Monday, July 29, 2013

Cutting the electricity bill: Part 2 -- appliances big and small

Appliances that are designed to heat or cool matter suck energy like a hungry baby with a bottle. If you go out to your electric meter and watch it spin while appliances are in operation, you can see for yourself how much energy they are using.

Tiny lights and clocks on appliances

After my lighting audit, I toured the house for an appliance audit. I began with small appliances. I noted all appliances that had a light or clock operating, even while the appliance wasn't performing its intended function. Those tiny lights and clocks use electricity. In the kitchen, I found a radio and coffee maker, both with clocks. We already have 3 other clocks in the kitchen. The radio and coffee maker really didn't NEED to be on, all the time. So, I unplugged, but left them sitting on the counter. For use, it's simple to plug them back in.


Making enough coffee for two days at a time

We have a new procedure for making coffee. I plug the maker in, make an extra large pot of coffee, pouring additional water through the grounds at the end. When it's done brewing, I turn off the maker, and unplug. I make enough coffee for two days this way. On day two, we reheat our coffee in the microwave. While day 2's coffee is not a fresh cup, we do appreciate how much quicker it is to microwave a cup, rather than wait for the machine to brew a pot. For the coffee maker, it is plugged in for about 15 minutes, every other day, instead of 24/7.

TVs, DVD players and amplified antennas


In the family room -- we have a TV, VCR/DVD player, and amplified antenna plugged in 24/7. The TV gets turned on every morning by my husband, as he watches the morning news. But the VCR/DVD player is used only once per week, usually on weekends. I chose to leave the TV and antenna plugged in, but unplugged the VCR/DVD, as it had a continuous digital display, and was used infrequently.

In the bedroom -- we have a second TV, VCR and amplified antenna. I keep all 3 unplugged, unless they're in use. They all have lights on them, which disturb my sleep, and are only occasionally turned on.

Chargers with nothing being charged

Chargers for small devices (ipads, phones, laptops, rechargeable razors), left plugged in, also use electricity, even when not charging anything. I now make the rounds of the house, unplugging all chargers during the day, and am encouraging my family members to remember to unplug after charging. The general rule of thumb I am using is, if it has a boxy thing at the plug end, it has to be unplugged between uses. I felt the box on one of the chargers, one day, while nothing was being charged. It was warm to the touch.

Electric garage door opener -- do I need to use it every single time I come and go?

In the garage -- we have an electric garage door opener. When I am out and about a lot during the day, and I return home knowing that I will have to go out again later that same day, I leave the car parked in the driveway, and let myself in with a key, through the kitchen door. This saves operating the electric door opener a couple of extra times during the day. I began doing this on dance days, several months ago, so that my one daughter could practice tap in an empty garage, during the hours that I was coming and going taking my other daughter to/from ballet. After dropping the ballet dancer off at class, I'd come home and park in the driveway between the drop-off and pick-up times. When we had to cut way back on all our bills, I realized that this was saving the use of electricity for the door opener a couple of times per day.

We also have developed the habit of unplugging small appliances, that don't have lights or displays, such as the toaster and mixer, when not in use. Some people say they drain tiny amounts of electricity if left plugged in. I'm not sure about this, but we just unplug them anyway.

While taking care of these small devices helps (every bit counts), it's the large appliances that drain electricity.

Washers and dryers

In the laundry room -- it goes without saying, run the washer when full. Even if you have a water conservation feature for partial loads, the washer uses the same amount of electricity to run a full load as a partial load.  And if the laundry is not terribly dirty, consider a shorter wash cycle. An electric dryer accounts for 5 to 10% of most US household electricity use. The estimates for using an electric dryer are about 30 to 40 cents a load. We wash about 8 loads per week. By hanging all of our wash to dry, I hope to shave $8 to $9 from our monthly electric bill. For the summer, we're using racks on the deck (where it's the hottest and even towels dry in one day). For winter, we'll move the racks inside, but also, we're thinking of adding a clothesline inside the garage. Clotheslines are fairly cheap. I was pricing the mechanical parts at Wal-Mart, and for the line and pulley, we should be able to set up an indoor line for under $10.

