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A Few Changes Made a Big Difference in Our Electric Bill

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Back in March, I was pretty fed up with our electric bill. It was getting closer and closer to the $100/month mark. For us, that is too much money to power our smaller house.

What I did was install CFL light bulbs in almost every light socket in our house. I’ve heard so many good things about them saving money that I decided to try them. I also unplugged a freezer in the basement that we weren’t really using (and it’s quite old). The first bill that we got was discouraging because it was $91. I shouldn’t have jumped the gun before declaring my dismay. The changes with our bulbs and the freezer ended up making a huge difference.

Take a look at this graph. It shows the average kilowatt hour per day that we use. The purple line is last year and the green line is this year.

kwh.jpg

As you can see, March was the tipping point where our electric usage per day took a plunge and we were using less kilowatt hours per day. I just needed to wait a little bit for the next bill to arrive to see the results. Even then, I wasn’t sure it was for real so I waited before announcing on here. I didn’t want to jump the gun again.

After 5 months, our daily electric usage has been staying well below what we were using during the same period the previous year. A few kilowatt hours saved on a daily basis may not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference on a monthly and yearly basis. In fact, the latest electric bill I received was for $57! Yay!

I’m a CFL light bulb believer! Oh, and a believer in updating very old appliances or unplugging them if you aren’t using them 😉

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34 Comments

  • Reply FrugalBabe |

    Awesome – that’s a huge difference! We did the CFL lightbulbs a few years ago, but the biggest change I’ve made this year is to stop using our dryer. I got two wooden clothes horses at a thrift store, and I dry all our clothes on them now. When I have something that wrinkles badly, I toss it in the dryer for 5 minutes before I put it on the rack. But while I used to run the dryer for at least 5 hours a week, I now run it for about 20 minutes a week. Most months this year we’ve used about 200 Kwh less than last year.

  • Reply Mrs. Micah |

    Great job!

    Mr. Micah and I aren’t getting into that habit as much because we don’t pay our electric bill. We’re more careful w/water, which we do pay. However, we’re good about not using more lamps than we need, which is a start.

    We’ll probably have plenty of motive when we live in a place where we get electric bills.

  • Reply Leroy Brown |

    CFL’s are good for a double whammy, which many folks don’t think about. The first one is the obvious one – they use less energy to create the same light. The other is more subtle, but very real.

    CFL’s don’t create copious amounts of heat during the lighting process like regular bulbs do. Less heat means your A/C has to work less to cool your house. Double win!

  • Reply The Happy Rock |

    I have never had much luck with CFL. In a couple of sockets they didn’t fit, some they still flickered tiny light when off, and a few various other problems.

    What am I doing wrong?

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    I need the heat. I live in an electrically heated house so the energy saved with CFCs is spent in increased furnace use. For 8 months of the year I lose if I use CFCs.

    Since I don’t use an air conditioner, for the few months I don’t use heat, I still don’t save a lot, given the lights are on so seldom in the summer months (longer days = little use for light bulbs.)

    So, I’m in no rush to pay the extra up front, invest in all that packaging (compare the waste packaging from a CFC vs. an incandescent bulb) and save myself from having to store the dead CFC bulbs for months on an end (around here, it is a 30km drive to an approved disposal site and our local government offers that only 2x per year.)

    The summer electrical savings come anywhere close to off-setting my increased costs.

    Now, unplugging the freezer does make a HUGE difference – we did that last year (as well as unplugging the bar fridge except over holidays when I need the extra space.)

  • Reply Tricia |

    FrugalBabe – we still use our electric dryer for drying clothes. We let laundry sit around and then have to do a whole bunch of loads at once so we need the dryer to keep up. I am going to try to hang wet clothes inside again because we did set up a spot specifically for them in our bathroom/laundry room. Then our electric bill could be even lower.

    Leroy – I didn’t even think about losing the heat. For me, that’s not the best thing…especially in the winter. We have very cold winters. I’ll have to keep track of it and maybe track my gas usage as well. I wonder if having the CFLs will increase my heating expenses. Interesting.

    Happy Rock – only one of our light sockets was not compatible with CFLs. That’s the light above our sink. So we rarely use that light now. All of our other lights are older fixtures, so we probably luck out there. We don’t have track lighting or anything like that. Only one light on the ceiling in a room or a lamp. I’ve never had them flicker when turned off. The only difference I have seen from regular bulbs is that it takes a brief second for them to turn on and then it takes a few more seconds for them to go to full blast light. It was weird at first, but I’m used to it now.

    Debby – I don’t know what your bill includes, but I should note that our heat is not electric and our water heater is gas. We do, however, have an electric dryer and an electric stove.

    Boston Gal – my guess is that our freezer was from the early 80s. Our stove, freezer and fridge came with the house and the older woman who lived here kept some records and the stove was from 84 and the fridge was from 82. We already replaced the fridge and the stove with newer models. I’d love to have a freezer at some point, but I think we’ll go with a smaller one. We don’t need one quite so big as what we had in our basement.

