Conserving and reducing the power bill

Posted by: Johnny Tran

It's no secret, electricity bills have been steadily rising. It's especially noticeable when the Bonneville Power Association no longer provided energy credits for Northwest residents after June 2007. Click for details here:

So what can one do to keep bills at a minimum? Aside from purchasing devices that measure kilowatt usage from electric gadgets (look at the Kill-a-watt entry from January), there are several ways to keep power usage low while reducing your carbon footprint:

Common Reasons

1. Hot and Cold Weather - The weather is cited as the #1 reason by various power companies for higher bills each month.

- During hot months, air conditioning accounts for more than 1/2 the energy bill for most customers. Turning on the a/c to maintain "comfort" in humid conditions substantially increases energy use.

- Bills are often at their peak during cold months since heating is 2 to 3 times more expensive than cooling. People habitually take longer showers in colder weather, increasing the bill from water heating as well.

2. Use of appliances and electronics

A class priority this term is to increase the awareness of "Phantom Power," which is described as consumer electronics and appliances draining power even when not in use. These devices include, but a not limited to:
◦ TVs (Large/plasma TVs have more power and heat, making A/Cs operate even more.)
◦ Stereos
◦ DVDs and DVRs
◦ Cell phone or battery chargers

Cautionary Note: Turning off some devices may require reprogramming once turned back on.

3. Household Size and Activities

Having more bodies uses more power. An increased amount of showers, laundry, cooking and dishes are activities that use hot water can jack up the bill. In most cases, washing through a dishwasher whenever possible minimizes the usage of hot water and soap when compared to hand washing.

4. Length of billing cycle

(From the Florida Power and Light Company:) "A billing cycle is the number of days within each bill. Normally, your meter is read on the same day every month but some months are longer than others and weekends and holidays can sometimes get in the way. Occasionally, an employee can't get to your meter because a gate is locked or a dog is in the backyard, and it’s not safe to enter. As a result, some monthly bills cover as few as 25 days and some as many as 35 days."

5. Don't keep the meter running

Speaking of which, keeping a close eye on your own meter can be very beneficial. Keep all electric bills for at least a year in order to see how much kWh is used on average for each month. On occasion, meter readers don't do a correct reading, which is why having historical information comes in handy.

Also, turn off all power on your circuit breaker and check to make sure the meter is no longer moving.

By keeping these hints in mind, hopefully your reaction will be much more calm than mine once the bill arrives. (=