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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Why is my electric bill so high?

To figure out why your electric bill is "so high", the first thing you need to do is to figure out what's normal.  If your bill has spiked recently that's easy:  Just look at your old bills and see how much your usage has gone up.  Look only at the amount of electricity you used in kWh.  Don't look at the cost, because the cost could have gone up for other reasons, such as an increase in the price of electricity itself.

If your kWh usage is similar but the cost is now higher, then the answer as to why is on your bill.  Maybe the price of electricity went up, or maybe your utility company has demand charges, or maybe you're being charged for some other city services besides electricity.

Maybe your bill hasn't gone up but you just think it's always been too high?  In that case the first thing you can do is to compare your usage to what's normal.  A typical American family uses 850 kWh per month, as we see on the how much electricity costs page.  If you're anywhere near that with a 3-person household you're normal.  Normal doesn't mean good, though, since most people waste lots of energy.  Personally, I use only about 99 kWh per month.

Let's say you still think there's an unknown reason why your electrical usage has been so high recently.  In that case the next thing you should do is to make sure the bill you received is accurate.  Once I got a bill that said I used 2617 kWh, when I normally use only 100.  A quick look at the meter showed that they read the meter wrong.  My bill said the starting and ending meter reads were 18,441 and 21,058.  But when I got my bill checked my meter it was only at 18,567, so clearly my meter hadn't really ended on 21,058 the previous month.  I called the utility and they quickly refunded the $195 they overcharged me.

If your meter matches your bill, meaning you weren't overcharged, your next step is to verify that your meter isn't running gratuitously.  Shut off all the breakers and see if the meter is still spinning (or if the electronic indicators are changing, on an electronic meter).  If the meter shows electric use even with the breakers turned off...

  1. Is your home a duplex or some other multi-family dwelling?  If so then probably at least one of your neighbor's circuits is wired into your meter.  Hire an electrician to fix it.
  2. If your home is a single-family dwelling and the meter still spins when everything is off/unplugged, then your meter is broken.  It's highly unusual, but it's possible.  In that case pay an electrician $40-50 to come out to confirm that and to sign a statement to that effect so you have proof when you go battle your electric company to get back the money they overcharged you. Videotaping it wouldn't hurt, either.

Note that the instructions at left will find leaks when wires aren't connected correctly, but it won't reveal problems where the wiring is too thin to handle a load.  When the wiring is too small for what you're running then the wiring can heat up.  The extra heat represents wasted energy, but more importantly, that heat can also cause a fire which can burn your house down.  Unfortunately there is no easy way a homeowner can discover inadequately-sized wiring themselves.  That's a job for an electrician.

If your meter stopped cold when you shut off the breakers (which is the most likely result), then the next step is to make sure the meter doesn't run when everything is turned off.  That way when we start turning appliances back on to measure their use, we can be confident that we're measuring only that appliance and not some other appliance as well.  To do this, turn OFF every single thing in the residence and physically UNPLUG every appliance from the wall.  (Simply turning it off isn't good enough for some appliances.)  The water heater might be hard-wired without a plug and in that case you'll have to just make sure it's turned off.  And of course you can't unplug a central AC system so just turn it off.  If you have illuminated light switches (wall switches that light up when the light switch is turned off), then remove the light bulbs from the sockets to get the switches to de-light.

Once everything is turned off and unplugged, flip the breakers back on one at a time and verify that the meter still doesn't spin.  If the meter still spins and you're 100% certain you've unplugged absolutely everything that can be, and that everything else is turned off, then it's possible that you have faulty wiring which is causing an electrical leak.  It's much more likely that you really failed to unplug or turn off something, but if you're sure your meter still spins with everything unplugged and turned off, then have an electrician check your home for faulty wiring.  In the meantime, you can estimate the amount that your leak is costing you, by using the meter timing method.  Each 100 watts that is running continuously uses about 73 kWh per month. If you're paying 15¢ per kWh, it costs you $10.95/mo.  One reader found a leak that was costing them $15/mo.

But you probably didn't find any evidence of a leak in the last step.  So now we'll proceed to measure how much electricity your stuff uses.  As we cover on our how to measure electricity use page, you can either use a $19 plug-in watt-hour meter, or you can use the meter timing method.  The latter is free but it's a lot more cumbersome.  If you value your time and your sanity you'll get the cheap watt-hour meter. Use your meter to measure the electricity used by the devices in your home.  You can then use our page to figure out how much that usage costs you.  Likely you'll find that there is no mystery, that your bill is high simply because you're using a lot of electricity.

At that point all you need to do is to start using less electricity.  Go to the how much your stuff uses page to see what the energy hogs are in a typical home, and then use the tips on this site to reduce your electrical use.  You can do it.  Remember, I use only about 99 kWh/mo.

In general I will not accept "Why is my bill so high?" questions because you can find the answer to this kind of question yourself, using the instructions above.  You are the best person to answer this question, because you have access to all your bills, all your appliances, and your electric meter.  I have none of these things.  Usually when people have sent questions of this variety they rarely provided any meaningful clues for me to go on (such as the number of kWh they used or the price they're paying per kWh), and haven't taken the first step which is to measure their appliances' electrical use.

Above is a step-by-step guide to figuring out why your bill is so high.  If you write to me without having made an effort to find the answer yourself, asking "Why is my bill so high?" I will reply, "I don't know, why IS your bill so high?" :)