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How to Use Less Electricity

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In this life (so far), I have had a variety of experiences.That knowledge has been both professional and personal. I write from that basis.

Ways you can use less electricity

Ways you can use less electricity

What 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:

  • common electrical 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.

Click on image to enlarge.

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL)

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 they are often given away by utility companies trying to cut power usage. In fact, you could call your local electrical 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 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 Oven

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.

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Heating air to cook food is an inefficient way to transfer heat. Air is a natural insulator; all ovens (except microwaves) heat air to cook food.

Heating and Air Conditioning

In the winter, try lowering your thermostat five degrees below normal. In the summer, raise the thermostat by five degrees. This may be uncomfortable for a few days, but 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 watts 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—which 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 don't 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" inch 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 and 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. 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.

Water Heater

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 but will also 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.


dinesh-varyani on October 02, 2012:

Hi LiamBean,

I really liked you hub .... You have really vast experience I must say .... This info is quite useful for me in some areas ..... anyway keep the good work up and God blesss .....

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on August 20, 2012:

tirelesstraveler: I'm very hopeful about LED lighting. Certainly the pricing will come down over time and their life-time is measured in hundreds of thousands of hours.

Judy Specht from California on August 20, 2012:

You have some tremendous information here. I am linking it to my hub on energy efficiency Somewhat concerned about CFL's. Last week an article from New York University indicated these these light bulbs may be a serious cause of skin cancer. The Mercury in them makes them hazardous materials when broken. Currently we have no way to dispose of them without going to a hazmat drop off. I am a big fan of L.E.D.s

Awesome work here.

sjlfirst on March 20, 2012:

The easiest way to make your home more energy efficient is to seal any air leaks, and one that is often overlooked is the bathroom ventilation fan and exhaust vent. The back-draft flap these units come with do a very poor job of stopping leaks. To address this issue, I use a replacement insert fan from the Larson Fan Company (online). Their fans has a true damper built in, that does a great job in keeping warm air in during the winter and hot, humid air out in the summer. This product has reduced my annual energy bills by over ten percent. It saves the most when air conditioning is being used.

emilybee on March 19, 2012:

What great tips you have here! I'll have to bookmark this and start using less electricity. Thanks! Voted up!

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on January 12, 2012:

Thanks for reading Jeff.

Jeff_McRitchie on January 12, 2012:

This is one of the most informative Hubs I've come across. I'm looking forward to trying some of these ideas out. Voted up.

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on January 10, 2012:

Thanks for reading susannah42, stricktlydating, htodd, and mcdroid.

mcdroid from United Kingdom on January 10, 2012:

Really great hub, a topic i am very passionate about as well.

htodd from United States on December 24, 2011:

Thanks ...It's really interesting post

StrictlyQuotes from Australia on September 23, 2011:

Wow, that's really useful and interesting, thanks!

susannah42 from Florida on September 06, 2011:

Thanks for the tips.

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on August 27, 2011:

CoryO: I did not approve your comment because it really should be an article. I encourage you to write your own article based on the content of your comment.

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on August 19, 2011:

Thanks for reading carcro.

Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on August 19, 2011:

Really good info on power consumption. I never thought of including all the smaller electronics, just the big appliances, but I guess it all adds up. Thanks for sharing!

Ravi Singh from India on August 13, 2011:

Very nice and good detail.I always try to save electricity as much as i can.thanks..voted up!

myi4u from United Kingdom on May 10, 2011:

Nice detail hub! Even though there are so many awareness being made about saving electricty, not many seem to care. I always like to check out tech that will help users to control every plug in a room or in a house with a single remote control. However, those tech doesn't seem to well develop and often cost a lot of money.

Somehow, it seems that electronic equipments nowadays are encouraging users to leave them on standby rather than switch them off completely. For example, in the past, we did not have remote control for our tv or radio. Hence, we had to switch them off completely as there were no standby button. Now, we have a remote control of everything and people will just want to save time by leaving everything standby so that they can turn them all on with remote controls. So, who to blame?

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on April 08, 2011:

Jimbob: Don't the wood and candles cost money?

jimbob on April 08, 2011:

I've found a great way to save energy! Shut off the main power! Use candles, and a wood burning stove. It sure beats lights and furnaces, and you don't have to pay our f'n govt a "wind energy surcharge"!

SHIRLEY on March 13, 2011:

Black and white TV uses less etectric.I like just listening to the TV showes also.

jennifercriston from Oxford Road on February 23, 2011:

You have mentioned smart ways of saving electricity. Several appliances consume too much electricity and should be handled with care.

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on February 17, 2011:

tonya: That's a tough question. I'm not sure how much power that dish network box consumes, but I doubt it's that much. I don't have one and don't want one. Cable and satellite are black holes and time wasters. They are capable of sucking the mentality out of anyone, so I just don't have them.

tonya on February 17, 2011:

I just walked through my house and I don't have things plugged up in the rooms and figured the reason for me 300 power bill is my dish network box that sucker comes on at will and makes a racked like a bad running car all through the day I hate to put it on a power bar and kill the power on it every day cuz it takes forever to boot up after being shut off like that what do I do?

