My relationship with my electricity bill

Ever since I moved into my condo (almost two years ago!), I have had a love/hate relationship with my electricity bill. My July and September 2012 bills don’t really contribute much data-wise and I should probably just throw out the 2012 data points from my spreadsheet completely. The electricity usage was truly mine starting with the January 2013 bill. As you can see below, I used about 5 kWh/day less this year than I did in 2013 on the January and March bills. I also basically cut my usage in half from March to May, May to July, and July to September.

May 2014 Electricity kWh Per Day Graph

I still think I can improve my electricity usage, so I’m going to take a look at all of the items that use electricity in my home.

TiVo – my boyfriend has a different system for watching TV that uses a lot less electricity, so I’ve unplugged the TiVo. That should save about 0.7 kWh/day from what I’ve seen online.

Heating – this is the killer of my winter electricity bills. I can’t really do anything about the fact that I have electric heating, but I can make that a bit more efficient. I figured out in March that my programmable thermostats were from the 80s, so I decided to replace them. That cost about $100 for the two of them, but it has been so worth it for the annoyance factor with the old ones. They also seem to interpret the temperature better, so maybe it will save a small amount on heating. I won’t really see much difference until next November/January on this though.

Hot water heater – my hot water heater is incredibly inefficient according to the label on it. Its about 8 years old, so it’ll probably be replaced in the next five years. It says that it uses 4,881 kWh/year. If that’s true, that would account for about 55% of my electricity usage in 2013.

Lights – there are a TON of lights in my place. I have fifteen 65 watt incandescents (8 in the kitchen, 4 in the hallway, 1 in the second bedroom, and 2 in the master bedroom/bathroom), a 72 watt incandescent on the balcony, and twelve 60 watt incandescents throughout the apartment. I do have about 5 CFLs as well. That’s over 30 lights throughout the condo. The kitchen lights probably spend the most amount of time on, so once I run through my current supply of the flood lights (four spares left), I’m going to look at CFLs and LEDs.

I found a 10.5 watt LED light for $20 on Amazon and a 15 watt CFL for $6. They’re actually about the same overall cost since the LED one lasts 3x as long. I doubt I will still be living in my condo in 20 years though! The LED one would cost me $0.54 less per year in electricity per light bulb over the CFL, assuming 3 hours per day and 11 cents per kWh. The CFL would save me $6/year per light bulb and it would be cost effective within a year ($6 in electricity savings and $6 cost per CFL light bulb). If I replaced all 15 of the indoor flood lights with CFLs, it would save $90 in electricity per year or an average of $15 per bill, though it would take until after the first year to see any level of savings. That’s a pretty decent chunk of change. My estimate is that I will use up the remaining four flood lights in the next 6-12 months and then I’ll buy a LED and a CFL and give them a try.

Fridge – my fridge is about 18 years old. It would probably cost less in electricity to run a newer one, but that’s not worth buying a new fridge for. I am sure that once I do replace it (which will probably be in the next five years), I will save a bit on the electricity bill from it.

I’ve made pretty minor improvements on my electricity bill in the last two years, but I’ve been happy with the progress and it’s kind of interesting to see. I just wish I had more data on this!

Sometimes it makes me feel like analyzing costs like this doesn’t mean much or isn’t particularly worthwhile when my employer’s stock price can drop enough that my bonus is several thousand dollars smaller than expected and that has a far bigger impact on my finances than saving $6 per lightbulb per year on my electricity bill.

Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend!


12 thoughts on “My relationship with my electricity bill

  1. Hmm. Expensive as electric heating might be, I sure would prefer it to none. Little space heaters are inefficient! Stupid NZ houses.

    • Oh absolutely! But some properties use gas heating and so for those people, their electricity bill would be lower and they would have a higher gas bill. In the apartments I lived in before buying my condo, I never turned the heater on, so I averaged about 8.5 kWh used per day throughout the year.

  2. I have a similar weird thing going with our electric bills, but I try not worry about it, and just replace things with more energy efficient versions as they break. The only thing I regret not upgrading when we replaced it was the pool pump, since that counts for ~$35/month on average, more than our water heater. But every year our average bills get a little bit lower, so that’s a good thing.

    • Yup, the general trend seems to be my electricity usage going down, so I think it’s not so bad. Sometimes I get annoyed with how much the hot water heater probably costs to run and then other days, I appreciate that I’m truly only paying for my usage of it, whereas when I lived in apartments, it was averaged out to all of the units.

  3. I’ve been tracking my utility bills closely for the past two years. Over the last year I’ve had to adapt to having the extra expense of using gas for hot water and furnace, but I still look for ways to conserve.

    Have you thought of turning down the temp on your hot water heater? Also I didn’t see it listed, but do you use a dryer? Any appliance that uses electricity to produce heat will use a lot of it. I think you may have given me some these suggestions a year ago.

    It may not seem like much when compared to large changes in your bonus, but you will be paying an electric bill your entire life. Even a small amount of waste when added up over a lifetime comes out to be fairly significant number. Don’t forget the impact that your waste reduction efforts have on the environment either. That has to be factored in as well.

    Have a great holiday weekend!

    The Stoic

    • I do have a dryer. I forgot to list it. I don’t use it for my clothes, but my boyfriend does. I wash pretty much everything on cold, so that should keep the hot water usage down for the washing machine.

      How do I turn down the temperature on my hot water heater? I can’t find a temperature knob on it anywhere.

      I think the electricity bill vs bonus thing is a general spending reduction thought, not just related to the electricity bill :) I do wish that I had access to more data on what was using all the electricity – it would certainly make it easier to cut down my usage.

    • Usually on an electric unit you will find a cover plate that can be removed. You may find some insulation when your remove the plate, but you can just move it out of the way. Towards the bottom you should see some temperature marking and a little set screw that will allow you to make adjustments. You will most likely need a flat head screw driver to make the adjustment.

      I had to do this at my last apartment and I think it made a difference in electricity usage as well as comfort. The water was scalding before.

      Tell the bf it’s time to start air drying! Let me know how it all works out.

    • Sometimes the temperature control for the water heater is behind a panel that you need to unscrew. Ours you need to unplug the water heater before going in and changing the temp.

      There seemed to be mixed suggestions on water temp when I was reading up on our new one – Energy Star website recommends 120F, but then other outlets recommend 140F so that bacteria don’t grow inside the tank…

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