It's been a combination of little and big things that has added up measurably. The fact is, our bill is dropping. I'm going to break it down specifically as I can.
I'm going to run through the numbers using summertime, since that's when we really chew through the electricity, mostly due to air conditioning and the swimming pool. I count the summer as May through August. September is still brutal in Arizona, with temps regularly in the triple digits, but I just don't have the September bill in yet.
Here's our actual usage, from the electric bills, for the last three summers, May through August:
Average Billing ComparisonIn August of 2012, our electricity use bill was $ 367.06 for the month, but we use an average billing plan to spread the crushing financial pain throughout the year, so the bill was actually $285.00. By August of 2014, our average monthly bill is down to $ 175.00, a whopping savings of $110.00 per month!
We live in a 1979, single-story tract home, in the sun-scorched Sonoran desert city of Phoenix, Arizona. It still has original, single-pane windows and is poor insulation. Although the home has central air conditioning, we spend a great deal of time in our family room which is an addition, supplemented by a stand-alone window-unit style unit. Since we've lived here, we added a fourth person, with the birth of our daughter, now a grade school student. We recognize the increased power consumption of a 4 person family and all the accompanying electronic devices. I figure we hit hour highest power consuming habits in 2012 and remain there today.
Here are some things we've done over the last few years that have had a positive effect on our power bill, big and small.
1. Family Room Lighting
The Family Room had an old ceiling fan with two 60 watt incandescent light bulbs for a 120 watt total. I replaced it with four, dimmable, LED can-lights that pull 14.5 watts at full power for a total of 58 watts.
There are additional bonuses. Each of the four LED lamps puts out the equivalent lighting of a 75 w incandescent lamp for a total comparative wattage of 300 watts of lighting. We more than doubled the lighting in the room, for less than half the power. Additionally, the LED's are much cooler, requiring less air conditioning consumption to fight the heat gain. (Full post here)
2. Outdoor Lighting:
When replacing our exterior light fixtures, we exchanged four 60 watt incandescent bulbs on the exterior for LED light bulbs that simply bathes the area in crisp white light at only 9 watts each, a 204 watt savings.
|Yes, you can land a 747 with this light.|
3. Outdoor Lighting Control
Since we leave some of our outdoor lighting on all night, we always had to remember when to turn it on and off. One night, I didn't turn it on and some punk tried to pound a large Craftsman screwdriver into my truck's door lock, destroying it. On the flip-side, in the winter, we often got home from work to discover we had left the lights on all day.
|The real treasure is hidden behind this secret panel.|
4. Garage Lighting
My garage / workshop had three, eight foot long, two lamp florescent lighting fixtures lighting the place. I replaced them. First they were flickering, ugly, and horribly installed. They were noisy and actually looked fire-scorched. I replaced them with four, 4 foot modern florescent fixtures for about $20 each.
|Now I just need some light on that back wall, by the miter saw.|
(400 watts x 3 fixtures = 1200 watts) - (59 watts x 4 fixtures = 236 watts) = 964 watts saved!
5. Ceiling Insulation
The family room addition had a drop ceiling with 2' x 4' chunks of nasty insulation, stained by years of roof leaks. In the full heat of the summer, the window-unit AC just couldn't make the room bearable. After we repaired the roof we re-insulated the ceiling completely, using full rolls of insulation, taping the seams.
|Warm and cuddly fiberglass insulation|
The room is measurably cooler. It's actually quite pleasant on the hottest of days now. (Full post here)
6. Water Heater Replacement
The 13 year old water heater died when an element burned out, destroying the unit. I think the slow death was due to a huge build-up of sediment in the bottom of the tank I found during the autopsy. Who knows how efficient the old heater could be. (Autopsy post here)
The replacement unit is an Energy Star rated model, with built in smart technology . It actually learns our usage patterns and adjusts water heating accordingly. It also has a neat vacation mode, where you can drop the temperature down to 60 degrees, still keeping pipes from freezing in the winter. Of course that's not an issue here in Phoenix, so I just shut it off while we are gone. (Full post here)
7. Replace the Pool Pump:
This is a HUGE one. When we replaced our failing pool filter and installed the salt water cell, we also replaced the old pump with a new variable-speed unit. This is significant because the old single-speed pump had to run for as long as 12 hours (at 240 volts) to keep water moving in the summer.
Some people use a formula like 4 hours + 1 hour for every 10 degrees over 60. Whatever method I used to run it in the summer, it was a long time. Now, we run the thing for a couple hours at high rpm to work the vacuum, then a computer controller drops it to a slow speed, just to keep the water circulating, to filter and generate chlorine. We watched our power bill drop like a stone in the first month of use. (Full post here)
8. Humidity Control Switch
In another effort to defeat accidental power consumption, I attacked the bathroom exhaust fan. It's another one of those energy leeches that gets left on all day, or at least too long. I replaced an old fan that was probably devouring too much electricity to begin with; then I found another gizmo to help even more.
|Fan-tastic. Fan-tabulous. Fan-sational.|
This cool switch turns the fan on automatically when the humidity in the room reaches a pre-set point. It turns it off when it's no longer needed. It also turns it off after a set time, if the fan is turned on manually. (Full post here)
9. Kill the thirsty leeches
Everyone seems to have a family full of battery powered devices these days, from cordless tools, to cell phones, tablet computers, and music players, our walls are bristling with "wall wart" chargers. We fill our pockets, backpacks, and purses and leave the chargers slurping on the juice. By adding simple power strips with an off switch, we are able to cut power to these little transformers. In a fit of overkill, my custom built Ultimate Workshop Power Strip kills off the chargers for my cordless tool chargers in the garage so they don't siphon power until my next weekend warrior DIY outing. (Full post here)
We have the simple surge suppressor style strips mounted on our bedside tables were we can kill off the leeches for cellphones etc. during the day when we are gone.
10. All the rest...
Simply the replacement of a failed appliance does a lot. Our water conserving front-loading washer dryer combo made an immediate difference over the old top load tub style, since the clothing needs much less time to dry. We've found that replacing nearly any old appliance results in energy savings. We've replaced everything but the stove and the AC since we've lived here (when they died) and always look for the Energy Star logo.
As I illustrated earlier, steadily replacing incandescent bulbs throughout the house with energy efficient lamps adds up quick. I'm not a huge fan of compact florescent (CFL) these days. I just don;'t think they have much of an improved life span over incandescent lamps, plus they still generate a lot of heat and have disposal issues. Now that the light color options have improved, I'm liking the LED's much more.
We got rid of our last old school, 10,000 lb CRT style television in the house. The new flat screens cost remarkably less to run, plus they are larger and packed with features. We also replaced our aging desktop computer with a laptop.
That's it friends more money in our pockets! Have you done anything around the house and actually noticed a measurable drop in your electricity usage?