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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Questions about Electric Meters

(I have a separate page how to clock your electric meter to see how much electricity something uses.)

Why aren't you talking about how smart meters blanketing all of us with radiation? — (various)

Because that's B.S.  The Vermont Health Department actually measured smart meters directly, first by measuring in contact with the meter.  The reading was 50 to 140 μW/cm2, vs. 490 for the cell phone they mentioned.  At a distance of 12", the power dropped further to 10-50, and at three feet, the amount was indistinguishable from background radiation (same as for the measurement on the other side of the wall).  If you disagree, then send me pictures of your own actual measurements that have higher readings.  Otherwise, I'm as likely to be persuaded by your claim as I am that Hillary Clinton is running a child slave ring in the basement of a pizza shop.

I read on Wikipedia that mechanical meters like mine use two watts of power.  I'm concerned that this means I'm paying $2.80 per year to run the meter. -- Ann Arbor guy

You apparently missed the part of the article that said that the (piddling) two watts isn't registered on the meter.  So you're not really being unfairly shaken down for that whopping 23¢/mo.  I hope you're able to sleep at night now.

By the way, if the only load in the house is the meter, it would take three hours for the disc to make one revolution.

Does my meter charge me for volts or for watts?  Do higher voltage appliances cost more to run? -- Various readers

You're charged for watt-hours.  The voltage of your devices doesn't matter.  A device with double the voltage isgoing to use half as many amps, so the wattage comes out to be the same.

The formula for power is Volts  x  Amps = Watts.  A device might use 120V x 6A = 720 watts, and the 240V version of the same device would use 240V x 3A = 720 watts.

The kinds of appliances that use 240V tend to be energy hogs, like air conditioners and electric clothes dryers, sorunning those appliances will cost you. It's not because 240V costs more, it's because you're running energy-gobbling appliances.

Question: I just noticed today that my electric meter is not spinning at all. I don't know how long this has been going on and we are in the middle of a billing cycle. I was definitely using electricity in the house when I happened to notice themeter (heater was on, computers, lights, etc.) What should I do? -- T. Allen, Ft. Worth, Texas

Contact your utility company.

Where does electric go after it passes through any appliance in my home? I have often heard it returns to the grid? Isn't that silly! I'm lost! -- Big Bad Barry, Pennsylvania

This doesn't really have anything to do with saving electricity but it gives me an excuse to use an analogy I came up with, which an engineer friend told me is accurate enough.

Anyway, pretend a giant is sitting in the yard at the power plant. Or it can be Shrek if you prefer, whatever. Also pretend that instead of electrical wire, we use dental floss. The giant is holding a piece of dental floss in one hand, and that leads to your house, through your house, then back out to the power plant and into the giant's other hand.  So you've got a giant holding an enormous strand of dental floss that forms a complete loop, starting in one hand and ending in the other.  With me so far?  Good.

Okay, so now the giant pulls on one end of the floss.  As he does that one hand comes towards him and the other goes away from him.  Then he pulls on the other end to do the opposite.  Pretend he's exercising with the floss.  He does this really fast, reversing direction 120 times per second, or 60 times per second if you count doing both directions as one set.

That's how household AC electricity works.  It doesn't start at the power plant, run through your house, and then go back to the power plant. Instead what's happening is the power plant is pushing electrons down one end of the wire, then they reverse it and push from the other end.  The electrons in the wire get rubbed back and forth, like a scrub brush.  This is what transfers energy to the appliances you're running.

I'm using your formula for looking at my electric meter to measure the usage of my appliances, and I'm wondering what is the 7.2 on the meter, and the 3.6 multiplier, and why divide by seconds? I'm sure my neighbors think I've been in the sun too long since I'm running in and out of the house reading my meter. -- David J., Scottsdale, AZ

(1) Different meters spin at different rates, so that's why you use the kH factor specific to your meter. The kH factor is basically the size of your meter.

