Monday, October 6, 2008

Hidden Electric Usage

In my last blog I wrote about the significant drop in our electric bill. I wanted to post today about some way that you can lower your bills also. When my husband gave serious though to our electric usage, he made some discoveries about our habits.

On a typical morning, Joe would wake up, turning lights and the TV on so that he could listen to it as he got ready for work. Often eating breakfast in front of the TV. Most days, the computer was also turned on so that he could download the emails. It was not unusual for the TV to remain on all day until we went to bed at night. Computer also was on all day. These were the easy usages to limit or eliminate. We no longer have electric lights, nor do we have the TV, DVD player, VCR, and radio. We use the computer alone for communication, news, weather reports, home business, and in the background, if we want music playing, we utilize the Window's Media player.

There are also many "hidden" usages that can be limited to lower your electric bill. If you have an electric water heater, think about the possibility of unplugging it or turning off the switch to it's plug at your circuit box when it is not needed. Our water heater is on a 220 circuit. The plug is in easy reach, so we keep it unplugged unless we actually need the hot water. The water heater runs for about 30 minutes, then shuts off as the water has reached the temperature it is set for. We unplug the water heater again once the water has been heated. By unplugging or switching off the circuit to the water heater when not in use, you are able to prevent the intermittent usage throughout the day & night. Your water heater comes on to heat the water, then shuts off. As the water in the water heater begins to cool, the heater will switch on again. This process goes on all day & night for as long as you have power going to the water heater. If no one is home during the day, the water heater is still heating water that you have no need for! How often have you gone on a weekend trip or a vacation and left the water heater plugged in or the switch still turned on in the circuit box? Who were you heating up the water for? All that usage was simply adding to your electric bill. You received no benefit from it! You can also help in saving money by making sure you have a water heater blanket wrapped around the water heater to help in keeping the water warm longer. For washing dishes or other small tasks, I tend to use the stove to heat the water. I find that the stove heats the water much faster, thus using less electricity. When the wood cookstove is lit, the hot water for cleaning is heated for free.

Any appliance that has a digital readout is drawing electricity even when not in use. Stoves with a digital readout clock, for example, is constantly using power to keep that clock displayed. While the energy usage may be small by comparison to other appliances, you are still using electricity in a constant flow to the stove.

In most homes, the only appliances that require a constant availability to draw electrical power is your refrigerator and freezer. Of course there are always exceptions, alarm systems, people with disabilities who have power chairs or other needs, will have additional circuits that need a constant availability for electrical usage. Most of us however, can simply shut off the circuits to unneeded appliances or unplug them if the plugs are placed in a spot that make it convenient.

In every family's home there are ways to cut back usage. Shutting off the computer and turning off the power at the surge strip, cutting off power to the water heater, and cutting off power to appliances with digital readouts makes a huge difference! You may be surprised at how much this simple thing can cut down your monthly bill.


Allie said...

We've started using surge protectors so we can turn the power off completely on our electronics. That way we don't have the constant drain of power from the clocks on those electronics. It's a little thing, but every little bit helps.

With the water heater- I'd be worried about ours freezing- it's in the garage. We did get a blanket to put around it, and ideally we'd like a tankless water heater at some point, but I'll have to look into turning off the circuit to it. Maybe in the summer anyway.

Mrs Dewey Smith said...

I tried simply turning off breakers, but I swear, a monkey wired this place by tossing darts at a board! One breaker handles both bathrooms (one at either end of the trailer) and one outlet in each bedroom (that's 3) and the hallway light. One breaker runs half the kitchen and part of what should be the dining room...

There's not a lot of rhyme or reason to it all. Of course, Dewey is an electrician and we can remedy this easily enough, but right now it's just not as easy as turning off this or that breaker for me. We have to unplug things...not difficult at all, but sometimes they forget things.

Our water heater is easy to get to, but it's older (I know...I can't imagine the draw it has!) and it would be my luck if I unplugged it it would clog up or glitch somehow and not start back up for me! LOL...with Dewey working in Arkansas and not home right now, we'd have some problems then.

I definitely need to investigate this more and see what we can do here --- I certainly like the idea of dropping the outrageous bills this family has!

What kind of lighting do you use now? Just standard oil lamps or something else? Today it's very rainy and dark, in a trailer, that pretty much means lights have been in use all day long for schooling and such. They are simply not equipped with practical windows, that's for sure. We had the oil lamps lit most of the day, but as it gets a bit darker now, we've gone to a lamp so we could read without killing our eyes completely.


katlupe said...

Replacing all those energy hogs with energy star appliances is a good step in changing over to low electric usage. Shutting off the tv was a good idea. I haven't had one in over ten years now and don't even miss it.

Do you use a laptop? They use way less energy than a desk top computer. Also check out a Sunfrost refrigerator. They are costly, but use way less power. For me I am living without one for the last six months saving money to buy a SunDanzer, the solar refrigerator. But the Sunfrost is good even if you are on the grid.

I love reading your blog. Good luck in changing over. Are you thinking of going off the grid? I think you'd like it.