Anyhow, lately I have noticed a TON of people asking how to lower their electrical bills. Some of them I have run into at work, others I see on facebook, or online in general.
So, I figured that since I was typing the same things over and over and over, I would just go ahead and type it ONE MORE TIME and then just share a link.
So, with no further ado,
TRICKS TO LOWER YOUR POWER BILLS
All household appliances use quite a bit of electricity, whether it's the AC or the washing machine. The older the appliance is, the more electricity it will use. If any of your appliances are really old (say more than 10 years old) than they probably use BOATLOADS of electricity. If you are able to, slowly replace them with newer models as finances allow. It can make a difference.
The Air Conditioner: I dread summer power bills. We're all electric, which helps, but man. Usually around June, my power bill doubles. It's awful. We literally bake in hell for days before deciding to bite the bullet and just turn the damn thing on. And the bill doubles or even TRIPLES. We rent an apartment, so our hands are pretty much tied on most things, but there are a few things we do to help ease the pain.
1.) Turn off the AC. Seriously. Unless it is above 80 degrees in the house, you really don't need to run it. Wear less clothing, and wear loose clothing. Heck, wear a bathing suit if you need to. Nothing pisses me off more than being cold enough to need to grab a blanket and hearing the AC running. If you are cold, you are WASTING money. I typically keep my AC set to 78-80 in the summer and my heat set to 65-68 in the winter. Check the weather forecast and see if it will be cool and relatively low humidity during the night and turn off the AC and open the windows up. If the humidity is high, you will be miserable and sweaty, run the AC.
2.) Clean your AC if it's older than 5 years. Consider replacing it if it's older than 15. I've read it should be at 10 years, but honestly, that is a big damn purchase. Cleaning it will give it new life. You can find out how to clean it here. It's good to clean it every couple of years. You will also want to look at the area around it. Are there bushes closer than 3 feet from the AC? Pinestraw building up around it? Vines? Clear it all away. All of that stuff can choke the life out of the AC. It needs to breathe. My parents unit is up on a concrete slab, but there is wild honey suckle that is constantly growing into it in the spring. My suggestion is to trim away any bushes (or remove them if they aren't particularly important to you) and completely clear a 3 foot radius around the AC unit. You can use a glyphosate pesticide (Round-Up is the name brand for this) to kill everything green there (make sure you spray it on the leaves, spraying cut down stuff isn't going to kill the roots) if you accept the health risks (pregnant and nursing women probably shouldn't use this stuff. It's bad news. Use standard pesticide safety gear: respirator, goggles, long sleeve shirt, long pants, closed shoes, chemical safe gloves, and if this stuff gets on your skin, rinse it off with the hose IMMEDIATELY.) or you can clear it all away by hand and put down landscaping fabric or 4+ layers of newspaper under mulch/rocks. Another option is Ortho Groundclear. It's also pretty caustic, and if you do it on a hill, it will run off downhill and you will have dead streaks. Even with the mulch down, you will probably have to go back and clear away plants again every year. Pinestraw is pretty light, so I don't recommend putting it around your AC.
3.) Change your air filter. The day you turn on the heat/AC you should change the filter out. While you are actively using the AC/Heat, you should be changing your filter at least every 3 months. And during that time, look at it at least once a month, keep extras on hand and compare--if your filter looks dingy next to a new one, it needs to be changed.
4.) Clean the air intake vents and make sure they have room to actually take in air. If they're covered, the air cannot circulate well and the AC works twice as hard. If they're full of dust, they also have to work harder. My suggestion is to unscrew them and take them outside if they're especially nasty. Hose them down. Shake them dry and either leave them in the sun to dry for a few hours or dry them carefully so they don't rust or get mildewy. Then wipe down the vent fronts with a dryer sheet--it should help keep the dust from sticking as much. Then you can take your brush attachment on your vacuum and vacuum them every time you change your filter (or more often if you want). Move furniture away from them and make sure they have at least a foot clear in all directions around them.
5.) Turn off or down/up the thermostat when you aren't going to be home. Your home will be fine at 88 degrees while you are at work (unless you have pets, don't let it get above 85 for their sakes). The same goes for it getting down to 60 degrees while you aren't home in the winter. There are several programmable thermostats available, and there are even some that can be accessed from your phone while you are away--some of them are part of a system that even allows you to turn on/off lights (so people think someone is home) and you can even set up cameras and check them with your smart phone. Technology is going to damn us all, but man, it's so cool.