With regards to laundry, moisture tends to be a problem in laundry areas. We don't use electric dehumidifiers, but instead use Damp-Rid type products. Dollar Tree carries them from time to time. When I see them, I buy a few. Each canister lasts about 45 days for me. I use them in the laundry room, bathrooms and one of the bedrooms (where dust mites are a problem for one of us, and dust mites need humidity to thrive). They don't replace exhaust fans in bathrooms, for showering, but they help control the mold, which is a constant problem in well-used bathrooms. And they do eliminate the need for any electric dehumidifiers in our laundry area.

Old fridges

In the garage -- we have a garage fridge. It's the old fridge from the kitchen, and I use it for stockpiling good deals, and overflow cold storage. It really does save us money on our grocery bill. But it is pre-1990. All the information I've read says that pre-1990 fridges are electricity hogs. They can use well over of $100 *extra* in electricity, per year.

Ours is a 1977 model, original to the house. I checked the electric meter while it was running one day, and everything else was off and the meter's dial was spinning at a fair pace.

My plan is to get the garage fridge emptied by the end of this month, and unplug it. We'd like to replace it with a newer model, as I do find the extra storage space to be enormously helpful in keeping our grocery bill so low. But I have until late October to shop around, as that's when I typically begin a large stock-up. By having it unplugged just for those 3 months, I figure I can save about $60 total, for just those months. If we get rid of it altogether, we'll save about $280/year!!!! -- according to this refrigerator calculator. By the way, if I replace our old fridge with a 2002-2008 top freezer, bottom fridge model, It will only cost $53/yr to operate, still a savings over $200 a year. (Update: I got it emptied and unplugged. I can't wait to see how this impacts our electric bill! My happy moment of the day -- I went out to the electric meter and it was stopped, actually stopped. Not a thing was using electricity in that moment.)

From their calculator, it appears that a top freezer/bottom fridge is most efficient, followed by bottom freezer/top fridge, and last side by side. There wasn't info at that site on the popular French door fridges. Can you guess which type I'll be replacing our old fridge with?

A word for those using a garage fridge as a beverage fridge: If your garage fridge is pre-1990s, consider transferring your beverages to the kitchen pantry, and load into the fridge on an as needed basis. The money that you think you're saving by stocking up on beverages at Costco is being sucked away by your energy-hog old fridge. You can always plug it back in if you have a large gathering of friends and family.

Getting efficient with my electric ovens

In the kitchen -- our cooktop is gas, but our ovens are electric. I have a very large oven, as part of a large stove, and a smaller wall oven. The smaller oven preheats in less time than the larger one, so I tend to use it when just baking a couple of small items.

I have found a way to use my ovens more efficiently. Again, this isn't a new idea, you'll find it in just about every homemaker's cookbook, vintage 1950s - 1960s. I bake as much as I can think of at one time, and will still fit in the oven. For example, last week, I baked 3 small loaves of French bread, a covered casserole of rhubarb sauce, a casserole of homemade refried beans, a pan of corn bread and some whole potatoes, all at the same time in one oven. These foods weren't for the same meal, or even the same day. I planned ahead to fit as many things as possible into that oven, all at once. The baked potatoes required more bake time than any other item, so I simply shut off the oven when everything else was done, and left them in while the oven was cooling (about another 40 minutes). The foods that were not for that night's meal were reheated in the microwave, the next day, as needed.

Another day last week, I did all the week's baking. I baked a batch of peanut butter cookies, a loaf of French bread, a batch of hot dog buns, a batch of granola and a large batch of blueberry muffins. I used the smaller oven for this baking, doubling up using both racks, and baking in sequence. Although I couldn't bake it all at one time, I was able to save on the preheating of the oven for several bakings, instead of baking each food on different days. For the remainder of the week, we have not turned the ovens on at all.

