Personal Finance

6 Tips On Saving Money By Cutting Back On Electricity Usage

Written by Beth Trach

When it comes to saving money, you have your fixed expenses and your flexible expenses. Fixed payments like your rent or mortgage, student loans and minimum credit card payments are here to stay, unless you get cracking on paying them down early.

But there are a whole lot of line items on your budget that you can adjust by changing some of your habits. The low-hanging fruit here is your discretionary spending on eating out and having fun, but there are plenty of other places to save — including on your utility bills.

Of these, your electric bill is probably the biggest, but it’s also the one with the most room for savings. Practically everything in life requires a little juice to get done, and all those appliances and time-savers can really add up when it comes to kilowatt per hour total. Make a few changes in your habits, though, and you can lower your electric bill each month — and bank the savings for something way better than keeping your espresso machine running.

  1. Slay Energy Vampires With Smart Outlet Strips

There are probably dozens of appliance you keep plugged in that are always drawing a little energy, even when you’re not using them. These are energy vampires, and they’re sucking the lifeblood out of your budget. The biggest culprits are televisions and all of their accompanying gear: cable boxes, DVD players, surround sound speakers, a VCR if you’re old school. Desktop computers and their auxiliaries like speakers, scanners and printers are equally wasteful.

Enter the smart strip. This is one of the best money-saving gadgets around, and you won’t even notice it’s going its job. Plug your TV or computer into the master receptacle but the rest of the things into controlled receptacles. The controlled receptacles only get power when the main appliance is turned on, so your accessories will be turned off automatically when you shut down the big screen. This is an invisible energy saver that’s a no-brainer, which is why it works.

  1. Decide How Many Clocks You Really Need

Pop quiz: How many digital clocks are running in your kitchen right now? If you’re like most people, you could have somewhere between three and five, once you count up all your appliances like the oven, microwave, coffee maker and more. The problem is that all of those appliances are drawing a smidge of electricity all day long to run those clocks and timers, even when you’re not using them for their real purposes.

The solution? Unplug them. Sure, it’s not convenient to reach the plug to your range, but just about anything else can be unplugged easily until you need it. This is another way to cut down on the energy vampires around the house. If you need help remembering to pull the plug, try wrapping it with a brightly colored sticky note with a friendly reminder until it becomes a habit.

  1. Get a Solar Charger

One last big energy vampire to deal? All of your portable devices. Your laptop, tablet and cellphone all need a regular refresher to charge those batteries, and odds are good that you leave the charger plugged in and dangling from the wall so it’s ready for you. Big mistake! Those also draw a little bit of electricity as long as they’re plugged in.

You can always unplug them until needed as recommended above, or you can cut your electricity bill even further by going solar. There are lots of solar chargers out there to keep campers and outdoorsy types happy, but there’s no reason you can’t make them a part of your regular routine. Try catching some rays in a sunny window to let Nature do the work for free.

  1. Turn Down Your Water Heater

If you have an electric water heater, it’s probably responsible for a big portion of your electric bill. The tanks require constant cycling on and off of your water heater to keep the water at a certain temperature. Even when you’re not using any hot water at all, your heater will still click on when the water temperature drops.

To save some cash, turn down the thermostat on your water heater. OSHA and Energy Star recommend keeping it set for 120 degrees, which is just hot enough to keep any harmful bacteria from multiplying but not so hot that you’ll scald yourself — or faint when your electricity bill arrives in the mail.

  1. Skip the Heat Whenever You Can

It takes way more electricity to create heat than it does to make light, so it’s a good idea to skip electric heating whenever you can. If you have electric baseboards for heat, turn down your thermostats at night to cut back on your usage. You can also try using some passive solar heating in the afternoons by opening your south-facing blinds to catch the sun’s rays.

Baseboards aren’t the only electrical energy hogs, though. If you’ve been automatically using the heated dry function on your dishwasher, it’s time to stop. Run the machine in the morning and your dishes will drip dry without any extra heat by afternoon when you get home from work — for free. You can also cut back on your use of the clothes dryer by investing in a sturdy drying rack for your laundry room or hanging your clothes out to dry the old-fashioned way.

  1. Use LED Lightbulbs

If you’re still hoarding incandescent bulbs because you hate the soulless look and off-color of fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are your new best friend. They use way less electricity, and they do a much better job at providing a quality of light that looks more like your favorite light bulbs. Best of all, they often are shaped like a traditional bulb, so you don’t have to hate the look of coiled CFLs in your sconces and chandeliers anymore. Change your bulbs and you’ll enjoy a dip in your electricity bill immediately.

Saving electricity is easier than ever thanks to clever new inventions. To take stock of your usage, look around each room of your house to see what’s plugged in that doesn’t have to be. Pull the plug and save the cash, amigos!

Got any more tips for saving on your electric bill? Let us know in the comments!

About the author

Beth Trach

Elizabeth Trach is a writer and editor living in Newburyport, MA. She also sings in a band, grows almost all her own food, and occasionally even cooks it. You can catch up on all her adventures in frugal living and extreme gardening at Port Potager.


  • MDavis

    You can also save money on your water and electric bills if you are run the tap to get the temp of the water you want. Electric water heaters go on as soon as you open any tap.Have a 2-qt. water pitcher handy and put it under the faucet. Open the tap and put one hand on the faucet pipe. Run the water until it’s the desired temperature, then fill the tub, dishpan, or whatever until you have the amount you desire. Turn off the water. Put your pitcher on a counter to be used for drinking, cooking, watering plants, that extra boost you need to flush once in a while, etc. If you have city water, this will probably also save you some change on your water bill, as all that water won’t be going down the drain and draining your pocketbook. You’d be amazed at how that adds up, too.
    I have saved about $30 per month this way. I wash dishes by hand- If you are rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, you might consider an experiment to see how much you are wasting during the pre-washing rinse. (Use a dishpan or bucket to measure). This has the potential to save you even more money. Perhaps combined, these two tricks could save you up to $60/month- which is $720 a year.

    Regarding the electric companies, some states allow the customer to choose the company supplying their power. New Jersey is one of those. We have competition, but the rates are not always that far apart.

  • The real problem is not low drainage appliances like digital clocks and light bulbs, but the unregulated power companies that get permission to regularly raise rates. We need more competition, period. BTW, you forgot to mention fans–they use more energy than leds.

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