How do you keep your electricity bill low?

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:00 am

rixer wrote:We live in Ca also. It gets hot during the day and it cools down about 30 degree;s or so at night. We have ceiling fans in every room, energy efficient windows and a whole house fan. Since CA is a dry climate, the whole house fan works great. We run the fan for about 30-45 minutes in the early morning when the outside air is cool. It exhausts all the hot air in the house and replaces it with fresh, cool air. Then we turn the whole house fan off and close up all the windows. It takes a long time for the heat to build back up so with just the ceiling fans running from then on, the house stays comfortable until around 4-5 PM. Then if needed, we run the A/C until about 9PM. This way, we stay comfortable all day and night and only run the A/C 4-5 hours max for the day. Sometimes, we don't even need the A/C with this method.
This works well, but can be improved. The heat capacity of the building (mostly drywall) is much larger than the heat capacity of the air in the building. It takes several hours for the drywall to achieve equilibrium with the interior air. So you get better cooling if you run the fan for more than 45 minutes. For best cooling start the air exchange as soon as the exterior temperature falls below the interior temperature, and keep running until the exterior temperature is higher an hour or so after sun up.

This does not require a very big fan. A few air exchanges per hour does the trick, this is quite a bit smaller than your AC fan, if it were ducting air directly from the outside. It should be easy and cheap to automate this having a fan that takes outside air, through a filter and into the buildings air handling system. Controlled this with by a couple of temperature sensors and some software. I have no idea why this isn't a standard part of ventilation systems in areas that have cool nights and warm days during some part of the year (which is most of the US).

I guess electricity is just too cheap -- most of my neighbors keep the AC running when it's cooler outside than inside. In theory they could be using the AC as a heat engine to generate electricity, but somehow I don't think that's whats going on.

livesoft
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:36 am

Last night the low was 74 deg F which is rather cool for this time of year, but the humidity was 100%. It is not quite time to open the windows at night.
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tadamsmar
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by tadamsmar » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:55 am

yakers wrote:Contact your utility to change over to a TOU (Time of Use) meter sine you have a Volt. I have a Ford Focus Electric and added a 240 charger and the special meter, makes charging cheaper & faster. I am in Pasadena, CA which has somewhat better rates but still more than other parts of the country, I pay 10 cents KWH at peak hours, 9 cents at margin times and 8 cents from midnight to 8 AM, when the car charges. And I have taken to doing laundry and the like in the morning for the cheaper rates. Also consider solar.
We have TOU rates. It's my understanding that they save money if you have a big bill even if you make few or no changes to shift the load, and there are special rates for electric cars. Here is a link to the SCE rate options, near the bottom of the there are links to info on the available TOU rates:

https://www.sce.com/wps/portal/home/res ... BIS9nQSEh/

Raladic
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Raladic » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:09 pm

If you haven't already, change your light bulbs to CFL or LED.
When we moved into our house last year I counted the light bulbs and was surprised how many there were, took a trip to IKEA and changed all of them to CFL (until the durability is proven, for which LED bulbs are not around long enough yet, I'm not willing to spend the extra for LED).

Our house is all Electric in the Pacific North West.
We also changed the old Hot water tank to a newer Whirlpool Energy Smart tank and changed the heating system from electric forced air to electric air source heat pump (which incidentally came in handy as an AC this summer as it was rather warm in 80-90F most days).

So far we are averaging around 400-500KWH which comes to around $40-$50 a month, which is the lowest price tier with our energy provider at around $0.09 per KWH.

inbox788
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by inbox788 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:36 pm

Raladic wrote:If you haven't already, change your light bulbs to CFL or LED.
When we moved into our house last year I counted the light bulbs and was surprised how many there were, took a trip to IKEA and changed all of them to CFL (until the durability is proven, for which LED bulbs are not around long enough yet, I'm not willing to spend the extra for LED).

Our house is all Electric in the Pacific North West.
We also changed the old Hot water tank to a newer Whirlpool Energy Smart tank and changed the heating system from electric forced air to electric air source heat pump (which incidentally came in handy as an AC this summer as it was rather warm in 80-90F most days).

So far we are averaging around 400-500KWH which comes to around $40-$50 a month, which is the lowest price tier with our energy provider at around $0.09 per KWH.
Yes, you can and do save electricity with more efficient lightbulbs, so by all means do so if you haven't, but don't spend an arm and a leg for the latest and greatest that might not be that great. Lighting only accounts for about 10% of a typical household electricity expenditure. So you may get better savings upgrading the efficiency of an older refrigerator or AC unit.

Despite the efficiency benefit, there's the moral hazard effect. Since upgrading to CFL, I've installed more lights all around the hose. And when they run, they run longer than they did before. I'm not so compulsive about shutting off lights when not in use. So while I probability use less overall electricity for lighting than before, I use more light than before. I haven't gone solar yet, friends I know with solar are using their AC much more than before, so I don't think they're saving as much; instead, they're cooler and more comfortable in warmer days.

http://www.teachengineering.org/view_ac ... ctives.xml

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:09 pm

rixer wrote:We live in Ca also. It gets hot during the day and it cools down about 30 degree;s or so at night. We have ceiling fans in every room, energy efficient windows and a whole house fan. Since CA is a dry climate, the whole house fan works great. We run the fan for about 30-45 minutes in the early morning when the outside air is cool. It exhausts all the hot air in the house and replaces it with fresh, cool air. Then we turn the whole house fan off and close up all the windows. It takes a long time for the heat to build back up so with just the ceiling fans running from then on, the house stays comfortable until around 4-5 PM. Then if needed, we run the A/C until about 9PM. This way, we stay comfortable all day and night and only run the A/C 4-5 hours max for the day. Sometimes, we don't even need the A/C with this method.

