Serena Freewomyn

Simple Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | November 25, 2008 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: reduce electric bill, utilities

Have you ever wondered how much energy you use on a day to day basis? I have. And lucky for me, my power company offers a little monitor that I can plug into the wall to monitor exactly how much energy I'm using every day. Since it's green week, I thought I would share a few simple ways that I've been able to reduce my electric bill.

1. Unplug electronics that aren't in use. This is especially true for cell phone chargers, which are consuming electricity, even when your phone isn't being charged. I unplug the coffee maker and toaster every morning, and I shut down and unplug my laptop every night. Even when your computer is in sleep mode, it's still consuming about 85% of the electricity it would if it was being used. By unplugging my appliances, I've seen my power bill drop from $3 a day to under $1 a day.

2. Replace your old light bulbs with CFL bulbs. According to MSN Money, CFL's use up to 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Although these bulbs are more expensive than old school light bulbs, you can get them in bulk at Costco to save money. And since you won't be replacing them as often, you end up saving money in the long run.

3. Opt for energy efficient appliances. Many of us are already aware of the Energy Star ratings for big appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. But did you know that TV's are now being rated for their energy efficiency? I was shocked to find out just how much electricity a TV consumes! According to a segment on NPR this week:

For example, when measured with a wattmeter, the high-end Pioneer Elite, a 50-inch plasma TV, idles at about 390 watts. That's like turning on 30 compact fluorescent light bulbs all at once. And if you assume that the set will be on for five hours a day, the set consumes a lot more electricity than a typical refrigerator. When the TV is in a slightly dimmer, energy-saving mode, it only uses 300 watts, which matches its Energy Star listing.

Still, your friendly neighborhood coal-burning power plant would emit a half-ton of carbon dioxide every year to keep this one TV on for five hours a day -- and that's in energy-saving mode.

A smaller TV, of course, would consume less energy. But your TV is consuming electricity, even when it's turned off. Since the NPR segment, I've decided to plug our TV into a power strip, along with the DVD player and Playstation, and then unplug the power strip when we're not using the TV.

4. Watch your thermostat. If you live in a place like Arizona, turning off your air conditioner really isn't an option. But for every 1 degree you raise your thermostat, you could be saving 2% on your power bill. Ceiling fans consume less energy than central air, so consider installing one of these to save money in the long term. In the winter time, space heaters could save you money versus central heating.

Green week might be about the environment, but going green can save you some green. To add up all the money you'll save by reducing your energy consumption, check out this chart over at Get Rich Slowly. Got any more suggestions? Be sure to leave your tips in the comments section.

Cross-posted from Queercents.

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Serena good post.

I wanted to offer additional information that most are not aware when it comes to light bulbs.

1. Life ratings for all light bulbs, CFLs included, are based on the bulb being turned on 24 hours per day. Each time you turn the bulb on and off degrades the life of the bulb. And since most of us turn room lights on and off all day, the CFL will not last nearly as long as the package indicates, my experience 2 years at best, which is the same as other type bulbs.

2. The voltage listed on the bulb affects the life and brightness of the bulb. For example "long life" bulbs are usually listed at 130 volts. What makes it longer life, is that your home is 110 volts. When 110V is applied to a 130V bulb, the wattage is lower and life increases. However number 1 still applies.

3. CFLs contain mercury and we have not figured out simple disposal of the hazardous mercury in CFLs sold to residential homes. We have laws and regulations for commercial disposal of CFLs and fluorescent tubes.

With the above in mind. I am not a big fan of CFLs. In a home environment, CFLs are best used for lights that stay on all the time (like my boys rooms) or in areas designed to illuminate rather than to enjoy. You can play with the type of color temperature you want. Commonly known as warm white 27K (hallways), cool white 33K (kitchens), daylight 56K (garages). I use a yellow (bug) CFL for my porch lights.

Quality of life and lighting are important to consider besides just energy consumption. Having one bulb that is a full spectrum (Verilux) at 60 watts will provide the eye with enough white light that you wouldn't need another bulb turned on. Whereas standard incandescent and some CFL don't provide enough white for your eye and you end up turning on more light.

So, for me, I use full spectrum, I prefer Verilux, in all areas of my home, CFL outside and in the children's rooms. If you do a cost analysis, I believe that you save money with this solution versus the CFL solution and you have a better quality of life for your eyes and mood. AND I don't have to worry about so much mercury.