Opening the kitchen fridge less during the day

I've also found a few small ways to use less electricity with the kitchen fridge. I plan ahead and thaw frozen foods in the fridge. I take all I need out of the fridge for one cooking session, all at once, and do the same when I return items.

Our filtered water dispenser is inside the fridge (not on the door, as many fridges have). I fill a large pitcher with water and ice in the morning, and leave it on the counter for the day, instead of all of us opening the door over and over to get one glass of water at a time. At the end of the day, leftover water goes into the coffee maker or onto house plants.

Asking myself, "can I cook this in the microwave?"

I am using my microwave to do more of the cooking work than previously. I was air-drying some herbs last week, and they just were not drying out quickly enough. I was going to pop them into the food dehydrator, then remembered my sister in law using her microwave to dry herbs. You lay them on a tea towel or paper towel and zap a bunch in 8 second intervals, until just about dry (not bone dry, or they'll taste scorched). Then transfer to a large plate and allow to air dry for a few hours.

I also made a tasty zucchini Parmesan casserole in the microwave the other night. It was slightly more watery than if oven baked, but the excess veggie juice I poured into a pot of soup that was also being served.

So many foods do well in the microwave. It's especially useful for single servings, like scrambled eggs, a single baked potato, a couple of strips of bacon, or one or two hot dogs. No need to heat an entire skillet, or the oven for just one or two people.

I have a favorite snack in fall, that I do in the microwave. I chop an apple and put in a mug, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and microwave for 1 minute, until the apple is soft. I then crumble 1 graham cracker on top, and it;'s my own apple pie.

While I don't care for most meats cooked in the microwave, I do think ground meat comes out especially well. Microwave meatballs or patties of ground meat to be covered in sauce turn out great. And you've probably already heard that it uses less electricity to microwave a single mug of water for tea or oatmeal than to heat the same amount of water on the stove.

A few microwave recipes: cornbreadbrowniesscrambled eggs

Using a toaster oven for small baking needs, instead of the larger wall oven
(see this post) My toaster oven uses a fraction of the electricity of my wall oven. I estimate that I will save between $1 and $2 per month, by this little change. Read the linked post to see the difference in electricity use between toaster ovens and standard wall/range ovens.

Dishwasher efficiency

The dishwasher is another appliance that uses roughly the same amount of electricity to do a full load as a partial load. I say "roughly", as dishwashers with soil sensors may run longer for loads with more food debris in the water. But for the most part, it's more efficient to run a very full load than an almost full load.

Most of us will run out of plates before the dishwasher is completely filled. As I'm thinking what to serve for the upcoming meals, I start to consider which dishes are left. So while breakfast might have been planned for toast, if all the plates are gone, then we'll switch to granola or oatmeal instead. Or if lunch had been planned to have soup, but all the bowls are almost gone, we'll use mugs instead.

And just a note about glassware, you can fit more tall skinny glasses into the racks than you can short fat ones. If I have a choice, I use the tall, skinny glasses.

And finally, I am very creative in how I pack in the dishes. On the bottom rack, there is just enough room, between the 2 main plate strips, for several small bread and butter plates to fit diagonally. And I think everyone already knows this, but using the air dry feature saves electricity, too.

I try to make sure that I'm the one who actually starts the dishwasher, as I tend to get more in than anyone else in the family. About midday, I'll usually do a quick re-stack of the dishwasher, and really fit things in tightly, just so the rest of the family can see for themselves that there is indeed lots more room, and no need to start it up prematurely. (I hang my head in shame -- we used to make fun of my dad for re-stacking the dishwasher after we put our dishes in. He was just being careful with how often it was run. Now I get it, Dad!)


I am hoping that with all these changes concerning how we use our appliances, that we shave at least $20 a month from our regular bill. More would be great. There was a time, when we first moved into this house, that our electric bill was about $25/month. I know that those days are long gone, but maybe I can get our bill to about $50/month, which would beat my target goal of a 20% savings.