6.) Buy a good fan. Or several good fans. We have a window fan I bought on clearance for $5 6 years ago. I figure that's pretty good, because they retail at like $50 normally. I got lucky. Even if you don't get lucky, it's worth getting one, even if it's only 10% or 20% off, definitely take advantage of those end of summer sales. They usually start clearancing summer seasonal stuff after the 4th of July. Irrational is cheap.
I have a fan in each room of my apartment except the kitchen and bathroom. I am trying to establish a "turn off the fan when you leave the room" rule with mixed results. Bunnyworm is pretty good about turning them off, but Daddybeast is BAD. If a fan is running in a room with no one in it, the benefits are lost. Fans cool us because they are constantly moving the air past us, taking our body heat with them. They don't cool rooms, just us. I tend to buy the cheapo 20"x20" box fans most hardware stores and grocery stores sell. They cost like $17. I also go one step further and I use craft wire to wire 20"x20" air filters to them to help cut down on how much is going to my AC filter, and also clean up dust and cat hair. Waffles might have short hair, but I swear he sheds twice as much as Diva and Bjorn together and they have long hair. I'm asthmatic, so every little bit helps. It also keeps as much crud from building up on the fan.
Ceiling fans are great too. If you own your place or your landlord doesn't care, install ceiling fans. Just make sure you don't leave them running.
7.) Oh yeah, and clean your fan. Our window fan wasn't doing jack shit for most of the spring until Daddybeast took it apart and we cleaned the dust and gunk out of it. Every fan will eventually get this, so get in the habit of cleaning them and you will see an increase in efficiency and lower your bills too. They even make telescoping ceiling fan cleaners to simplify your life.
The Dishwasher: I love my dishwasher. I hate doing dishes by hand. I hate high power bills even more. As with all appliances, if it's old, consider replacing it. Here's what else I've found:
1.) Turn off Heat Dry. It runs a risk of melting things anyway. Leave your dishwasher open to let it air dry or dry the dishes by hand. That heat dry is an electricity hog.
2.) Clean your dishwasher. They make dishwasher cleaners, but I've found that running a load of dishes with a cup of vinegar on the top rack at least once a week does wonders. If you need something a little stronger, try getting some fruit fresh (the powder used to help preserve fruits) and fill up the pre-wash and run. I'm cheap, so I never just run an empty dishwasher. Just throw the stuff in with a normal load of dishes. It's just ascorbic acid (vitamin c!) and it can't hurt you.
3.) Fill that bastard up. Why waste water and electricity washing half a load?! If you need a dish NOW then wash it by hand and save the electricity.
The Washing Machine: I sadly do not own one of these. My mom does though. And I use them A LOT at the coin laundry. My grandmother (may she rest in peace until it's time to reincarnate) was born in Santiago, Chile and she had 7 kids (4 in Chile and 3 here in the US). She told me she didn't have a washing machine until her kids had all graduated from high school. She told me this when I told her "I hate doing laundry." She told me she would get up and cook breakfast and start the laundry. By lunch time it was usually ready to hang up, and then she'd start dinner, and then bring in the laundry. That sounds pretty miserable. Granted that the older kids were capable of helping out. Heck, my oldest aunt practically raised the kids born in the US. Pretty humbling. After Bunnyworm was born, I did laundry by hand for 9 months--until I went back to work, because we didn't have any extra cash to go to the laundromat. I still have the clotheslines on my 3rd story back porch. Praise the gods for washing machines.
1.) Wash in cold water. A lot of clothing is ruined by hot water anyway. If you can possibly get away with it, use cold water.
2.) Clean your washing machine. Just like your bath tub, your washing machine will get soap scum build up. It *might* get a smell that stays in your clothes (my moms old washer she had growing up had this. It was so gross.) I like to run vinegar through the machine. I tend to put 1/2 a cup in each load to remove odors anyway (Daddybeast is...fragrant. Plus Waffles will pee in my dirty laundry basket if his boxes aren't clean enough), and this will help to clean out the machine. You can get detailed instructions (such as they are) here. I've found a clean washing machine is much more forgiving about having the clothes left in overnight. You might not have to run them again.
