Ten Sustainable Energy Saving Tips

Managing you Electricity Costs and Energy Spending
by Valentin Uzunov

Become familiar with the information on your electricity bill. Aside from the obvious information like Meter number, which identifies you home meter, typically displayed outside and inspected periodically. Energy Charges, the kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity provided over a billing cycle, Current Charges and the Due date. Your electricity bill should also show the breakdown the cost components in your bill. For example, Portland General Electric (PGE) in Oregon has a "Basic Charge", a fee for the service and ancillary services, like online access, they provide (about 11.7% for winter months). "Energy Use Charges", the cost of the actual electricity used (48.6%). "Transmission Charge", the cost to transmit that power to the electric distribution grid (1.6% of my bill). "Distribution Charge", the cost to deliver that electricity to my home (32.1%). "*Green Source", an additional optional cost for making sure that 100% the electricity we use, is provided by renewable sources (6.0%l). Over half of my energy bill is for getting electricity to my home, not the electricity itself. These costs highlight the importance of an efficient energy transmission and distribution network.

Find out if your electricity provider offers any renewable energy programs and consider signing up. Consumer demand will drive the price down for renewable energy and it will ultimately lower total energy costs because renewable energy is becoming cheaper and cheaper to generate.

Plan your energy use. The cost of energy varies in real time so it can be worthwhile to find out your electric companies off-peak periods (eg. 10pm to 6am), when the rate of "energy use charges" per kWh are lowest. These are the times when it is most cost-effective to do really energy-hungry work. At the very least try and avoid high power consumption activities during On-Peak (eg. 3pm to 8pm) time, when charges are near *three times more expensive relative to off-peak. In between are the Mid-Peak rates (eg 6am to 3pm).
    * refers to PGE charges listed in their Residential Service Tariff policy

Unplug devices not being used from the outlets. Every electric device connected to your home power outlets slowly drains some electricity as it's on standby (aka vampire power).

Switch to LEDS, LED lights "use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting". Because LEDs are more efficient less energy is required to get the same results previously achievable by incandescent light bulbs.  According to the Department of Energy " widespread use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the United States. "

Invest in a programmable thermostat. setting a programmable thermostat to a lower setting when you are not at home can help reduce your energy costs by approximately 10 percent. For each degree you lower you save 2% on your heating costs. When you leave the house, set your thermostat to 60-56 F (13.3 C). By turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save five to 15 percent over the course of a year on your total heating costs.

Find out what are your biggest energy expenses are and track your habits. By figuring out what are the biggest energy hogs in your home, you can adjust your usage of those devices. Calculating the energy cost of running an electric device is fairly easy. First find out how many watts (W) it uses, typically this value is listed on a sticker label or in the owner's manual. Now multiply the watts by how long the device is in use in hours and divide by one thousand. This gives you how many kilowatt-hours you used in that time. Now multiply this value by the "energy use charge" rate listed on your electricity bill to find out roughly how much it cost to run that device. Eg. A typical kitchen microwave in the use is about 1000 watts to operate (W). A 30 second warmup that is 0.0083 kWh. My bill lists my energy use charge rate at 6.65 cents per kWh, so the cost of running my 1000 watts microwave for 30s is 0.055 cents. Seems little but when I think about how many times I use the microwave for at least a minute at high which consumes more than 1000 watts. Those cents quickly add up into dollars over a month.

Caulk gaps and cracks around drafty doorframes and windows to prevent cold air from entering your home. Caulk is inexpensive and can be purchased at most hardware stores, where you can also learn how to apply it. 

Lower you water heater temperature to 120 F (49 C) or Warm. That is plenty hot for all home purposes. 

Buy or replace with energy efficient devices (When you can). The savings over the course of the devices lifetimes can often pay for itself. But look out for the greenwashing