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View Full Version : Wow, huge power bill (again!) - tips to lower it?


nbodyhome
07-05-2006, 12:08 PM
I am not sure why our power bill has gone up so much over the past two months. It has been hot here (I live in Florida), but I am at home most of the day and don't run the air for most of that, I keep the blinds shut - except for 2 of them, partly open for one of our cats. We put the air on a bit when my husband gets home, and more when we go to sleep - but never below maybe 75. I keep it around 82 during the day.

We don't take long showers, I run the washer/dryer a little more often now that my husband isn't wearing shorts to work (jeans, which take up a lot more room in our washer/dryer). We live in a 2 bedroom apartment, 1200 - 1300 square feet, and I have never had power bills as high as we have now ($175 last month, $225 this month). I know power costs are up, but so are the kilowatt hours.

What have you all done to save money?, I am not sure if our apartment can lower our water heater thermostat or not. I don't run lights everywhere in the house, I do run a little more dishes and a little more laundry. Our kilowatt hours are up from 44 ot 56 for this time last year (per day). I can't imagine an extra load of dishes sometimes and running the washer/dryer a little more often is having that type of increase (from what I've read online, looking at what costs are associated with what items).

I know power is a relative bargain, it's about the same price as a value size meal at McDonalds even when it's expensive, but I'd love to see it go down again! I appreciate more my very thrifty roommate of a couple of years ago, who wouldn't even run the air at night - our power bills were like $50 - $70 per month!

minnie1928
07-05-2006, 12:21 PM
I stopped running my circulator fan when I'm not at home. It cut my bill by about $30 compared to this time last year. Is your computer running all day? If so, change the settings so that it goes to sleep after a preset period of time. Do you have a big, old monitor? We had a large monitor (21" I think) that looked like a TV. We donated it and got a smaller, flat screen monitor and our electric bill dropped something like $20+ dollars.

Also, go and get some flourescent light bulbs. They cost less to run and generate less heat.

KelNottAt
07-05-2006, 12:31 PM
The first thing I'd recommend is to ask your electric company to put you on budget billing. They'll bill you the same amount each month...the average of your last 12 months. During some parts of the year you'll have a credit, during others your acct will have a deficit. But it all evens out in the end.

For other tips, pick up the July issue of Real Simple magazine. A pretty good list of ways to cut your energy bill is found on page 99. Here are some exerpts:


Replace regular incandescent bulbs and fixtures with Energy Star–qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), available at most hardware stores. CFLs cast a warmer glow than the cold, harsh fluoros of old. They cost more than regular bulbs, but they use 70 percent less energy, last much longer (10,000 hours, compared with 750), and look just as good.

Use task lighting. (You wouldn’t refrigerate the whole house to keep your food cold, would you?) One exception: If you have a torchère-style halogen lamp anywhere, get rid of it. It probably runs a 300-watt bulb and heats up to about 970 degrees.

Install dimmers on all bulbs to save energy and extend their life. Timers work well for front-door and security-related lights; sensors, which turn on lights only when needed, are ideal for outdoors. Solar-powered outdoor lights (www.solarilluminations.com has a wide selection) are an energy-free option.

Don’t underestimate the power of daylight. Use skylights and well-placed mirrors to reflect natural light and help reduce lighting costs.

Potential Savings: At least $90 a year.

Unplug DVD players and TVs, or plug them all into a power strip you can switch off. Sixty to 80 percent of the electricity they use is consumed while they’re idle, powering light displays and “instant on” features (such as the remote’s ability to talk to the TV).

Unplug “wall warts,” or plugs attached to a black transformer box (like a cell-phone charger). If they are plugged into an outlet, they are sucking up electricity whether charging another device or not.

Ideally, unplug or turn off your computer when it’s not in use. If you can’t do this, use its power-saving sleep mode, which uses 60 to 80 percent less energy than full-power mode. Visit www.energystar.gov to learn how to activate your computer’s power-saving mode or to download free software that enables these options on computers that don’t have them. At the very least, turn your monitor off instead of using a screensaver.

Turn off printers, copiers, and fax machines when they’re not in use. Don’t rely on sleep mode.