3.) Run large loads, but don't over fill. This is something I'm particularly guilty of. I want to be DONE already. So I overload. But this effects the operation of the washer. First, your clothes might not get as clean. Second, the agitator might rip something if the machine is over loaded. Third, it can seriously BREAK your washing machine. At the same time, it's really a waste to wash small loads. If you need 1 or 2 things, consider breaking out a bar of laundry soap (I love Zote Soap! The White Bar smells like lemons! <3 ) and wash them by hand.
4.) Empty the thing *promptly*. Another thing I'm really guilty of, or used to be guilty of when I lived with my parents, was leaving shit in the washing machine for long periods of time. This does several things. The most obvious (and lightly touched on) fact is that your clothes might need to be run again, wasting water and power. Once the mold smell is in them, it can be pretty hard to get it out (vinegar to the rescue!). This can also make your washing machine mildew faster, requiring more frequent cleaning. It's just gross. Empty it.
The Dryer: I mentioned my wonderful Grandmother earlier. She died this past January and I feel her absence painfully sharply. She had had this dryer. This thing. This ancient relic for as long as I can remember. I'm 28 at the time of writing this. My aunt has the damn thing now. It doesn't latch shut, but you can use a broom handle (and my grandmother did, rest assured) to keep it shut. Washing machines came and went, but this fucker is eternal. And tiny. Seriously. She had a large washer and a small dryer. And I hated it. But she showed me a thing or two.
1.) Hang things up. My grandmother was a big fan of hanging up laundry in the sun to dry. It got the stains out. It was "cheap as free". And with her tiny dryer, you could either wait for each of the 3 loads (seriously, it took 3 damn loads to dry everything from one load from her washing machine) to dry, or you could hang everything that wouldn't fit up. Sure this makes for crispy towels, but my grandmother had another secret. Once the first load gets dry, pull things down and throw them in. They'll dry quicker. She also shook things out before putting them in "to make sure there is air in them so they dry faster." The last load took no time at all to dry, or simply didn't need it. Towels and blue jeans take forever to dry. Hang them for a while and watch the time to dry reduce significantly.
2.) Clean the dryer duct. Or replace it. Whatever. That thing is going to start a fire if you aren't careful. Plus, a clogged up nasty linty duct puts a lot of stress on dryers and makes them work harder. Harder uses more power. Here is how to clean your dryer duct. Also, make sure the vent on the (hopefully) outside of your home isn't blocked by bushes or anything. It needs space. Make sure the vent opens too. If its stuck shut, replace it. They're cheap.
Small note. My mother's dryer vents into her crawlspace. This is BAD. I've been on her for a while about getting it vented to the outside of the house, but she's been putting it off. If your dryer doesn't vent outside, it could be filling your house with carbon monoxide (if you have a gas dyer) and IS filling your house with dryer lint which is *highly* flammable. You want to get that duct rerouted ASAP. Plus, it's only filling your living space with warm air. That's nice in the winter, but pure hell in the summer.
3.) Clean the lint trap screen. Use a tooth brush and some dish soap and some elbow grease. Rinse all the soap off, and allow to dry before putting it back into the dryer. Easy peasy.
4.) Vacuum *under* the dryer. You'd be amazed at what accumulates there and it could cause your dryer to over heat and combust. This is bad.
5.) Make sure it has room to breathe. Sure, laundry rooms are cramped and space is at a premium, but you need to make sure the dryer is getting enough air circulation or it is going to over heat and if you are lucky, only stop working. My other grandmother (she is still with us, and is my mom's mom) had this happen once. As in, her dryer caught on FIRE.
Refrigerator: My dad's mom called this the "fridgerator" and my mom's mom still confuses the hell out of everyone by calling it "the ice box". Whatever you call it, it's almost guaranteed that you have one, and it is constantly running to keep your food from spoiling. Gramma White (mom's mom) has 3 of the damn things, full of food from the beginning of time. One of them is older than I am. I keep telling her it's got to go, but she won't listen.
1.) Make sure your fridge portion isn't set too cold. If your milk freezes or things set on the top rack are always a little frozen, your fridge is set too high. This damages things like strawberries and lettuce, as if strawberries NEEDED an excuse to go bad. If stuff is getting ice crystals in it, try turning the temperature up a bit and wait 48 hours, and check for ice crystals again. Repeat until you find the optimum temperature (this is usually marked on the thermostat, but can be wrong if the fridge is old or just sucks).