I'm glad to move on from electricity. I feel like I've read so many articles on how to save in this area. I'm needing a change. (And I think my family probably is, too. Imagine if every conversation with me began with, "guess how much it costs to run the XYZ appliance?" Really, I've read up on just about every electrical thing in our house. Everything, really. If I did the math right, it costs 3/4 of a cent to toast a slice of bread in our toaster.) Stay tuned for more on how I am slashing our budget to the bone.


28 comments:

  1. My state has a program where they give a 50.00 rebate and pick up old appliances that are energy hogs (refrigerators particularly). Check with your state to see if there is something similar!
    This link is to the Focus on Energy program
    http://www.focusonenergy.com/residential/efficient-products-appliances/appliance-recycling

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    1. Hi Jen,
      The programs in our area are through electricity providers, and the rebates range from $30 to $50. But the offer isn't in effect at all times. There currently isn't one for our provider, but I'll keep a watch out for future. Sometimes the incentives are in the form of a VISA card, sometimes a check.

      And an FYI, for anyone else looking at these pick-up rebates, the fridge needs to be in working condition, usually between 10 and 30 cubic feet capacity, cleaned out and plugged in on the day they pick it up.

      Thanks for your comment, Jen.

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  2. thanks for doing all the research and sharing your info. Very helpful indeed. And best of luck reaching your goal of $50/month for electricity!

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    1. Hi Jayne,
      Glad to share. I've been amazed by how much I took for granted all the little ways we use electricity. As I was planning tonight's dinner, at first I had myself both cooking things on the stove-top and in the oven. When I thought it through, I realized that I could get all 4 items into the oven (a blackberry pie, a cheese strata. leftover pad Thai, and a zucchini tomato casserole), all at one time, really getting the most out of my oven use.
      Thanks for the good wishes! I hope to have a month of $50 or less, very soon!

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  3. Lili
    I have all of our cell phone chargers on a power strip. Everyone plugs theirs in, and I flip the power on while I get ready for bed for the night. Once done, I shut it off. All phones charged, no more electric being used.

    THis same theory should work in the kitchen: get a power strip, keep all appliances plugged in but off until needed.

    Agree, time to replace or omit the garage fridge. Have you considered a smaller, undercounter height one? With the girls now entering college, would you need the larger, standard fridge? just food for thought, no pun intended!

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    1. Hi Carol,
      I like the idea of putting the phones on a strip, especially in a family with several phones, that could really be helpful. And it would keep the phones in a central and remembered location, so finding them (and remembering to take them) in the morning would be a cinch.

      I do still use a large spare fridge/freezer. My daughters will be living at home and bagging lunch every day, as will the rest of the family. I don't have a large deep freeze. In November I buy as many as 4 whole turkeys, and in December as many as 3 whole hams. I also stockpile marked down milk, when I come across it. Plus I freeze a lot of fruit from our gardens. And I use the fridge portion to store 50 lb sacks of potatoes, onions and apples through winter. I can buy these in large quantities at our wholesaler. (No basement or cellar here for cold storage.) But I'm going to give serious consideration to just how much fridge/freezer I really need. I already know that I can do without all the bells and whistles on a spare fridge. Fortunately I have 3 months to figure this out, and shop around.

      Thanks for your input.

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  4. Lili,
    Makes sense then to keep a second fridge. BTW-I was taught that apples shouldn't be stored near potatoes:

    http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/harvest/msg0213310125700.html

    I have always lived in New England, however, and 3 season porches, cold garages/basements as well as root cellars are common.

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    1. Hi Carol,
      Yeah, it's the ethylene gas in apples. It tends to ripen just about every type of produce.

      I've heard both side of the old practice of storing 1 apple with a bunch of potatoes, to prevent sprouting. Some sources say not to, and some say to do this. America's Test Kitchen did a test with storing 1 apple with a bunch of potatoes and did find that having 1 apple in with the potatoes slowed the sprouting of the potatoes. But, I keep the apples in a lower drawer, whenever possible, and potatoes on a top shelf. I'm not sure just how far away apples need to be from other produce.