We have about the same size house as the OP. Highest electric bills run about $110.
What about your attic? Does that trap heat and radiate it downwards?

Raladic
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Raladic » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:49 pm

inbox788 wrote: Yes, you can and do save electricity with more efficient lightbulbs, so by all means do so if you haven't, but don't spend an arm and a leg for the latest and greatest that might not be that great. Lighting only accounts for about 10% of a typical household electricity expenditure. So you may get better savings upgrading the efficiency of an older refrigerator or AC unit.
True and I agree, don't spend an arm and leg, which is why I didn't go for LED as the Watt difference between CFL and LED is not that big, but going from a 60W bulb to 12W CFL does make a difference and considering CFLs cost much less you get more bang for the buck.

As our other appliances were already pretty new, there was not much else to optimize but I felt it a moral obligation to not burn 60W an hour and it's dark pretty much all Winter in the PNW (you get up in the morning when it's dark and you leave work when it's dark), so lights are on for quite a bit, I would say in those months the lighting expense at 60W light bulbs probably accounts for more than 10% of the electricity use, but I don't have scientific data to back that right now, just my gut feeling.

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Crimsontide
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Crimsontide » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:55 pm

livesoft wrote:Last night the low was 74 deg F which is rather cool for this time of year, but the humidity was 100%. It is not quite time to open the windows at night.
It was 83 deg F at 5:00 a.m. in the Metromess this morning. Definitely not time to open the windows yet :(

rixer
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by rixer » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:03 pm

dolphinsaremammals wrote:
rixer wrote:We live in Ca also. It gets hot during the day and it cools down about 30 degree;s or so at night. We have ceiling fans in every room, energy efficient windows and a whole house fan. Since CA is a dry climate, the whole house fan works great. We run the fan for about 30-45 minutes in the early morning when the outside air is cool. It exhausts all the hot air in the house and replaces it with fresh, cool air. Then we turn the whole house fan off and close up all the windows. It takes a long time for the heat to build back up so with just the ceiling fans running from then on, the house stays comfortable until around 4-5 PM. Then if needed, we run the A/C until about 9PM. This way, we stay comfortable all day and night and only run the A/C 4-5 hours max for the day. Sometimes, we don't even need the A/C with this method.

We have about the same size house as the OP. Highest electric bills run about $110.
What about your attic? Does that trap heat and radiate it downwards?
The whole house fan is located in the ceiling so when it's running, it pulls cool air in through the windows and then exhausts the hot air into the attic space. Once past the fan, the hot air is blown out of the attic through the vents in the roof. We also have upgraded insulation in the ceiling and an attic fan so that helps also.

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ivyhedge
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by ivyhedge » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:08 pm

High thermal mass: works in the (new) fridge; works in the condo. And CFLs throughout: bought with handsome subsidies from Northeast Utilities (NStar).
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celia
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by celia » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:19 pm

Call Edison out to do an energy audit on your house.

Turn the A/C temperature setting up a few degrees. Don't have it turn on automatically. Press the "on" button on the thermostat to turn it on when someone gets too warm (when no one is home it won't be turned on) and turn it off when you go to bed. Ours is set at 78-80 usually and we live somewhat near you. When the temperature isn't expected to get that high, just open the windows instead.
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kazper
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by kazper » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:31 pm

Investtoski wrote:Contact your local electric company and see if they offer a free energy audit service. If they don't, check if your local government offers a similar service.
Exactly. Ours (baltimore) offered a reduced rate of 75 (usually 450) and "forced" us to install new cfl bulbs and aerators that they provided free of charge (well, included with the fee, I guess). Nt a bad deal and it gave us a few ideas to improve our efficiency. Now we are actually lower in usage than the reference group for low usage :beer

2 bits
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by 2 bits » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:54 pm

We save a lot of power by drying clothes on the "solar dryer." A side benefit is that gets us out in the yard.
I will second some of the other good ideas, whole house fan, insulating blinds, curtains closed on the sunny sides of the house. We have lost some shade trees lately but installed a radiant barrier in the attic, http://Www.atticfoil.com. Not a job to do at noon in the summer.
Recently our utility started sending out monthly reports telling us how we compare to usage in 100 nearby similar size homes. We are in the top ten most efficient and DW wants to be #1. It is easier for us as there are only two of us.
Here in central Fla summertime comfort takes a bit of thought especially to do it economically. My parents were children of the depression so frugal living and LBYM comes with the early training.
When we get to the thread about saving water I will start with my wife's favorite of never washing her truck.
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LeeMKE
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by LeeMKE » Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:42 pm

The first time, I did lots of research on programmable thermostats and decided the NEST was worth the extra cost. We had a fishbowl room in our condo building, and it was either too hot or too cold, and the thermostat ran on the same temp day and night. The monthly utility bill was over $4000.00 for everything, a small portion of which was this very large room. Installed the NEST and people could adjust the temperature to their needs, and it would revert to the AWAY settings 30 minutes after they left. I could see the usage (and when some disgruntled resident went in at 2 AM every night for a week and jacked the temps to their extreme) and adjust from that behavior (in this case, the thermostat checked more frequently than usual for activity, so our disgruntled resident was only turning on the utilities for 30 minutes.) I wasn't around long enough to do a year long comparison, but the first 3 months the utility bill was $400 lower each month.