  • Reply Boston Gal |

    Woo Hoo! Another CFL and general energy saving convert!!! I noticed a big drop in my bills when I replaced a harvest gold 1970’s beauty of a fridge with a newer one (the “new” one was a couple of years old and cost just $100 delivered – got to love apartment dwellers who are moving and need to get rid of an appliance!) While not a super energy-efficient model, just the fact that it was modern made it loads more efficient than the old 1970’s model. The energy savings alone paid me back that $100 in less than a year and I keep seeing the monthly savings.

    Replacing the old bulbs with CFLs was also a big saver for me. It was so easy to do and they are so much cheaper now than they used to be.

    When I eventually remodel my kitchen I will be investing in super energy-efficient appliances – I am now a total convert to their value!

  • Reply Annie Walker |

    We’ve plugged CFLs into every light-fitting that will take them, particularly as there was some problem with the electric circuits in our rented home that meant that normal bulbs blew every week or so. I’ve had to replace just two CFLs in almost four years – so it has saved me a bundle on buying the dratted things, too!

    My husband is building our own house, and hopes to be fitting LED fixtures around the house as he says that they are even *cheaper* and last for even longer than my beloved CFLs… (He’s a professional electrician, so I believe him!)

    BTW, just found your blog, and am loving it! Have subscribed 🙂

  • Reply vh |

    Wow! What planet do you live on where power bills are under $100? You must not have to use air conditioning in the summer. My electric bill, which covers a relatively cost-efficient heat pump kept at around 80 degrees in summer, one load of laundry a week, one refrigerator, one computer that goes to sleep or off when not in use, a rarely used TV that’s turned off at the wall switch, and CFLs in every light fixture, runs around $250 all summer and drops into the low 100s in the winter.

    And I’m lucky enough to be in the service area of the local utility that did NOT invest in an ill-advised nuclear plant & so can charge significantly less per Kwh than the county’s other power company.

  • Reply Jaye |

    Wow. That’s really impressive. Just another thing I should be paying more attention to! I’ve changed a few of our fixtures, but I might just try to switch all of them over.

    We just replaced our range, refrigerator, toaster and dishwasher with new, energy-efficient models. Our old appliances were in the 30-40 years old range…didn’t really work at all and, yet, used a ton of electricity. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new ones affect our bills.

    All of our appliances were “scratch and dent” buys…we saved thousands! I highly recommend it.

    One question about the extra freezer: I’ve thought about gettring one, but worry that it will end up costing me more money–because I’ll fill it and then won’t remember what I have (not to mention the added electrical cost). I’m wondering if it isn’t really less expensive to just buy (more or less) what you need. Any thoughts?

  • Reply Dave Holiday |

    I noticed some people commenting on the heat output of normal bulbs. Remember that a heater is designed to output heat at a higher efficiency level than a light bulb. You would see an increase in heater usage, but would still see a decrease in overall electricity usage.

    Same goes for the person using gas for heat, though gas being more economical on a per unit/btu basis (last i checked) will produce a larger difference in cost savings.

  • Reply Chester's Clean House |

    I have been using CFL for years and also seen a good reduction in my electric bill. My only issue has been finding candelabra CFLs. Many new home like mine have over 75 candelabra sockets, so to replace all those bulbs would cost me about $3 per bulb or 3*75 or $225. At a savings of $5 per month (35 watts saved per bulb * 50 hours of usage per day * 30 days / 1000 for KWH * $.09 per KWK = $4.725 savings per month) that still would take me 45 months to get my money back. In that time I would probably have to replace the bulbs. Now the regular lights are a different story as they are only about $1.50 or less from Sam Club or Costco. We just try to use the candelabra fixtures less.

  • Reply Matt |

    Chester’s Clean House – Actually, almost all CFLs last 5 years, which is 60 months, considerably more than the 45 you mentioned. It’s well worth it, trust me. If you were to buy regular bulbs during that time, it would cost you more. Guaranteed.

  • Reply Steve |

    I did this a few years back, but the latest change was to make sure every standby device was switched off at night and when I’m at work, including those things that you don’t know are drawing power when off, like PC’s. Everything was moved onto either an always on gang plug, or a switch off one to make things simple.

    I’ve now worked out that with no stereo/computer/TV gear left on I save £10/$20USD per month, calculated at UK power prices, not to be sniffed at.

  • Reply Joe |

    new CFLs, added attic insulation and a programmable thermostat cut about $70 off my summer electric bills!

  • Reply Paul |

    Are you sure you are not just using them less? What brand do you use? I replaced all of my bulbs with CFLs in April, and every month since then, our electric usage (not the dollar amount) has been higher than the same month from last year. I am completely disgusted with them.

