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8 Easy Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill Each Month

Don't Be Left in the Dark--Try These Easy Tips

-- By Benjamin Roode, SparkSavings Contributor

They stare at you after you turn out the lights, like hungry eyes ready to prey on your pocketbook.

This one’s red, that one’s blue. The occasional green beacon lets you know the VCR or DVD players are ready to go… even at 3:30 a.m.

Vampires, as those in the utility business call them, are the appliances and amenities in your home that use power even when you’re not using them. Televisions, movie players, chargers and anything that keeps its little light on at night or when you’re at work all drain power in tiny increments.

And the change could be a big one: A 2001 study from the University of California at Berkeley estimated energy vampires represented from 6 percent to 26 percent of a home’s average monthly power bill.

A few simple steps can cut down or even eliminate vampire power use. Other tips for water heaters and other non-entertainment items can really cut into the electric bill, too.

Put your home entertainment systems on their own circuit. Televisions, DVD players, home stereos and other entertainment devices that have internal clocks or remote controls are usually drawing power even while turned off. Plug them all into the same power strip or surge protector and turn that off when the appliances are not in use. Or, plug the strip into an outlet controlled by a nearby switch to make the cutoff easier.

Unplug chargers when not in use. The devices that charge your cell phone, PDA, laptop computer or any other indispensable electronic gadget you use pull power from the grid even when they’re not filling up your companions. Unplug these chargers for a small savings.

Turn down the water heater in summertime. Do you really enjoy a hot shower when it’s 85 and 90 percent humidity? Reducing the water heater temperature saves a bundle on heating costs and gives you a more refreshing shower during steamy summer days. Even a few degrees can make a difference.

Use your windows! Your home has windows for a reason. Whether they’re letting in natural light or a refreshing breeze on a comfortable day, windows can add atmosphere to a room in more ways than one. Keep windows open and consider using a fan to help get some cross-ventilation. Shutting off your lights in favor of sunlight also means those light bulbs aren’t producing as much heat inside, thus reducing your reliance on air conditioning. 

Hang a clothesline. The same wind wafting through your open windows can help dry your clothing. Cutting back on dryer use reduces electrical output and keeps the house cooler. No space in the back yard? Set up a couple of drying racks inside or outside or string a clothesline across your laundry room or bathroom. 

Cook outdoors. Your oven, stove and microwave use copious amounts of power when in use, especially simultaneously. Make grilling a two-time-per-week endeavor: using renewable wood and charcoal mean less energy is spent making that evening’s meal. Grilling in large amounts and saving the leftovers for lunches and dinners saves time and energy later on. And remember to thaw those steaks and chops by setting them in the fridge a day beforehand. Don’t rely on a microwave to thaw your meat before grilling it. (Bonus: The thawing food helps keep the fridge cool, saving a bit of green!)

Go raw and chill out. A few times a week, rely on meals that don't require cooking. Give the stove and microwave a break. Throw together a three-bean salad, then serve with bread, some cheese and fresh fruit. Or make sandwiches for dinner on a busy night. Make a huge fruit salad or a batch of chilled soup like gazpacho. Enjoy leftover grilled chicken cool atop a salad. Eating cool foods will help keep you from feeling overheated, and eating a partially cold meal will save energy, too. (Plus, no-cook foods are really quick to prepare!)

Turn up the fridge. Your refrigerator temperature should be set between 36 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit; set the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting your freezer just five degrees lower or your fridge 10 degrees lower can cost you up to 25 percent more on your energy bill.

These are just a few easy tips to get your started. How do you save money on your energy bills?


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