At my 1900 sq. ft. place, I only saved $30 each month for the single thermostat.

The current place has three NEST thermostats, and it's only been 3 months. But what I'm doing here is using a very aggressive AWAY schedule for all but the home office. If the cats get uncomfortable, they can hang out in the office where the temps are maintained more moderately.

I like that NEST provides updates automatically, I don't have to fool with batteries, and the analysis of what is going on is more sophisticated. They provide me with pretty reports and install new tools automatically. The latest is an analysis of humidity, so it can decide whether turning on the fan will work, before it turns on the A/C.
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bgrpph
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by bgrpph » Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:47 pm

In Honolulu, highest elec rates in country- on Oahu .34 KWH- higher on neighbor islands- 1900 sq ft house- no AC- no water heater (have had solar hot water for 14 yrs), have a pool, newer refrigerator- No heating in house -not needed-

Elec bill was $300 month w/o any AC- replaced pool pump with pentair variable speed pump, replaced every single bulb everywhere with LEDs or
flourescent- usage dropped from 1400 kwh month to 800-900. Put up 32 pansonic PV solar panels in 2012 (most facing east, 7 facing south)-
all our south roofs filled with solar hot water or pool solar hot water- Solar PV panels subsidized abut 65% - State tax credit 35% per system(our limit was $15k) & Fed tax credit 30% no $ limit. Total Solar cost should be recovered in just over 5 yrs.

After PV solar we installed 24k btu mitsubishi split unit AC in Bedroom, last yr got 2 30k btu mitsu split units for living room - use BR frequently, rest of house only when trade winds stop & humidity increases usually Aug-Oct. Last yr we generated 200 KWH more than we used- most of our monthly elec bills were the monthly minimum charge of $17- This yr with 2 more big ACs in living room, we'll most likely use a bit more than we generate-- bills will mostly be minimum charge with few at $50 or so.
Elec co each month tracks elec we use from utility, elec i returned to them & bill is net of the two. If excess KWH generated over that used we are credited with excess KWH generated at current monthly rates which will offset future bills during the annual 12 month net energy metering period- At end of our 12 month net energy metering period any excess generated is lost and new 12 month period begins.
Elec co just put in proposal to PUC to change minimum charge to $71 & also to only pay for excess generated by homeowner at .17 kwh . they have changed PV installation requirements & stalled any new installations (over 4000 homes waiting for their approval)- also state tax credit reduced substantially. 33000 homes in Honolulu have solar PV systems- Utility says those with PV are taking advantage of those who don't & are not paying their share of cost to keep grid up. Meanwhile, they've done nothing to upgrade their grids to allow more PV systems.

jlawrence01
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by jlawrence01 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:31 pm

We live south of Tucson, AZ. Our monthly electric bills range from $30-80. Here is what we do to keep our electric bills low:

1) Bought the right size house. Why heat 3-6 rooms that we would never use?
2) Bought a house constructed of slumpstone (concrete) - has a lot of natural insulation.
3) Solar screens on all windows to block morning sun's heat. We will switch back during the winter months as that will help heat the house in the winter.
4) AC only runs between 10 am - 5 pm during the summer months. At night, we generally have 70F weather which makes AC unnecessary. I plan to buy a fan to get the circulation moving a bit.
5) Only heat to 60F in the winter. With all the sweaters we have from living in Chicagoland, there is no need to heat much higher.


Our bigger concern is how to minimize the water bills but we still have some way to go until we maximize our savings in that category.

ieee488
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by ieee488 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:35 pm

79oF in the summer
68oF in the winter
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john94549
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by john94549 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:36 pm

"Low" is relative. We try to "minimize" by opening up the house at night and buttoning it up mid-morning. We run the A/C only when it gets above 80. Even in extreme hot stretches (and we do get them here), it generally cools off overnight.

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gardemanger
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by gardemanger » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:56 pm

With the drought, it's going to be a rough time to get new trees established, unfortunately. In SoCal, all trees need to be irrigated for the first three years in order to establish them. Even if there were no drought (or "new normal" as it may be), trees simply do not grow as fast in the coastal CA mediterranean climate as they do in the temperate East. I'm not saying don't plant shade trees, but I am saying that it's very, very far from a quick fix. (And get good advice if you do plant trees, and find out the city regulations and also the water district's requirements for irrigation systems. Honestly I don't know what emergency measures are in place in SoCal since I left practice and then moved back East before the current drought got so bad, so you *really* want to check with the city before you do any new planting.)

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by john94549 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:37 pm

gardemanger, the simple solution is nature, itself. Our oaks have just spewed out their acorns, as it were, and some will sprout, and some won't. Our arborist explained that trees (especially oaks in CA, of all varieties), know when times are tough. They've been through it before. Ironically enough, the gent noted that oak trees just about to die throw off the most acorns.* Speaks volumes.

*Thinking back four or five years, our oak tree produced countless acorns. Little did we know it was a warning sign the tree was dying.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by technovelist » Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:02 pm

cheese_breath wrote:Follow my wife around the house and turn off all the lights and TVs she leaves on.
+1.
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by technovelist » Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:18 pm

inbox788 wrote:
Raladic wrote:If you haven't already, change your light bulbs to CFL or LED.
When we moved into our house last year I counted the light bulbs and was surprised how many there were, took a trip to IKEA and changed all of them to CFL (until the durability is proven, for which LED bulbs are not around long enough yet, I'm not willing to spend the extra for LED).

