Saving Electricity home As seen in Newsweek, Forbes, NPR, the Christian Science Monitor, CNET, PC Magazine, InfoWorld, and everywhere else. About  
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for U.S. consumers

Incentives for installing insulation and for buying energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners are often available from local and state governments and utilities. You can see what's available at DSIRE,, and Energy Star.

Related sites:

Home Power Magazine. All about renewable energy for the home.

No-Impact Man. Blog about a family striving to have no net impact. (i.e., What little they use, they offset.) Inspirational.

Off-Grid. News and resources about living without being connected to a utility company.

Mr. Electricity in the news:

"Michael Bluejay runs the outstanding Saving Electricity site that I've mentioned many times before." —J.D. Roth, Get Rich Slowly

Deep Green (book) by Jenny Nazak, 2018
Small Steps, Big Strides: Building Sustainability Habits at Home (book), Lucinda F. Brown, 2016
How much money you'll save with these common energy-saving strategies, Lifehacker, Sep. 28, 2015
Radio interview about saving electricity, Newstalk 1010 (Toronto), April 21, 2015
How much does your PC cost in electricity?, PC Mech, Nov 21, 2013
How Much Electricity Do Your Gadgets Really Use?, Forbes, Sep. 7, 2013
Can my bicycle power my toaster?, Grist, June 10, 2013
Six summer debt traps and how to avoid them, Main St, June 5, 2013
To convert to gas or electric?, Marketplace Radio (NPR), July 20, 2012
8 Simple Ways to Reduce Household Waste, Living Green Magazine, June 29, 2012
Why is my electric bill so high?, New York Daily News, Mar. 27, 2012
Fight the Power, CTV (Canada's largest private broadcaster), Mar. 23, 2012
How to Cut Your Electric Bill, Business Insider, Mar. 20, 2012
Tips to save energy when using your computer, WPLG Channel 10 (Miami, FL), Feb. 23, 2012
How long will it take an energy-efficient washer/dryer to pay for itself?, Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 29, 2011
10 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill, Forbes, August 23, 2011
18 ways to save on utility bills, AARP, July 9, 2011
How to Save $500 Worth of Energy This Summer, TIME magazine, June 28, 2011
Hot over the energy bill? Turn off the A/C, just chill, Chicago Tribune, June 24, 2011
Cool Site of the Day, Kim Komando (syndicated radio host), May 29, 2011
This calculator shows how much you spend washing clothes, Lifehacker, May 6, 2011
What you pay when you're away, WCPO Channel 9 (Cincinatti), May 5, 2011
Spotting energy gluttons in your home, Chicago Tribune (CA), Apr. 7, 2011
Walnut Creek author has tips for livng a thrifty life, Contra Costa Times (CA), Jan. 24, 2011
Do space heaters save money and energy?, Mother Jones, Jan. 10, 2011
Energy steps to take for a less pricey winter, Reuters, Nov. 10, 2010
Should you shut down your computer or put it to sleep?, Mother Jones, Nov. 1, 2010
Energy saving tips for fall, Chicago Tribune & Seattle Times Nov. 7, 2010
10 ways to save money on your utility bill, Yahoo! Finance, Oct. 2, 2010
Mr. Electricity Ranks Refrigerators & Electrical Wasters, Green Building Elements, Sep. 8, 2010
The case against long-distance relationships, Slate, Sep. 3, 2010
10 household items that are bleeding you dry, Times Daily (Florence, AL), July 27, 2010
Cold, hard cash, Kansas City Star, June 22, 10
Stretch your dollar, not your budget, Globe and Mail, May 18, 2010
Auto abstinence, onearth magazine, Winter 2010
2010 Frugal Living Guide,
Energy-saving schemes yield €5.8m in savings, Times of Malta, Dec. 20, 09
Four ways to reduce your PC's carbon footprint, CNET, Dec 2, 09
The day I hit the brakes, onearth magazine, Fall 2009
How Much Do You Really Save By Air-Drying Your Clothes?, The Simple Dollar, 2010
Enjoy the mild weather, low electricity bills, Detroit Free Press, Jul 18, 09
The most energy-efficient way to heat a cup of water, Christian Science Monitor, Jun 16, 09
Ten ways to save energy, Times of Malta, Jan 3, 09
Measuring your green IT baseline, InfoWorld, Sep 4, 08
Bald Brothers Breakfast (MP3), ABC Adelaide, March 27, 2007
Net Interest, Newsweek, Feb 12, 07
The Power Hungry Digital Lifestyle, PC Magazine, Sep 4, 07
Net Interest, Newsweek, Feb 12, 07
Answers to all your electricity questions, Treehugger, Jul 11, 08 Going Green, Monsters and Critics, Jan 6, 2007
A hunt for energy hogs, Wall Street Journal Online, Dec 18, 06

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Questions about saving electricity in commercial buildings

Your site is mostly geared towards home users. How can we save electricity in our factory?   Crystal Stockton, Glasgow, KY

The main kinds of things that save electricity at home also save money in the factory or office:

1. Use natural lighting where possible (e.g., windows, skylights), and where it's not use T-8 fluorescent lighting.

2. Use ceiling fans where practical so you can raise the AC temperature.

3. Turn off anything that's not being used..

4. Turn off computers and other equipment at night if no shifts are running. If employees can't be counted on to turn off equipment, put them on timers.  This will save not only on the equipment that's turned off, but AC costs will go down because you won't be paying to remove the heat generated by the unused equipment.

5. Don't cool the building too much at night when no shifts are running.  If you thought you needed to keep your computers super-cool, you don't: You'll spend more to keep the equipment cool then it would cost you to replace the equipment a hair sooner than you'd have to replace it otherwise.  The useful life of computers is pretty short, anyway; you'll likely replace your equipment long before it breaks.