2.) Don't over fill it. If it's over full, food is going to spoil, and you won't see it and it will stink and get rancid and horrible and then SOMEONE (else) is going to have to clean it up. Plus the air can't circulate in the fridge, and some items will be warmer than others (specifically the ones on the bottom shelf in the back, while your top shelf will be frozen to compensate.) and food will spoil faster. Make sure items aren't all crammed in on each other and the air can circulate.
3.) Audit the stuff in your fridge. Lots of stuff doesn't even have to be refrigerated. If it doesn't have to be there, store it somewhere else. This handy video from Buzzfeed lists some of them. (I <3 you, buzzfeed).
Once you've removed everything unnecessary from the fridge, and especially if your family is anything like mine, you will want to go through and throw anything old and nasty away. If it's mushy, toss it. If it's moldy, REALLY toss it. If no one remembers what it is, toss it. If it's expired, toss it. If it's *almost* expired, use it immediately or toss it. Be honest, you're going to forget about it for another 6 months if you don't and that's nasty.
4.) Clean the insides. Once you've gotten everything old or unnecessary out, it's time to clean the fridge. Honestly, you might as well just take everything out when you audit it and clean the fridge, and THEN put things back in. This is a devilishly clever way to make cleaning your fridge easy. Seriously. Click the link. You won't be disappointed.
5.) Clean the back. UNPLUG the fridge and vacuum the back coils. The food will be fine for the brief 10 minutes or so you are cleaning the back. You wouldn't want all that dust to catch fire, would you?
6.) Repeat everything for the freezer. If you have an ice maker, consider dumping out the ice and running the reservoir through the dishwasher.
Oven/Stove: I grew up with a gas stove, and to this day, I still instinctively know how to get the bastard to light when I cook dinner at my mom's. When I moved out, I had to adjust to an electric stove. And I've recently learned more about it. Now, as a child my moms oven did not work. The broiler worked, and that was great if you wanted to broil some fish or whatever, but broilers burn cookies and that is no bueno. It wasn't until I moved out that I really learned how to use an oven properly. My oven now doesn't even have a timer on it. It is old as shit, the range on top only half works, and I can tell the thing has been in a fire (hooray for apartments) because one day when cooking broccoli, all the paint they put on it to make it look new ran off into my pot. I called the leasing office to complain and they offered to repaint it. No thank you. Anyhow.
1.) Clean EVERYTHING. Just do it. (You don't want a fire, do you?) Dawn Powerclean is awesome if they still make it (I haven't been able to find it in a while...) at getting cooked on grime off. Just soak the drip bowls and anything else removable that is nasty in the powerclean, or simply sudsy water.
The surfaces that can't be submerged are a bit harder. ***UNPLUG YOUR STOVE FIRST*** or turn the gas off. Whichever applies. Then take paper towels layered about 4 layers thick and dunk them in the sudsy water and lay them out over the gunky surfaces. Give it a few hours, spritzing the paper towels with water periodically to keep them damp.
Then you will need to break out the chore boy or whatever and scrub and scrub. Use plastic, not metal. Metal scratches. Scratches will rust. This is bad. For really tough bad patches, you might want to break out the scraper (I'm not the only one who keeps a 5 in 1 tool in their kitchen, am I?)
You can use store bought cleaners specifically for cleaning ranges if you want, that's on you. I'm CHEAP.
As for the oven, fill a pan with vinegar and water and run at 400 degrees (glass or ceramic is best, vinegar does bad things to metal) for a while. Then turn off the oven, let cool to tolerably hot, and then scrub scrub scrub. Or buy caustic oven cleaner, just wear gloves (that shit is bad news).
2.) Change the heating elements if they aren't heating evenly (if parts are bright red and others are black this is a clue) or are warped. You will notice that your elements are hot much faster, and are using the same amount of power much more efficiently. This of course, is only for electric stoves that don't have glass tops or whatever.
3.) Don't run your oven when it's hot as shit outside. Seriously. Why would you do this? Summer days are for cold cuts on bread or maybe using the crock pot. Wait until the sun goes down to run your oven during the summer. In the winter? Go for it. Use the hell out of that oven. Heck, in 1993 we had a blizzard in Georgia and my parents power went out (I was 8) and my stepfather turned on the damn broiler (because the oven proper didn't work, but the broiler did!) and ran that with the door open to heat the kitchen while we ate meals. We spent a lot of time in that kitchen because the power was out for days. This of course, only works on gas ovens.
