Monday, February 11, 2008

Electric Bill Update: Energy Vampires & Power Hijacks?

Seeking an answer to my high electric bill, I turned to fellow bloggers, who offered an assortment of suggestions and several plausible conspiracies.

My favorite: The Electric Hijack theory. For example, Marsha Perry from (, shared a story about a friend who suffered through a cold winter with a minimum of heat to save and her bill didn't go down. She discovered she ''was being billed for her neighbor's electric use,'' Perry told me in a written comment.

Meanwhile, a neighbor's electric bill shook me up. It was only half of what mine was even though our households and lifestyles are similar. Both homes include three children, pets and lots of appliances in comparable three-bedroom apartments. Her children occasionally sleep with the lights on. But my teen/tween household has lots of high-tech gadgets. Those differences, I figure, cancel each other out.

I presented that hijack scenario to FPL spokeswoman Sharon Bennett. Bennett didn't laugh and pointed out that an FPL technician can conduct an onsite audit that includes checking the meter.

I have requested an onsite audit, a service available to all consumers. In the meantime, Bennett provided a list of potential energy-draining culprits in my home:

The refrigerator. Yes, I confessed, we have an older fridge. That appliance, Bennett said, may be using 10 times more energy than my neighbor's newer unit. Given the huge difference between our respective bills, the monthly savings from a lower electric bill would pay for a new fridge in about two months. Bottom line: even though the landlord is responsible for the appliances in my rental apartment, it may be in my best interest to purchase a new fridge.

The air conditioning unit. Last summer, Bennett replaced the 14-year-old AC unit in her home with an upgraded system. ''It immediately knocked $50 off my electric bill,'' she told me.

Standby power: Beware of little green, yellow and red eyes that glow in the dark from all of the appliances around our homes. ''Those are the energy vampires,'' Bennett said. ``Even though you're sleeping, they're consuming energy.''

This is from my latest column in the home & design section of the Miami Herald.


Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in June of 2008 by DPL Press.



Marsha said...

Best wishes on the energy audit! Please let us know what happens.

Mark A. said...

Also interested in the audit. I'm putting together a central resource for saving energy: