Thursday, June 26, 2008

Enormous Edacious Electric Eater

My electric bills are enormous. Every month it seems they get bigger and bigger. No matter what I do my habitat keeps edaciously eating energy. It's an Enormous Edacious Electric Eater. Sucking down more and more and even more. The electric conditioner of the air is eating all my earnings. Gobbling $$$$ bills like there's no tomorrow. And that cold food box seems to never stop it's gluttonous gobbling. I hear their voices day and night, whirling, whispering and whining their ravenous 'feeed meeeee'. Like giant stomachs growling their desire for more fuel. Then rudely making belching noises... ssscccuuueeww bbbuuuurrrpp... and turning themselves off. For now.

My artist friend refuses to feed the monster. He's opted to sit in 105 degree hot. Shake and bake. Rather then fork out the extra cash for cooling. So he sweats or freezes in blissful misery. He told me the other day, "It's so hellaciously hot my oil pastels melted and ran together. Now I've got an oil shadowbox by G_d. Think I'll frame it for posterity to remember this hell. Oy vey! " Clicking my tongue I replied, "Stop your kvetching! Turn on the cooler so YOU don't melt." Sheesh!

The next door neighbors on the other hand have the air cranked up so high you instantly turn into a giant popcicle upon entering. Told them so and they replied, 'Naw, you're a Creamcicle... cold and tart on the outside with a sweet creamy center." Gawd, now I'm blushing. Hate it when I blush.

My habitat is in between freezer and oven. Comfortable. But have an enormous electric bill. Got to ease it. Hiss a sigh, rubbing my mouth and neck in utter frustration. My roommate is watching this drama unfold from the sofa. "What's got you so flustered" she says. I reply, "I've got an Enormous Edacious Electric Eating apartment. My bills are so high, my wallet's going dry." She says, "There are lot's of things we might be able to do. Let's think about it for a while."

We got our heads together, wrote down our ideas. Then looked online to see what others were suggesting. Here's our finalized list things with a we opted to do:

Air conditioning / heating

Thermostat. Temperature.

  • In Summer turn off the thermostat and open the windows at night and use ceiling fans. If night temps fall into the 60s, will cool the house down. Close the widows at dawn to retain. House may stay comfortable until early afternoon without air conditioning. In Winter turn down heat to 55 degrees at night. During day set at 65 degrees and wear a sweater. Use space heater if needed as supplement.
  • 10 degrees (cooler or warmer) at night or whenever no one is home. 8 hours per day can save 10% on electric bill.
  • Install new thermostat Allows automatic adjustment.  8 hours per day can save 10% on electric bill.

Air-conditioning/heating unit.

  • Regularly maintain air-conditioning/heating unit have system checked and maintained yearly. Our landlord does yearly maintenance of all heating/cooling units.


  • Replace filters regularly check heating/cooling system filters monthly and clean or replace if necessary. Our landlord provides filters and asks us to change them monthly.


  • Close shades (blinds or curtains). if it's cold or hot closing shades insulates the windows and can reduce costs. We have double cellular translucent shades and vertical blinds that we close during the afternoon or whenever we are gone.
  • Upgrade Shades to special shades or curtains with R value saves even more.

Ceiling Fans

  • Ceiling fans will balance the temperature in a room and help it feel cooler. Our landlord provides ceiling fans in living room and bedroom and we utilize them.

Plant trees.

  • Plant Trees can cut heating/cooling bills up to $250 annually by shading and insulating the house. We asked if we could plant a few shade trees. They were yearlings so will take a while to mature into full shade trees. One fast growing tree we planted was a mulberry. We get to enjoy the fruit too.


  • Leaks find and fix around windows and doors. Find with smoke or candle flame, when flickers there is a leak. Caulk or install weather stripping. Can save up to 30 percent annually on utility bills. We caulked around all the outside doors and windows, installed weather stripping and door sweeps.
  • Replace windows with more energy efficient ones if possible.
  • Leaks in HVAC ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts may save 10% annually.
  • Close chimney flues. Our apartment has a wood burning fireplace. So we opted to always keep flue closed when it's not in use.


  • Inspect insulation levels. 12 inches of insulation in the attic can save 20% on energy costs.
  • Solar attic fan removes hot air from attic. May save around $100 during the summer season.
  • White roof reflects heat, black absorbs heat.  Our landlord recently coated the roof with a white sealant to waterproof and reflect some of the heat.

Light bulbs.

  • Compact fluorescent bulbs (called CFLs) use 75% less electricity and last about 10 times longer then incandescent bulbs. Replacing four 100-watt bulbs with  23-watt CFLs (equivalents) will save up to $200 in three years. We replaced all of our bulbs throughout the apartment with corresponding wattage CFLs. Sometimes the out put wasn't as great, but it was satisfactory.
  • 20-watt desk lamp. light desk instead of room. One 20 watt bulb (vs. one 60 watt) will save $5 every 500 hours. We already had and used a desk lamp and opted to keep it off as much as possible.
  • Turn off lights when not needed or when leave a room.
Home Electronics

VCRs/DVD players. TVs. Stereos. Telephones.

