Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Electric Bill

I live in Georgia. It gets really hot in the summer. The first two years I lived in this house there was no central air conditioning. It was terribly unpleasant. Luckily there are about 2 months in the spring and 2 months in the fall when neither heat nor air conditioning is necessary, at least not constantly. The other 8 months I'm paying either GA Power or GA Natural Gas far more than I would like.

My last electric bill was $191. I decided it was time to cut back, and I'll share some of what I'm doing.

1. Install a programmable thermostat. I just installed one of these about 2 years ago and I love it. I especially love it on cold winter mornings. I got a cheapo model, about $45. It has already paid for itself.

2. Turn down your water heater! Most folks have their water heater set far higher than is necessary.

3. Ceiling fans. I have ceiling fans in every room. Now, it might seem counterintuitive to install something that runs on electricity in order to lower an electric bill but they do. Hot air rises, cool air falls. Running ceiling fans in the winter keeps the heat distributed. Running them in the summer supplements the AC. Once a week turn them off and dust the blades! The blades pick up an extraordinary amount of dust and dirt. Regularly cleaning this off will keep them running at peak performance. Also, ceiling fans have a switch allowing you to change the direction of the rotation. This should be done seasonally. In the summer the direction should be counterclockwise. In winter change this so the fan runs clockwise.

4. Turn the thermostat up/down by 2 degrees. My personal rule of thumb is that between outdoor temps of 60 and 80 my windows are open. Kind of stupid that I'm OK with 80 when the windows are open and yet I need to have my AC set at 74, right? So little by little I've changed my thermostat. My daytime setting is now 80, and I have it set to go down to 77 at night for comfortable sleeping. I'll admit that will seem a bit extreme to some but I've honestly gotten used to it already. It isn't so bad. If I'm cleaning or if I get on the treadmill I'll do a temporary override and turn it down for an hour or so but 80 is just fine, and with the ceiling fans running it is mostly quite comfortable. I'll revisit my heat settings when the cool weather sets in but I think I can shave a couple of degrees off there as well. I like it a bit on the cold side anyway.

5. Use your curtains and blinds! Don't just open them in the morning and close them at night. I have one bedroom window where the sun just beats in for a couple of hours every afternoon and if I don't close the blinds during this time period it can get quite hot in there.

6. Lights. This is a hard one for me. I live in a very small house. I firmly believe in decorating with light. Especially in the winter I love keeping at least one lamp on in each of my 4 rooms. It makes it cozy and warm and welcoming. I've put a bit of a lid on that. I don't sit in the dark by any means but unless I'm in the room the lights are off. I've replaced the bulb on each of my outdoor lights with CFLs. I will gradually do the same inside as the incandescents burn out.

7. "Ghost" electricity pigs. Unplug your chargers unless you are actively charging something! If you have power strips turn them off at night and when you are away! I realized a few months ago that my TV has a switch. Even when the TV is off, unless the switch is also off it continues to use power. I haven't yet gotten in the habit of turning that switch off at night so I've put a post it note on my bathroom mirror to remind me.

So these are some of the things I'm doing to save in the utility department. I'll get my power bill in the next couple of weeks and I'll be interested to see if these efforts have made a difference. I'll let you know.

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