Microwaves: Ours broke. It would run if it was plugged in, no matter what. We threw it away. We haven't had one since. Sometimes it's not a big deal, but sometimes I really miss my microwave.
1.) Clean your microwave. Put vinegar in a mug and run it. Then wipe out the insides.
2.) Space your food out on your plate before putting it in the microwave. We've all gotten food out of the microwave that was simultaneously scalding hot and ice cold. Microwaves cook from the inside out. Space your food out on your plate so it cooks more evenly and faster.
Water heaters: This one is tricky because a water heater will for real burn your house down or blow up if you wrong it. Hire a plumber if you are going to fiddle with one. Seriously. You could die.
1.) Make sure dust and shit isn't pooling around the water heater. I cannot stress this enough, especially if it is a gas heater. Make sure there is nothing around the water heater at all.
2.) There is usually a hose spigot on the front of the water heater. Drain the heater 1-2 times a year using a garden hose. Run the house out your front door or whatever. Sediment and stuff gets caught in the bottom of your water heater. Draining it periodically cleans that out and helps extend the life of the water heater and helps it run more efficiently.
3.) Go tankless. I'll be honest and say I don't know a whole bunch about this, but it's supposed to be so much better than a tanked water heater. Ask a plumber or go into your local hardware store and ask someone who works in plumbing (don't ask the cashiers, they will not know).
4.) Insulate your water heater. I'm going from memory here, and you should seriously talk to a plumber about this, but if you put insulation on your water heater, it will help keep the water hot longer and the heater won't have to reheat it as often. The other thing you can look for is dielectric heat trap pipe nipples. They exist. Just go into your hardware store and ask where the electric nipple traps are. It should be hilarious.
The House Itself:
The Roof: Shingles typically are meant to last between 20-30 years (there are 40 year shingles, but they are expensive). You need them to be in good shape, or they will leak.
1.) Clean your roof. My parents have pine trees sitting over their house. There is always pinestraw sitting on the roof, letting moisture sit on the shingles and the wood underneath, slowly ruining everything. Clean your roof. If you notice leaves or debris on it, use a rake or push broom to brush that stuff off. Just don't fall.
2.) The color of your roof matters a lot. White shingles require slightly more maintenance (they show dirt and might mildew in high humidity) but they also reflect most of the sun's heat away from your house, causing significant drops in your power bill. They might be hard to find because they are not much sought after which I think is silly. You should be able to get them ordered if your local hardware store or whatever doesn't carry them in stock. A bonus is that a lot of retailers that sell shingles will be more than happy to install them for you (for a price of course.)
The Attic: Usually hot as hell all year long. And stuffy.
1.) Make sure your attic vents are open and unblocked. Easy enough. These let the heat out.
2.) Check your insulation. If it's torn, ripped, or yucky replace it. If you have blown insulation, make sure it's thick enough. This varies by location. Check at your local insulation retailer to see what is recommended for your area. Check your radiant barrier too, though honestly, you shouldn't be able to see it, it should be under the insulation. If you can see it, there's a problem.
3.) Make sure anything coming or going from the attic (pipes and such) are well insulated and sealed. Great stuff crack sealer works well. They also make this insulation that is like fiberglass with foil over the outside that goes on ducts. Seal it up tight. Any gaps allow heat to escape into your home.
The Walls: This one should be done when the house is built. It's really impractical to add insulation to the walls once all the sheetrock is up. However, if you happen to be adding a room or have to tear the drywall off for any reason, before it goes back up, put insulation in. R-19 fiberglass insulation is made to fit between studs.
1.) Wall hangings help keep noise and temperature in. Tapestries, pictures, whatever. They all help. Just don't block a vent.
Windows and Doors: These are common air leak causers.
1.) Make sure you have weather stripping on your door. Not only does this keep the air from escaping, it also keeps insects from just strolling in. Like those flying goddamn cock roaches. I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY HAVE TO FLY.
2.) Make sure you have weather stripping on your windows. For the same reasons.
3.) Check your windows. Depending on what kind of windows (and how old they are) you will have several issues. My parents had old fashioned multi paned windows. And their caulk is all dried up and cracked. They will need to scrape it all off and reapply it. And probably paint it again. The first apartment I moved into, I went a month before I realized that one of my long window panes was MISSING its caulk and hanging out. It was a studio apartment. I should not ever have a $200 power bill in a studio apartment. I was pissed off. No matter what, make sure your glass is secured and whatever is securing it is in good shape.