Our house is all Electric in the Pacific North West.
We also changed the old Hot water tank to a newer Whirlpool Energy Smart tank and changed the heating system from electric forced air to electric air source heat pump (which incidentally came in handy as an AC this summer as it was rather warm in 80-90F most days).

So far we are averaging around 400-500KWH which comes to around $40-$50 a month, which is the lowest price tier with our energy provider at around $0.09 per KWH.
Yes, you can and do save electricity with more efficient lightbulbs, so by all means do so if you haven't, but don't spend an arm and a leg for the latest and greatest that might not be that great. Lighting only accounts for about 10% of a typical household electricity expenditure. So you may get better savings upgrading the efficiency of an older refrigerator or AC unit.

Despite the efficiency benefit, there's the moral hazard effect. Since upgrading to CFL, I've installed more lights all around the hose. And when they run, they run longer than they did before. I'm not so compulsive about shutting off lights when not in use. So while I probability use less overall electricity for lighting than before, I use more light than before. I haven't gone solar yet, friends I know with solar are using their AC much more than before, so I don't think they're saving as much; instead, they're cooler and more comfortable in warmer days.

http://www.teachengineering.org/view_ac ... ctives.xml
The direct cost of lighting is only part of the cost, especially with incandescents, which are extremely inefficient and turn most of the electricity they consume into heat, not light. So in the summer, you are paying both to run the lights and to remove the heat they generate; the latter is probably more costly than the former. CFLs are much more efficient so they don't generate nearly as much air conditioning load.
In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, they often differ.

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interplanetjanet
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by interplanetjanet » Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:32 am

bgrpph wrote:In Honolulu, highest elec rates in country- on Oahu .34 KWH- higher on neighbor islands-
34c/kW-h is high but it's not the highest rate even just comparing to plans that don't meter based on time of use. A couple years back in California, many customers hit over 40c/kW-h average - with the top marginal rate at 50c, this wasn't hard to do if you had significant energy needs.

Hawaii may have the highest average rate paid, though - thankfully your energy expenses for heating and cooling tend to be low and there's a decreased need for lighting compared with most of the rest of the USA.

I may gripe about high electricity rates at times, but I do have to admit that they've gotten me to conserve, ruthlessly. A 75 watt home server (already on the lighter end of electricity consumption for such a device) costs me something around $250 per year to run. Replacing this with a 30 watt one saves me $550 on electricity over a 4 year lifetime - that is plenty of reason to spend money on an upgrade like this!

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Ron » Fri Sep 05, 2014 9:27 am

An analysis of my electric bills (on an entirely electric home, at 2400 sq ft in the mid-Atlantic area) for the last few years costs me just over 3% of my total expense budget (not 3% portfolio withdrawal :oops: ).

For that expense, which gives me so much in return, I'm not complaining nor do I feel compelled to wring out every last excess watt.

Just another way of looking at it, IMHO.

- Ron

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tadamsmar
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by tadamsmar » Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:10 am

Ron wrote:An analysis of my electric bills (on an entirely electric home, at 2400 sq ft in the mid-Atlantic area) for the last few years costs me just over 3% of my total expense budget (not 3% portfolio withdrawal :oops: ).

For that expense, which gives me so much in return, I'm not complaining nor do I feel compelled to wring out every last excess watt.

Just another way of looking at it, IMHO.

- Ron
Another way to look at it is if you just make one phone call to your electric company ask to go on the residential TOU rate, you will save money every month from now on. It's not a sure thing, but the TOU rate typically saves money if you have a high bill even if you make no changes in your behavior. Also, I am not sure if all utilities offer TOU rates.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Ron » Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:57 am

tadamsmar wrote:Another way to look at it is if you just make one phone call to your electric company ask to go on the residential TOU rate, you will save money every month from now on. It's not a sure thing, but the TOU rate typically saves money if you have a high bill even if you make no changes in your behavior. Also, I am not sure if all utilities offer TOU rates.
Our lifestyle does not match time-of-use rates.

When we built our current (retirement) home, we had a heat pump water storage system - a 300 gal tank that was "recharged" (like a hot water heater) every night using a lower TOU rate. During the daylight (e.g. prime time) daylight hours where the rates were higher, this worked out quite well. We also had an 85 gal hot water heater to supply heated water during the day, when it was turned off; this was also only recharged at night.

Since our electric utility discontinued that program - primarily since under deregulated power, they no longer need to generate but buy power from many sources, at many hours of the day, TOU has generally gone by the wayside. They do offer a program in which they mount a control on your heat pump to control the usage during high demand days (where they have to buy electric at a premium), but that was not well received since folks found out they could not maintain the temperature they were used to since they no longer had control over their own equipment. Additionally, those on TOU also found that their on-peak rates were a bit higher and in some cases eliminated and expected savings. It all depends on your local electric company tariff and charge rate plans.

Today (both being retired) we do not have a lifestyle in which we are away from our home consistently over a certain time of day as was the case when we both worked. We come and go as we please, and we expect our home to be the right temperature (cool in the summer, warm in the winter) regardless of the time of day. We change our thermostat twice a year; 68 degrees for the winter; 73 degrees for the summer.

Different folks; different strokes...