My two cents. ;-)

Julie, thanks for the additional information about CFL bulbs. I didn't realize they contained mercury. Everyone touts them as being so enviro-friendly. You've definitely given me a lot to think about.

Mythbusters looked at the issue of power for startup, and even old-school flourescents are more efficient than the old school regular bulbs if it will be off for more than a couple seconds. Not sure about the life argument, but the energy savings and money savings is still significant even if the life is half of what is estimated.

RE: mercury: yes, there is mercury in a CFL, however, even if disposed _badly_ the CFL still puts less mercury in the environment than would be released by the incandescent bulb due to the extra power being generated in coal power plants. (Crazy, huh?) That's probably why there's no regulations yet. CFL's give us the opportunity to keep all the mercury emissions in one place and even handle them properly - incandescent bulbs put it into the air where it's more dangerous anyway and you don't get that option to dispose of it correctly.

Good follow up Megabyte. Thanks for the info!

Karen Collett | November 26, 2008 7:57 AM
Life ratings for all light bulbs, CFLs included, are based on the bulb being turned on 24 hours per day. Each time you turn the bulb on and off degrades the life of the bulb. And since most of us turn room lights on and off all day, the CFL will not last nearly as long as the package indicates, my experience 2 years at best, which is the same as other type bulbs.

From the CFL Wikipedia entry:

The life of a CFL is significantly shorter if it is only turned on for a few minutes at a time: In the case of a 5-minute on/off cycle the lifespan of a CFL can be up to 85% shorter, reducing its lifespan to the level of an incandescent lamp.[13][14][15] The US Energy Star program says to leave them on at least 15 minutes at a time to mitigate this problem.

I apologize for making declarative statements about my lighting POV and not present the info for you to decide. Thanks Karen and Megabyte.

Here is the Link to the EPA's explanation about mercury in CFLs vs coal-fire power plant emissions and more.

Life hours are based on ANSI/IESNA standards of 3 hours per start and other commercial standards. There is a lot involved with these standards and I won't get into them.

During the 10 years I sold lighting, I formed a POV that most of the CFLs sold to residential customers were not producing a cost savings. Energy savings, yes, but not cost because of life hours.

Though, I can recommend
CFLs. IMO they outperformed and produced a better light than Sylvania and other US brands. (which were as of 2 yrs ago, not made in the USA either)

Again, my apologies, it is a rare opportunity that I get to share my lighting info, I got carried away. Frighteningly, CFLs are a very tiny portion of the lighting info in my head. ;-)

Everyone else is talking about our rights being stripped away snd you are talking about light bulbs ? Is that an attempt to divert attention away from your Mormon religion ? You should be ashamed.

Charles, don't be a jerk. I know that's most likely not your intent, but it's how it comes off. Her religion has nothing whatsoever to do with this post and I know you're smart enough to know that.

I don't know how many times you have to be told - from blog owner, to contributors, to even commenters in other posts - we're NOT a political blog. We're a QUEER blog. There's a lot more to talk about than just politics. In fact, looking at yesterday's content which you claim "everyone else is talking about our rights being stripped away," shows a completely different story:

Upon which I say something nice about the Log Cabin Republicans Politics
No "Milk" for Cinemark Prop 8
Haters promise to "Rise above the Hate" State Politics
Simple Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill Money
'Tis the Season Living
Is this relationship right for me? Relationship advice
Jake's Big Day Living
Florida Gay Adoption Ban On Its Way Out State Politics
Letter From the Editor: Goodbye, Hello Media
How do you want to handle this one? Site promo
Twilight #1 Entertainment
If every homosexual has to go underground African politics
Beyonce and Justin Timberlake Do Single Ladies Entertainment

So from my reckoning, 2 posts (Waymon's fundie post and my Quote of the Day) were about rights being stripped away - out of 13. This is again, not the way you presented it.

But I'm fascinated why you felt the need to exaggerate and link unrelated items to try to attack a post on electricity and cost savings. Knowing some of your background (the Bible burning as "art" and your constant refrain on the evils of religion), I'm wondering if you're not letting your own personal prejudices towards religion influence how you interact with Serena on a post about saving money on your electric bill as the economy tightens. Should the LGBT readers here pay more for their electric bills just because you don't like religion and have deemed anything she writes worthy of your contempt?

