Below is a plan I used to reduce my electricity bill by over 50%, I have an all electric house with 1600 sq feet of heated and cooled area and an electric heat pump. The same applies for a natural gas and electric mix with air conditioner. You will have to spend a couple hundred dollars, but you can save that back in the first couple months. Of course results will vary. If you have a brand new house with all the energy saving appliances and high efficiency AC and heat your savings will be smaller. You can get most of the supplies from your local home improvement or Walmart. I will provide the online links if you prefer shopping online tax free.
1. Determine if you live in a state where electricity and or natural gas are deregulated. You can switch your electric or natural gas carrier for free and pay less per kilowatt hour or cubic feet in charges, this can save you as much as 25% percent in some cases. There are plenty of online comparison sites to see rates side by side. You can go on a month to month basis or lock in a low rate for a year if energy rates are low. I prefer the yearly contract in case oil prices begin to shoot up, your are locked in for a year.
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2. Realize your AC and heater are probably going to be the largest energy consumer followed by hot water and the refrigerator. So, make sure your AC is in good working order and have is serviced at recommended intervals. An outside unit low on Freon or malfunctioning will raise your electricity usage as much or more than a dirty air filter.
3. A little trick I use with the AC is to keep the air filter clean to maximize air flow and keep the condenser coils on the outside unit clean to maximize cooling or heating efficiency, I will explain. Your newer electrostatic washable air filters seem to flow air a little better and can be washed with detergent and a hose. They are more expensive, but they will last the life of your AC unit. I usually vacuum mine off every couple months and and spray it off a couple times a year. After 6 months you have paid for it in throwaway filters and it will last the life of your AC Unit. Additionally, the fins or coils on your outside condenser tend to accumulate dirt and grime in between them and reduce the efficiency of your AC unit. Once a year or two I spray condenser coil cleaner on them and hose it off. This stuff has a foaming action that expands in the coils and forces the dirt and grime out of the fins to be sprayed off. You would not believe how dirty they are in a year. One gallon will last you years and it really keeps the outside unit "cooling to the max". Be sure and kill your power on the outside unit while hosing it off. I do not know why the AC service folks don't use this when they check the Freon yearly and do service checks, they usually wait till the AC is not cooling properly and charge you an arm and or it. There is also a set of coils on the inside where the filter is, if you can get at them, vacuum them off with a brush attachment at least once a year while cleaning your air filter. If you have a particularly old unit and the inside coils are really grimy you can get a spray that cleans them off and evaporates, as not to leave a residue or odor. Don't forget the programmable thermostat, these are great money savers to lower or raise the temp when your are sleeping or not there.
Next up the Hot Water Heater
If you do not have one of the new high dollar energy saver water heaters, there are a few things one can do to make your just as efficient. First, get a hot water heater blanket, it improves insulation and saves you money. Second, get the little gray box. It allows you to program a regular water heater to shut off when you do not need it and come on about an hour before you need hot water. Example - it turns off while you are sleeping, the blanket insulation keeps it fairly warm until one hour before you awake for a shower, when it comes on. It can even be programmed to turn off again when you and the family go to work and school. Just, have it on when you will need hot water. Why pay to heat water when there is no one there? Additionally while you are on the water heater, check the heater element temps many of these are set 20 degrees too high at the factory. Why pay to have water heated to a super hot temp when it sets in the tank most of the day not being used. Check the hot water at the taps and if it is scalding hot, turn it down a little. Some water heaters have a upper and lower element turn them both down to equal temperatures. Last but not least, I have found a cheap shower nozzle that will cut your hot water flow in half in the shower and still maintain a good pressure. This little thing has some awesome pressure and even a teenager could not run the water heater cold during a shower. It will cut your hot water in the shower, in half, and still allow one to enjoy a shower. It's a money saver! The only draw back is, if you live in a hard water area, the holes will slowly clog. Just pull it off once a year or so and soak it in a glass of lime away, this will clean it right up!
Refrigerators and Freezers are the next biggest energy hogs
If you are considering a new fridge or freezer, now is the time to buy. The energy efficiency has improved dramatically. The Energy Guide label on new refrigerators and freezers tells you how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) a certain model uses in one year. The lower the number, the less energy the appliance uses and the less it will cost you to run it. In addition to the Energy Guide label, don�t forget to look for the ENERGY STAR label. A new refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR label uses at least 20% less energy than required by current federal standards and 40% less energy than the standard models that were sold in 2001. If you are on a budget, there are a few tips that will help lower the cost of your older appliance. 1. Be sure the magnetic seals on the doors are not leaking. 2. Keep the coils on the back or bottom clean of dust and dirt. This will reduce their effectiveness by as much as 40%. I have seen dust and dander of over 1 inch accumulations on the bottom of refrigerators. Turn off the power and vacuum them of every year or two, this will save you hundreds of dollars over the years.. A refrigerator seems to work better when full, sort of a cooler or ice box effect. 3. So, if your fridge is less than full most of the time, get a couple gallon jugs of water and put one on the top shelf and one on the bottom. They retain the cold temp and along with the clean outer coils, you will notice the compressor does not turn on as often. Just like the AC, the compressor is the energy hog. So, lets not feed it to much energy.