Saving Electricity home As seen in Newsweek, Forbes, NPR, the Christian Science Monitor, CNET, PC Magazine, InfoWorld, and everywhere else. About  
Rebates & Tax Credits
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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How to save money on heating costs

Last update: October 2023

There are six main strategies for saving money on heat:

  1. Use wall-mounted heat pumps, not central heat.  Central systems are wasteful for three reasons:
    1. Most ducts are leaky.  Not some of them, most of them, according to the studies.
    2. Attics are hot or cold.  Even non-leaky ducts that run through attics lose a lot of heat/cold to the attic air, because ducts have only a trivial amount of insulation around them.
    3. “I love your site, I have cut my oil bill in half by using space heaters which has really saved me money as a direct result of your advice.” —Andrew G.
      (Note: Space heaters usually save $ only if you have an electric furnace.  To save when your central heat uses a different kind of fuel, read the article on this page.)
      Heating your whole house is more expensive than heating just part of it, if you heat individual rooms with heat pump heaters that install in or on the wall or window.  (There's no savings if you use electric space heaters or window/wall units that use resistance heat, since they're inefficient.  The heat pump is the secret sauce.)  They come in two flavors:  a mini-split system that has an air handler that mounts on the wall, or a window unit that you mount in the window or by cutting a hole in the wall so you don't waste your window.  Once you've got your room-based heat pumps installed, you can heat only the parts of the house you're using, and you can set different temperatures for different rooms.  Of course, if you already have a functioning furnace, then the cost of buying and installing heat pumps will outweigh the operating savings.  But, if you're about to replace your furnace, or you're building a new home, then now's the time to choose room-based heat pumps.  (Note, if you thought you could heat only part of your house with a central system by closing registers in unused rooms, know that that can damage your ducts or even the furnace itself). (Lawrence Berkeley Labs)

  2. Adjust your living environment so that you're comfortable at lower temperatures. This includes using ceiling fans (yes, fans, even in winter; I'll explain below), putting rugs on bare floors, and keeping yourself warm with things like heating pads and warming blocks.  Warming yourself is a lot cheaper than trying to warm your whole house.  Warm yourself, and then turn your thermostat down to 67°F or lower.

  3. Insulate your home well to keep heat from escaping out of the house.  You want to pay to heat only your home, not Wisconsin. This includes things like weather stripping doors and windows and putting plastic sheets over windows.

  4. Turn it off when you don't need it.  Turn your heat off (or way down) at night, and when you're away from home.  Contrary to popular myth, it does not cost more to re-heat the home than it does to constantly heat it.

  5. When installing a new heating system, don't oversize it.  Most HVAC installers install a bigger system than you need.  This doesn't warm your home any better, and you just wind up spending a lot more for the installation.  Get a heating system no larger than what your house requires.

Here's more detail about #s 2-5.


(2) Adjust your living environment so you feel warmer at cooler temperatures

Tips to help you dial down the thermostat

All of the tips below are designed to make you comfortable enough to lower our thermostat setting.  Wearing heavy socks (for example) by itself doesn't save any energy.  It's wearing the heavy socks and then dialing down your thermostat that saves the energy.  So don't forget the crucial step of actually changing your thermostat setting.

How to change the ceiling fan direction

For 90% of fans, when you're standing under the fan looking up, counter-clockwise blows down and clockwise blows up.  To check your fan, just stand under it with the fan at its highest setting.  If you can feel the wind hitting you hard, then it's blowing down.  To verify, stop the fan, change the direction, then turn the fan on full-blast again and compare the difference.

Here's how you change the direction: Most fans have an up/down or left/right switch on the side of the fan (between the light and the fan blades), and it's usually unlabeled. Make sure the fan is off (not spinning) before you flip the switch or you can damage the motor. (Once you've turned the fan off, it's fine to physically stop the blades with your hand, just be gentle so you don't bend the blades, otherwise the fan will wobble when you turn it back on.) After turning the fan off, flip the direction (summer/winter) switch, then turn the fan back on.

Use ceiling fans

Yes, ceiling fans can actually make you warmer. Let's see why.

In the summer, when the fan is on a high speed, the fan blows air past you, removing the hot air that surrounds your body, making you feel cooler.  It's the wind-chill effect.  In the winter, you simply put the fan on the lowest speed.  That way the fan isn't fast enough for the wind chill effect to kick in, but it's fast enough to push down the warm air that collects near the ceiling. (Remember, hot air rises.)  So the key is: fast speed for summer, slow speed for winter.

If the fan gives you a wind-chill effect even on the slow speed, then just change the direction of the fan by using the switch on the side.  You'll have the fan blow UP in the winter, which will push the warm air off the ceiling and bounce it back towards the floor along the walls, without rushing it past you to make you feel cooler.  (See the sidebar for how to change the direction.)

If you don't have ceiling fans (and don't care to install them), you have a couple of other options.  First, you can just get a regular box fan, put it on the highest shelf you have, and aim it at the ceiling at an angle.  Fans of any type use very little electricity.  Or, you can turn on the fan on your central heating system, without turning on the heat.  (The fan-only in circulation mode typically uses about 325-475 watts on PSC/AC models, and 25 watts for variable-speed DC. (BC Hydro, plus my own measurement for the 475-watt figure)

Using ceiling fans is one of the most important things you can do. They use very little electricity and make a BIG difference in your comfort level. All ceiling fans come with instructions on installation, but if you're not comfortable doing it yourself and you can't afford to hire someone, just get a regular box fan, put it on the highest shelf you have, and aim it at the ceiling.  Fans of any type use very little electricity.

Keep your feet warm

If your feet are cold, your whole body will be cold.  Keep your feet warm and you'll be more comfortable at lower temperatures.  If you have bare floors, put down some rugs.  Wear thick socks at a minimum, and preferably good slippers.  You can even go with heated slippers like those shown below.  My girlfriend swears by hers.

Wear more clothes

This may be obvious, but we all know people who keep their homes heated to the 70's and walk around with short-sleeve shirts and no socks.  Dress warmly inside.

Personal Heaters!

Personal heaters are things like electric heating pads and slippers.  Personal heaters are fantastic because they use just a small amount of electricity but make you feel much warmer, so you can dial your thermostat down and spend less money heating your whole house.  Think about it:  You're heating your whole home just to make you feel warmer.  So cut out the middleman and heat yourself directly!

Heating pads are popular in Japan, where energy is a lot more expensive than it is here.  The Japanese don't stop with just little pads, either.  They also sell "hot carpet" which can cover up to an entire room.  My friend in Osaka I'm staying with now has been using one for ten years.  (Incidentally, last month the four of us here in the Osaka apartment used only 220 kWh/mo., compared to the U.S. average of 920.  This was before winter, but we still expect to use less than average in winter.)  At right is a collection of heating pads from Amazon.

Amazon also has an interesting product, USB-powered slippers.  Below is a picture of one such brand.  Now, you might not like the electric products because they generate EMF fields which some sources say are bad for your health.  If you use a cell phone then you probably don't care about this, since cell phones generate huge EMF fields.  But if you'd rather not get EMF too close to you, you've got other options. 

First up are microwavable slippers, which are exactly what they sound like, and keep your feet nice and toasty after being heated up.  One of my other favorites is a $10 clay warming brick.  I just pop it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes, and then put it on the seat of my chair.  It's amazing.

Now go to Part 2 of Saving Energy on Heat
or my Questions & Answers about Heating Costs