Saving on your Electricity Bill

Are you afraid to open your electricity bill each month? Do you wish you had your neighbor's bill instead of your own? Most of my neighbors wish they had my electric bill because it's the lowest in the neighborhood!

Here's some ideas on saving electricity costs in the areas of:
* Lighting
* Water, and
* Heating/Air Conditioning

Lighting accounts for about 10% to 15% of home electricity usage. The first suggestion is to switch to energy-efficient lighting. Compact fluorescent bulbs are comparable to incandescent in terms of color of light and bulb size, however they use approximately 75% less energy. If you don't want to exchange fixtures, use lower watt bulbs. Lighting costs do add up so every little bit helps. If you have a multi-bulb light, definitely use lower wattage bulbs. The lower the wattage the lower your electric costs will be. Dimmer switches are great for extending the bulb life up to 12 times and reducing electricity use. Turn lights and your television set off when you are not in the room. Use white lampshades because they give more light. Turn off outdoor lights except those for safety and security.

Fix all drippy faucets inside and outside your home. Take showers instead of baths. Use cold water for garbage disposal. Change your showerhead. If you replace your showerhead with one rated as using fewer than three gallons per minute or lower, this will cut your water use in half. Another saving is the energy costs on the hot water you don't use.

Heating/Air Conditioning
Without an efficiently weatherized home, air can leak out of your house from many places. This can add up to a houseful of heated or cooled air escaping every hour. Typical places air leaks occur around air ductwork, plumbing, chimneys, vents, light switches, windows, and doors. Drafts will involuntarily displace the air you have paid to heat or cool. The solution is to weatherize your house. Seal up the cracks in air ducts with mastic and insulate with R-6 duct wrap. If possible, weatherize walls with a layer of house wrap between the wall stud and the plywood sheathing or stucco. (Unless you are remodeling or building a new house this will be an extremely expensive undertaking.) Also, go around the outside of your house and caulk all cracks, joints, corners and holes.

Do not forget to tune- up your air-conditioner. Do not let your air conditioner go unchecked until something breaks. An annual inspection should include cleaning coils inside and out, replacing dirty or clogged filters, and repairing disconnected or broken ductwork by sealing it with mastic. Keeping the filters clean is very, very important.

Set the air-conditioner's thermostat to 78 degrees or above. Seventy-eight degrees, instead of 73 degrees, will save you 20-25 percent off your AC operating costs. When you first turn on the air conditioner, it won't cool any faster if you set the thermostat lower than the temperature you want. It will cool to a lower temperature and therefore waste energy and money on your electricity bill. Use a ceiling or floor fan and wear lighter clothing. Keep cool air inside by closing doors and windows, check weather stripping, caulk all cracks and joints, and insulate. Do not block vents by placing items or furniture on top of them. Plant deciduous trees around house to cool in summer and let sun come in during the winter. It also helps to close drapes and blinds during the day and open them and windows at night to cool house down. Also, put up screens that reflect the heat during the day.

In winter, however, exposure to the sun increases the unit's heating capacity. Leave the thermostat set on 65 degrees or below during the day. A two-degree increase raises your costs 10 to 15 percent each time. At night, turn it off or down to 55 degrees. Close your drapes at night to keep out the cold. Open them during the day to let the sun shine through. Install automatic setback thermostats, to control heating and air conditioning more efficiently. They can be programmed to automatically turn the furnace temperature down in the morning when everyone is gone and up again in the early evening before everyone returns home. Then down while everyone is asleep at night and up again in the morning before you rise. Don't place heat-producing appliances near thermostats. If confuses the thermostat causing them to run longer than necessary, increasing your bill and wasting energy. Have your furnace checked once a year to make sure everything is working properly and all the filters are clean. If you have to buy fuel for heating your home, purchase it in the summer when rates are lower.

Use landscaping to shade your home and save more energy in the summer. Shade provided in the right places around your house can reduce your cooling bills by as much as 30 percent. Planting vegetation on the west wall of your home can reduce that wall's temperature by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Some ideas of what to plant for shade protection are trees, bushes, or vines on trellises. Awnings and roof overhangs can provide shade to windows that are exposed for prolonged times in direct summer sunlight.

After you implement a few ideas, compare your bills to the previous month as well as last year's bill for the same month. Good luck in your efforts to reduce electricity costs.

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