden hose, and locate the tap at the bottom of the heater. (see picture above) Attach the garden hose to the tap, put the free end of the hose in the bucket and slowly open the tap. There will be considerable pressure behind the water and opening the tap quickly could result in a hot water spray. Run the water for about ten minutes or until the water runs clear.
Eco-Warrior or Scrooge
Following the steps suggested will not only save you money it will make you an eco-warrior by shrinking your carbon footprint.
Don't believe in the greenhouse gas warnings?
Not a problem; you still want to
save money don't you?
If you do believe in global warming then just how many things can you think of that not only save you money but make you a hero of your own environment?
None of these suggestions require you to wander from room to room
plunging your family into darkness just to save a few bucks. But
following my advice will have a noticeable impact on your electric bill...possibly your gas bill as well.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.