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Cut Your Electric Bill & Save!

Here's how I cut my electric bill in half.

Five and a half years ago, we had some major changes to our household.  We moved someone out who had been renting a "mother-in-law" section of our home, and who used very little electricity.  He didn't even like air conditioning!

We moved my daughter in with us, also my granddaughter for three and a half years of college, and then a couple of years ago, a friend who helps with chores, shopping, trips to the doctor, etc.  We had four (4) hurricanes in Florida in one year, all of which either hit us directly or brushed us (during one of which we were all down with a nasty influenza bug and my mother passed away).  It wasn't the most tranquil of years!

Shortly after, I realized that my electric bill was entirely out of hand.  It had been climbing for several years, but after the worst hurricane, it had gotten up to almost $400 a month during the summer.  This was totally unacceptable.  

My bill now is about $160 during the winter and about $200 or a little over in the summer, for a large household with a home office in Miami's hot and noisy climate.

Fortunately, my nearly century-old house had already been completely insulated, except the floors and older windows; otherwise I shudder to think what the bill would have reached.  However we have a LARGE number of appliances, media items and wall air conditioners - central air isn't really an option.  Many were really good quality when purchased and still working, but were 15 to 38 years old and due for replacement.  

So how could I cut the electric bill?

1.   This first fix, not for saving electric but it helped anyway, was to put plywood underlayment on all our floors except a couple of lower-level sections.  I then added vinyl tile.  This had a little insulating value.  

2.   I have an upright freezer which was in an un-air-conditioned area.  Previously this was shaded with an enormous tree, but the tree was taken down due to storm damage.  The sun now shone directly on the freezer.  We moved it into the air-conditioned dining room, not attractive but handier, and much cheaper to run.

3.  I replaced a 22 year old refrigerator with one having a high Energy Star rating. The old one was no longer sealing totally tight, although otherwise in good condition.

4.  I replaced the light bulbs that were most frequently in use with spiral fluorescent bulbs.  As less-frequently ones burned out, we replaced them also.  Not only do these bulbs use much less electricity, but in air-conditioned homes, they don't add heat to the atmosphere.   We also replaced outside lights with motion detector lights that have a solar sensor. 

5.   This house has eight (8) wall air conditioners; some of us like it slightly cooled, some function and sleep better at a lower temperature.   Those in heaviest use were over twenty years old .  I replaced six of them with Energy Star rated  units.  (The other two are rarely used.)  Incidentally, I always have a day scheduled once a month to clean all a/c filters and clean off the vents and grills.  Every four months or so I also carefully vacuum the fins.)  On some that are in use during set times, I added appliance-strength timers on the outlet.  Most of the air-conditioners are run on power saver mode.

6.  A following year we had some more hurricanes.  These back-to-back storms played heck with my trees and foliage.  I planted shrubs to again shade the air conditioners wherever the sun was hitting them. 

7.  The worst of the earlier storms produced a mini-tornado type updraft that wrecked most of the roofs in this area.  We had quite a bit of damage to our 20-year old asphalt shingle roofs, both at home and on two rental buildings.  We made emergency repairs, but obviously something more permanent had to be done.  So we applied off-white Somay coating, a rubberized paint that goes on with primer and two coats, and seals the roof against leaks, wind damage, etc. plus has an Energy Star rating for reflecting the sun.  This was not cheap!  But it was a small fraction of the cost of totally replacing the roofs on three buildings!!!   I noticed an immediate drop in our electric bill and it looks fantastic.

8.  We put "sweeps" on the lower edge of all the interior doors, since some rooms are air conditioned during only part of the day.  If you have central air conditioning, this needs to be done only on doors between air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned areas.  We also re-insulated around all exterior doors (actually ended up replacing two doors, which now have insulated windows) and made sure there were no air leaks around any windows.

9.  I replaced our 38 year old gas dryer with a new gas dryer, and our 22 year old dishwasher, both with Energy Star appliances.  Our dishwasher is set to cool-dry, which saves electricity and keeps plastics from melting in the dishwasher.  After Granddaughter graduated, my daughter moved into the "mother-in-law" part, and replaced a stove and refrigerator with Energy Star appliances.

10.  We have 6 televisions.   I thought everyone had several, but have discovered otherwise.  Some were pretty old.  I replaced the most used ones with flat screens, which draw much less current.  Likewise the three computers - my daughter traded her old one in for a laptop, and I replaced the monitors on the other two with flat screens.  

11.   I replaced a 22-year old washer with a Energy Star front loader.  We probably run it harder than a lot of people do - with minimum one load a day and some days four or five.  We wash dog blankets, rugs, etc. in it, and most of the time keep it on extra rinse and extra spin due to skin problems.  Even so, there was a further drop in our electricity, as well as water and gas bills.

12.  In addition, we all have made a further effort to conserve power; closing doors promptly, turning off lights, cooking at lower temperatures or for less time, and otherwise being more economical with electricity.

Checklist - and more ideas to save electricity.

The Sneaky Kitchen
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Web Site by Bess W. Metcalf   Copyrightę April 1999 - 201
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