  • Unplug home electronics. Home electronics continue to use electricity even when turned off. In fact anything with a clock, remote control or an on/off light drains power.  Idle TVs alone cost around $5 annually. Easy solution: Plug electronics into a power strip and use as on/off switch. We bought 3 surge protector strips with on/off buttons. Plugged electronics into them and turn the strips off when not in use.


  • Invest in LCD TV Want to replace your TV with a large screen? Consider LCD TV, uses half the power of plasma TV.
  • Turn off and unplug the Television if no one is actively watching it.
  • Watch less or no Television Since there really wasn't anything we wanted to watch and we spent most of our time watching reruns or flipping through channels, we canceled the cable TV. Still use the TV set to watch movies that we own or rent. Gave us a bunch more time to read, talk and spend time with family and friends.


  • Laptop computers. use 85% less power so can save up to $140 annually. 
  • Set PC to automatically 'standby'. after 10 minutes being idle. All programs and work is still on the desktop ready to utilize again when mouse moved or key depressed. We have 2 computers and they 'standby' in 10 minutes and turn off if not in use 1 hour.
  • Flat panel computer monitor. uses 1/3 less electricity then CRT monitors. We're half way there. One computer has a flat panel. The other has the older style monitor.

Energy Efficient Appliances

  • Energy Star appliances are energy efficient so use less power. All of our appliances are Energy Star rated. But all are older models so most likely we could do better. Maybe when our landlord replaces them.


  • Refrigerator temperature. set to 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. 5 degrees lower costs around $5 annually.  Defrosting freezer saves a few $ more.  Open doors less often. Freezer temperature. set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We bought a thermometer and monitored settings until they were optimum.
  • Clean condenser coils. dusting coils helps refrigerator run efficiently.
  • Replace old appliances. older model refrigerators and freezers can cost more then $100 annually. Energy Star refrigerators use about same power as a light bulb.

Stove / Oven

  • Small kitchen appliances. Instead of range/oven using microwave, toaster oven and/or slow cooker can save up to 75% in power costs. Plus kitchen stays cooler too.
  • Electric teapot or microwave for quick boiling water.


  • Wash clothes in cold water, dry full loads. Clean dryer lint filter after each load, stop dryer just as clothes are dry. Line dry when/if possible.
Hot water

Hot Water Tank

  • Water temperature. Set to 120 degrees. We checked the temperature and turned it down from 125 to 120 degrees.

Shower heads and faucet aerators

  • Water-saving shower heads and faucet aerators can reduce electricity costs for a family of 4 by $250 annually. Our landlord already provided water-saving (restricting) showerheads and faucet aerators.


  • Shower instead of bathe. Taking a shower instead of a bath uses less water and energy. Except when one of us want the luxury of a bath with bubbles, candles, wine and full relaxation.


  • Washing by hand. When washing dishes by hand use a basin filled with hot soapy water. Rinse with cold water. We don't have a dishwasher in our apartment.
  • Dishwasher. Wash full loads. Let dishes air dry.

We did all of the things we could do and began to see savings almost immediately. The electricity bill was almost cut in half. I'm dazed and amazed. Show my roommate the electric bill.

We jump, slap palms in a high five, start dancing and singing (to the song 'Jump for Your Love' by the Pointer Sisters)...

I'll take you down, I'll take you down
Where no one's ever gone before
And if you want more, if you want more
More, more, more
Jump feel my touch
Jump in and you'll go down
Jump I turn you down and my wallet feels alright
Jump, jump feel my touch

We reduced our carbon footprint again. I'm happier. My wallet is happier and the earth is happier too. Whoo Hoo!!!

A couple of links:


Jen D said...

I so enjoy reading your blogs they make me chuckle...Thanks

tomh said...

Very nice! A lot of alliteration about abstaining.

I have been on the same mission for the last several years (and writing about it on my blog at We have watched our electricity usage fall, and fall, and fall again. Not to mention our water bill and (because we're in the Northeast) our fuel bill. And our gasoline expense. And, well it just keeps a comin'.

Two items for your electrical economizing:

* Smart Strip is a clever power strip that is good for hookups to computers, TV's and various other things that all come on together.

* Don't inch-for-inch LCD is considerably more efficient than old style tube TVs, but most people are buying big. Most people laugh at our puny 26" LCD TV, which replaced a 25" CRT tube. But it actually has substantially more screen area (the calculation requires trigonometry, which is too tiring to think about). I measured with my Kill-A-Watt, and it does use less than the CRT did but a 37 inch "normal" sized TV actually uses more.


Bonnee Klein Gilligan said...

jen d - Happy to bring you a chuckle. You're welcome.

tomh - Thanks for your comment and great tips. I'd love to know more I'll check out your blog.