Potential Savings: As much as $175 a year.

Replace an old refrigerator. One made before 1993 could be costing $140 a year in electricity. Even refrigerators built between 1993 and 2001 cost about $60 a year to run. A new Energy Star–rated model runs on about $20 worth of electricity. A new $600 refrigerator will last for decades and could pay for itself in less than five years. For efficient chilling, keep the refrigerator full, remove things stored on top of it, and clean the condenser coils annually.

Replace a top-loading washing machine with a front-loader, which generally uses 50 percent less energy and a third less water. With those savings, it will pay for itself in six years and should last for 10.

Do several loads of laundry in one stint every week, and dry the loads back-to-back to capture residual heat in the dryer.

Run only full dishwasher loads. The most efficient machines use a third of the water of hand washing. About 80 percent of a dishwasher’s energy use goes to heating water. Select “unheated air-drying” to cut that by 12 percent.

Potential Savings: $400 a year.

nbodyhome
07-05-2006, 12:32 PM
I work on my laptop all day, so that is the only computer on. The other computers are in sleep mode. We don't run much as far as lights - the kitchen light is on in the evening, and the computer room when my husband is in there. It is rare for us to have more than 2 lights on. Also, I run most of my laundry on cold, I run them now on short cycles, as I do my dishes. I try also to stop the dryer before it stops itself, since the clothes tend to be dry 10 - 15 minutes before it is done. I don't always get to that, though.

I can't even imagine what someone elses power bill would be if they ran all this stuff all day!

I don't tend to run the ceiling fan during the day, though I know that is supposed to be cheap. I also don't have the heat on for drying the dishes. I really feel like I'm pretty frugal as far as electricity (though maybe it's just because it's 90+ degrees out and hot). (sigh). :)

Thanks for the last tips - maybe at least I can shave a couple of bucks off. I just can't see where that $50 more came from last month to this month, I made some good changes during that time (like the short cycles of dishes/laundry).

DisneyGerry
07-05-2006, 12:34 PM
I have BGE in Maryland and there prices have been going up crazy.

I bought a hybrid car a couple of months back--where is the hybrid house?

Gerry

nbodyhome
07-05-2006, 12:40 PM
I just looked at last years bill, and it seems that the next months bill (for July 2005) was about $175. I guess that corresponds to this years for June, we just may have it really hot here - and fuel prices are up. Any tips are helpful, though. I can't wait for a couple of more months, when our bills go down.

azgal81
07-05-2006, 12:49 PM
I can't say enough about getting on the average yearly plan. I pay 52 bucks year round and here in AZ it's very hot in the summer so I do feel your pain.

Maybe the apartment air conditionar is old and not really working that well??? I would run your ceiling fans the cost I believe is pennies and it will help cool down the place faster so you don't have to run the A/C as much.

Do you have energy saving appliances?? I know my dishwasher is energy saving it has the little star on it and I never run the heated dry!

They have light bulbs that are energy saving as well those might help.

I have dark screens on my windows as well which really helps with keeping the place cool although you might not be able to do that since you live in an apartment.

Sounds like you are doing everything right. I would check out your A/C unit.

thelittlemermaid
07-05-2006, 12:53 PM
I hate to admit this, but our electric bill is usually around $130-$140 a month cause of DH's hobby.

He has a 300 gallon saltwater/reef aquarium that has ALOT of equipment hooked up to it. The lights he has to have for this thing is the real killer!

If it wasn't for that thing our electric bill would be much more bearable. Well, maybe not for this summer. Our C/A has been running quite a bit cause I'm 37 weeks pregnant {will be 38 weeks tomorrow} and it has been pretty hot here.

At least today it's not to bad, so I turned it off. I'm not looking forward to seeing the bill next month. Maybe they should send it now, that way the shock will put me into labor. ;)

Feralpeg
07-05-2006, 01:03 PM
Can you have your air conditioning unit serviced? I live in Orlando in a 2300 square foot all electric home. I keep the air on all the time. During the day it is at 73 and at night 70. My last bill was $215. Your bill sounds way out of line.

