Thursday, November 17, 2005

Energy Bills

For the past 5 years, I haven't had to pay gas or electricity bills. It was a pleasant surprise when I moved into my current apartment: I tried to call the utility companies to set up my accounts, and they said there were no meters for my apartment, and it turned out that all the utility bills were included in the (already low) rent.
This doesn't mean that I go crazy and leave all my lights on all the time just because I can. I try to be considerate of my landlord, especially since he provided me with an air conditioner to use in my apartment! (Now that is what I call generosity!)
But when I move, I am going to be responsible for all my own costs for heating, hot water, gas and electricity. I've budgeted for this when looking at overall housing costs, but I sometimes worry that I haven't budgeted enough. I've never had to pay for my own heat and hot water, in the past it's just been the gas and electric. And energy costs have been going up a lot in the past months, so I know I could be in for a rude surprise! (If anyone in the NYC area wants to give me some cost estimates, shoot me an email!)
So I am trying to get a head start on tackling this problem, by keeping a list of energy saving tips that I come across.
Here's a few that I have noted from various sources:
--Computer: don't leave it in sleep or standby mode. Turn it off all the way.
--Other electronics: right now, I don't own a TV or VCR, at least, but a lot of TVs, stereos, etc., especially those with remote controls, operate in standby mode, sucking electricity even when it seems like they're off. At, you can see which models have more energy-efficient standby settings.
--Heat: program the thermostat if you can, or manually keep it low at night and while you're out of the house during the day. 68 degrees max, and 60 degrees at night. I'll have south-facing windows, which can warm a room a lot on a sunny day, so I hope I'll be able to leave the thermostat set very low if I'm home during the day. I'll also probably be wearing more sweaters and maybe buying an extra blanket!
--Lights: I'll be buying energy-saver bulbs for all my lamps.
--Ceiling fan: in my current apartment I found that a ceiling fan enabled me to cut down on air conditioner usage a lot. Fans are quite inexpensive.
--Answering machine: this one is an interesting question. In general, devices that use AC adapters are always drawing current. I have an almost 20-year old answering machine that seems like it might be on its last legs anyway. So I wonder if the cost of a voicemail service would be less than the cost of a new answering machine and the power it draws?
--Other AC adapters: I won't be leaving my iPod and digital camera adapters plugged in when I'm not using them.

I'm sure I'll be finding lots of other little things to be aware of, and I'd love to hear other tips from readers. And maybe I'll be able to run some little experiments to see how big a difference these things actually make!


Anonymous said...

It's rare to have to pay for heat.

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between regular light bulbs and the energy-saver ones. I've noticed the light from the energy-savers are not as "rich" (not sure of the correct term, but you'll know when you see it) as regular bulbs. So, I mix/match...I have a 3-light vanity in my bathroom, using two energy savers and one regular. Also, my hallway lights each have two bulbs, one regular, one energy saver.

Anonymous said...


Voicemail from Verizon costs about $6-7 a month; there's NO way your wallwart is drawing that much.

Wanna save 20% on your electricity bill? Unplug your microwave after each use (I have a G.E. SpaceSaver one).

These suckers must have some standby draw, or the lcd for the stupid clock is the worse energy sucker ever.


Caitlin said...

I agree with Foob, answering machine is way cheaper than voicemail.

One thing I am attempting is to put certain electronics (like your ipod chargers etc - in my case the TV and DVD player and now old tivo in the bedroom -- rarely used) on a power strip and use the on/off rocker to be able to leave them plugged in, but only draw power when needed.

Also to respond to what I believe BLT is saying, is that lights have a kelvin rating to signify the "color temperature" of the light. most CFLs are very "cool" and therefore very blueish. But they do offer CFLs in different kelvin ratings, you just have to shop around. But a cool CFL lamp in an orange bedroom can look absolutely ghastly (trust me) so just be aware while shopping. A "warmer" kelvin has a more golden hue to it...closer to sunlight. I was looking around for an online store that I recently used to gather info and found this instead - that also makes the point you need special "dimmable" CFLs for lights on dimmer switches (those are pretty new)

Marcia Matthews said...

Hi Madame X, you are my inspiration to budget and save. I have been profligate in the past but I do own a house and congratulations on owning your first condo. It is a big responsibility but the feeling of freedom is priceless.

Anonymous said...

it's also a good idea to buy an insulation cover for your water heater. that supposedly saves alot on re-heating your water. Think I remember something around 10%...

Anonymous said...

--Computer: don't leave it in sleep or standby mode. Turn it off all the way.

Under Windows, hibernate dumps the info in memory onto the harddrive and turns off the computer. It can be accessed by holding shift when you're shutting down your computer, standby button will turn into hibernate.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE do NOT use fluorescent bulbs! They have very toxic mercury in them. As an environmental engineer, I assure you that once in landfills, it is next to impossible to keep mercury from entering water supplies and eventually, through the food chain, ending up in people. Maybe your children won't be poisoned, but your grandchildren may be.

Please, if you insist on using CFL bulbs, get educated and find a safe way to dispose of them. If you read the CLF bulb packaging, you will see the warning right there in black & white. Of course, the manufacturers don't tell you HOW to safely dispose of them, they just tell you not to dispose of them via the garbage truck.

Remember, mercury is incredibly toxic - to both people and animals. Please consider other ways of saving money and energy. Don't use these highly toxic bulbs!