The mean household spend on electricity in the U.S. per year, is $1,551 per household. I live in mid-Michigan – home of the muggy, swampy summer (although nothing like the mid-south, I will admit). I still use air conditioning at night during the worst muggiest summer nights. I also don’t own any Energy Star kitchen or laundry appliances, and I have an electric dryer and dishwasher. I work with what was inherited when I bought the house. And my wife has been at home for much of the past year, studying for school and more recently working 2-day weeks in her nursing job. When you are home vs. at work, you generally use more electricity.
So I must be – what would you guess? A tad bit over that mean?
Not quite. My electricity spend over the past year was $689, a shamefully high number in my opinion, but just 48% of the mean!
I must be doing a thing or two right… so how did we get there and what are some quick wins that you can make to save on electricity?
I thought about this long and hard and distilled it down to 4 actions every first-world person can take that will lead to extreme electricity savings. And you don’t even have to buy any expensive new Energy Star appliances. Consider these mandatory exercises if you’re a reader of this blog!
1. Test Everything in your House that has a Plug, then Take Action
The first step to saving on electricity is knowledge of what’s going on around you.
I got this electrical outlet monitor and measured everything in my house that had a plug to find out how much each appliance costs to power. Everyone on the planet should do this basic exercise, as a right of responsibility.
Test. Throw the numbers in a spreadsheet. And learn. It makes for an enlightening, fun, and easy 1 hour project.
I thought I was smart about electric use before I measured everything, but immediately found ways to cut my electric use, and the result was a 22% lower electric bill.
I was able to discover a number of gems to take action on, such as:
- my toaster didn’t use any electricity when plugged in and not in use, but my blender does
- my printer used energy, even when turned off
- my BluRay/internet TV player, turned off, saves me $20 per year, so I reconfigured it
- my older LED alarm clock was actually quite efficient and did not need replacing
- even an “energy efficient” 40W CFL burns through energy pretty easily if left on
2. Unplug Anything that is not Running that Saps Electricity
As the energy monitor test will probably confirm, there is random stuff around your house that you rarely use that sucks energy. Here’s a list of some of the worst vampire standby power appliances. There is nothing more first-world wasteful than leaving this stuff plugged in, while not in use.
Unplug stuff, habitually. Like any habit, it takes a bit of work, but the reward is a clearer conscience and more money in your bank account.
3. Strategically Replace the Bulbs you Use the Most with LED Bulbs
Even though CFLs use just 25% of the energy of incandescent bulbs, they are yesterday’s news. LED is the way to go now.
LEDs use about 40% less energy than CFLs. They also last 25 times longer than incandescents (and from my experience, CFLs usually don’t last more than a few years either). And they don’t contain mercury, like CFLs do.
They appear a bit pricey on the surface, but with the huge energy savings, longevity, and warranties, LEDs are a huge cost saver. Consider it an investment. I like the Philips A19 LED bulb, which has similar light qualities and appearance to an incandescent, but one-tenth of the energy use and a cost of just over $1/each.
For kitchen use, I like these dimmable LED Bulbs to replace halogens. They use only 5W of energy each, but it takes just 3 of them light up my entire kitchen. Their prices have come down significantly – and they are long lasting.
Light usage makes up 25% of all electricity use in the U.S. still. Replace your CFLs and incandescents with LEDs in the lamps or lights you use the most (more than a few hours per day), and you will quickly make your money back.
4. Switch to a Central AC Alternative
I decided to run the math on the cost of air conditioning vs. a fan. If you assume that your central AC unit is running half of the day during summer months, it would cost $129.60 per month in electricity costs.
Alternatively, a switch to:
- a window AC unit would cost $50.40 per month
- a ceiling fan would cost $1.20 per month
You could potentially be saving over $128 per month by putting up a ceiling fan in your bedroom. Even just installing a window unit in your bedroom so that you can sleep well would save you $78 per month and more if you only use it at night.
I’m big on comfort and being able to sleep well, but if you can make the switch and ween yourself off of AC on all but the muggiest of nights, the savings are monstrous. Depending on where you live, the difficult on this varies, but just about everyone can improve in this area.
Electricity Saving Discussion:
- What is your monthly or annual average spend on electricity?
- What moves have you made to save on electricity?
- How much money have you saved?
Mean for 4 person household is $1,782… 2012 ours was $1059.22… not too bad!
This is a great breakdown. Our electricity costs are about the same as yours. I think a lot of it has to do with the size of house you have, too. I haven’t ever heard of getting a monitor to see how much power certain devices use, I’ll have to check that out.
I don’t use an energy monitor, instead I use math to figure out my savings. Most appliances have a wattage rating just like a light bulb. A Kilowatt-hour is defined as using 1000W of electricity for one hour. In turn, a Watt-hour is using 1W of electricity for one hour.
For simplicity I’ll use a 60W incandescent vs. 14W CFL for comparison. Savings is 60-14 = 46 W (per hour). So if a light bulb is left on 24 hours a day simply multiply 46W * 24hr to get 1104 Watt-hours of savings, which works out to 12 cents per day of savings by switching to a CFL, multiply that by 365 days to get an annual savings of $44! Incandescent lights are very expensive.
