You found it. If you have a question about saving electricity, or how much electricity something uses, this is the place. I cover pretty much everything.And I've put lots of effort into making the information truly useful: I supply a ton of actual numbers, some calculators to help figure the usage for your own situation, and explanations about what works and why in plain English. I've always hated how-to guides thet skimp on the goods: sometimes a topic is just as mysterious after you've read a guide. I vowed that this guide would not be one of those.
For starters, I explain exactly what a kilowatt hour is and how much you pay for one. I then show you how to calculate exactly how much electricity your household appliances use, so you know which items are guzzling the most juice (and which ones are the best targets for savings). You'll also learn exactly how to read your electric meter, if you like. (Find that on any other website.) Finally, I've answered countless questions from readers about saving electricity. If you have a question, it's probably answered here already.
Saving electricity doesn't just save money, it also saves energy, which means less pollution. This might be surprising, because you don't see or smell any pollution when you turn on the lights, unlike when you fire up your car. But the pollution is there—it just happens at the power plant instead of on-site. Most electricity is generated by burning coal and other fossil fuels. Every time you turn on the lights, you create a little pollution. (See the sidebar.) In fact, the average home pollutes more than the average car! (See my Carbon Footprint Calculator for the numbers.) So saving electricity doesn't just put money in your pocket, it helps keep the air and water clean, too.
But don't just take my word for it. The legendary James Hansen, one of the first scientists to warn about global warming way back in the 80s, recently said that the real key to preventing climate change is reducing home energy use. That's because, as he says, we can't stop the oil from being burned for transport, since if we don't use it, another country will. But we can certainly stop burning our own country's coal. And the quickest way to reduce coal emissions by 50%, is to reduce our electricity consumption by 50%. (more on climate change)
Note also that as the age of oil is coming to a close (we've already used more than half of the oil that exists on the planet), our energy appetite puts more pressure for utilities to build dangerous nuclear power plants.
Thinking about going solar? Solar is indeed now affordable in most cases, and is often cheaper than grid energy. My concern about this is that, just like with cars, people are looking for an alternative fuel source so they can continue blissfully using ridiculous amounts of energy. A better approach is for us to just stop using such a ridiculous amount of energy in the first place!
In reality, conservation is pretty easy; the problem is that most people don't want to do it. That's why people buy gass-guzzlers in droves. When I go to the gym, I see that almost everyone has turned on the little TV attached to the treadmill or exercycle, never turning them off when they're finished. That's an easy way to see why we've got a problem. If most people won't do an easy thing, like turning off a TV when they're not using it, how can we expect them to do things that actually require a tiny amount of effort?
But you're here, you're reading this, so you're the kind of person willing to make some modest changes, if not for the environment, then at least to save some money. Either way, good for you! If you want to ave energy, then there's no better place to find out about it than here. And the time is right, too. U.S. taxpayers can now get a whopping 30% tax credit for installing things like heat pumps and solar energy systems.
I hope you find this website useful. Happy savings!
-- Michael Bluejay
|Up front cost||Potential Savings per year|
(1) Use space heaters to heat only the rooms you're in (rather than a central system that heats the whole house), and turning off the heat when you're not home.
|(2) Use ceiling fans instead of the air conditioner||$100
if you don't already have ceiling fans
|(3) Turn off lights you're not using||$0||$274|
|(4) Use a clothesline or a laundry rack instead of a dryer||$20||$196|
|(5) Sleep your computer when you're not using it||$0||$178|
|(6) Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot or warm||none||$152|
|(7) Turn off a single 100-watt light bulb, from running constantly||$0||$131|
|(8) Replace ten 60-watt light bulbs with compact fluorescents||$32||$123|
|(9) Replace top-loading washer with front-loading washer||$500||$99|
|(10) Replace 1992 fridge with newer, Energy Star model||$440
Assumptions: (Calculations are always only
as good as the assumptions. See how
to misquote this website.)
This chart shows where the U.S. gets its electricity. Note that most of it was from burning coal. (Source: Department of Energy)
How much pollution?
Here's a calculator which will show you how much pollution is created from your electrical use. The typical home accounts for more pollution than the typical car. (source)
More on energy production
On a separate page we have info about how much fuel is required to produce electricity.
Fan mail & success stories“If I could bookmark only one energy website, it would be this one!” —Jenny Nazak, author of Deep Green
We took a lot of advice from your web site last month. Got electric bill today. 30 days later & we have a $100 savings! the weather has been MUCH colder this month than last. THANK YOU! - Eileen Phillips & Cheryl Myers, Blackstone, VA
I studied your site after deciding that I was determined to put an end to paying for (and wasting) lots of electricity. I bought a kilowatt meter to measure my usage. In the first month I dropped my from 578 kWh avg. to 197 kWh. This past month after replacing my 1980's fridge with a new one I was able to get down to 150 kilowatt-hours, and that includes my home office. My electric company lets you look at and compare the past 14 months worth of usage and bills online. I saved $50 this past month compared to last year and plan on saving more than $1000 for the year over 2004. Our rates are about 14 cents for delivery and usage not including the $7.36 customer charge, so this has made a big impact. So I just wanted express a quick 'thank you' for your site. I appreciate the depth of information and the ability to reference many other sites. best regards, Aaron PattThank you for making 'Saving Electricity.' I googled for a site about using the window units in my apartment more efficiently (I'm used to central air) and after reading your site I've gone from running two window units and a fan on high and still being uncomfortably warm to sitting directly in front of a single fan, on low, and I'm a little chilly. I think I'm also going to purchase clothes drying rack. I have a wacky idea about trying to use my fan and hanging my clothes up to dry in conjunction.... -- Veronica Pare
What an AMAZING web site! How grateful I am that you were kind enough to share your vast knowledge on saving electricity. I can certainly understand why you are no longer taking any more questions. You've written the definitive guide to all things electric. That anyone could take offense or consider you less than reasonable for retiring on the subject is unbelievable. Those of us who are concerned about the environment - and "living below our means" - salute you. Thank you for your generosity! -- David Davis
Great web site. Thank you for you sharing your
knowledge. (Saved me from the surge
suppression scam.) --
The Circuit Detective is an electrician with practical tips about how to troubleshoot home electrical problems.