Before we get into the ways you can lower your electric bill, let’s talk about the complex electrical measurements and devices used to determine your bill.
Your electric meter monitors and registers the amount of electricity used by your house or business. Most electric utilities still use the electromechanical kilowatt meters that use magnets, a rotating disk, and dials. Some utilities have gone to a more reliable microprocessor-based meter with no moving parts and others still have progressed to remote monitoring of these meters to eliminate the need for meter readers.
Regardless of the type you have affixed to your wall, the units measured by the meter are called watt-hours. One watt-hour is a ratio of one watt used in one hour. When your bill shows a kilowatt-hour, it is simply 1000 times a single watt-hour.
Utilities charges vary but let’s use a charge of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. If you leave a 100-watt light bulb on for ten hours then you use 10 hours times 100 watts or 1 kilowatt-hour, which cost you ten cents. If your bill reads 1000 kilowatt-hours for the month then you owe 10 cents times 1000 or $100.
The electrical units measured are voltage (volts) and current (amps). To explain these values in layman terms let’s compare them to water distribution. The electrical current (amps) would be the water. The electrical voltage (volts) would be the water pressure. The conduit for the electricity, copper wire, would be comparable to the water pipe. The pump (voltage) pushes water (current) through the pipe (wire). Therefore, the electrical current (amps) runs through wires in order to power your appliances and electronic devices.
Unlike cable TV, the internet, and cell phones, you are charged for electricity only when the service is available. If the meter’s not moving, you’re not paying.
Despite what the electric utilities say, they want you to use as much power as possible, otherwise they lose revenue. Remember, utilities are forced by regulators to promote conservation. But whenever you conserve power the electric utility loses revenue. It’s a lot like cigarette companies being forced to tell you to stop smoking.
Now back to lowering your electric bill, here’s some recommendations for cutting back on all those unneeded watts:
Traditional incandescent light bulbs can be replaced with energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. The new fluorescent bulbs emit the same amount of light using up to 70 percent less energy.
Receive a free energy audit from your electrical provider to find the areas where you are wasting the most electricity. Just plugging leaks in your air-conditioning duct could save you 10-20 percent on your cooling and heating portion of your bill. The biggest power users are air conditioners/heaters (2500-3000 watts) and water heaters (4000 watts). If they are 15-20 years old, replace them. You should see up to a 40% decrease in energy use for both.
If your kitchen and laundry room appliances are 15 to 20 years old, it would be worthwhile to replace those also. You may be able to get rebates from your electric provider on your new air conditioners and new appliances. Their websites provide rebate information.
If the energy audit recommends replacing your attic insulation, replace it with R30 or better.
Keep your air conditioner at 78 degrees and your heater at 68 degrees.
Use awnings or window treatment to reflect the summer sun and dark drapes to keep the heat out.
And if you’re not using the lights, computer, paddle fans, TV, and stereos, then shut them off. Your wallet or purse will thank you for it.