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The average annual electrical bill for a North American home in 2006 was approximately $1,450. While electricity may seem to be a "clean" source of energy to the home consumer, the production of electricity is one of the world's largest polluters! Many electrical plants burn carbon based fuels in order to produce the end kilowatt of electricity consumed in your home. For example, each Kwh of electricity produced in the sate of Indiana produces 2.08 pounds of carbon dioxide. In North Dakota, it's 2.24 pounds of carbon dioxide. In states where electricity is produced primarily with hydro-electric plants, the production of carbon dioxide is much lower. Quebec produces only 0.009 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of electricity Bottom line, each kilowatt you save, not only reduces your electricity bill, but helps reduce overall greenhouse gases as well.
Let's look at some of the easy to implement items first. Then we'll take a look at some of the biggest reduction items.
Compact Fluorescent Light CFL - save $30 per bulb!
A compact fluorescent light bulb consumes only a quarter of the electricity of a standard incandescent light bulb, and lasts approximately 8-15 times longer. A US article stated "A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFL's would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12% discount to estimate the savings! On average, each CFL you install, could save approximately $30 over the lifetime of the bulb, compared to an incandescent.
Turn out the lights when you leave a room. If you'll be back in a minute or 2 it's ok to leave them on. Turning the lights off and on, does shorten the life of a CFL a small amount.
Microwaves are the most efficient way to cook food. Toaster ovens are a better alternative than the oven, when food items are small. Use your gas BBQ in the summer to keep the heat out of the kitchen. And the best alternative would be a solar oven - cooks just like a conventional oven, but has no energy cost or pollution. Over pots on the stove to avoid using excess heat.
Hot Water Heater - save $270 per year
Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater to 130F form 160F. If you use 64 gallons of hot water per day and heat with electricity at 12 cents per kwh, this will save you $270 per year. Insulate the tank and pipes leading out of the tank for a minimum of 6 feet.
Clothes Dryer - use a rack for some of the heavy items
Use a clothesline or laundry rack rather than the dryer. If it's to much effort to use a clothesline for everything, try hanging just your tops, dresses and pants on a laundry rack. Every item you air dry means money in the bank and it cost next to nothing (one time cost for a clothesline or inside rack). In the winter, your house can likely use the extra moisture too.
Clothes Washer - wash in cold water
If you have an electric hot water heater, this step cost nothing to implement and could save you $145 per year depending on how many hot water loads you do per year.
Computer - use sleep mode
Don't walk away from the computer without pressing the sleep mode button. If you aren't planning to use the computer for an hour, turn it off. Even better, make sure your computer and all the peripherals (monitor, printer, modem, speakers, etc.) are plugged into a power bar. When you are finished with the computer, turn it off first, THEN turn the power off using the power bar. This simple step can save you $60 per year.
Many electrical appliances continue to use electricity even with the appliance turned off! Prime candidates are the TV, set-top boxes, stereo, computers, printers, cell phone charger, any device with a little black brick that plugs into the wall, etc. These devices cost the average household, $200 in wasted electrical bills. The easiest way to stop these vampires is to unplug them when not in use. If you have several items located together (entertainment unit) use a power bar to make it easier to turn them all off at once.
Christmas Lights - use LED's
Replace your Christmas lights with LED's. Buy lights that you like, as they could last you a lifetime depending on the total hours you use them each season.
Some bigger ticket items with large impacts:
Use Natural Gas rather than Electrical
While still a non-renewable fossil fuel, the overall production of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) via natural gas appliances is usually lower than with the use of electrical appliances. Look into a natural gas water heater, stove, furnace or clothes dryer next time one of these items needs replacing. A gas dryer or a gas stove, could save you approximately $40 per year (each) over the cost of an electrical dryer or stove.
If your fridge is 15 years old and has a frost free freezer compartment, you could save $45 per year buy replacing it with a new model. Don't replace an old fridge with a new one, then keep the old fridge as a "beer fridge". That cold beer could be costing you a lot more than you figure.
In the United States, fridges are rated as part of the ENERGY STAR program. Here is a link to the Energy Star program where they have a listing of over 2,300 fridges. For each fridge, the following information is provided:
Make, Model, Configuration (freezer on top or bottom), Defrost Type, Compact, Ice, Volume, kWh/year, Percent Better, Active, and Active Date.
This information is available as a web page and can also be downloaded in an Excel Spreadsheet. If you are at all handy with Excel, you can sort the information so it's a bit easier to use.... Here's a sample:
Room Air Conditioners
Similar to an old fridge, and older room air conditioner can be using 30-70% more electricity than the newer models. Replacing that old room air conditioner can pay for itself very quickly if you use it a lot. See our separate section on tips to reduce your room air conditioner usage.
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