      I do keep green tomatoes in the garage in fall. They ripen slowly over many weeks in 50 degree temps. Oh how I long for a cold cellar! I could store so much!

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  5. Interesting analysis. Since our budget isn't as tight as yours right now, I thought that your electric audit would point out a lot of ways that we are wasting it. However, I'm pleased to say, that while there is room for improvement, we already do many of the things you talked about: didn't save the old energy hog fridge, brew enough coffee for a couple of days, use microwave where ever possible,only run full washers, etc.

    As a side note, when my son started to be the main one who loaded the dishwasher years ago, he packed it better than I did. He has always been good with spacial relationships and that showed up here. I have adopted some of the more efficient ways he loads it.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      Good for you!

      It may be that here in Seattle, we're a bit lax with electricity wasting, as hydro-electricity has given us super cheap power for decades! When they built this house in 1977 they put in forced air electric furnace, an electric water heater, and hardly insulated the entire house. Electricity was so cheap, no one bothered with energy conservation. We had to make special arrangements to get gas piped onto our property to change over to natural gas. But things are changing with a growing population, and efforts to save the salmon runs.

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    2. I meant to add, about your son being very good with loading the dishwasher, I think specialization in household chores can really help a family squeeze as much time and savings from the schedule and budget.( I also think that everyone should be given a chance to learn from each other.)

      For example, it doesn't make much sense for me to try to do things that require great upper body strength, like chop wood. But my husband can swing the ax/maul pretty well. And in return, I'm a better cook than he is,so it does make sense for me to cook most of the time. My son is the one who can put things together (and not have "spare" parts leftover), and my two daughters are eager and energetic to tackle anything that I'm just too tired for. They'll walk to the market, or to the park to pick berries, or sweep all the hard floors, when I'm too tired from the day to do another thing. I think specialization in families can function as well as it does in factories.

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  6. My mom always had a "baking day" to use her oven more efficiently. I am bad about that--I bake when the urge hits.

    I have heard that the garage is not the best place to keep an extra fridge or freezer because of the temperature variations. Maybe something to check out?

    Gogingham.com has info on air drying clothing in your basement.

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    1. Hi Kris,
      That's what I'm working towards. I tend to be like you, bake when the urge strikes. So for me to have worked myself down to baking 3 days per week is pretty good. But I'd like to get it down to 1 day per week, kind of the Little House on The Prairie Saturday baking ideal.

      No basement here. We have an attic, but it's not accessible for a clothes line. The Tightwad Gazette lady, Amy D. air-dried laundry in her attic. I think either basement air-drying or attic would be a great place for folks wanting to continue to air dry in poor weather. I'm eager to try the garage. Our furnace is in the garage and tends to keep it fairly mild in there. We'll see if it works for me. Worst case scenario, I have a spot in the yard that I think would be good for a clothes line, and would make drying sheets a bit easier than a rack.

      I did read about garage fridges. It appears that some warranties will even be voided if you keep an under-warranty one in the garage, due to just what you were saying, the temperature variation. And it isn't so much a too hot garage that's the issue, but a too cold one. Weird, huh? It appears that fridges don't perform very well in too cold of an environment. Oh, is it too late to add a basement to my already existing house?!

      But I will do a temperature check in various parts of the garage, to see just where the best spot would be. We have a small freezer out there, that's on a wall near the house and furnace. That may be a better spot for a newer fridge. And would be more convenient for me, too.

      Delete
  7. Lili
    Do you let your dishes air dry in the dishwasher?

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    1. Yes, in part to save on electricity, but also to keep from melting plastics.