Two thing that I can think of could be causing this. Your air conditioner may be working improperly. Or, you say you live in an apartment. Could something else be hooked into your electric meter that doesn't belong? I once lived in a townhouse. The electric jumped from less than $100 a month to over $400 in one month. I found out that the tennis court lights for the complex were hooked to my meter. During the winter months, no one used the courts. Once the weather turned nice, they started using the lights and it all went on my bill.

Good luck!

Ali
07-05-2006, 01:16 PM
I want to know how you live in Orlando and don't run your AC constantly... We live 52 miles from WDW, and a 3 bedroom older house and we have power bills this summer in the mid $300 range - and it seems to be all AC, which is set at 75 all the time. It never stops runnning. It is so hot outside I feel like I am about to faint sometimes when I walk outside. And if I don't run the AC at 75, but put it at 77, it runs harder and harder getting up to 84 in here quickly. I probably should get a new AC unit...

So what's your secret to living in Florida without AC on....

nbodyhome
07-05-2006, 01:22 PM
I can ask the main office about our air conditioner, and I was wondering as far as the high bill also (if we were paying anyone elses stuff). But except for summer, our bills are low - closer to $100.

The apartments aren't old - so the air, fridge, everything shouldn't be older than about 1999.

As far as how I live in FL - it wasn't a good idea with my roommate to keep the air off all day as it did get hot in the apt, but here it isn't so bad (I do keep most everything shut). I could manage at night without air, but my husband can't. At night it is in the 70's outside, just humid. It isn't as bad as my car - which has no real air conditioning, and I sometimes have to turn the heat on if I'm stuck in traffic to keep it from overheating (hopefully not now that I just had a radiator flush). Try having it 92 outside with the heat on! :)

Disneefun
07-05-2006, 01:29 PM
If your bill seems way out of line compared to other months, see if the power company will come test your meter. Sometimes faulty meters trigger weird bills. Especially if your meter is older or very new (we just went through a thing where they installed all new meters around here and it turned out that something like one out of every five was bad -- just faulty off the manufacturers floor -- people were getting bills for like $1000 when their normal bill was $75). So if it seems very odd, you might want to call them and have them come take a look.

Chicago526
07-05-2006, 01:53 PM
Call your power company and ask if they charge less for off-peak times, and if so when are those times? My parents live in AZ and durring the hot months electric is much cheaper over night. They run most of the appliances then (laundry, dishwasher, etc.) to help cut down the bill.

dturner
07-05-2006, 02:01 PM
I live in Texas but also live in an apartment around 1,250 square feet. Been living in the same place for the last 6 years and last year was the first year I ever had an electricity bill over $400.00.

Since then, I had management take away the washer/dryer that I was renting from them and bought new ones; had them put freon in the air conditioner; I unplug all little appliances; leave my thermostat on 78 all the time; I run all the ceiling fans 24/7; computer and one TV are on all day long.....I just got the bill for this last month and it's $305.00.........I still have two months of very hot weather and I'm assuming next month I'll be right up there near $400.00 again.

It's just hot.........I'm not sure there is anything else I can do but go on the average billing thing...........my lowest bill is around $200.00, I don't think it's ever been lower then $200.00.

nbodyhome
07-05-2006, 04:53 PM
Wow, $400! I can't even imagine that.

The main thing that is a problem I guess is the air - that is the only item that really has changed over the past few months. I run a little more laundry, but not that much! I don't overdo the air at all, and it mostly just runs in the evening. Perhaps they can check the unit and make sure it's running okay.

DisneyGerry
07-05-2006, 05:11 PM
Mine from BGE (Baltimore Gas and Elec) is now $387 and that is under the 'budget' plan when they make all payments the same for the year?