For any but the smallest business, it may pay to have an audit performed. You have three choices for audits:

  1. Many utility companies provide such audits for free. Call yours to see if they do.
  2. Hire a professional. For example, one company in the Dallas area is LPG Energy Consultants.
  3. Do it yourself. Check out books like Handbook of Energy Audits and Retrofitting for Energy Conservation. has calculators which let you compare your business energy use per square foot to other similar businesses, and calculate the savings from installing EnergyStar air conditioning systems. And below is a book review I found which may be helpful.

Update, July & September 2008: I just came across a couple of excellent resources for saving energy in business.

Retrofitting for Energy Conservation (book by Bill Clark)

This is a projects-oriented book with each chapter covering a major building design area: plumbing, HVAC, architectural, lighting, electrical, central plant, and controls. The coverage is thorough but not overly technical. The book is targeted at energy auditors, facility managers, consultants, and contractors. It's a current, state of the art coverage of the most effective energy conservation projects and how they can easily be incorporated into either new or existing construction.

The presentation is biased toward no cost and low cost projects, many of which can be implemented as part of a regular maintenance schedule. The key is to know the engineering capabilities that are available with the various building systems, and to specify that they be included in the installation. There are literally hundreds of such design alterations in each of the engineering disciplines that can be implemented with ease to create a much more energy efficient facility.

Several appendixes are included. A example energy audit of a commercial building is done, complete with a cover letter and project summary tables as can be submitted to the client. There is also a section of over 200 of "BTU Bill's Energy Tips" (from my long running radio spot by that name) that can be applied in any circumstance - at home, or at the workplace. A suite of commercial quality computer programs is available from Bar X Software, free with proof of purchase. They include peak and annual loads, bin analysis, and lighting design. Order instructions are in the book. This book is also available in Spanish.

How many watts does a 480-volt to 208-volt 225KVA transformer use when no load is being pulled (i.e., transformer is powering nothing, just sitting there humming). -- E. Thayer, Wauseon, OH, Dec. 2004

Depends on the transformer. Best bet is to check with the manufacturer.

How much electricity do I save by walking up the stairs vs. taking the elevator up 3 levels? How much extra electricity is used by each additional person in the elevator? -- Philip Maynard, University of California, Berkeley, June 2001

Elevator energy use varies a lot according to many factors:
  • The number of people in the elevator (i.e., the weight of the load)
  • The capacity of the elevator (regardless of how many people are actually in it)
  • Whether the elevator is going up or down
  • The type of elevator (e.g., hydraulic, regenerative braking, etc.)

Then we also have to figure it how much air conditioning energy is used to remove the heat from braking.

One report I found said an elevator in a low-rise building would use 1900 kWh for 100,000 door-openings ("starts").  That would be 19 wH per trip.  Unfortunately we don't know the average number of people in each trip or the number of floors traveled. 

So your question, as you put it, is pretty much unanswerable. It's like asking, "How much gas does my car use?" The answer is going to depend on a lot of factors.

I contacted Otis, the largest elevator manufacturer in the world, to try to get figures for energy use under sample situations (10-person car; 1 floor of travel in each direction; 1, 5, and 10 150-lb people in the car) but they were less then helpful. The person who responded was actually fairly snotty, and insisted that nobody at Otis had information about the electrical use of their products. That's a pretty stupid answer -- you can't design a commercial elevator without figuring how much energy it requires, and obviously Otis engineers made these calculations as part of their design process. But since Otis insists that they're ignorant about their own products, we'll have to look elsewhere.

Search engines aren't much help. I found one page on the National Park Service website which claims that the average office elevator consumes "350 watts" of electricity to travel one floor. But that statement raises more questions than it answers. First of all, is that 350 watts, as they stated, or 350 watt-hours, which is what we expect? I'm guessing watt-hours, but we can't be sure. Their answer also doesn't give the values any of the variables we mentioned above.

Since my initial inquiry to Otis I notice that their New Zealand website has an elevator energy calculator, but it's far from user-friendly. For starters, it assumes that each user takes two trips per day and that each trip equals half of the total number of floors, and you can't change these values. Also, it doesn't give you any clue how many people it assumes are in each car for each trip.

The values I entered were:

  • 10-person capacity
  • 10 people total in building
  • 8 stops
  • 1 elevator
  • Office building

I couldn't enter in just 1 person in the building because the results given are in kWh per month, and one person alone wouldn't use enough electricity to get any meaningful results.

Based on what I entered, here's what Otis' calculator said:


Age of Technology
Electricity Used

Gen2 (latest)

9 kWh/mo.

Variable Frequency controller

12 kWh/mo.


(not specified)
17 kWh/mo.

AC controller

17 kWh/mo.

DC controller, gearless

16 kWh/mo.

DC controller, geared

19 kWh/mo.
Unfortunately, without knowing how many people are in the car, we can't know how many trips the elevator took, and we therefore can't calculate the energy used per trip.

I made another inquiry to Otis but not surprisingly I haven't heard back from them. They're not especially helpful.

Update: At long last, Otis finally replied to my second inquiry [Robin Fiala, Senior Manager, New Equipment], but this time all they did was send me a marketing brochure that didn't answer any of the questions I asked. I can't say I'm surprised. I then asked if they would actually read my inquiry and respond to it, to which they demanded to know why I wanted the information I was asking for. (They hadn't bothered to follow the link in my message to this page.) I pointed out the link to this page to explain why I'm looking for the information, but after my previous experience with Otis I'm not holding my breath.