That utility bill jumped so high this month that it should have won an Olympic medal. You can bring it down by being mindful of your consumption. Your results will vary, but even the smallest of changes can help the bottom line:
Chimney talk. Do you have a working fireplace? Make sure you turn down the furnace when it is in use. You can increase your fireplace efficiency by opening a nearby window just an inch or so. This allows the fireplace to draw cooler air into the chimney and push warm air into the room. Close the fireplace damper when it is not in use, otherwise your warm interior air rises through the chimney, allowing cooler air to take its place in the room.
Take your temperature. Programmable thermostats are worth the hassle of installation. You can put one in by yourself – but it is easier if you have a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers and good eyesight. Set the timer to lower the temperature at night and when you are away from the house. It’s also tempting to turn up the heat when you come in from the cold, but you can save money if you take off your coat and put on a sweater, giving your body time to adjust to the inside temperature. If you have floor registers, keep them clear of furniture, toys, draperies and other items that may block the heat. But contrary to popular belief, you should not close the vents to unused rooms. The increased pressure on your heating and air conditioning units can cause leaks to develop and make your unit work harder.
If the weather is warm and you have the central air or the air conditioner working, check exterior doors and windows to make sure they are properly closed. Close doors to basements and attics.
Save while you sleep. Ask your electric company if they have a “time-of-use” or TOU rate. You can save money by switching your usage of certain appliances away from peak times of the day. Save without any discomfort by running the dishwasher or setting timers for pools or sprinklers to run at night.
Stop setting and forgetting. Do you plug in the electric kettle to boil water, then forget about it? Then you have to heat the water again for that pot of tea of cup of instant coffee. How many times do you restart the dryer? It’s easy to walk away and forget those energy-sucking appliances. Wait it out, and ask everyone else if they want the same thing – then you won’t have to reheat that water 3 or 4 times.
Turn off unused lights and appliances. It’s an old savings trick, and we’ve all heard our parents tell us to turn off the lights when we leave a room. It makes the top ten list of best easy ways to save on electricity. Your savings depends on your situation and on the types of light bulbs you are using.
Security flashlight. Do you turn on lights for those nightly bathroom visits? Do your children ask to keep a light on when they sleep? Consider using a flashlight instead. Mechanically powered flashlights are often kept for emergency use, but there is no reason you can’t use them all the time. When you shake the flashlight, energy passes through a coiled wire and is collected and stored in a capacitor. Don’t worry: You don’t have to know how it works, just that it can be recharged over and over again. Beware of fakes that actually have batteries inside – the shaking is only for your amusement and the flashlight eventually bites the dust. And the kids will love having one of these wind-up flashlights to leave on their nightstands.
Group plug. When you turn off the television, all those wonderful connections stay on. The DVD player, the video game player, even the cable box is on standby. They all lurk quietly, red eyes gleaming, clocks ticking off the time until you reach for that remote. They use “vampire energy” — a trickle of electricity that many appliances draw just by being plugged into the wall. But it is a real pain to unplug them all, and many are attached to outlets behind furniture. Enter the Smart Strip. Plug your television to the main plug on a smart strip and plug all the accessories into the spots dedicated to “responders” or devices used with the television. Then, when you turn off the television, everything else is turned off at the same time. You can also use the strip for computers and their corresponding gadgets. The strip (which is also a surge protector) uses energy, but nothing compared to the total energy consumed by the appliances you’ve plugged into it. You can save money by avoiding the trickle.