summerrluvv
07-05-2006, 05:14 PM
You don't have access to your hot water heater? Ours is in the little storage thingy off our patio. I've turned my up and down and all around :D Our electric "budget" plan just went up to $141 a month, and I suspect it will go up more. We have gas heat/cooking/dryer though, so that's just the electricity. I live in a townhouse and it gets hot upstairs so I leave the A/C on about 71 at night. My sister insists on sleeping with her TV on all night and is convinced that it doesn't use any electricity....oh and that putting the pants in the dryer to de-wrinkle them daily doesn't use any gas either :lmao:

disneysteve
07-05-2006, 05:29 PM
I work on my laptop all day, so that is the only computer on. The other computers are in sleep mode.
Almost any electrical item draws some power when it is plugged in. If your computer is in sleep mode, it is using power. If your microwave has a clock, it is drawing power. Same for your VCR, DVD player, stereo, etc. Any devices with remote controls draw power even when off - otherwise you wouldn't be able to turn them on with the remote. In our modern electronic homes, even when everything is off, but plugged in, our electic meters continue spinning. You can save a measurable amount by unplugging appliances when they aren't in use.

englishteacha
07-05-2006, 05:46 PM
Can you hang some of your laundry to dry? That could help. I have a folding drying rack and my shower curtain rod I use in the winter, and my outdoor clotheslines in summer. When our old dryer was on the fritz, I could fit an extra large load of wash on the drying rack and hanging from hangers on the shower rod. It was during winter, with the heat on, so they dried pretty much overnight. Summer in FL might take a little longer, but it could help! I'd also have your AC checked (maybe the filter needs cleaning?) and vacuum your fridge coils, just to make sure you're running as efficiently as possible.

pigletforever
07-05-2006, 05:57 PM
If you own your home have your insulation checked. Our bill has been running about 250 under budget pay here in Kansas. We had the insulation checked and discoverd in part of the attic it was the orginal insullation from the 1960's. We are having it replaced as well as insulation blown into the walls. That should help it go down. Did you know the government is offering 500.00 in tax credits for improvements to your home? check out ase dot org for information. It includes tax credits for insulation, new windows, heater, air condtioner - there is a whole list.

Daisysmom
07-05-2006, 07:57 PM
I would do a couple of things like have your meter checked (free), lower the temp on your water heater (you can do this yourself), check your air conditioner filters (are you sure the unit has been serviced recently?), get on the budget plan with the electric company, and something I rarely see suggested any more, air dry some of those clothes. You can buy a cheap wooden rack dryer (folds open and shut) and put quite a bit on it. It can be used inside if you don't have an apartment patio or outdoor area. A trick to having soft and lint free air-dried clothing is to put them in the dryer for about 5 minutes, then put them outside to finish drying.

Remember, any appliance that heats up uses lots of energy. Use those appliances sparingly

Just a few ideas for you :)

vhoffman
07-05-2006, 10:17 PM
Is your hot water heater electric? If so,its a real energy hog. I remember in my apartment days I could barely pay the electric bill. Then I discovered that the electric hot water heater was on my meter and the breaker box was inside my apartment. It took some experimenting to figure which breaker controlled the water heater, but I finally found it. A few other things were on it, just a few lights. I turned it off most of the day, just turned it on a few hours in the evening for shower, dishes, etc. Why do you need a tank of hot water all day if you're not even home? (I was single then). I found that little trick alone saved me about $30 a month.

jennobrn01
07-05-2006, 10:33 PM
You can try the PowerKuff (http://www.powerkuff.com/). Invented by a physician in my hometown. Family and friends have told me it truly works. We are putting ours to the test this month.

PaulaSue
07-05-2006, 11:10 PM
Oh man, I freak when ours is over 100. :sad2:

merekc
07-06-2006, 10:08 AM
Some warnings about the even payment plan:
1. You may be required to stay on it for at least a year.
2. When you move, you are required to pay your account in full. This can hurt if your account is in deficit.

We were on even payment plans with our first house. We joined the electric plan in the winter and several years later moved in the summer. Our plan was counting on having several winter months to help even out our summer electric expenses. Since we moved before this could happen, our final bill came in about 8 times higher than normal. A huge ouch when we weren't expecting it.

If you don't plan to stay in your apartment long, I wouldn't recommend doing an even payment plan. More headache than needed.

I agree with some of the other posters. Ask your apartment people to service your a/c and check to make sure nothing else could be coming on to your bill.

purplegirl247
07-06-2006, 10:22 AM
I agree with the other posts that say your AC or your meter itself may be malfunctioning. To give you an idea, I, too, live in Orlando. Our electric for this month was only $109, and I'm pretty sure that includes water as well (we have OUC, so they take care of stuff other than electric). We live in a two-story, 1200-square-foot townhouse. We turn the AC up to 82 before we leave for work in the morning, and turn it down to 77 once we get home. We run the dishwasher when full, don't use the heat/dry feature, and do laundry twice a week (if possible).

