The Real Reason Your Electric Bill Is So High Right Now—and the No-Brainer Way To Lower It
If you get a major shock every time you open your electricity bill lately, you are far from alone.
According to Bloomberg News, the average American paid about 15% more for electricity in July 2022 than they did the year before. That jolting figure is the most significant 12-month increase since 2006.
So it’s little wonder that these high prices may make you desperate to slash your monthly home energy bill. One of the easiest ways to save big bucks is to simply take a look around your house.
You may be unknowingly increasing your energy bill thanks to the many devices you keep plugged in all the time—even when not in use. Your energy company likely calls them “always-on devices.” But they’re also known as “energy vampires” for good reason: They are sucking your wallet dry.
So let’s look at how you can save money by battling the biggest power-suckers in your home. Your pocketbook—and the environment—will thank you.
What is an energy vampire?
An energy vampire is any device, appliance, or tool continuously using energy, even when in power-off mode. These energy-wasting culprits suck power simply by staying plugged into your home’s electrical system.
As a result, the vampires consume nearly one-quarter of your home’s energy use, which is reflected on your home’s electricity bill each month.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, that figure breaks down to an average of $165 per household annually.
Always-on devices include computers in sleep mode, TVs, cable boxes, video game consoles, and things that you can turn on with a remote.
Determine where your vampires are
If you’re looking to save money on your energy bill, conduct an energy audit and root out the energy vampires.
The NRDC recommends taking an inventory of all the electrical devices in your home, including everything plugged into an outlet and hardwired. Here’s what to do:
- Walk through each room and note all of the electrical devices. Don’t forget to check your bathrooms, closets, garage, and under the sink.
- Write down the model and location of each device.
- Check if the device or the power adapter feels warm, which is a good indication of a significant energy vampire.
- Unplug forgotten or unused devices.
- Once you have a list, figure out how much each device contributes to your overall energy usage (more on that below).
The biggest power suckers
Devices with a “standby mode” are often the worst energy vampires in your home.
A Berkeley Lab analysis of the standby power used by many devices shows that a desktop computer uses 73.97 watts when turned on or idle. That same computer uses 21.13 watts in sleep mode and 2.84 watts when it’s off. (A watt is a unit of power.)
Another biggie? Laptop chargers.
“When they’re plugged in but not charging, an average laptop charger can consume 1 watt per hour,” says Jason Wise, chief editor at EarthWeb.
And perhaps the most egregious energy vampire is your water heater.
“If you don’t need the water scalding hot, bring down the temperature to where it’s still hot enough for you,” says Erin Shine, the founder of Attainable Home, which renovates and builds net-zero smart homes. “And install some cheap foam pipe insulation on the hot pipe side so that heat loss won’t be so harsh. Finally, put the water heater on a timer, so it’s not heating water when not in use.”
How do you kill energy vampires?
One of the easiest ways to stop wasting money with energy vampires is to unplug them all, says Adam Morris, an appliance repair expert who runs AppliancesMadeSimple.com.
Don’t want to unplug—and replug—your most commonly used devices?
“Then use smart power strips,” says Shine. “With new technology, you can control each socket, down to the individual plug.”
Drew Mauro, operations manager at Green Wave Distribution in Rhode Island, also suggests installing a smart electrical meter to detect vampire devices. The information is relayed to a smartphone app, enabling you to turn off an individual circuit.
Other ways to save money
If there are certain appliances and devices that you use only at certain times of the day, place them on a smart plug timer to ensure they’re not sucking up energy when not in use.
And though it’s a pricier solution, getting rid of your old appliances for energy-efficient models can go a long way toward saving on your energy bill. Always look for the Energy Star label to ensure you buy an energy-efficient model.
Finally, check your TV and computer settings. For TVs, consider switching from “vivid” and “retail” mode to “home” or “standard.” The TV may be a little less bright, but it will save you energy in the long run.
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