by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)
Remember when the electric bill was referred to as the light bill? Those were the days when electricity was used mainly for lighting. There were few appliances to guzzle energy. You could say those were the good old days but few of us would want to do without the luxury and convenience of the appliances we rely on today.
The price we pay for this luxury comes high in the form of an electric bill that seems to get higher each month. Just look around and you’ll quickly see why. The number one energy user is the central air conditioning unit, especially if it handles the double duty of both cooling and heating. In warm regions, the AC accounts for more than half of the electric bill.
You could install window units and cool only the used areas of yourhome, and this is not a bad idea. But, if you’re determined to keep the central unit there are things you can do.
If your unit is over 15 years old, consider getting a new one. Today’s models use up to 50% less energy.
If a new model is in your future, make sure it’s sized properly. Consult an air conditioning expert because a unit that’s too big or too small can continue to work inefficiently. Check the energy ratings – the higher the better.
Buy a unit with a programmable thermostat that has a built-in timer. With the timer, you can turn off the AC when you’re gone and set it to restart just before you return. Studies have revealed that it’s cheaper to do this than to have it recycle on and off while you’re not even athome.
Another electric guzzler is the electric water heater tank. Tanks keep heating water 24/7/365 whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters are available for both electric and gas homes but do your homework before installing.
You could install a solar water heater but the expensive system may take a while to recover your investment. If you stay with the tank, turn down the temperature and wrap it in a thermal blanket. Also, turn off the tank when you’re out of town and save.
Refrigerator/freezers are both guilty of guzzling electricity, but who wants to return to the old ice box. If yours was made after 2001 it’s probably more energy efficient. If you replace an old one, buy the Energy Star label.
An appliance must exceed federal energy standards by 15% to qualify. Top freezers use less energy than the side-by-side or bottom models. Save even more energy if you can skip the ice maker and dispenser.
We can’t forget the electric dryer which uses about 15% more energy than a gas model. If gas is not an option, buy an electric dryer with a moisture sensor to avoid over drying. When clothes are dry it cuts off.
Don’t forget to clean your lint filter too. Concentrate on these biggest electric guzzlers and you’ll see a dramatic difference in your electric bill. Conservation sure beats doing without.