      When the dishwasher finishes, I open the door, pull out both racks and let the steam escape. I try to let the whole thing dry out before loading with a new set of dirty dishes. Mold in dishwashers is a bit of a problem for those of us who don't use the heated dry cycle. But opening the door right after finish (and washing on Sanitize) seems to help for us. Plus I spray down the inside once a week with vinegar. I have a very sensitive nose to mold/mildew. I can't stand the smell of mildew on a drinking glass.

      Have you ever had an issue with mold in dishwashers? I'm leery about using bleach in the dishwasher. It could eat away at the rubber gasket.

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    2. No, never any issues with mold. Agree, bleach would be a concern. Vinegar is a great alternative.

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  8. You are shaving your electricity bill down every way possible - basically, if you are not using it this second, does it really need to be plugged in? The answer is no. This won't help you but when we were looking to purchase our current home natural lighting was huge. We ended up with a three bedroom open concept home with lots of windows - primarily because we live in the Pacific Northwest and winter can be dark if you don't have lots of windows. In summer we barely have to turn on any lights except the walkin closet and laundry room which are the only rooms in the house without windows. I use vinegar in the dishwasher rinse cycle - no mold and they come out shiny clean. Dirt cheap too!

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    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      We have added a few skylights over the years, and those really do help with daylight. A couple of neighbors have used solar tubes, and really like them. Mirrors, strategically placed, also help by doubling the light.

      When you add vinegar to the rinse, do you add it through the rinse aid dispenser? Do you have to add more each time you run the dishwasher?

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    2. I put it in the rinse aid dispenser and it lasts as long as regular rise aid would - usually don't have to fill it up very often. I have been doing this for a year and figure I have saved at least $20 this year. The little things add up!

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    3. Thanks, Cheapchick. I'll give that a try. I don't ever buy rinse aid. With soft water here, we don't seem to have a problem with spotting on dishes. But the vinegar rinse may help keep mold at bay. Some dishwasher models have spots where water seems to collect and remain, causing mold problems. The spot in our dishwasher is along the bottom front edge of the unit, right where the door and bottom meet. I spray it down once per week with vinegar. I'll give vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser a try.

      Delete
  9. Yay for line drying :) Once you get into a routine, it won't take too much longer than using the dryer. And being in the garage means you don't have to worry about rain.

    When we lived in the US, my mum rigged up a clothesline in the basement, but that was unusual.

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    1. Hi Economies,
      I have a curiosity question for you. Before we had a washer and dryer, we hauled all our laundry to a laundromat, once a week, using both the washers and dryers. We did this for the first 8 years of our marriage.

      In AU, I know dryers are a rarity. Would someone there bring home wet clothes from the laundromat, to line dry at home? Or do most folks (even young singles) have washers at home? Or do folks who use laundromats there use dryers as well? It's just a curiosity how people might do things differently.

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  10. Thank you for the reminders. I get lax and I appreciate the practical examples you gave. I also followed Amy Dacyczyn during her Tightwad Gazette years. I miss the newsletters - they helped me stay focused.

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    1. Hi Ruthie,
      I miss her newsletters and writing style. She was practical, but also fun. I'd sure like to know how they got on in the years after her newsletters/books.


      Delete
  11. Lili,
    I have been visiting my family this Summer and back on track with the blogs I follow. I can see you are providing us with sound advice on how to cut energy consumption and reduce our electric bill. I wish you a had a cure for us-we live in the DFW metroplex and our monthly bill in the Summer is $400-$450-any ideas?
    Jemma

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    1. Hi Jemma,
      I've been experiencing a very busy summer as well. I'm glad you've had some time with family.

      In regards to your electricity -- you live in one of the weather extreme regions of the US, which means high energy costs (for you in cooling, for others way up north, they deal with very high heat bills in winter). I am assuming that the bulk of your electric use is in A/C.

      There are things folks in your area can do. Since the deregulation of the energy industry in Texas, you are free to choose your electricity provider. Rates vary between about 8 and 12 cents per KWH, which is actually pretty good, compared to the rest of the nation. If you shop around, do your homework, and check on customer satisfaction with each company. With it so very hot in summer, there, you don't want to experience problems with electricity delivery. Terms of contracts are much like shopping for cable or internet, the length of service can be month to month, or up to 12 months, some with cancellation fees if you break the contract, some not.

