10 Easy Ways to Beat the Power Company Price Increases in California
The Washington Post reported this weekend that “beginning next month, millions of Dominion Virginia Power Customers will probably see their electric bills rise by at least 18 percent, the largest one-time rate increase in three decades to pay for soaring fuel costs.” The Post ominously adds, “And it won’t stop there.”
And it’s not just in our backyard in Virginia – USA Today reports today that across America “electricity bills are heading up. Way up. Utilities across the USA are raising power prices up to 29%,” predicting a similarly scary scenario on a national scale: “Even more dramatic rate increases are ahead. The mounting electric bills will further squeeze households struggling with spiraling gasoline prices.”
Yikes. So what can you, Mr. or Ms. Modern American who hopes to continue using electricity, do about it? Plenty!
There’s no need to cower before utility price increases – or to wait for Congress to solve the problem for us (though you might want to remind them to take action, too). Yes, you can take steps to cut your power bills by as much as a third (maybe even more!) today!
Here are our top 10 suggestions, in order of effectiveness, for simple tweaks to your home to help you keep your bills under control:
1. INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT
Just program a thermostat to adjust temperatures based on your daily routines and you could lower your energy bill by up to 33%. Most programmable thermostats allow you to set at least four separate time periods for your heating and cooling – that means that you can tell your thermostat what time you want it to be when you wake up and when you get home in the evening, and instruct it to save energy by powering your heating or cooling down when you’re not home.
2. USE AN APPLIANCE TIMER ON YOUR A/C
If you have a window unit air conditioner, you can also set it to run only when you need it by using a heavy-duty appliance timer. It doesn’t make sense to have your A/C running all day when you’re at work if your only interest is making sure it’s nice and cool when you arrive back home – just set your timer to turn your A/C off a half hour after you’ve left and turn on a half hour before you get back home. Think about it: does it make sense to pay for electricity for eight hours to cool an empty house or apartment?
Especially if your hot water is heated using an electric water heater, then your morning shower is about to get much more expensive as rate hikes start up. If you have an older showerhead, it may use as much as 3 or 5 gallons per minute that you’re standing under it. Heating that many gallons of water each minute can really rack up quite the bill. An easy and painless way to cut back is to switch to an oxygenating showerhead: they add oxygen to the shower flow to keep your water pressure nice and high (often increasing it!) but to cut your hot water consumption to a comfortable 1.75 gallons per minute. Saving 3 gallons of water and all the energy needed to heat that water will make a big difference on all your utility bills.
Light at night isn’t free – but it certainly can get a whole bunch cheaper. You’ll save 75% on energy for every older, incandescent bulb that you replace with a CFL. The latest CFLs are technological marvels – especially compared to the earliest incarnations of compact fluorescent lighting. Now you can’t tell the difference between the light cast by CFLs and that of traditional incandescent bulbs – and CFLs are available in nearly all the same shapes and features regular incandescent bulbs. The only difference is that you’ll save $8 to $10 per bulb per year with CFLs – and CFLs last about 5 to 7 years each!
The best way to dry clothes is with a solar-powered clothes dryer – which is to say, of course, a clothes line. Clothes lines don’t use any energy, so they’re entirely free. Sometimes and for many people clothes line drying may be impractical – that’s OK, there are still steps you can take to improve your drying efficiency. Cleaning all the lint out of your dryer vents is a great start – and one that can save several dozen dollars in energy costs each year. Dryer balls are another great little aid. Tossing a few in with your load will lift and separate clothes, exposing your garments to hot air pockets with greater efficiency.
Did you know that all the peripheral devices (monitors, printers, DVD players, VCRs, speakers, etc.) connected to your computer or TV may be costing you $10 to $30 per year per TV or computer while they’re off! It’s strange but true: unless you’re physically unplugging all of your equipment, it’s probably resting in stand-by mode – drawing power twenty-four hours a day. Sure, it’s not a great deal of power at any given moment – but this subtle suck accumulates a great deal each hour, day, week, and year. You can prevent it by switching your old power strip for a Smart Power Strip. A Smart Strip senses when your TV or Computer turns on or off – and cuts (or resumes) all power to your peripherals automatically.
You use hot water in your sinks too, right? If your faucet is not aerated, you may be sending several gallons of water down the drain every minute it’s open – and you’re paying for the energy to heat all that wasted water. Aerating your faucets can cut that flow down to a gallon per minute – or 2.2 gallons if you’re not yet ready to try one gallon (or less!) per minute flow rates.
Your night lights don’t use that much energy each night, but that little bit does add up week after week and year after year. You can shave a little bit more off of your electric bill by upgrading to especially efficient LED Night Lights. They have the added bonus of lasting about 100,000 hours each – that’s several tens of thousands more than your old-school incandescent bulb night lights.
What’s that toaster really costing you? And is that gadget really off when you switch it off? Knowledge is power – and that’s why a Kill-a-Watt meter or other sensor can help you make informed decision to adjust your use of the products and appliances around your home.
10. INFLATE YOUR TIRES
Just like the solar-powered clothes dryer, your feet are far more economical and earth-friendly than any car. So is public transportation, when that’s a possibility. But, for those who must drive and must pay $4 per gallon, there’s still a bit that you can do: keep your tires fully inflated! Fully inflated tires roll most efficiently, whereas a slightly sagging tire can cost you by increasing resistance between your car and the road. Check your tire pressure regularly by using an easy-to-read digital tire pressure gauge.