  • Reply Carol |

    When we lived in Phoenix we an average electric bill of $175 in ’88- we started using CFL bulbs, changed all appliances to energy stars gradually as they needed replacing (although never did get to replace the ugly avacado green stove because it kept working until 3 months before we moved), got a new electric heat pump (with a rebate from the electric co) and when we left in 05 the bill was about 74 a month. You can get these bills down and that was with air conditioning in the summer. Here in Pueblo, we started with all new energy star appliances, CFL bulbs in all outlets that they fit and turned down the water heater. We don’t need an air conditioner in the summer, the evap cooler works fine for that and the average bill is about $75. I unplug things that have red lights but my husband draws the line on the computer and the television and cable box.

  • Reply Brian |

    Chester’s Clean House—My problem with candleabra lights and the cfls for them was the lack of brightness. I was able to achieve both some efficiency and maintain the bright lighting by putting half cfls and half regular in each fixture.

    So..the cost is not as high AND I am still getting some overall savings.

  • Reply Mark |

    >>Are you sure you are not just using them less? >>What brand do you use? I replaced all of my >>bulbs with CFLs in April, and every month since >>then, our electric usage (not the dollar amount) >>has been higher than the same month from last >>year. I am completely disgusted with them.

    LOL! Do you work for an incandescent light bulb company or something? They use a -lot- less electricity, therefore you are paying less to light your home. Go figure out what’s sucking up the juice and driving your bill higher or check to see if your utility rate has increased.

    Sheesh.

  • Reply Rob in Madrid |

    Trent over at the simpledollar has been ranting about CFLs for as long as I’ve been a reader but this is the first time that I’ve seen hard data on it. After I read your article I stopped by Carrefour and they had a huge display of CFLs on sale so I decided to reconsider my decision not to get them.

    the new CFLs seem to be brighter than the old ones, was visiting family in Canada and my father in law has replace all of his with CFLs and outside of the kitchen they were all bright enough for me. I told them they should replace there 20 year old fridge freezer and get a gas dryer but they don’t have the cash for that.

    One thing that will make a big difference is hanging your dry instead of using the dryer. Only thing to watch for is if you have allergies, clothes can pick up alot of pollen during the summer. I also remember watching a film in school (have no idea what it was about) but the one scene I remember seeing laundry being hung outside in the dead of winter!

  • Reply alberto |

    i too replaced all my bulbs, but i’m finding that fluorecent are breaking more often than incadescent… They also loose their brightness rapidly so you wont be getting as much light… Lastly they are bad for the environent in terms of the waste/quemicals they contain. I think your fridge was the main problem. I wish led started to come out

  • Reply Michael |

    I’m jealous of your electric bills. We live in the phoenix area, which set a new record of 32 days over 110. I just paid our August bill for $448!! Since the biggest contributor is the AC, which is non-negotiable in this part of the country, changing to CFL’s (I have changed some) doesn’t do much since the AC is 50%-60% of our bill.

  • Reply Lisa |

    I am a big believer in unplugging the appliances that are not in use. In the AM before work, I will make sure to unplug the coffee pot, toaster, washer, dryer.

    And we also have a timer on our water heater, which has also helped our bill.

  • Reply Renee |

    I know how you feel about those high electric bill’s i had them too and then i found out about Ignite go look at it it could help you too

  • Reply Bobbi |

    Prior to installing a PV/inverter Solar Electric Home System..(BIG investment)..
    I had to evaluate and tame my KWatt consumption.

    step 1: replace all incandescent bulbs with CFLs (8 of them). (If I kept them, 12 more PVs would have been needed.)
    2: timer on electric water heater, run for 2 hours in the am, 3 in the evening (instead of 24hrs/day).
    3: replace side-side refr. with a Danish model,AND a
    chest freezer (a new extra!). Together, they used 1/8 the energy as my early 80s model.

    4:Install the solar equipment. (This was never completed to full capacity.)

    However, after each step, the power bill dropped dramatically. 1- $30 REDUCTION
    2- $38 REDUCTION
    3- $34 REDUCTION, even with the added (mini) load
    of the freezer.

    The house is still mainly on the grid.

    Powerbill was reduced consistently to between $37 and $55 per month.

    I plan to replace the CFLs with LEDs, complete the solar project, and use the grid for my storage medium, with net metering.

  • Reply John |

    If the power consumption doesn’t appear to go down on the monthly bill or doesn’t go down for a few months after switching to CFL’s then chances are the power company isn’t reading the meter every month. They often simply do spot readings at random and simply pro-rate the numbers they use for billing based on what the historical usage had been. As long as there’s still the occasional reading to correct their estimates, nobody really notices but some meter readers are so lazy that they estimate the readings all the time. You can usually take a reading yourself and call the power billing company to set the records straight or simply insist they do an actual reading. Some utilities will allow you to do the monthly readings yourself, of course they will still spot check but those spot checks would probably be done with more care as they’re trying to avoid being cheated by you.

So, what do you think ?