If you decide that you hate your windows or they waste too much electricity, then most major hardware stores would love to replace them with energy efficient tax deductible windows. Just a thought.
4.) Consider tinting your windows. It might save you a lot of money, and it will help you with privacy too. They make some that is mirrored and reflects most sunlight, while also making it harder for passers by to see your awesome stuff. Stuff they might be temped into taking.
A side benefit is that if the window breaks the tint will keep most of the glass stuck to it.
5.) Get curtains. AND drapes. What's the difference?! Well. Curtains tend to be thinner and are largely decorative. Drapes tend to be heavier and made for blocking out light and keeping heat in. Lacy curtains are nice because you can see out, but people can't see in. With drapes, you want something that isn't going to absorb a lot of heat but will still match your furniture if you're into that sort of thing.
If you are a night person like I am, then drapes will help you avoid the scourge known as the sun so you can get some fucking sleep.
The Floors: What you walk on can have significant effects on your power bill too!
1.) Look under the floor. Whether you have a crawl space or a basement look under the floor and make sure there is insulation. If you are on a slab, I have no idea what to do. Never lived on a slab.
2.) The type of flooring matters. Instinctively you know this. Carpet is warm, wood is neutral, and tile is cold as shit. Linoleum somehow is like warm sweaty wood. Carpet with a good thick pad will help prevent air from leaking out of your house, taking the AC and heat with it. Linoleum works pretty good too. Hardwood floors are nice, but they let a lot through. Tile also is effective at keeping air inside, but it's cold, hurts a lot if you fall on it, and breaks things.
1.) Seal up any gaps and cracks you find. Seriously. Every crack is stealing directly from your wallet.
2.) Consider finishing your basement to further help insulate. Just think, it could be an apartment for someone to rent, or it could be a man cave or anything! Plus insulating it helps keep the air from escaping and keeps your whole house cooler/warmer.
For the love of the gods, I am not an electrician. If you are in doubt, ask an electrician. Don't ask the guy at Lowe's or Home Depot. They may or may not have ever worked as an electrician. This shit can be dangerous, so ask a certified electrician! Oh, and TURN OFF THE ELECTRICITY FOR THAT PART OF THE HOUSE BEFORE YOU START WORKING ON SOMETHING. If you aren't sure how to, either ask your landlord (if you rent) to show you, or call in an electrician to show you. I'm sure there are videos on youtube for this sort of thing, but I don't want anyone to die, so check with a professional.
***Ask your power company about budget billing to see if you can get an average use charge year round so your payment is the same every month. No surprises!***
1.) Check the type of light bulbs you are using. Seriously. I'm not an expert, but after reading this I could totally fake it. Incandescent light bulbs are on their way out though, at least in the US. A law was passed banning the manufacture of them in the US. Retailers are allowed to sell off any stock they have, but once that is gone, it's done. Fluorescent bulbs are expensive (but they will get cheaper as time goes on, trust me.) but they last longer than incandescent bulbs. High density discharge bulbs last longer than incandescent bulbs, but tend to be harsh and really bright (except for the metal halide bulbs) and are usually used in landscape lighting. These are even MORE expensive.
But the most expensive right now is the LED bulb. Which I am in favor of and completely in love with. 4 watts vs 60 watts? Yes please! Wait for them to go on special and use a coupon. Replace the lights in your house with LED bulbs on an "how often does this light get left on for long periods of time" basis. For me, this was the bathroom light. Don't wait for the bulbs to burn out to replace them. Start saving money now. Each bulb will save you about $4-5 a year. That's hard to notice on a power bill if it's just one bulb, but that shit adds up. The downside is that they cost $8-$30. Seriously. But they last forever (well, almost) and they will save you so much money. The cheapest I've seen them was at a Black Friday Sale at $6.99 for 60 watt equivalent bulbs. Which was what I needed. I bought 4, which was all I could afford at the time. I live in a tiny apartment. I have 1 in the bathroom, one in the hall, one in the living room, and one in the bedroom. The light in the kitchen is a fluorescent light tube. The dining room needs candelabra bulbs which are too expensive for me right now, but I'll be saving up to get them one bulb at a time. And yes, I am saving my old incandescent bulbs and I will be taking my LED bulbs with me when I move and putting the old incandescents in. IDGAF.
