Condo Blues: 10 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill When There is Nothing Left to Cut

Monday, January 21, 2019

10 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill When There is Nothing Left to Cut

Over 10 years ago, I took on a year long project to reduce my home’s electricity use and bill by 20% using my brand new non-Energy Star rated appliances, new habits, and under $100 worth of DIYs and cheap home improvements.

I didn’t meet my goal.

I beat it.

I reduced my yearly electric use by 32%.

Over 10 years later my home still uses less electricity than comparable homes and families in my area – including energy efficient rated homes, which mine is not.

How do I reduce my electrify use? There wasn’t one big expense or home upgrade that made my electric bill go down. I knew we used more electricity in the hot and humid summer running the central air conditioning and less during the winter because we have a gas furnace and water heater. The only constant is our all electric kitchen. Turns out the biggest money suckers are a thousand little intermittent habits that felt like picky anal retentive things at first, until the energy use and savings started falling as low as it can go and still allow my family to comfortably live in the modern world.

How I Reduced My Electricity Use Without Sitting in the Dark

Pin this list of tips and hacks to your Pinterest boards for later! Share it with your friends!

Disclosure: I am including affiliate links to the items I personally use to cut my electric bill for your convenience.

1. Lighting
1. Try opening the curtains and using natural light as much as you can.  The houses in my neighborhood are very close together. For privacy, I raise the solar window shades (learn more about how solar window shades keep your house cool in the summer while letting light in here) halfway on the first floor and all the way on the second.

2. Consider trying the One Light Per Person in the Room rule when possible. Or at least try one overhead light and one task light instead of lighting up every single overhead, task, and ambient lamp in the room when the situation permits.

3. Consider switching over to energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs as your currant incandescent light bulbs burn out.  During my Energy Reduction Project I switched the incandescent light bulbs that came with the house as they burned out to CLFs to save on the cost of buying a houseful of light bulbs at once. I’m in the process of doing the same now that the price of LED light bulbs has come down significantly (Budget Hack: Dollar Tree Sunbeam LED light bulbs like these work and last identically to my expensive Energy Star rated light bulbs! I order them online and get FREE Shipping when I choose to have my order shipped to my local Dollar Tree store for pickup! (get the details here)  because they fly out of the store whenever I want to buy them. My electric bill is showing it (especially when my husband feels the need to ditch my Danish ambient light upbringing and turn on every light in every room in the house.)

2. Shutdown and unplug electronics when not in use. If you have a small appliance that has a clock or a light that glows when it is off, consider unplugging it when it is not in use because it is still using electricity (commonly called vampire power.) Honestly this was the hardest habit for me to break because I was famous for turning on the TV and leaving the room to start another project in the house. It was also one of the top ways my family was driving up our electric bill – by using electricity we weren’t actively using! Argh!

Although that may not always be possible or desirable for everything you plug into an outlet such as major appliances,  a media server, home assistants, the list goes on and on. Then what do you do?
Install a Currant Smart Outlet to monitor your electric use and use its suggested electric saving rules. I received a Currant Smart Outlet for testing and review and while I thought I wouldn’t find it as useful as someone just starting to reduce their electric use, since I thought I had the low energy use thing locked and loaded I quickly found out after I installed it that I was dead, dog wrong. (Like so many other things I have reviewed on this blog in the past.)

If you can turn in a power strip you can install a Currant Smart Outlet (read more details about it here.) Plug the Currant Smart Outlet into any regular electric outlet and plug the device into the current outlet plug on the side. I tested a sample Currant outlet by plugging a power trip full of our various TV components into it for several weeks. Then I tested the Currant outlet by plugging just the TV into the outlet just to see what will happen.

Next, I downloaded the app (available for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets,) enabled Bluetooth on my tablet (usually I keep it off,) and used the app to connect the Currant outlet to my wifi network. The most difficult part of the process was trying to ignore it for a few days to allow the outlet can monitor my device’s use and detect patterns. I’m such tech nerd. I totally checked a bunch of times after I installed it to see what it was doing. The app showed not only that all of my TV components were using electricity when not in use but exactly how much and suggested rules on when I’m not consistently using and can power off the outlet like in the middle of the night when I’m asleep. I don’t have it hooked up to a home assistant to turn items plugged into the outlet on and off by voice commends (I like to dance in my living room like Amazon’s not watching) but it has that capability too.

3. Seal small air leaks around doors, windows, outlets, pipes (under the sink for example,) the dryer vent, and sliding patio door. This is a major reason why my condo neighbors scream about high electric bills to cool their homes in summer and I don’t. This also helps keep my house toasty warm during the winter for less.