That seems pretty silly to me. It also seems beneath you. I know you can argue reasonably, but this is not one of those times. This is a grumpy fit worthy of Walter Matthau but little else.

Serena, if you put all your video on a light switch you don't have to reach for the outlet all the time. And since you're being the dollar diva today, what's the best trade-off between energy efficiency and lots of good light? I can have less light in most of the apt, but it is getting so I need klieg lights to read by these days.

gregC - Light is literally in the 'eye' of the beholder. Most incandescent lights are yellow in color, even though it doesn't appear to be so. However, if you put a full spectrum bulb next to an incandescent and even some CFLs, you will see the yellow color.

If you live in an area that is foggy, rainy, and overcast frequently, your home requires more white light in order for your eyes to "feel" like there is enough light in a room.

Full spectrum bulbs, which have a purple color to the glass, filter out the yellow and the top end blue hues, providing a very nice white light (not industrial white like the daylight CFL bulbs). Your eye will feel like there is more light in the room even though the wattage may be identical to your previous bulb. (people suffering from SADD can benefit by changing to full spectrum bulbs)

The Verilux brand that I purchase is spec'd to last 5000 hours or more, which in my house is about 2.5 years. They vary in cost depending on bulb style, which they make for lamps, recessed fixtures and 3-way bulbs.

I would suggest getting a full spectrum bulb at 60 watts or 75 watts for the room you mentioned and see if that provides enough light.

Also, and I apologize for the long comment, the position of the light is important when illuminating an entire room. Down light from the ceiling, especially if the bulb is recessed, will not illuminate anything other than the direct area below the fixture. Ceiling fixtures with a flush glass globe, will saturate the room in light, which sometimes is effective, depending on the fixture. Whereas Up light, a freestanding fixture with a globe facing up, can illuminate an entire room. The larger the glass opening, which acts as a reflector for light, the wider the area of illumination.

From someone who has way too much lighting information in her head. ;-)

Thanks for the notes. I'm glad they're in your head. I saved them to Yojimbo cause I'll never remember all that. :)

Following up on the suggestion by gregC, if you don't have an outlet controlled by a wall switch at the right place in your room, consider plugging all your entertainment electronics into a power strip --- that way you can turn off the entire entertainment center with one switch.

Also, for a few dollars more you can buy a quality power strip that will protect your electronics from a power surge. Power surges are rather unusual, but I've had friends who have lost an entire house full of electronic devices due to a bad power surge.

You are the jerk. Featuring a Mormon lesbian on this blog is an insult to all the 18,000 married couples in California whoes rights were stripped away because of the Mormon initiatives.. Hello....

Your opinion is your opinion and you're entitled to it. Which is fine and dandy, but Mormonism has nothing to do with how to save money on your electric bill.

Ya don't understnd me at all. For me and Harvey Milk gay activism is equivalent to a fight against religious faith. You do know he was for seperation of church and state ? My aim is to overcome the effects that organized religion has inflicted worldwide in the psyche and subconscious of our modern society.
I am known for my performance of burning a Koran at a Chicago hotel, I have also repeatedly destroyed, or “edited” specific sections of Biblical text for similar reasons. While this was done by me as an art form, it was a demonstration of how repressed minorities must carry the burden of discrimination.

Charles, I don't care what you believe or on who's behalf; you have not only derailed this post, you have called Bil a jerk and have asked that Serena be discriminated against because of your sweeping generalizations.

If you had your way, only people who believe as you do, would be allowed to speak, and not even a post on reducing your electric bill.


If you want Mormons contributing to the blog with their spin, that;s fine. Just don't expect them to be accepted or attract any revenue from advertisments.
I am receiving emails from former bloggers to Bilerico who tell me I am right on. The majority of gay married men are very upset at the Mormons right now, and not without reason. This blog is a laughing matter if you think light bulbs are a Queer issue. There has got to be a joke there somewhere.

Serena: Mormon spin? I think you've been inhaling the paint fumes a little too deeply.

Reformed Ascetic | November 28, 2008 2:24 AM

I just got around to reading this post. I am shocked at the turn it has taken. I would have never predicted it.

Serena, Julie, Megabyte, Karen, and Greg and A.J. thanks very much for the information. I feel like I learned a lot which I can put to immediate use.

Thanks, RA. Glad to help people reduce their expenses as the economy gets tighter. It affects everyone, gay and straight. So every little bit helps.

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