- Ron

North
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by North » Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:26 pm

We built an ultra energy efficient beach house last year in the Mid-Atlantic and our electicity supplier is a co-op. House is about 3000sf, we pay 6 cents/KWH, crank the A/C down to 69 every night and haven't seen a bill above $52 yet. I really need to get an electric car.

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William4u
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by William4u » Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:44 pm

Install a water heater timer...
http://www.amazon.com/Intermatic-EH40-2 ... 000NCYPOM/

We have ours turned off when we are at work and asleep and away for the weekend. It saves quite a bit.

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Leif
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Leif » Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:56 pm

playtothebeat wrote:I was looking through my electricity bill (Southern California Edison; I live in Irvine, CA), and my most recent monthly billing cycle ended up with a $312.91 charge for a 1600-sf house.

So my question to you all is how do you keep your bill low? Or do you struggle to do it just like I have been? Other than turning off the AC when we aren't home, what else should I consider that I might not be thinking of already?
Are you kidding? I'm also in OC. I have a 3300 SF house. I'm on a level pay plan of $37/mo.

We don't run the AC until 78. We never run the AC at night. We open all our upstairs windows in the summer.

I'm also on a plan with SCE that allows them to cycle off my AC in high use periods (they installed a box near my AC). As far as I know they have never done that. However, it saves me around $200 a year in discounts off of my bill.

LongerPrimer
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by LongerPrimer » Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:14 pm

I don't use the heater function on the washer bidet seat and I do a cold water wash :moneybag

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interplanetjanet
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by interplanetjanet » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:04 pm

I'm also on a plan with SCE that allows them to cycle off my AC in high use periods (they installed a box near my AC). As far as I know they have never done that. However, it saves me around $200 a year in discounts off of my bill.
Wow. PG&E offered me a one time discount of $50 for putting one of those devices on my A/C. $50/year might have gotten me to consider it, but a single discount for it just didn't sit right with me.

As an aside - and this is emphatically not a criticism of people who do, but I'm surprised at how low people set their thermostats in the summer, and I was wondering if what I do is unusual.

Summers here are hot and dry but with cool, breezy nights (usually!). I normally open windows for a while in the evening to let the house cool down, the whole house fan in my new place is a godsend for pulling in that cool air quickly. This usually drops the house into the high 60s or low 70s. I keep the air conditioning set to around 82, which the house rises to in late afternoon. The AC holds it there and either sooner (yay!) or later (boo!) the outside temperature drops below the inside one, and I open all the windows again. If I'm lucky then the breezes start early and I avoid the need for AC entirely.

During really hot days, I set the thermostat at more like 85. Some of it is to save energy, some probably comes from growing up in a tent - I like to feel some of the weather whether I'm inside or out, and 85 still feels very cool to walk into when you've come in from a 105 degree day!

So, I figure I have around a 10-15 degree swing inside my house between day and night in high summer. Does that seem high or low?

It probably throws my piano out of tune faster. :|
Last edited by interplanetjanet on Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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interplanetjanet
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by interplanetjanet » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:05 pm

LongerPrimer wrote:I don't use the heater function on the washer bidet seat and I do a cold water wash :moneybag
I just have to say, there are some fantastic bidet seats out there that are well under $100...mine remains one of the best gifts I gave myself.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by playtothebeat » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:43 pm

Leif wrote: Are you kidding? I'm also in OC. I have a 3300 SF house. I'm on a level pay plan of $37/mo.

We don't run the AC until 78. We never run the AC at night. We open all our upstairs windows in the summer.

I'm also on a plan with SCE that allows them to cycle off my AC in high use periods (they installed a box near my AC). As far as I know they have never done that. However, it saves me around $200 a year in discounts off of my bill.
That's impressive. I honestly have no idea how you can stay at $37/month, unless you just don't use any lights, don't watch tv, don't use many appliances, etc.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Easy Rhino » Fri Sep 05, 2014 7:12 pm

we're down in inland san diego, a 2500 square foot house. It gets pretty hot and electricity rates are probably the same. We use about 500 kwh per month according to our bill, except for July which was close to 800kwh. (I had one or two days where I accidentally left the AC on all day while we were gone).

Also, our bills were high in our old apartment when my wife and then-newborn were at home. Just remember the baby is mostly naked most of the time so it doesn't need to be too cold :)

the SDGE website here lets you fill out a survey online about your house and appliances and tries to estimate what you're spending your electricity on.

We also went through an energy audit, and then a whole house energy upgrade. Through the state program energy upgrade california. It was expensive (like $16k) but at least we got a $3k rebate from the state). it was educational.

Also, you can probably get a home energy audit for merely a few hundred bucks. And it will actually spit out a computer model showing projected energy savings by different upgrade steps.

Barring that, you have to look at what the most likely "heavy hitters" are for electricity usage, and what's the cheapest to fix.

1) Air conditioning, air conditioning, air conditioning!
- set your thermostat higher, or don't run it often (we have a whole house fan, which helps a lot, and don't use our AC on most days)
- have AC ducts inspected and sealed. Duct leakage is a surprisingly common problem.
- If the unit is ancient, might be worth replacing
- General house weatherproofing, the big three are attic insulation, wall insulation, and air sealing. If you're missing big on any of those then it can have a serious impact. Our has was draft and had zero insulation in the walls, it was a big problem even in the winter!

2) A pool. the pumps can guzzle electricity.

