How Reducing Your Electricity Bill Can Help the Planet Too

Consumers are creatures of habit and convenience, often preferring to take the easy road instead of the one that’s best for the environment. Yet, what if you could train yourself to make a few small changes and save big on your electricity bill? Would it be worth it to help save billions of watts of electricity consumption in this country alone by making a few small changes in your own daily routine? It’s often hard to keep the big picture in mind when we take small steps in our own lives, but it is the cumulative effect of these changes on a large scale that can make a real difference to our environment.

Stop Paying for Energy You Are Not Using
It seems obvious: Why pay for electricity you don’t use? Yet every day, most of us are paying for appliances that are not being used but are still plugged in. It’s the electricity industry’s dirty little secret: “phantom load.” A couple of watts here or there from your home from appliances that are turned off yet are still plugged in 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you are paying the price. Multiply this phantom wattage by millions of homes in the United States, and this phantom load translates to a whopping 6 percent of total electricity use nationwide–or billions of dollars in hard cash for electricity companies.

energy savingMusic systems, televisions, computers, DVD players, alarm clocks, and microwaves are the biggest thieves of phantom load. The easiest way to identify these appliances is to look for a cube-shaped transformer near the appliance’s plug. The average household has 25 or more appliances that have phantom surges, using an average of 15-25 watts per appliance. What’s the best way to avoid paying for the electricity being sucked out while they’re not in use? The US Department of Energy recommends unplugging any appliance that doesn’t require continual charging while not in use, using power strips to make the process of switching on and off easier, and unplugging the power strip when not in use. Turning off your desktop computer and monitor alone for a four hours a day can reduce your consumption by as much as 3 percent. And forget that old wives’ tale that the life of a computer is extended by keeping it on continuously; that fact applied to old mainframe computers, not to modern home desktops.

It’s as Easy as Changing a Lightbulb
The easiest change to make with the biggest impact on your electricity bill comes from switching your lightbulbs. Energy experts agree that eliminating incandescent bulbs and replacing them with CFLs (compact flourescent lights) is the single biggest way to save money on your electricity bill. CFLs are the spiral shaped bulbs now found in every grocery or home improvement store. Although consumers may initially be put off by their higher price tag, it bears noting that these bulbs use 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs and last ten times longer than incandescent bulbs, making a real dent in the electricity bill over time. Not only does that mean a cost saving in the long run, it also means less climbing on chairs and ladders to replace burned out bulbs.

Two Costs to Every Appliance
To truly save money on electricity, as can be seen in the situation with incandescent lightbulbs vs. CFLs, it is always important to remember that appliances have two costs: the purchase price and the operating price, which lasts for the lifetime of the appliance. Because 20 percent of home electricity costs come from refrigerators, washers, and dryers, it is important to purchase the most energy efficient appliance available when seeking a replacement appliance. A key indicator found today is the “Energy Star” label. This is not a brand indicator, but rather a government certification issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy.

Quick Tips for Saving Electricity
So what things can you do to save on your energy bill and help reduce overall energy use? It boils down to changing a few habits. Much like turning off the lights when you leave a room, with a little training you can see a real difference in your electricity bill by following a few simple steps.

First, train yourself to turn appliances off when they are not in use. Unplug them. This can seem like a hassle in the beginning, but after a few days, you’ll find yourself doing this automatically.

Second, replace incandescent bulbs with new CFLs. If you can’t change all your bulbs at once, switch those you use most frequently, like the ones located in the kitchen or outdoors. Use timers for lights when possible. Use spot lighting in place of overhead lights to save more.

Third, remember that screen savers don’t reduce energy use; automatic switching to a sleep mode or manually turning off your computer will. Laptops use far less energy than desktop models, so rely on your laptop when you can.

Finally, replace old appliances with those that are more energy efficient. Look for the “Energy Star” label. Remember there are two costs for every appliance, a purchase price and an operating price.

Helping the Earth While Helping Yourself
Although it is easy to think about the environmental big picture without including our own actions in that equation, helping the environment is about everyone’s small contribution added together. A few extra watts of power wasted doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is the cumulative effect of such waste over the long term that leads to billions of watts of electricity wasted at a cost of billions of dollars and a negative environmental result. You can begin to have an effect on your own electricity bill as well as helping defuse your impact on the big picture by making a few easy changes. It’s as simple as retraining yourself to unplug the microwave after every use or shutting down your computer when you’re done or switching a light bulb. The changes we make today are the energy savings we reap for the future. You’ll thank yourself when next month’s electricity bill comes too.