Optimizing your Electricity

It’s amazing how much coal people are burning these days. By simply filling your home with a few of the wrong appliances, your residence can become a systematic early retirement killing machine, all while destroying the environment on the side.

Take that same home, however, and fill it with smarter appliances used in a more intelligent way, and you will find it is easy to spend 25% of what your neighbors are on electrons flowing through your house. Yes, you can spend 75% less than the average, all without reverting to reading by candle light or hand-washing clothes.

The average US household used 909 KWH/month in 2013 . Some of this energy is used in a wasteful manner that can effortlessly be made more efficient. I am convinced many out there could be saving $30 a month on smarter lightbulbs alone.

Although most of us have heard about the advantages of CFL bulbs and not keeping your house at 64 degrees, homes near and far still seem to be filled with silly incandescent bulbs and feel like an arctic tundra even during a hot summer day.

Why are people throwing away hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year using incandescent bulbs when CFLs produce the same amount of light? Maybe it is because people are still stuck thinking in the short-term when it comes to their money. With a little perspective it is easy to understand how the little things add up.

Most people discount CFLs simply because they are more expensive up front. They do not take into account how much longer these bulbs last and how little electricity they use compared to traditional bulbs. An incandescent bulb uses 60 watts while a CFL uses about 13. This difference of 47 watts equates to $7.54 a year if that bulb is used four hours a day. This may not sound like much, but imagine you replace every bulb in your house (say, 47 bulbs if you are at the average). The $50 or so extra you spend on 47 CFLs would save you over $350/year, a 700% return on investment!

In the US on average, a kilowatt-hour (1000 watts operating for one hour) costs about $0.11. There are 720 hours in a month, so every 100 watts you reduce the average wattage your house needs from moment to moment saves you 72 Kilowatt-Hours, or about 8 bucks a month. This can be done through very simple adjustments that wont even go noticed, such as swapping out for a few CFLs, keeping the thermostat between 67-74, not having an outdated refrigerator, having good insulation, not running cable tv, and the list goes on.

8 bucks is a Netflix subscription, a whole days worth of super nutritious food if you know how to grocery shop, or over two weeks worth of regular driving provided you are not living too far from work. There is a lot of power behind 8 bucks, so get excited about it. Every 8 bucks you learn to use less in electricity is a huge win that will come back to you the rest of your life.

So besides lightbulbs, how else can you destroy your electricity bill? The key is to first understand what appliances are sucking the most energy out of your home. Once you know what is using up the most kilowatt-hours, you can begin to optimize those appliances first.

Below is a chart that show how much time it takes typical appliances to use one KWH. The smaller the amount of time, the more of an energy guzzler the appliance is.

Appliance Wattage Time to one KWH ($0.11)
Fridge 500 120 min
Microwave 1500 40 min
Dishwasher 1200 50 min
Washing Machine 750 80 min
Clothes Dryer 3400 18 min
Water heater 479 125 min
Oven 3000 20 min
Central AC 5000 12 min
CFL Bulb 13 77 hours
Incandescent Bulb 60 17 hours
Toaster 1200 50 min
LCD TV 213 282 min

Some simple ways to optimize would be only doing loads of laundry when necessary (not running the machine for three shirts and a pair of pants). Spending more time outside so as to not need as much AC, and cooking more meals on the stove top rather than using the oven too often.

There are two things in here that I have always found to be unnecessary, that is the clothes dryer and the dishwasher. Unless you have a very large family, what is wrong with just hanging clothes up to dry? I do not see the point in paying to dry them faster, I mean, are they your only clothes? Do you need them dried right now? Okay, I get that there are other things at play here, hanging clothes take up time and space, which depending on your particular lifestyle you may not have. I personally do not plan on ever owning one, but to each’s own. Just be aware that two loads a week costs you $5,0000 each decade.

The other thing is the dishwasher. Now this one I really believe is useless for everyone. First of all, the are often run too often for small loads of dishes, and secondly, if you have to rinse the plate anyway before you load it in the machine, WHY NOT JUST FINISH THE JOB RIGHT THERE?! It seems to me that you do the same amount of work loading the dishwasher, filling the soap and then later unloading it as you would just cleaning them by hand. I see no advantage either way as far as the work goes, so why not choose the one that is not running 1200 watts?

If you run your dishwasher every other day for an hour, we are talking about $360 after a decade for something that is saving you no time or effort.

Now you can go through your own home and evaluate where you can reduce the wattage. Happy hunting!