Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Your Electric Bill

In the past few years you may have noticed your electric bill creeping up. In Hawaii, 85% of our electricity is currently generated from oil. As the price of oil has risen from $10 per barrel in 1998 to $100 today, so to have our electric bills. A large part of managing peak oil will be conserving electricity. At some point, government may make these choices for us, but for now here are some things you can do to reduce your electric bill.

1. Switch out all your lights to flourescents or compact flourescents. This may not make sense for lights that are constantly switching off and on, for those low watt incandescent may be better. Or, go with LEDs. The bulbs are very expensive, but they have a very long lifespan. Each one is rated for tens of thousands of hours and tens of thousands of switches. CFs can burn out quickly if you switch them off and on too much. You'll have to experiment with bulbs in your house to find which outlets are suited for which kind of light.

2. Unplug your TV, VCR, & DVD player when you're not using them. Even "off" they can suck up to 15 watts per hour. Better yet, put them on a master switch. If you find yourself forgetting, buy a wall timer. I've got one. I can set the power to turn on and off several times a day. If you know you only watch TV from 6 to 9, you can set it to only allow the TV/VCR on during those times. There's even a button you press if you want to watch off cycle that will auto shut off at the next end cycle.
3. How old are your A/C units? There may be much more efficient ones available.

4. Ditto for the fridge. How old is it?

5. Washer and dryer?

6. How old is your dishwasher? If you do, set an external timer and turn it off before the dry cycle. Mine hits the dry cycle at 44m, so I always set the stove timer, then pop the hot, wet dishes and let them air dry.

7. You may wish to install a new water heater/hot water storage tank. Compared to the water heaters of even 5 years ago, I've heard that the new ones let almost no heat escape and are much more efficient, but you'll have to do the research. Typically, I read that many electric appliances have been improving in efficiency at 5% per year, so find out what you've got, how old it is, and how much better newer models are. They could pay for themselves in a few years.

8. If possible, install a solar water heater on the roof. Heating water is about 40% of the average electric bill, so if you're paying $100 per month (and it sounds like you're close to that) that's almost a $40 per month savings. A new solar water heater is $1800 installed (including discounts, I think. The vendor will have the details) so that pays for itself in less than four years.

9. Hang your clothes out to dry. Electric dryers use vast amounts of electricity. I think it's something like 5% of the nationwide electrical usage.

10. Use electric fans (ceiling or floor) before turning on the A/C. Fans use much less electricity. When you sleep use a floor fan with a timer. These are quite common and cheap ($30 or so).

11. Switch out your tube TVs and computer monitors for LCD models. LCDs use less electricity, generate less heat, and take up less space too, which is important in space-challenged Hawaii. New LED backlight models are even more efficient.

12. Make your next computer purchase a lap top. They're designed to be efficient, and use much less electricity than desktop models.

13. If you play video games, buy a Nintendo Wii. It's got the lowest power video and CPU of the big three video game consoles (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 being the other two). Interestingly, it's also been the best selling model the past two years making a mockery of the axiom "Graphics sell videogames."

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