You don’t need to be an economics major to realize that reducing your use of electricity will save you money, but there are collateral benefits as well: when enough individuals lower their electricity consumption, this contributes to reducing the need to produce as much electricity, and consequently diminishes the production of harmful greenhouse gases. This guide will provide some useful tips to help you save on your electric bill, and, along the way, help protect the environment.
1. When purchasing new appliances (especially large, electricity-guzzling ones such as refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, or clothes dryers), make sure to check the energy rating. In the US, Canada, Japan, EU, and many other countries: check for the Energy Star label — products carrying this logo generally consume 20-30% less energy than required by federal standards. Europeans: check the EU Energy Label, and try to buy “A” (or “A+” or even “A++”) or “B” rated appliances, but do not settle for anything less than a “C”. Avoid energy-inefficient “F” or “G” appliances at all costs!
2. Buy washing powders that work in cold/warm water and eliminate the need for a pre-wash. Cutting out the pre-wash will save you 15-25% on your electric bill as compared to a cycle with pre-wash, whereas washing in warm water instead of hot will save you another 30-40% wholesale hotel furniture . Washing a full load instead of two half-loads, and using an energy-efficient program (if available on your washing machine), can reduce your electricity needs by 30-45%.
3. The clothes dryer is one of the heaviest energy guzzlers in the house. If you can line dry your laundry — even just some of it, part of the time — that will save you a heck of a lot of electricity. If you DO decide to dry your clothes in the dryer, choose a faster spin cycle if your washing machine allows: drying clothes that have been spun dry at high speed will take less electricity than clothes that have been spun dry at lower speeds. There is no significant difference in the electricity consumed by a washer with a spin cycle set at 400 or 1,000 rpm, whereas the savings in electricity needed to dry clothes from these two wash cycles can reach 40%.
4. In the aggregate monthly electric bill, lights play a big role. The easiest way to save here is to make sure you turn off any lights you don’t need whenever possible. For those lights you DO have to have on, try switching to low-power compact fluorescent light bulbs (here also: look out for the Energy Star label!). True, they are more expensive than regular bulbs, but when you consider that they use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, you’ll soon start seeing a return on your investment.
5. Install dimmer switches. If/when/where you NEED to have the light on, at least just use only as much as you really need.
6. Care for a cup of tea or coffee? If you’re using an electric kettle, make sure you’re boiling just the amount of water you need. By boiling just the water you need for 1-2 cups, you can save about 40% of the electricity you need to boil a full kettle.
7. If you’re buying a new TV, make sure to get an LCD, not a plasma, which consumes 5-7 times (!) more electricity on average than an LCD. For those who still have CRT (“picture tube”) TVs, they use about 30-50% more electricity than LCDs.
8. Save money on your electric bill by unplugging your appliances when not in use (or use a power bar with a switch). Many appliances will not actually turn off when you hit the power button, but rather go into standby mode, and standby power alone typically accounts for some 5-10% of residential electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Also make sure to unplug chargers (cell phones, iPods, etc.) when you’re not actually charging the devices, as they continue to draw power as long as they’re plugged in.