How Much Energy Are You Using?

How Much Energy Are You Using - picture of high voltage towers at sunset

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Recently, I have been getting frustrated with our energy bills.  For the past few years, our electricity and gas bills have been slowly creeping up on us.  It makes sense to a certain extent.  I mean, there are four of us now instead of just two.  Twice the laundry.  Twice the dirty dishes.  Twice the baths and showers.  Still, it seems like we have been using way more energy than we should be…so I set out to find out how much energy we should really be using.

Unfortunately, I found out that out that our energy bills are fairly normal.  Since we spend about $2,400 per year on our electric and gas bills combined, we are pretty close to the U.S. national average.  That made me feel slightly better about our energy usage.

Still, I don’t want to be average.  I want to use less energy, become more environmentally friendly, and save some cash in the process.  So, I started looking around for some cheap and easy ways to save.  What I found out is that there are a ton of ways that we can increase our home efficiency.  I also ran across some statistics from that I found shocking:

  • The average home spends $2,200 on energy bills every year.
  • The average family spends $400-$600 per year just on water heating.
  • Rinsing dishes before you load your dishwasher can use up to 20 gallons of additional water before you even start the dishwasher.
  • In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics and appliances is consumed while the products are turned off.

Taking a look around my house reinforced the feeling that we could do better.  I started seeing wasted electricity everywhere.  I have at least ten lamps plugged in for no reason.  All of my appliances are plugged in 24/7.  Even my kids have a variety of random toys plugged in at all hours of the day and night.  Does my daughter’s Barbie Jeep really need to be recharging 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? No.

Our New Money Saving Energy Plan

I really hate the thought of wasting electricity but the thought of wasting money is almost unbearable. It’s as if I’m shredding a few $20 bills every month just for shits and giggles.  It has to stop.

So, we came up with a plan of action to tackle our excessive energy consumption. We made a list of small changes that we are going to make.  We can’t do all of them at once.   We’re busy people, folks.  Therefore, we plan on implementing these changes little by little.  Here are some cheap and easy ways that we are going to start saving some energy and cash:

  • We are going to turn our water heater down to 120 degrees.  According to, this can save $31-$61 annually.
  • We are going to wrap our water heater in an insulating jacket to save another $30 per year.
  • We are going to going to limit ourselves to doing only FULL loads of laundry. reports that this will save us as much as 3,400 gallons of water per year.
  • We are going to scrape our dishes clean instead of rinsing them before putting them in the dishwasher.
  • We are going to plug all of our appliances into power strips so that we can turn them off when not in use.
  • We are going to start using our programmable thermostat!
  • We are changing all of our lightbulbs over to the energy-efficient kind.

Hopefully these cheap and easy changes will make a dent in our growing energy bills.  I will continue to update you on our progress as the bills roll in.

How about you guys?  How are you saving on your energy bills?

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  1. Ours keep going up too, because prices are going up. They’re about 30c a kilowatt now and for our household of two we spend over $100 a month.

    I keep an eye out for discounts – my provider, Powershop, often has power ‘sales’ where you can buy units for a lower price – can be any occasion from a sports team win or some other momentous current event – whatever they decide! It’s a clever idea.

  2. Really? The average is almost $200 per month? Wow. I thought surely we’d be above average paying for a pool pump and living in a high energy cost area.

    We try to keep ours down by taking thought out of some of it. For example, the garage light is too easy to leave on, so we installed a timer switch so it automatically goes off even if you walk away and leave it on.

  3. Please make sure when you are disposing of your old CFL bulbs you are doing so in the proper way since they contain mercury and should not be simply thrown into the garbage (I believe most hardware stores will recycle them for you).

    A tip for vacations, use your programmable thermostat to lower the temp in your house (I’d bet there is even a vacation setting on it) and turn your water heater down to the pilot setting (if it is gas) or just turn it down if it is electric!

  4. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    We’re right at about what you guys are spending. We’ve just recently moved all of our light bulbs over to the energy efficient variety and we’ll see what that does. That’s a great tip to plug everything into a power strip. It’s crazy how many things we have running on electricity and I am sure that can save a nice little sum over the year.

  5. We have a rain barrel for watering outdoors now and we don’t cook while it’s expensive rate as we are on time of use. We have one of the most efficient water heaters and furnaces around so they cost us hardly anything to run. Our light bulbs are all changed over and we monitor everything. I even went to the library last year to borrow a killawatt meter and tested all of our appliances to see what they were drawing. Our 1970’s freezer will be on the way out as soon as I can score a deal on 2 med size energy efficient one’s that’s for sure.

  6. You guys have some great plans already, but I just wrote an article on low flow showerheads. It can cut the hot water bill in half. Check it out!

  7. I used a incredibly small amount of energy: this past (New England) winter I purchased $380 worth of oil for heat and still have some left, and spend roughly $20 on electricity. Gas for cooking is negligible. This is likely due to my small apartment, and the fact I am a Nazi about the thermostat. Seriously, Goebbels would approve.

