Friday, January 25, 2008

Our Light Bill Doubles Neighbor's: Contest for Reduction Tips!

Our neighbor's monthly electric bill is only half as much as our bill. We're stunned. Our stats are very similar: Both families consist of three kids in a three-bedroom apartment, with lights constantly going on and off. In fact, my neighbor has much younger children, including a pre-schooler. And those little kids often go to sleep with their bedroom lights on. Still that family's bill is so much lower than ours! We have even converted many of our light bulbs to energy-saving CFLs.

There are other families in our apartment building with juiced up electric bills. In our case, we think that the air conditioning unit-- used year-round in Florida -- is the culprit. It's an older unit that may work less efficiently than the newer AC units in the building.

Our dog also runs in and out to the balcony and we could be overtaxing our aging AC unit by constantly opening the sliding glass doors. Oh well.

Earlier this week, my teenage son and I tried to play energy detectives. My son pointed to all of the little standby lights -- on the microwave, on the computer printer -- that are apparently draining our account. We shut down as many green lights as possible. We also found another drain: a pretty glass and wood display case with a cabinet light that's constantly on. That cabinet is now dark. For special occasions, we'll turn the small bulb back on.

Our computers -- usually running -- may also be costing us lots of money. We have three computers in our house, but our neighbor with the lower bill has just one PC. I'm on the computer all day and most of the night and the other two systems are also fired up for homework and entertainment.

When we sleep, we often put the PCs in a sleep or standby mode. That habit will change. We're going to be more diligent about shutting down every system and disconnecting all of the standby lights.

I will also request an energy audit from our electric company. I'm appalled that we're wasting so much money and energy. So please help out. Have you dramatically cut your light bill? If so, please leave a comment with your tips or send me an email.
I'll ship out a bundle of three business books (review copies) to the person who provides me with the best suggestions.



Amy said...

Wow! That really stinks that you guys have such a variation in your electric bills. I hope that you can get an audit in your area because they no longer offer audits in our area.

First, does your electric company offer a budget plan? Do you do that? That at least helps to anticipate how much your bill will be each month. We did the budget plan and have been pleasantly surprised at having some money leftover at the end of the year. The past two years we have had two or three months where we didn't even have to pay a bill. That helped a lot.

You can also get a plug-in energy monitor that can tell you how much energy items are taking up in your home. We are thinking of purchasing one of these to see what needs to be shut down at night and what is taking the most energy in our house. Our home is older so we can usually tell (For example, the lights dim if we use our laser printer) when something is sucking a lot of energy out of our home.

Good luck with your quest and I will be anxious to see how you solve the energy crisis ;)

Anonymous said...

One of my friends had a horrible problem with her electric bill. She did everything she could to try and cut down costs. She lived in Idaho at the time. And of course this problem happened in the middle of the fierce Idaho winter. She ended up being uncomfortably cold and still the bill didn't go down.

Later she discovered that there was a problem with the power meters. She was being billed for her neighbor's electric use! Once she was billed for her own power usage the problem went away.

Unknown said...

I've cut my electric bill by disconnecting all the energy-suckers, including the TV, when I'm not using them. I also work on a laptop, which I charge and then use unplugged. The other thing I've done is to turn off the lights in every room whenever I leave the room. I read something where the guy did this -- he even turned off the TV if he went into the kitchen for a minute -- and saved around $20 a month. I decided to see if this really made a difference. What I found was that I really was leaving a surprising amount of lights on in unused rooms. The whole effort cut my electricity bill from around $105 to around $90 a month. That's in the winter -- in the summer, hanging clothes to dry rather than using the dryer makes a huge difference. It sounds to me, though, as if there is definitely something up with your meter or your air conditioner -- if you're paying twice as much there's really something wrong there.

Anonymous said...

I did a post about going green recently and found out a number of things:

Water heaters account for 13 percent of utility bill. Is yours electric?

Laptops use 50% less energy.

Try bigger loads of laundry or use cold water when washing clothes more frequently.

Set your frig for 37 degress and your freezer for 3 degrees.

Good luck!

Jenny said...


We've made an effort to unplug things, ie: microwave, can opener, etc. Instead of the cellphone rechargers sitting there plugged in we now unplug as soon as we're done recharging.

It's hard for us this time of year because it is so cold and the furnace doubles our electric bill during the winter.

Good Luck!!

Jenny in Maine
MY BLog:

Unknown said...

I live in Florida too and have managed to cut our electric bill. Since you said you are in an apartment I don't know if these things can be done feasibly but here are some ideas:

1. Is your ac unit in direct sunlight? We built a cover for ours out of 2 X 4 posts and a piece of plywood. The air the unit sucks in is now cooler and therefore the unit works more efficiently.

2. Religiously change your ac filters.

3. Is your hot water heater accessible? If so make sure it is set at no more than 110 degrees. We bought a water heater timer and blanket at lowes and now it is off most of the day. this alone lowered our bill $25 a month.

4. I charge my kids $.25 each time I have to turn a light off after them.

5. My kids and I make it a game to lower our bill each month. When the bill comes in, I split the amount between them for an addition to their allowance. So, if this months bill was $12 cheaper than last month, I get $6 (for debt snowball) and they each get $2 more in their allowance.

hope these ideas will work for you,


Anonymous said...

It turns out some computers use more energy when they're turned off, but plugged in, than when they are in sleep mode. You may want to do the research to see whether that's true for computers before you shut them down thinking it'll save energy and money. It could cost you instead.

Or you could plug them into power strips, and turn off the power strip when you've shut down the computer.