On a related note, I had never thought about all those other appliances sucking down electricity. As soon as I get home today, I'm unplugging all our random chargers and the VCR/DVD players in our spare bedroom! Thanks for the tips! :yay:

dvcgirl
07-06-2006, 10:38 AM
Just looking at our bill, with OUC.... we are slightly under 3,000 sq feet and we keep our AC at 78 during the day, and 73 at night and the electricity portion of our bill was $321.67. We also have two computers and two laptops on at all times (in sleep mode when not being used though). We are pretty vigilant with lights and ceiling fans...off when not in use.

tbelfonti
07-06-2006, 12:12 PM
We were on even payment plans with our first house. We joined the electric plan in the winter and several years later moved in the summer. Our plan was counting on having several winter months to help even out our summer electric expenses. Since we moved before this could happen, our final bill came in about 8 times higher than normal. A huge ouch when we weren't expecting it.



This is a very valid point.

We use the budget plan with our gas bill. It's a 10 month plan where we settle up in May - be it pay the difference or get a refund.

The first year we got hammered with a high bill in May. We learned our lesson and now we make sure that our payment covers the balance on the account so we're never socked with a high bill at once.

KIRSTIN'S MOMMY
07-06-2006, 12:38 PM
Wow, my bill seems really high now compared to all of you! We are on budget billing, and it was at $225/month. The just reviewed it and as of next month it will go up to $248/month. Our air is on at all times (we have pets in the house during the day, one is an older dog who can't take the heat), we have a pool pump going for a couple of hours during the day (which is probably most of it), and the computer is in sleep mode as well. I'm going right now to unplug everything else!

GoofyGirlnPrincessV
07-06-2006, 01:02 PM
and my bill came the other day and it is up too. I looked at the KW amount and we are down from last year. So the cost of electricity is up compared to last year.

I contacted FPL and did a survey online and it gave me some ideas on how to use less power. I also signed up for their "on call" program which means I allow them to shut the power off to certain things like the pool filter for short periods of time. So far it has saved our neighbors some on their bills and never noticed if they have shut the power off.

Here is a good link from FPL: http://www.fpl.com/residential/electric/highbill.shtml?id=alias

shades
07-06-2006, 01:08 PM
Somebody already posted this, but - I'll repeat it because it can make a HUGE difference in how much you run your a/c and how much you pay for it...ensure the apartments change out your a/c filter at least every 6 months - every 3mos is even better!

Also, it's cheaper to keep the temperature steady 24hrs/day rather than trying to cool your apartment down in the evenings.

hezreck
07-06-2006, 01:15 PM
Somebody already posted this, but - I'll repeat it because it can make a HUGE difference in how much you run your a/c and how much you pay for it...ensure the apartments change out your a/c filter at least every 6 months - every 3mos is even better!

Also, it's cheaper to keep the temperature steady 24hrs/day rather than trying to cool your apartment down in the evenings.


My dad sells and works on air conditioning systems and he has always told me to keep it running all the time at an even temp. and don't turn it off and on. It works harder and uses more electricity to keep trying to cool off a hot house. Keep it on all the time and the house doesn't heat up, so the air conditioner runs less. Makes sense. Also, clean the air filter often.

When we built our house 3 years ago, my dad installed geothermal for us. What a godsend! Our electric bill this month was less than $100. AC is on all the time. House is 72 degrees, perfect.

goofyforlife
07-06-2006, 01:20 PM
We change our filters out monthly.... (they're only a couple bucks)

Anyway our bill this month was $75. (august has been our high bill for summer each year around $120)

We keep the A/C set at around 80 all day (sometimes higher if it seems too cool in the house.)

We have a 3 story 2,100 sf townhouse. My DD is forever leaving lights on, my DH leaves his computer running but screen off, and we usually do leave the TV on at night in our bedroom.

I guess we could trim a little more in places...