      Aside from getting the best deal on your rates, making sure you keep your cooled air inside your home is critical. Attic insulation, duct sealing (for central air), window/door caulking and weather stripping, good windows and doors, window film installation, awnings, shades and solar screens on windows, and strategic plantings of shrubs and trees, just outside windows on south and west walls, combined with shade umbrellas on the patio areas just outside the most exposed windows.

      If adding or upgrading any of the cooling related features of your home, check for rebates that can offset some of the cost of the work.

      An energy audit may be well worth the money. A pro can point out some of the less expensive ways to seal up your individual home.

      And since you live where the sun is plentiful, solar panels could be a benefit. Solar water heating at the least. Solar voltaic systems could generate and store electricity for other household use. Solar ovens for cooking could be a possibility.

      And then, minimize the heat that is produced inside your home, by microwaving more, baking less, and using CFLs or LED light bulbs, instead of incandescents in the cooling season.

      I know, many of these suggestions aren't cheap. But the costlier ones can be thought of as capital improvements to your home, which would make a home both easier to sell and fetch a higher price, when you go to sell someday in the future.

      Also, getting out of the house on the hottest of days, setting the A/C for a higher temp than you'd normally use while home, and finding a cool spot to visit. I know there are many folks in hot areas, who just can't afford to run A/C, or don't even have it to begin with. They'd do well to visit one of their cities cooling shelters. When temps here are up in the 90s, the news always makes sure to inform folks of the various cooling centers around town. Staying cool is not just about comfort, but can be life-saving.

      Some anecdotal info -I have some friends who moved into a new home 2 years ago. Their house has a western exposure, with no trees for shade. In winter their house is wonderful, with plenty of natural light streaming in through the very large western windows. Their first summer, though, was brutal. Since, they upgraded windows and installed exterior shades/awnings (the kind that are remote-control activated from the inside) on all the western windows. They added 2 large patio umbrellas to the deck on the western side of their home. These changes, though expensive up-front, have meant that they use their A/C much less. They hope to recover most of their expenses through A/C savings over the next 7-10 years. And they are much more comfortable.

      Finally, although your cooling costs are quite high in summer, the flip side is you have a very short cold season. So you save on heating your home in winter, compared to some areas.

      I saw on a weather map this morning that much of Texas is around 100 F today. Stay cool! And thanks for visiting.

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  12. Wow! That is one inexpensive electric bill--especially considering that you have electric ovens!

    I cut our bill from $520 to $300 in the summer (winter bills are $150 now) but with the continued rate increases our last bill was over $400, so rates are really going up. My parents live next door and have the same house, but it is perpendicular to ours, and their main living area faces east. They keep their house cooler, and it is just 2 people, versus 9. Their bill was $300.

    But, it's not 115º outside tonight; it's under 100º right now, so I am hoping for a lower bill next month!

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    1. Hi Brandy,
      we do have some of the lowest electric rates in the US, here in the Seattle area. I think we're just above 8 cents/KWH. When we first moved into this house, it had central electric forced air heat. Winter bills were about $400/ every 2 months (this was 20 years ago. it would be close to double that now). Putting in natural gas that first year saved us. Using wood heat for part of the day, our natural gas heat bills dropped to $55/month in winter.

      But even with your very high summer electric bills, there are many financial positives to your area. You can keep your garden going year round. And that has been a big savings for your family, I'm sure. If you do put in solar panels, you actually have sun there all year (here, we sink into gray gloom for a good part of the year). And you have lots of daylight almost everyday of the year, right?

      But I understand the frustrations. And you're wise to consider adding solar or wind technology to your home. It would make your lives more comfortable, give you a break in the budget, and add to the resale value and marketability of your home. Good luck with your decision on this!

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.