Cheesehum on January 07, 2011:

Good website. I learnt a lot from this website

dosburros on December 08, 2010:

Useful advice that hopefully will encourage people to be more eco friendly whilst reducing their bill!

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on November 29, 2010:

Anonymous: Thanks for the input. I believe you are correct Halogen's do last a very long time indeed. I have also been victim of some "fly-by-night" CFLs and I'm not happy about it. There are some really small ones I use in the yard to light the mailbox and front porch. They haven't lasted a year despite the rating (mean time between failure) being in the five to ten year range. Worse they were considerably more expensive than filament bulbs, which makes their short life particularly galling.

Good advice on the water heater too. Thanks much!

Anonymous on November 29, 2010:

Consider using halogen bulbs instead of CFL in places you use occasionally (e.g. toilet). Halogen bulbs are cheap, contain no mercury, last longer and use roughly 30% less energy than regular bulbs. What is important they do not require few minutes to heat up like CFLs do.

Do not use cheap CFL as they fail quickly and are only burden to our Planet.

If you decide to lower the thermostat, remember to heat the tank to 140F/60C deg for few hours every couple of days to prevent contamination with Legionella:

FionaBaron on November 09, 2010:

This is so informative. Using less electricity in your home is good for the environment and your wallet. Money wasted on extra electricity is like money that is being thrown away.

Thanks LiamBean:)

kubth from UK on September 11, 2010:

Some great advice on a well written Hub - with energy costs always on the rise we could all do with reducing our consumption!

RoseGardenAdvice from San Francisco on August 08, 2010:

A very well-written piece ... I enjoyed reading it and have already pinpointed the areas where I can save on my electric bill. Thanks a ton.

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on May 07, 2010:

Greenlilly & dashingclaire: thanks for reading and I hope the hub helps you cut your electric bill.

dashingclaire from United States on May 07, 2010:

Thanks for a very informative hub.

Greenlily from Philippines on May 06, 2010:

Thank you LiambBeam for this article. I find this really helpful.

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on May 06, 2010:

GypsyWillow: Thanks for reading.

ClydeSight: That is excellent advice and thanks for reading.

ClydeSight on May 06, 2010:

Thanks for this article which explains the way6b electricity is calculated. I use the "power strip" trick to power down all devices when not in use. Those "power bricks" (adapters) draw power whether a device is on or not because the transformer is not switched, only the output. Hence the power strip is a great way to shut them down. I've saves about $10 a month using this trick!

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on May 06, 2010:

Excellent hub, thanks.

seryhu from Canada on May 05, 2010:

This is awesome info. We should all start implementing some of these tips ASAP!

borge_009 from Philippines on April 14, 2010:

Good tips. Nice and well written hub. Thanks for sharing

Rick Nauman on March 11, 2010:

Great hub! We all need to gain more knowledge of energy, so that we can make small changes to the way we use it on a daily basis

jrcemail on February 21, 2010:

Tips to save money! Good stuff.

lady gaga on February 03, 2010:


LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on November 13, 2009:

Evangeline: Thanks for reading. Save your pocketbook!

Evangeline on November 12, 2009:

Awesome info and good ideas! Save the earth! lol...

LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on October 21, 2009:

SimeyC: Good idea on the CFL. I'll add that. I'll add a link to your hub on disposal of CFLs.

I was shocked at the power usage of flat panel displays too. I have to guess it's the backlighting. LCDs are typically low power devices and plasma uses slightly more power than LCDs. That leaves the backlighting.

Simon from NJ, USA on October 21, 2009:

There's no wonder I have such a huge electric bill!!! One point you might want to mention: Compact Fluorescent Light - contain Mercury so must be disposed of correctly...I even wrote a hub on the disposal method!

I cringed when I read the power usage of the 'big' TVs - I have three in my house - gonna have to give one away!!!

maryladd on October 08, 2009:

great hub on reducing electric useage.thanks, maryladd

michellebx on September 27, 2009:

very nice.. i think its all of our responsibility to save our planet!

ciidoctor on September 25, 2009:


LiamBean (author) from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on September 23, 2009:

Thanks to all of you for your encouraging comments.

The root to all of this is the kilowatthour. The less of those you use the lower your electric bills. Find ways to cut power usage and you'll automatically pay less.

To Phoenix Project about your UVA/UVB bulbs. I'm sorry buddy, but when it comes to pets I don't cut corners. They need that heat and that's what those bulbs are made to do. Honestly, I can't think of a good substitute for that. But if you love your pets as much as I love mine you'll just "suck it up" and put up with that one source of power loss.

Of course if you come up with a good replacement please do come back here and let us all know.

Best to you all.