  8. Those changes you listed are a great start. I always tell people to start with the programmable thermostat, then cfls, then hvac. So it sounds like you’re on top if it.

  9. I’m not buying sh## from GE – especially their mercury-laden cfl lights – ever!

    1. Ha! Fair enough. Any particular reason you hate GE, other than that they are a giant company that – I’m assuming – probably sucks?

      1. Greg,
        It’s a bit difficult to respond to your question seeing as there’s all this “tweet, buffer, reddit, etc crap” running down the page that I can’t seem to delete or minimize. But yeah, there a gazillion frickin reasons I won’t buy another ge product for as long as I live. A “giant” corporation – ha! That’s just the beginning. Check out multi-international corps that screw every country they enter and then check out just how dangerous MERCURY is to you and, more importantly, your kids! In this day and age of being “environmentaly friendly” mercury is about the last thing you want to invite into your home – and God help you if your wife is pregnant when that crap enters your abode!

  10. Our energy bills are quite a bit lower than the average family, I’d say about 30%. However, we living a quaint home and there are just two of us. I know we can do better, we used to do a lot better. However, we’ve gotten lazy.
    On a side note, my wife used to switch off her computer completely. After a few years the clock stopped working which caused the date to reset every time she turned off the computer. At first we thought it was a virus, but the computer’s battery had died. So we had to leave it plugged in so it would work properly.

  11. We set the thermostat low at night and when we leave the house, as well as only run the dishwasher and laundry machine when they are completely full. You learn quick how much water a load of laundry goes through when your sewer drain gets clogged 😉

  12. Laundry is key. Also, there are several long term steps you can take such as solar paneling that have huge impact after about a decade. Worth it if you have the capital and are staying in the same place for a while.

  13. Good idea on the water heater. If I could get my husband and daughter to just turn off lights that would be a huge accomplishment. I feel like the light switch nazi running around behind them turning things off. I think I’m going to start charging my daughter when she leaves lights on!

  14. Great tips Holly. Another idea to consider is to invest in some close line poles to hang your laundry outside in the summer time. Doing this will result in using your dryer less since they run on 220 and consume a ton of electricity.

  15. These are wonderful ways to save energy. We not just save quite a big amount of money, but we also get to help our environment.

  16. I started checking my electric meter before leaving for work in the morning and after returning in the late afternoon. It is intresting to see just how much electricity is consumed when no one is even at home. I have got the number down to about 3 kwh mostly by turning off anything not needed. I also try to wash only full loads of laundry and dishes. Heating and cooling are also big energy consumers. Energy thermostats make a huge difference.

  17. The rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher number is interesting. That has always been a disagreement with my wife, as she rinses and I don’t. Dishes amazingly come out of the dishwasher clean either way. I think it only pays to rinse if your dishwasher sucks!

  18. I used to think unplugging appliances while not in use was a silly exercise, but we do it for most of our kitchen appliances and it works well. I hasn’t thought of manually adjusting the water heater settings, I might have to try that!

  19. I too noticed my energy bill creeping up. I started unplugging things when they aren’t in use (ie toaster, even TV) and found that to be very helpful. I love that it not only saves me money but also helps the environment, too.

  20. Holly,

    I think it’s great that you’re being more conscious of your energy usage! While each action may seem small on its own, I’m sure they will add up in the long term.

    Another way to save electricity is to turn off your computer or TV and do something else. Read a book, take a walk, or talk to a friend. Considering North Americans watch over 30 hours of TV a week (source: NY Daily News), maybe cutting back for a few hours is just what we need.

    I personally rather like the idea of saving money while I’m learning, exercising, or spending time with a loved one!

    1. I totally agree. We don’t even have cable TV!!!

  21. Judy Murray says:

    I own an insulation company and you would be surprised to find out how much money homeowners may be wasting because their attic insulation is inefficient or the basement walls and ceiling have no insulation at all (if you have a basement that is). You can save money on utility bills every month. The best part is that through the end of 2013 many of the things you do to increase your homes energy efficiency (i.e. HVAC, water heater, insulation, windows, roofs) can be applied (up to $500) as a tax credit for this year!

  22. Robin Kahn says:

    I wish those new light bulbs were a tab bit more attractive. When you have a fixture and the bulb shows, I think it takes away from the look of it. I know it is better for energy savings. Sometimes I choose, rather foolishly, fashion over function. Our shoes are the perfect example of this right ladies?!

  23. If you ever have to replace your equipment, I wold recommend energy star appliance. Not only do you save money with them but if you but them before the end of this year (2013) there may be tax benefits as well. Make sure that your Air Conditioner is clean. In the heat of the summer you should hose it off at least once a day. Keeping your equipment cool helps keep your house cool!

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  27. I can save money on utility bills every month. I know it is better for energy savings. Sometimes I choose, rather foolishly, fashion over function. love that it not only saves me money but also helps the environment, too. When you have a fixture and the bulb shows, I think it takes away from the look of it. That’s a great tip to plug everything into a power strip. It’s crazy how many things we have running on electricity.

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