$1426 per 2-unit household? Ganja growers must certainly be skewing this mean up or electric heating factors in here. The lady and I live in Boston and we hit ~$25/mo for elctrct and I’d consider ourselves home bodies. We neither have gaming consoles nor clunky desktops: further, there is no a/c or other such power juicer in our 900sf uni-level apt so this obviously helps. On balmy days and nights, we have two simple fans: an intake/outtake window unit and a recently acquired standing fan.
We are a Philips household when it comes to lighting and very pleased to have made the switch. Except for the dishwasher, microwave and old fridge, we (I) unplug small appliance and turn-off switches religiously–again, few items but I’m sure it helps. If you haven’t checked out G.E.’s recommended power strip, I suggest you do. The same one he recommends hosts our relatively energy hungry entertainment setup.
Glad to know there’s one expenditure where we are doing ok!
Great post and one of the areas requiring little effort for noticeable returns.
Our monthly bill averages ~$125/month (more in the summer and less in the winter). This has always seemed incredibly high to me for a 700 sq. ft. apt. in NYC.
We have been using the energy efficient lightbulbs, but have not been unplugging any appliances during the day. I think that is what is killing us, especially the TV, DVR, and computers. I’ll have to get one of those energy monitors to figure out exactly what’s going on.
Question for you though: you talk about unplugging appliances that suck up a lot of energy while being idle. Could I just turn off the surge protector in which those appliances are connected to or do I have to turn off the surge protector and unplug it?
Roger, if you haven’t, check out https://20somethingfinance.com/electrical-leaking-standby-appliance-list/. I suppose unplugging the strip would certainly be the best bet but I haven’t found a need to in my situation.
Rachel and Natalie are spot on–where you live matters on a number of levels (i.e. climate and utility providers). In contrast, my gas bill is (to me) outrageous–in spite of the insulation efforts.
Sounds good. Project conserve electricity / money starts today. My key targets will be the big ticket items: TV, TiVO, computer, and laptop. Thanks for your help!
It looks like the energy monitor is sold out online. I’ve checked Amazon, Home Depot, HSN, no one has it. Have any ideas on where we might be able to pick up one?
Where you live plays a big part in energy rates and usage requirements. Still this was an interesting exercise.
Last year we spent $536 for electricity although I think I should include natural gas as well since our water heater and fire place are gas. Total for the two was $895. We are a family of 2 in an 1100 sq ft condo.
I decided to compare YTD to the same period last year and found I am running $3/mo up on electricity but $9/mo down on gas, so not too bad.
Im going to work on getting that electricity down Now too, although I work from home so some lighting and significant computer use are non-optional. Id never thought of the printer using energy while off. It will be unplugged from now on. We already keep the tv on a switched off power bar, and try to unplug most items.
My 3 person household averages $110/mo. I live in Las Vegas and one third of that is cooling cost. I also have two large desktop computer systems and a large entertainment center on most of the time. I’m a SAHM and the kiddo and I are home nearly all the time. My home is a 1300 sq. ft. house shaded from the southwest with a large tree. However, when I lived in a 2 story, 2000 sq. ft. household with no shade my power bills were $250 per month. Before that when I lived in a 1000 sq ft condo, my bills were $75/month. Although I am careful to turn off and unplug my appliances and lights when not in use, I think the size and location of your house are by far the largest influence.
If you live in a hot dry climate I highly recommend an evaporative cooler. They use the power of a fan and have performance that allows my AC to run about 33% less. They only work if the air is very dry though.
I average about $65/m so far in my apartment. I am doing the usual, with CFL’s,Evergy star power strip. (censor tells when master is on and turns on the others on the strip),set the water heater temp back,and use a cloths line. Re-insulating helped with the ac too.
I have done a few of these but this a good reminder to put the others into practice. Thanks
Another good AC alternative is an evaporative cooler (AKA Swamp Cooler). We picked up 2 units at Home Depot for $350 total as an alternative to installing central AC at $2000-$3000. They are about the size of a small filing cabinet, look pretty nice and cool off one room very effectively. I’ve mostly seen these in desert climates such as El Paso. We live near Denver, so it’s semi-arid here. Not sure how well they would work in humid areas.
I’m doing everything possible to use less A/C this summer. Luckily my house has a ton of windows so I can really get cross ventilation going. I’ve also been using my ceiling fans and box fans a ton. When I ahve been turning on the A/C I’ve been setting it to 78-80 and only using while I’m actually at home, making sure it’s all off when I go to work.
LEDs are a beneficial long-term investment because they offer additional savings in multiple ways. If you haven’t made the swap to LED lights, it’s the high time. In a month, you’ll see the positive difference in your electricity bill.
Thumbs up for your tips! Here in Australia electricity prices depend upon on where you live in the country, as well as what time of day you use your electricity. To save on electricity, Australian Government is replacing old or CFL lights with energy-efficient LED lighting products in all residential and commercial properties, and that’s for free and minimum cost. I think it’s a great move by the Australian government to cut down electricity cost.