(2) You divide by seconds because you're measuring the energy used for a specific amount of time. If you didn't include the time in the equation, the number you got would be meaningless. (If the answer was "400 watt-hours", would that be every 12 seconds, every four hours, or every three months?)

(3) The 3.6 is to put your answer in the form of kilowatt-hours. Without the 3.6 you have the number of watt-seconds. Here's how it works:

There are 3600 seconds in one hour (60 seconds x 60 minutes). So multiplying your answer by 3600 would give you the amount of electricity for an hour. But it would still be in the form of watt-hours, not kilowatt-hours. To convert to kilowatt-hours you divide by 1000. So all in all you're multiplying by 3600 and dividing by 1000. Note that 3600/1000 is 3.6, so our shortcut for multiplying by 3600 and dividing by 1000 is to just multiply by 3.6. [Thanks to reader Jim Haywood for figuring out what the 3.6 is for.]

My power bill doubled in kilowatt hours and I cannot figure out why (8kWh/day in March 2002, to 15kWh/day in March 2003). This surprised me because I have not been using my heat or air conditioning and my habits have not changed. My place is just a simple one-bedroom apartment. I had maintenance check out my hot water heater and refrigerator to make sure they were working properly and they said everything was fine. I called my power company and they came out to check the meter, and they said everything was fine. Then I find out my neighbor's power bill has also doubled to $211 (she lives across the hall from me). Do you think there is a problem with my meter? Kate Baumann

You probably don't have a faulty meter, but it's possible.  Here are the possibilities:

  1. You're really using the extra electricity.  Maybe you got a heating pad, a new computer, or a combination of things.  See the how to measure page to figure out how much your stuff is actually using.
  2. Some of your neighbor(s)' electricity is running through your meter.  Some apartment complexes are miswired, especially if they've been remodeled.  An electrician can help you confirm.  If that's the case, you'll have to try to get your landlord to fix the wiring.  Good luck.
  3. Your meter is indeed broken.  It's unlikely, but it's possible.

Start your investigation by turning off every circuit breaker in your panel and then see if your meter is still spinning.  If it is, then either your meter is broken or you have a weird wiring problem.  I would first videotape your turning the breakers off and that the meter still spins so you have evidence in case you have a hard time getting a refund from your electrical utility for being overcharged.

If the meter stopped cold when you turned off all the breakers (like it should have), then turn them back on again, and then turn off and UNPLUG everything in your home.  If there's no switch for the electric hot water heater, then keep the heater's breaker off.  The metter should again have stopped cold.  If it's spinning again, then you either failed to unplug or turn off something in your apartment, or else some of your neighbor(s)' electricity is running through your panel.

If you can get the meter to stop cold with the breakers on, then turn one item back on, like a light, and then look at the meter to measure how much electricity it's using. If the meter says it's using more than about 20% of what it should be using, then there may be a problem with your meter.

If the light measures correctly, then turn it off, and start turning on other items and measuring them. At this point your assumption is that the meter is correct, but that one of your devices is drawing more than it should, such as your hot water heater or your refrigerator.

Good luck, and let me know what you find out!

I've been trying to figure out why I consume so much power each month (950 kWh), since I'm not at home much, my refrigerator is new, and the AC is barely run. I unplugged everything (not just turned them off) but my electric meter was still spinning at about 1 rpm (~400 watts). So then I cut all the breakers off, but the meter was still spinning! Could the meter be broken? If it is, who would I contact about that? If I can prove to the electric company that it has been broken since I bought my house will they refund my money? -- Shaun C., CA

[I suggested that Shaun first document the problem with a video camera and have a licensed electrician confirm the problem, so that he had proof, and THEN contact his electric utility company. The electric utility said the meter was broken and put in a new one, but refused to refund the money he paid for electricity he never used. His only option for getting a refund at that point would be to take them to court or seek arbitration; I don't know if he ever did.]