Is your apt on an upper floor? Since heat rises you might be spending more than say your neighbors below. I know when we lived on a ground floor of a three story building, we barely had to run our a/c since it was cool most of the time.

nbodyhome
07-06-2006, 01:29 PM
The apartment generally changes the air filter monthly - that isn't a problem. I am surprised that it would be cheaper to keep the air going, it seems in the past that it has cost me more to do that. In the evening, I don't have to have the air on as hard because it's not so hot outside (like now its 90 degrees or so, tonight should be in the 70's).

We live on the bottom apt.

purplegirl247
07-06-2006, 01:44 PM
I understand that if you turned your AC all the way off during the day (in Florida, your apartment could easily reach 85 degrees), then cranked it all the way down at night (to 70, for example), that such a wide range would affect your AC working hard. But if you only have a difference of a few degrees, I wouldn't expect it would do much damage, would it? Like nbodyhome said, before I turned the AC up when I was at work, our electric bill was MUCH higher...

blanq
07-06-2006, 05:38 PM
... I also signed up for their "on call" program which means I allow them to shut the power off to certain things like the pool filter for short periods of time. So far it has saved our neighbors some on their bills and never noticed if they have shut the power off.

Here is a good link from FPL: http://www.fpl.com/residential/electric/highbill.shtml?id=alias

Our local utility provides something similar, it is called "savers switch". I would highly recommend everyone check to see if their utility provides something similar. I save 17% (15% for central air and 2% for hot water heater) on summer utility bills by doing nothing. Here is how it works:

Savers switch helps manage summer energy peaks by cutting back just a little on the time your central air cools your home. The switch is installed by an electrician (no cost to the homeowner). This small effort to conserve energy helps the utility to provide reliable electricity and preserve natural resources.

My savers switch gets activated 10 to 15 days at most each year. This cycles my air conditioner off and on at 15- to 20-minute intervals. However, the furnace fan stays on, circulating already-cooled air throughout your home. I don’t even notice when saver’s switch is activated. On control days, saver’s switch is typically activated during the afternoon into early evening – a time when many are likely to be outdoors or not at home.

Also, many utilities will provide a low cost home energy audit. My utility, Xcel Energy, provides a 2 hour audit for $35 and it includes:
Inspection of your home’s attic, insulation, doors, windows, furnace, appliances and other key areas. Analysis of how you can make your home more comfortable and maximize savings on your energy bill. Recommendations for the most cost-effective, energy-saving improvements.

disneysteve
07-06-2006, 06:14 PM
My dad sells and works on air conditioning systems and he has always told me to keep it running all the time at an even temp. and don't turn it off and on. It works harder and uses more electricity to keep trying to cool off a hot house. Keep it on all the time and the house doesn't heat up, so the air conditioner runs less.
With all due respect to your father, this simply isn't true. It is an incredibly common myth. We actually had this same discussion here last year about setting back the heater, but the theory is the same for air conditioning. We actually had an engineer post a very clear scientific explanation of why this is true. And I posted info from the US Dept. of Energy. If I can find it, I'll post it.

ETA: Here is the thread: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=982641&page=2&pp=15&highlight=heat

Busy B
07-11-2006, 10:56 AM
To DisneySteve:

During the day I have my AC set to 83 and in the afternoon when my DH comes home I bump it down to 79. 79 is as low as it ever gets in my house. So from what your saying, that is the best way to do it?

disneysteve
07-11-2006, 11:35 AM
To DisneySteve:

During the day I have my AC set to 83 and in the afternoon when my DH comes home I bump it down to 79. 79 is as low as it ever gets in my house. So from what your saying, that is the best way to do it?
That sounds fine. My point was that it isn't necessary to keep the AC (or the heat) on the same temp all the time. It does not save energy. And it does not overwork the unit to raise the temp during the day and lower it when you get home - it actually saves energy. So what you are doing is fine.

nuzmom
07-11-2006, 11:49 AM
I'd also have your AC checked (maybe the filter needs cleaning?) and vacuum your fridge coils, just to make sure you're running as efficiently as possible.
Haven't yet read the whole thread, but this is GREAT advice!!!! If you haven't yet, do this now.