lowering electric bill

salbwilFebruary 7, 2007

Does anyone know if it's cheaper to turn the lights off when leaving the room for awhile and turn them on again upon returning, or, just leaving them on ,( taking into consideration the length of time involved) ?

thanks, salbwil

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It's always cheaper to turn them off, unless your "awhile" is just a minute or two. Incandescent bulbs waste 90-plus percent of the electricity they use; compact fluorescents somewhat less.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 8:57AM
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Mythbusters tested this. They used incandescent, fluorescent and LED. It's always cheaper to turn them off, even taking into account the startup electrical draw.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 9:12AM
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Of course it saves energy to not have them on, but it's not a completely direct savings, at least in the winter. The energy that's "wasted" provides heat, and that is heat that the furnace doesn't have to provide, so the savings aren't that much. In the summer, if you are in an air-conditioned house, the lights are providing an added heat load to the air conditioner, and will use extra energy couteracting the waste heat from the lights. Then it's a double whammy: you're using energy for light you don't need, and you're using more energy to get rid of that waste.

When I leave a room for a short time, I may leave the lights on, but if I know I'm not coming back very soon, they're turned off. The only downside to flipping them on and off a lot is that, at least with incandescents, you'll shorten the life of the bulb by cycling the filament frequently.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 1:09PM
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in my studies, i have found that the best way to lower the electric bill is one of the following methods:

A: put a lock on all AC outlets, light switches, and the HVAC t-stat. do not allow wife or kids to touch these.

B: kick wife and kids out of house. turn off lights, set heater to 60 and wear sweat pants.

if neither of these work for you, then yes you should just make sure you turn off the li8ghts if you are leaving the room for more than a couple minutes. also go around your house and unplug every wall wort you find that is not CURRENTLY in use. in my house there are at least 20 plugged up at any given time. they waste a lot of juice just sitting there doing nothing.

i counted the other day and there were 9 chargers for my wife and my cell phones. we both have the exact same phone, and each of use have 2 chargers in several rooms. i have 1 in the bedroom and she does not. i went and unplugged all but the 2 in the den that we use on a daily basis.

we have to find a way to conserver energy, we average 125kwh a DAY each year. in extreme months this can be almost 160kwh a day.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 1:54PM
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"we have to find a way to conserver energy, we average 125kwh a DAY each year. in extreme months this can be almost 160kwh a day."

That statement got me curious... so I pulled our January 2007 electric bill.

34 days in the billing cycle
1402kwh usage

so we average 41.24kwh per day for our family of four

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 2:14PM
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Don't have chapter and verse available - but I think mine's less than that.

But it's soon to go up, as my landlord is wiring a shed that he's insulating, installing a welder, water, etc. to make into his shop (as he hasn't had one till now on his home farm). He's a commercial sod farmer.

To add an extra service would cost $40.00/mo. on top of usage - so we're going to negotiate splitting the costs.

I'm not worried - he's a very honourable guy.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

ole joyful -retired ... so every day is weekend

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 2:33PM
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I've always been an advocate of watching the little things that waste money and are easy to overlook. The wall wart suggestion is a good one. Granted, unplugging them is not going to save you megabucks, but think of the nationwide effect if EVERYONE unplugged them when not in use...
Turning the lights off then on a short time later always saves electricity, but as someone else pointed out, the life of the bulb will be reduced. (Again, though, think of the nationwide effect.) For each of the past 7 years, we have lowered our kwh usage 6 to 10% per year. That adds up, considering electricity has increased about 35% over the same period.
Other ideas-
Electric Dryers - Dry a sensibly sized load. It took me years to train my darling wife not to run the dryer for an hour with a single item in it, which could have been line-dried.

Heating - Depending on your type of heating system, it probably does not make sense to keep an empty house too warm. With FHA, our house warms from 50 to 68 very quickly. If you have electric heat, it costs more but you can put a thermostat in each room and tailor the temp accordingly. Maintain the heating system properly.

AC - Like heat, it makes no sense to cool an empty house. With a properly sized AC unit, it should not take too long to cool down a house. Or use a programmable thermostat if you must have the house cool when you get home. Maintain the cooling system properly.

Cooking - Use a microwave whenever possible. A microwave might use more power than a single electric burner, but definitely less than an electric oven, plus it generally runs for a much shorter time.

Computers - While it is not at all convenient to turn your PC on and off like a light, you CAN shut off the monitor, speakers, and other accessories. Use a power strip with a switch to facilitate this.

TVs - Shut off the TV if you're on the phone, leave to take a shower between shows, etc.

Unneeded appliances - Got an extra fridge in the garage, or a freezer in the basement with only a few items? Consolidate if possible, and unplug the fridge or freezer.

Hot water - DO NOT leave the water running while shaving, brushing teeth, etc. I know many people who waste water and energy this way, and I have no idea why. If you have an electric hot water heater, consider alternative energy sources when it is time to replace it. Same for clothes dryers. Electricity is inherently inefficient for large heating loads, but fine for toasting bread or making coffee.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 3:33PM
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You didn't say what kind of heating system you have, but if you have central heating and you're looking for big, simple savings, you should install a night setback thermostat. A sophisticated, brand name one that lets you program your thermostat for varying conditions every day of the week should be no more than $60 and is simple to install. The payback period is a couple of months.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 1:45AM
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i did not mention that i put in set back tstats last summer. the front unit only runs when we are going to be home, the rear unit kicks in a couple hours before bed time.

our house has 2 HVAC systems, which is part of the cause for the high usage. the house was 100% electric when we bought it, but we plan to slowly change things over to propane. we had a tank put in for our dryer since it was gas. next item will probably be the front HVAC, but i may go with a heat pump for that one. both systems are old, with the one up front being the original form 78 or 79 when the house was built!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 10:31AM
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Unplug any transformers such as phone chargers, radios, etc. when they are not in use. Feel them. If they are warm, they are using electricity. In the summer, you will be paying to both heat and cool those little energy wasters.

Get a clothes line and an indoor drying rack for your clothes.

Bulb life is extended if you have switches that gradually power up, rather than go instantly on.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 7:36AM
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As I was reading this I turned off the lamp behind me as my laptop gives plenty of light while online. Besides, I've got t.v. on right now. It's just a habit for me to have a lite on, but it only now is getting dark outside.

Did start unplugging printer, but wondered why it wasn't working yesterday...heehee. Think I'll take a look around & see what else I can unplug. I appreciate the tips.

While living at this particular condo I use a laundry room in the building since do not have hookups inside mine. The laundry area is clean & know I'm saving $, especially not having a dryer. This is a big change for me, but I don't really mind. Gets me to use the stairs & get out in fresh air when I have a day off from part-time work. Because of this enlightenment when I move to another condo I have (for 2yrs) in order to sell it I do not have any intention of purchasing a washer or dryer.

I would never have considered this until this past year when I've been semi-retired & having fun being thrifty. I wonder how long it will take my friends to figure out what I'm doing....some will think I've lost it! She shops at Nordstrom, but uses a laundromat!! It's fun for me.. thanks again for all the ideas.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 8:56PM
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Lots of good ideas. Here are a couple more that have worked for me. Replace any light bulb that is on more than 10 hrs per day with a florescent. If you heat hot water w/ elect. install a timer and insulate the tank and lower the thermostat. Our 4 person family worked well with 4 to 5 hrs. per day split between am and pm.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 12:10AM
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how much does the wall wart cost per day, month, or year to run un-used? is it worth all the trouble to run around plugging and unplugging these?

doesn't it encourage the condensation of minerals to have the water in the electric water heater repeatedly warm up and cool down?

comment: it is humid where i live. if we don't run the a/c consistently, whether we are in the house or not, the house would end up growing mold and mildew, and fixing that problem would cost a lot more than replacing an entire a/c system at 14 seer.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 4:39PM
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I just picked up a Kill A Watt Electricty Load Meter and Monitor. It's pretty easy to use and is considered to be quite accurate for such an inexpensive device. NewEgg is having a great sale on them. I've already got CFLs eveywhere and my thermostat is programmed, but I'm going to hunt down some more places to save. Should be a lot of fun testing appliances and electronics around the house.

Geez, I am such a geek!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 11:21PM
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Regarding heat pumps...I recently had an official energy audit and learned about their innards. Heat pumps use a compresser but they also have internal electric strips. Whenever the desired temp is more than 2 degrees higher (for heating that is) than the current temp the heat pump turns on the electric strips while the compresser catches up. So if you program your thermostat with a 2 degree range (eg 70 in evening, 68 during day) you might actually save money by avoiding the costly electric strip stage.

I was suspicious but I tried it and it worked. My total electrical was 1130 KWH for 31 days which was about 15% less than a previous similar month, PLUS the house was nice and warm. I think this had a knock-on effect on my gas bill (gas furnace for first floor) because my very open floor plan allows a lot of downstairs heat up, so keeping the upstairs warmer decreased the furnace run time.

I can't sleep at 68 though, got a dog on the bed!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 11:48AM
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The heat strips used in a heat pump system are the exact same kind of heat strips used in a tradition electric heating system. Heat pumps must have a secondary heat source: 1) as a backup in case the compressor fails; 2) as an auxiliary when outdoor temps drop below the "balance point" at which time the compressor can't keep up with the load; 3) and as a supplemental heat source for use during defrost periods.

Even if you are careful to not trigger the heat strips with your thermostat setting, they will STILL ALWAYS turn on during defrost periods.

By the way, there are special setback thermostats for heat pumps that ramp-up the temperature slowly starting an hour )or more) *before* the target recovery time, so to avoid triggering the heat strips. Some of them have a "smart" recovery feature that monitors how fast the room temperature falls during the setback period and attempts to calculate how far in advance to start the recovery. The advance start estimate gets more accurate over time as the thermostat "learns" the system's characteristics.

Furthermore, some heat pump systems and thermostats have an additional outdoor temperature sensor that allows the homeowner (or HVAC contractor) to set a specific outdoor temperature for locking-out the heat strips. They won't run unless the outdoor temp is lower than what's programmed for the lock-out, no matter how high the thermostat is raised. (Note that even with the lock-out feature, the heat strips WILL still run during defrost periods.) I have my lock-out temp set at 25°F (or maybe a bit lower, I don't recall). A cold snap came through here in the last couple days, the low temp last night was 28°F and my system kept 70°F with no trouble without using the heat strips.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 7:19PM
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