3) Appliances. Especially old fridges, clothes dryers, and maybe ranges. We got our fridge new when we moved in, the predicted energy cost is negligible. and our house is old and almost every other appliance is gas.

4) "special" uses. Think electric cars or unusually large amounts of running computer equipment, or hydroponic grow lights or whatever.

5) lighting. Not actually that big of a driver. but still, we had a lot of incandescent recessed lights, and replaced with LED and CFL, and there was a noticeable drop.

6) modern gadgetry like tv's and computers and phones. To be honest this isn't that much as long as you turn stuff off when you're done. And vampire drain is often overstated, looked up what the energy usage was on my 7 year old tv when it was on standby, it was 1 watt.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by gardemanger » Fri Sep 05, 2014 9:01 pm

john94549 wrote:gardemanger, the simple solution is nature, itself. Our oaks have just spewed out their acorns, as it were, and some will sprout, and some won't. Our arborist explained that trees (especially oaks in CA, of all varieties), know when times are tough. They've been through it before. Ironically enough, the gent noted that oak trees just about to die throw off the most acorns.* Speaks volumes.

*Thinking back four or five years, our oak tree produced countless acorns. Little did we know it was a warning sign the tree was dying.
The problem with "nature, itself" is that it is already so heavily impacted by human activity everywhere, but most especially in urban areas, that you can't just adopt a "hands off" approach and expect nature to fix itself. In many cases it is not capable of doing so unassisted because so many other pieces of the puzzle have already been damaged or destroyed. Q. agrifolia and the other native Quercus in California are actually having a real struggle reproducing themselves even in protected wilderness areas, because the acorns are not sprouting and establishing themselves as they should. This is because of degradation of the mycorrhizal fungi systems (with associated soil biota) that normally exist in symbiosis with the roots of these trees and help retain moisture in the soil, regulate the flow of nutrients and moisture to the plant roots, and act as an "immune system" warding off disease. (Just as we're discovering that our own microbial communities are an essential part of our bodies' normal functioning, similar discoveries have been made about relationships between soil biota and plants.) If there is not a reliable mychorrizal community in place with all the soil bacteria and other biota that make up the complete system, new trees will not successfully establish. And that's in the "wilderness" areas - in urban areas, if you are counting on Q. agrifolia to reseed itself and keep you supplied with shade...you may be disappointed.

Not to wander too far OT, the original discussion was about planting trees to shade a house and reduce electricity bills. It takes a long time if even if you start from a good-sized nursery-grown tree (although you can buy and transplant fully-grown specimens if you are truly, obscenely wealthy...or you're the Getty Center, which amounts to the same thing :-) ) and it takes longer in arid or semi-arid climates. There is a limited number of species you can choose from that will have the right characteristics, particularly if you want deciduous trees to allow winter sun exposure. Native trees are not the only choice, and they're not always the best choice (and not always the most water-conserving choice.) (You also, of course, have to factor in whether you're in a fire hazard area, in which case you cannot have trees in your home's defensible space at all.)

In short, trees are a major investment in your home, and they really need to be handled knowledgeably to gain the benefits and avoid the dangers. I would again reiterate that you need to *start* with knowing your municipality's guidelines and regulations before you plan any installations or removals. Trees are part of the city's infrastructure and local regulations have been reflecting that for years.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by interplanetjanet » Sat Sep 06, 2014 12:23 am

Easy Rhino wrote:Barring that, you have to look at what the most likely "heavy hitters" are for electricity usage, and what's the cheapest to fix.
I'll add - a well pump can be a big electricity consumer, especially if you have a water leak or are irrigating a large area.

I do my irrigating, showering, laundry and dishes at night, so I benefit from lower TOU rates then even though I run the AC sometimes during the day.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by socalsri » Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:02 am

OP, I also live in Irvine. Our house is about 2000 sq ft, 2 young kids and a partial stay-at-home wife. Our monthly electricity usage are usually between $50-75. This month, we expect to pay closer to $100 though. The actual amount we pay is lower because of the Summer Discount Program (see below).

Yes, it's been a hot summer, but I think our bills are low because;

- We run our A/C, but pretty much only when we are home, even though we have a programmable thermostat. The worst our house gets is around 85 upstairs, so we can easily cool it down at night by running our a/c for a few hours and letting our box fan suck in the cooler night air.
- Almost all our lighting is LED. Our entire downstair + kitchen with over 16 LED can lights uses < 160 watts. This is for something like 10K lumens!
- We have a newer house that we built, so we have high ceilings, so it doesn't get as hot. Additionally, we had more insulation put everywhere to help. Newer dual pane windows helped a lot with heat/sound as well. Our older house had the 20 year old track housing single pane windows and they were terrible.

One more tip, sign up for the SCE Summer Discount Program. They'll rebate you up to $200 over 5 months around summer in your bill. if you agree to have your a/c unit powered off for up to 2 hours during high usage times. I forget the exact parameters, but I believe we picked the $100 discount over 5 months plans, meaning they can only turn off the a/c for 1 hour or something such thing. We've had it for over 2 years and they haven't turned off our a/c even once. Please note that the numbers I quote in the first line don't include this discount (meaning, our bills are even lower when you consider SDP discount.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Angelus359 » Sat Sep 06, 2014 5:08 am

Here is a suggestion you haven't had yet. Install a radiant heat barrier (durable aluminum foil) in your attic against the roof line. Rent a nail gun and have at it. Your house will generate significantly less heat from solar radiation.

