For many people, the monthly cost of the electric bill represents one good place to cut down on expenses, especially in homes that use it for heating. Fortunately, you don’t have to live in the dark or freeze to cut your monthly bill by as much as 20-30%. That can add up to hundreds saved over the course of a year, money that can be used for something else.
For electrically heated (or air-conditioned) homes, the savings is largest. An average electric wall heater consumes 1500 watts or 1.5 kilowatts (KW). In a home that is heated or cooled by electricity, space heating accounts for nearly half the total electricity consumed. The next largest percentage is water heating, about 14%.
Those two items alone represent low-hanging fruit to pluck if you’re after savings on your electric bill.
Lowering the temperature on your home water heater, a safe and easy exercise for all modern models, makes it simple to reduce the amount of electricity you use. Most water heaters are set several degrees higher than necessary to keep scalding-temperature water in the tank at all times.
They’re set that way to provide hot water as quickly as possible. But you can trade off a few extra seconds of waiting time at the sink, by lowering that temperature by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit. That also makes your faucet water safer, since the maximum temperature water it will produce is below the level that will burn. That’s especially important with children around who sometimes aren’t as careful or experienced with the hot/cold water controls.
Lowering the amount of electricity used for space heating (or cooling) is equally easy, and you don’t have to suffer by conserving here and there.
In most homes, there are several rooms that rarely get occupied during the day, alternating with others that don’t get used at night. At night – with everyone in bedrooms – the home office, living room, kitchen, and (if you have one) laundry room are typically unoccupied.
Just lower the thermostat for these to around 50F in winter and you’ll find that it takes less electricity to heat them up in the morning than it does to keep them heated all night. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to go on automatically a half hour before waking and you will never know the difference.
Keeping the doors on bedrooms closed will help isolate the two parts of the house at the two different times. Keeping them closed (or nearly so) at night keeps the heat from the bedroom from leaking out, and vice versa during the day. Keep the laundry room and any spare bedrooms closed all the time except for the short periods they’re in use.
The same ideas apply to cooling your home as to heating. If you use an air conditioner, close off ducts to rooms when they’re not in use and keep doors mostly closed.
Naturally, ensuring that your home is well insulated is a must for long term savings. But replacing or improving it can be very expensive and the payoff (while real) accumulates over years. For short-term, high-return savings look to the things you can control around the home.