2.) Check and replace old fixtures. Look for something energy efficient (depending on how old your fixtures are, *anything* could be more energy efficient than them.). Make sure things are working properly and there are no exposed wires. One of my pet peeves is light fixtures that take a specialty bulb that is impossible to find to replace. Don't buy one of these. If you have one, throw it away and buy something better and easier to maintain.
3.) Declare war on left on lights. Seriously. If no one is in the room, the light does not need to be on (the exception in my home is the bathroom light. We feed our cats in there and I like to be able to see in the middle of the night when I wake up every 2 hours to pee). Bunnyworm is pretty good about this. Daddybeast is not. If you teach your kids while they are small and malleable (about 3-6 years old) it is much easier. You should hear Bunnyworm scream that Daddy is giving her skin cancer when he takes her outside
without sunscreen. She's 3. It's adorable.
The Breaker Box, or Fuse Box if you are fixing to have to pay a lot of money. I'm not joking. If you still have a fuse box, you are going to be in serious financial trouble soon. Fuses are getting harder and harder to find. The Breaker box (or fuse box) is where you turn off the power to parts of your home. My parents had a fuse box until maybe 10 years ago. My mom used to threaten to pull the fuse because I was a bit of an angry rebellious asshole as a teenager and would lock myself in my room and blare music (I can even give you a timeline of what it probably was by age! It was probably Dir en Grey when the breaker box got put in.). She pulled the fuse on my brothers too.
1.) Know how it works. Ask an electrician. I am not quite sure how they work myself, and I feel that touching one is just *asking* to get electrocuted. This is why I rent. "Hi yes, Leasing office? My power isn't working and there was a loud *POP* in the kitchen. Can you get someone over here to fix it please?" And that's how it is done. But if you own the house, pony up some cash and get an electrician to educate you, take notes, laminate them, and put them on the wall next to the box. Otherwise you will forget and have to call Bob from Jolts are Us back to your house.
2.) Inspect it for damaged breakers. This is a thing I guess?
Power Outlets/Light Switches/etc: Because you know you have them.
1.) Insulate them. Duck Tape Brand makes little foam inserts you can put behind your wall plates. Because don't think air doesn't leak from those things.
2.) If you have a dead switch, love and respect it. I have no idea what this is really called, but my parents had one, and my current apartment has one. It's basically a light switch that turns off the wall outlet. Don't abuse the power, just enjoy it.
3.) Power strips. Use them. For everything. Everything you plug into the wall uses latent electricity, especially entertainment devices. So when you turn off your TV, it's still pulling power to light that little red light that tells you the TV is off. When you are done, just flip the power strip OFF. And just like that, you are saving electricity. This is like a dead switch, only less convenient and not hard wired into your wall.
Outside Your Home
This can make a difference too.
1.) Always check with local ordinance, your landlord, or HOA before doing anything to your yard. Trust me on this. I personally think HOAs are the devil.
2.) Look for climate friendly shade trees. Here in Georgia, a good fast growing shade tree is the Poplar tree. You want something that will reach maturity in 10 years or less. The faster it grows, the faster your power bills go down. The best place to plant the tree is on the south side of your house--so it takes the brunt of the afternoon sun (Shade trees can take it--they are called shade trees because they provide SHADE, don't confuse them with trees that only grow in the shade, or part sun, because those seldom get tall enough.) and casts a shadow on your home. That shadow is reduced heating and air bills. In the Winter, the leaves will fall and let the sun through to heat your home, and the branches will help break the wind before it gets to your house and carries all your heat away with it.
3.) Consider a hedge or living fence. These will help break up and slow down the wind before it gets to your house. In Georgia, I'd suggest a Leyland Cypress (12 feet wide, 50+ feet tall!) hedge or a Burford Holly (I don't care what the label says, my mom's is taller than her house and 2 car lengths wide). Both give excellent cover and provide good wind screens and sound barriers. Check at your local nursery to see if either of these (they're pretty tough) is a viable plant in your area. Heck, the leyland cypress will provide shade too. Consult with a gardening specialist or landscaper before planting to make sure you have everything you need to maintain the plants--they are part of your home and will need care. Just be wary of "landscapers" because they will often try to sell you as much product as possible and install it themselves. If they are planting leyland cypresses 3 feet apart, all of those things are *going to die*. Really, doing the research online is probably the best way to go, but definitely talk to horticulturists to get their opinion.
Well, that's it, for now. I'll add pictures if I ever get around to it. I don't want to use other people's pictures because that's a good way to get sued.