You can do it yourself and only will cost a couple hundred.

Definitely get solar tints on your windows. Even 20% block with full IR block helps a lot. Most heat is in IR anyways.
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by TheEternalVortex » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:03 am

hmw wrote:
cheese_breath wrote:Move to MI and get old. DTE Energy has a senior discount program.
It's the location. :)

I just looked up my last month's bill and we used 1072kwh. The bill was $128.64. We live in Texas.
Yeah, CA is expensive. We used 700 kWh last month and paid $200.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:12 am

interplanetjanet wrote:
bgrpph wrote:In Honolulu, highest elec rates in country- on Oahu .34 KWH- higher on neighbor islands-
34c/kW-h is high but it's not the highest rate even just comparing to plans that don't meter based on time of use. A couple years back in California, many customers hit over 40c/kW-h average - with the top marginal rate at 50c, this wasn't hard to do if you had significant energy needs.

Hawaii may have the highest average rate paid, though - thankfully your energy expenses for heating and cooling tend to be low and there's a decreased need for lighting compared with most of the rest of the USA.
Hawii's high electricity rates are a consequence of its geography and dependence on imported oil.

Hawaii generates the majority of its electricity from fuel oil. Because the main use of oil in the economy is transportation, it is a high value/ high cost source. Oil runs at c. $100/bl internationally. US natural gas is vastly cheaper. The US does not export gas (except to Eastern Canada) and fracking has generated huge new supply. There is, currently, no way to get Liquid Natural Gas into Hawaii.

Hawaii is the one place in the USA where solar photovoltaic has reached 'grid parity' (solar hot water did so long ago). However to make Hawaii even more renewable would require the construction of an interisland undersea High Voltage DC power line grid. That is projected but I am not sure anyone is building it yet. The Hawaiian (sp?) biomass, geothermal and wind resources could be used to balance off solar in nighttime and low sunshine conditions.
I may gripe about high electricity rates at times, but I do have to admit that they've gotten me to conserve, ruthlessly. A 75 watt home server (already on the lighter end of electricity consumption for such a device) costs me something around $250 per year to run. Replacing this with a 30 watt one saves me $550 on electricity over a 4 year lifetime - that is plenty of reason to spend money on an upgrade like this!
Nice to see economics at work. The way the economic system regulates demand to match supply is via price.

If all Americans used electricity like Californians, even adjusting for differences in industrial concentration and climate, then the US would probably use c. 30-40% less electricity than it does. (I've tried to dig into this number, there are a *lot* of issues around climate and where power using industries are concentrated, but even compared to comparable countries with similar climates eg in New England or the Midwest, the US uses a lot of of power).

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:31 am

bpp wrote:There are the obvious things: LED lights (and turn them off when not in a room), master power switch to shut off electronics when not in use (so they don't suck power in standby mode). Valuethinker will be along shortly to tell you to replace the fridge. :)
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqreRufrkxM

Some ideas which have not all been discussed.

1). Fridge Valuethinker would say that only if your fridge is over 10 years old is it even worth looking at. EIA (US Government) has an online savings calculator.

Whilst a 1980 fridge can use 2000 kwhr pa ($600 at the OP's electricity price) and a new one say 500 kwhr pa, the difference between one built in 2001 using say 700 and one using 450 now is not that great a saving.

What tends to happen is people have a 'beer fridge' which is 20+ years old sitting in the basement or garage, cheerfully unaware that it it is costing them $20-30 a month.

2). LEDS. As per others, LEDs save a *lot* replacing incandescents and halogens. I dropped my electricity consumption by c. 500 kwhr pa changing 40 of so bulbs in my house to LEDs. LEDs do not save much (if anything) vs CFLs-- the difference is purely aesthetic (but significant in my estimation).

If you aircondition this is double whammy because you have to remove this heat too.

3). Roofs and shutters

- external shutters on windows especially S or W facing. If you can shade the house *externally* then you significantly reduce the AC bill. Internal it's not so clear, because the light hits the shade but there is transformation into heat energy, which has to go somewhere.

Note that solar panels if not flush to the roof create a significant shading effect.

http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/n ... fe?id=1094

an underreported effect. We might guess that when light hits a solar panel, 20% becomes electrical energy (some is lost in the inverter), and of the remaining 80%, perhaps half is communicated to the roof via the frame, and perhaps half reradiated (a total guess, I might add).

California also has a 'white roofs initiative' to increase the thermal reflectivity of roofs. Most homes have some flat roofs which can be so painted without altering the aesthetics.

http://www.energy.ca.gov/title24/coolroofs/
http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/coolroof/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflective ... neering%29

4). Other appliances when they reach their replacement point, only buy Energy Star rated replacements.

Particularly big burners are the house clothesdryer. Either get a gas fired one, or consider a heat pump one. Or dry your clothes on a line (simple in that climate, if HOA permits it).

Front loading washing machine (water conservation standards make these a requirement in CA I believe?). Dishwasher if used frequently.

5). Utility home energy audit and leaktest of your home. It wouldn't be surprising if your problem keeping the house cool is how much hot air leaks in. Hard to retrofit, but even draught excluders on doors, plus checking the roof insulation, can do a lot of good.

6). 'Instant on' features of electronics. Turn the TV off when not using ie use power bars with switches. Things like cable set top boxes can be spectacularly bad, and they may not be amenable to being switched on/ off. Stupid things like clock radios (if not well designed). You have to get a plug meter and proceed device by device.