SEO Expert Kerala from KERALA on March 21, 2009:

Nice Hub .. Read my hub about save electricity

How to save electricity and reduce electricity Consumption -Alternatives Energy options

Camping Dan on March 20, 2009:

I plug my electronics into a power strip so that I can turn the strip off when they are not in use. I did not realize just how much power these things suck up just sitting in their idle modes.

Anthony James Barnett - author on March 13, 2009:

Good hub. Very useful information, especially in the present economic climate

RVilleneuve from Michigan on February 25, 2009:

We are all working on these areas. Thanks for the great ideas!

Jo Brown from North of the Border on January 28, 2009:

Excellent info. Especially about flushing the water heater. I have often been told to do that but was not sure exactly what to do or what i was looking for. Now I know. Think i'll go do it right now!

Phoenix_Project on November 23, 2008:

Ideas: There's a mall I heard about that freezes water outside at night for the air conditioning system durring the day. I also heard about a Roman style heating system that heats water for the bath and heats the room too by running pipes under the flooring. Solar pannels on homes cost around $10 grand but are more effective with computerized guidance to rotate towards the sun throughout the day for best results. Electric water heating is CHEAPER than gas heating in California (or depending on your area and situation). Having two water heaters could possibly be more efficient for a two story home or a house with more than one bath (or a big family). The washing machine idea is great.

I think the LED idea is also great. Maybe someone could invent a special generator that uses the water that goes down the sinks and showers to generate electricity (not patented, please steal my idea). What if someone also made minurature water reclaimation kits for homes so they can water their yards? Or what if someone made special heating tanks under solar panels with water in them which turn to steam and power mini steam generated turbines? What if?

(For more information on cutting back on electricity as well as becoming more eco-friendly, GOOGLE: Earth Ships.)

Phoenix_Project on November 23, 2008:

I have pet aquariums and terariums which require heat lamps and UVA/UVB bulbs. Any suggestions for cutting power besides heat regulators on the heating pads?

02SmithA from Ohio on September 07, 2008:

Nice post! I always turn the heat way down in the winter and dress warm or cover up with blankets, especially at night.

british homecare on September 07, 2008:

very informative and handy lens, thanks

David Lim from Singapore on August 30, 2008:

If I may add - if you are moving into a new house, see if you can get a gas water heater installed instead of those that runs on electricity. You could also do it in an old house, but insalling the piping could be troublesome.

Dennis on August 06, 2008:

Last month my electricity bill was only $6! Ok, so I was on vacation for 2 weeks. But the biggest saver is our power company gave us a $30 credit for letting them install a small box on our AC to turn it off when electricity demand is high. If you are a Southern California Edison Customer, sign up for the AC cycling discount. They give you a nice credit from June through October. Also, I have been replacing my CFLs with LEDs. LEDs use about 1/3 of the power of CFLs, have no mercury and last longer. Our kitchen lights are on from dusk until midnight each day. I changed these lamps to LED and noticed a big drop in our electric bill. I am now changing a lamp or two a month since these lamps are still very expensive.

JONATHAN GARCIA on June 03, 2008:


brandon castro on May 29, 2008:

cool any other advice...RagE suX maN!!!!!!

luis gonzalez on May 29, 2008:

great news glad to read this

brandon delgadillo on May 29, 2008:

cool any other advice

jimcrowthers from Port Charlotte on May 22, 2008:

My dishwasher had a bunch of gunk in it, so the recommendation was to turn up the water heater so that the gunk (undissolved soap) would eventually dissolve. Well, it seemed kindof asinine to heat all that water (80 gallon tank) just to keep the dishes (and dishwasher) clean! I subsequently got a Bosch dishwasher, and it only heats the water that it uses to clean the dishes, AND, it heats the water to a higher temperature than the water heater ever could (allowing me to turn down the water heater tank to the minimum 120 degress F). Also, it doesn't have a coil at the bottom, so there's no concern about putting dishwasher safe plastics on the bottom shelf. I have saved enough money by buying this dishwasher that it has actually paid for itself in probably four months already.

This dishwasher has a stainless steel interior, so it retains the heat better. Also, they recommend Electrosol(sp?) instead of other detergents. I've used the other brands, and they leave a film in the bottom (that you wouldn't have been able to see in a plastic lined dishwasher). Electrosol(sp?) doesn't leave a film.

Great advice and information! Thanks for the post!

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on May 22, 2008:

How did I miss this one--excellent, well-organized and clearly explained device. Thanks and thumbs up!

:) on May 12, 2008:

good advice! i might also add that laptops will reduce energy consumption even more than the "conventional" desktop computer.

??? on May 05, 2008:

Nice work. I learned alot from this!

c5 on May 01, 2008:

You have a wonderful writeup. :) I really need to find ways to cutting down electricity consumption. The only appliances I have are a PC (which is off about 5 hours a day only) with printer (rarely used), 2 electric fans (too hot not to use at full speed), and a washing machine. Do you know about the energy saving gadget? With my stuff, will it save me any? No, I got no TV. :) No bulb either; all fluorescent lamps.

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