Here are a few of the money saving options I use and highly recommend:

  • Seal small gaps around windows, pipes, and vents with caulk ( rope caulk like this works for renters, or silicone caulk like this for something more permanent.) You should use a can of spray foam insulation (this is the exact kind canned spray insulation I use and recommend. Other brands I tried takes weeks to harden) to seal bigger gaps like the surprise I found in my house shown below.

I also installed to this exact energy efficient dryer vent while I was at it with very good results!

4. Consider adding pretty wall insulation by hanging pretty quilts/tapestries/banners on outside walls. It’s an immediate and affordable option, and probably the only option if you rent or live in a manufactured home with baseboard heat.

5. Wash full loads of laundry and dishes in your washing machine and dishwasher and use the lowest water temperature you can that will still get the job done. I use a sorting clothes hamper similar to this one to make the job easier (truth bomb: I really just that lazy) and hand wash anything we need immediacy in the sink if I don’t have enough items for a full load.

6. Use thermometers in the refrigerator, freezer, and electric oven to learn that all of our settings were a little too high and low to get the job done – whoops! I kick it old school with this exact refrigerator and freezer thermometer (I toss one in our cooler during the summer when we’re out and about too) and this oven thermometer to find out why I had to bake cookies in my electric much longer than all of my recipes suggested.
And speaking of temperatures, using a temperature and humidity monitor like this one on my allergist’s recommendation, made me realize that the indoor air temperature doesn’t always match the number on the thermostat and to adjust (warmer/cooler clothing or the thermostat) accordingly.

7. Use lids on pots to conserve energy and make liquid boil faster using less energy (with science! Convection!) and keep them from boiling over with pot watcher like mine (more sciencing with displacement!)

8. Timers! Timers! Timers! I kept my incandescent Halloween and Christmas lights during my Project and reduced our electric use by putting them on a waterproof outdoor timer (check out the examples here) like this one. If there is a timer or time set function on major appliances like my washing machine, dishwasher,etc. I use them to make sure I don’t run two energy hogging appliances at the same time and/or at off peak price hours.

9. Use small electric appliances to cook as much as you can vs. large kitchen appliances. My slow cooker uses less energy than hours on the stove.
and a pressure cooker (either stovetop pressure cooker like this one or an electric pressure cooker (there are more affordable brands than the Instant Pot here) use less electricity than that. For even more energy savings try slow cooking in a non electric Wonderbag (learn more here.) Baking potatoes in a toast oven takes less energy than a big oven (I cook potatoes in a microwave potato bag like this one and crisp them in the toaster oven for more time and energy savings,) an electric teakettle vs. a stovetop model, or an electric mattress pad (learn more here) vs. cranking the heat for one room. Just remember to shut if off and unplug it after use!

10. Install a programmable thermostat and USE IT! Consider using a programmable thermostat for baseboard heat (you check out the list of options here) to lower the temperature a few degrees when you are asleep and away from home and automatically pop it up to toasty warm when you wake up and come home from work or school.

How do you lower your electric bill?

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Teresa B said...

Interesting. I do a few of these, but not all. Thank you for sharing the tips at The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned!

Of Goats and Greens said...

Some great suggestions here for cutting down on electric (or other power) usage! I do have to say no matter how many blankets, I need it warm when I sleep/get up once or twice in the middle of the night for the facilities - but I'm perfectly fine with it COOL here during the day when I'm up moving around and active! My thermostat in these new digs is programmable, I just gotta get To It (better than I have).

Lisa Lynn said...

Great suggestions! We are fortunate that we can heat with wood in the winter, which reduces our electric bill a LOT. We have all electric, no natural gas to our home.
I found your post on the Simple Homestead Hop and would love to have you join us on Farm Fresh Tuesdays! Hope to see you there!

Liz said...

Congratulations on reducing your energy usage by so much. Great suggestions, thank you for bringing them to FF.

Slabs said...

Thanks for sharing your list of tricks. Yes I think many of us do make use of these but maybe not all. Good reminder to revisit and do more. Pinned this.
I visited you via The Really Crafty Link Party #368!
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You will find the linkup information (1) In the Top bar under Blogging: Weekly Senior Salon Pit Stop OR 2nd image In the sidebar
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Natasha Mairs - Serenity You said...

some really great tips here. I like to make sure everything is turned of when not in use. It's amazing how much electricity is still used when leaving things in stand by mode

Crystal Green from Sharing Life's Moments said...

This has some really good ideas. I literally turn my office lights on based on when I'm working versus when I'm off. It's rather funny, I get off work and the other side of my office lights do NOT go on by anyone!

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