7). re trees I would be careful. One is fire hazard if applicable. The other is that someday you are probably going to put up a solar panel, and you don't want to spend a lot of money and then have to hack down the trees.
I'm still trying to get our bill lower. May be time to replace the fridge...
I doubt it makes big odds in Japan. Japan has been on an energy conservation kick since at least the mid 1970s. I think inherently Japanese appliances and homes are energy efficient (although building them out of paper with no insulation argues against that ;-)).

Solar panel?

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:36 am

socalsri wrote: - We have a newer house that we built, so we have high ceilings, so it doesn't get as hot. Additionally, we had more insulation put everywhere to help. Newer dual pane windows helped a lot with heat/sound as well. Our older house had the 20 year old track housing single pane windows and they were terrible.
.
On windows. Straight dual pane switches have a very long payoff at least in cold climates 15+ years. I went for triple (and blew that over energy efficient double glazing, long story) which never pays off in a southern England climate BUT they are better for comfort.

BUT

you can get windows that specifically block heat. They are used in office buildings in high solar insolation climates, for example. Put those on the south and (often west) side of the house and they can make a big difference. To comfort as much as electricity bills.

Also extending the roof eves on the south side of the house and again sometimes the west side. In the winter, when the sun is lower, you still get the light, but in the summer you get more shade.

In theory west and east side should be equivalent, however it seems west is more of a problem. Perhaps in the mornings we suffer less from overheating.

Be careful in this not to ruin a good view. Views are one of the things that sell houses.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:38 am

interplanetjanet wrote:
Easy Rhino wrote:Barring that, you have to look at what the most likely "heavy hitters" are for electricity usage, and what's the cheapest to fix.
I'll add - a well pump can be a big electricity consumer, especially if you have a water leak or are irrigating a large area.

I do my irrigating, showering, laundry and dishes at night, so I benefit from lower TOU rates then even though I run the AC sometimes during the day.
Is anyone allowed to irrigate anything in California right now?

That drought sounds pretty scary. South and South East Australia (Murray Darling River Basin) had a drought lasting 12 years-- river volume in the system (about 7-8 million Australians live on that system) had dropped over 90%. Adelaide was really crooked. Flash floods then ended it, but it was a warning of how unpredictable water can be in a climate more or less identical to Southern California.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by tadamsmar » Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:42 am

Ron wrote: Since our electric utility discontinued that program - primarily since under deregulated power, they no longer need to generate but buy power from many sources, at many hours of the day, TOU has generally gone by the wayside.
In our area the TOU rates are still available, they just discontinued the advertising. Maybe the are required to offer it here because of state regulations, not sure. Anyway, I mentioned it because nobody advertises it anymore, so many are not aware of it.

It's not uncommon for people to save with no lifestyle changes. Or using the clothes dryer off peak can lead to savings. Or put a timer on the water heater, but this may require a bigger lifestyle change.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by gardemanger » Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:15 pm

you can get windows that specifically block heat. They are used in office buildings in high solar insolation climates, for example. Put those on the south and (often west) side of the house and they can make a big difference. To comfort as much as electricity bills.
That's called "Low-E" glass (low emissivity) if anyone wants to Google it. Don't bother with the Wikipedia entry. It's widely available for residential windows. It's not just for hot climates, as it also helps keep heat inside during the winter. Large glass curtain walls (i.e. large office buildings) also use tints and reflective coatings, but for most residential applications low-E is more desirable because it's transparent - it blocks infrared and ultraviolet rays but not the visible spectrum.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by Leif » Sat Sep 06, 2014 7:47 pm

playtothebeat wrote:
That's impressive. I honestly have no idea how you can stay at $37/month, unless you just don't use any lights, don't watch tv, don't use many appliances, etc.
The discount we get helps. We are careful, but I watch a fair amount of TV on my 42" Sony. We have a smallish frig. Staying in the lower tiers does help on the cost. The lights we use most are energy efficient. Not running the AC often also helps. We also installed dual pane windows. I think that does help will heating/cooling.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by interplanetjanet » Sat Sep 06, 2014 10:25 pm

Valuethinker wrote:Is anyone allowed to irrigate anything in California right now?
Central California still contains some of the most fertile farmland around, and much of it is worth irrigating even at high cost. California grows 80% of the world's almonds - that alone takes up something like 10% of the water used by the state. Agriculture is very big business here.

I'm mostly planting "yard" areas with drought-tolerant native species. I'm not a big believer in expanses of grass, and allergies are no small part of that. I got such allergic reactions from running through fields growing up.

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by vitaflo » Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:03 pm

Close your blinds/drapes. Amazes me that people will pay for all new insulation, a more efficient AC, LED lighting, etc, and then leave their blinds and drapes open all day. Yes, the sun is nice, but if your house is a greenhouse it's going to cost you...

If you live in the northern latitudes, do the opposite in winter!
Last edited by vitaflo on Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

freddie
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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by freddie » Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:06 pm

Buy gas appliances and heaters.....

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Re: How do you keep your electricity bill low?

Post by ahmadcpa » Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:48 pm

CFL bulb at 13W
vs
Incandescent 70W
Difference is 57W
Times average of 4Hours/Day, 365 days a year at the higher threshold rates for PG&E or SCE of 30c per 1000W = $30 savings per bulb!

I replaced everything with CFL Bulbs (LED still expensive which does not justify buying it yet). I now reduced the bill by $70!

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