In the United States as a whole, the average household spends $117.46 per month on electricity, according to the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration. It’s more expensive in New England, the South Atlantic, the East and West South Central regions and the noncontiguous Pacific — that last one can be credited to Hawaii, where the monthly tab for household juice is $162.66.
No matter where you live or what you pay, it’s likely that you can lower your bill with a few relatively small changes and manageable investments.
Your Appliances Are Aging
If your electric bill is going up, it might be because your appliances are past their prime and losing efficiency. According to Consumer Reports, appliances are the No. 3 biggest energy consumer in the average household — behind only heating/cooling and hot water — and even the good ones underperform as they age.
Springing for big-ticket appliances, of course, is not in everyone’s budget, but if you’re considering putting some money into your house, an investment in new, energy-efficient appliances guarantees long-term dividends in the form of lower bills.
If you have an aging refrigerator or electric clothes dryer, start there. According to Consumer Reports, they usually have the highest operating costs of all.
Your Fridge Is Too Cold
If you can’t spring for a new fridge, Consumer Reports urges you to check your current fridge’s temperature settings while you’re saving for one that’s more energy-efficient. The ideal temperature is 37 degrees, but many refrigerators are set lower by default, sometimes creeping toward the freezing point.
That’s a waste of electricity that could cost you even more through frostbitten food. It can be tricky to find the exact temperature sweet spot with many fridges, even those with digital-readout thermostats, but if ice crystals tend to form on food toward the back of the fridge, try lowering your bills by raising the temperature.
Your Dishwasher Is Too Hot
The heated drying feature on your dishwasher gets your dishes dry fast — but the tradeoff for speed is energy and money. According to Hunker, the convenient heated-drying cycle gobbles up at least 15% more energy than air drying because it uses both a heating element that consumes a lot of energy and an exhaust fan that consumes only a little.
Dishwashers made after 2011 offer both heated and air-drying cycles. The latter — which uses the exhaust fan but not the heating element — takes longer and sometimes requires you to wipe off water spots with a towel, but it lowers your dishwasher’s operating cost by a minimum of 15%.
You Have a Vampire Infestation
Vampire appliances earned their nickname by slowly and steadily bleeding electricity from people’s homes. Vampire appliances are any devices that don’t turn off when you hit the power button, but instead go into a standby mode so that clocks and other displays can remain on and active.
From coffee makers and televisions to game consoles and printers, vampires are everywhere. The Guardian reported on a study out of Great Britain, which concluded that nearly one-quarter of the country’s energy is lost to vampire appliances.
Garlic, crosses and sunlight won’t do the trick. The solution is to plug your vampire appliances into power strips and switch the strips off when you leave the house or go to sleep.
You’re Not Utilizing Your Ceiling Fan
If it’s so hot outside that you need your air conditioner inside, you might think that a ceiling fan is a redundant waste of energy. But the little bit of power that a ceiling fan consumes could help you reduce the output of your much hungrier air conditioner. Set the blades to counterclockwise in the summer to create a cooling downdraft that complements your AC and lets you raise its thermostat.
In the winter, reverse the direction of the fan blades to create an updraft. This will force warm air from the ceiling to circulate around the room.
The San Francisco Gate reminds you that ceiling fans alone don’t make rooms cooler or warmer — they just make people feel cooler or warmer by circulating air — so there’s never a reason for one to be on in an unused room or when you’re not home.
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