If you are surprised at the amount of your electric bill, you are not alone. Millions of people open this bill each month, only to be shocked at the jump in rates. As energy prices continue to rise, this trend is only going to strengthen. If you feel your energy consumption bills are too high, there are things you can do to reduce your costs, manage your electric bill and help conserve energy at the same time.

Level Billing

Did you know that many service providers offer a “leveled” billing option? This means that the electric company takes your last years’ worth of bills and derives an average payment. You then make this payment each month for the next year, when the average may be determined again. It does not matter, theoretically, how much electricity you use that particular month, as some months will fall below the average, and some above. This is a bonus if you have your electric bill deducted from your checking account automatically; you always know how much you will pay. Many companies offer a discount for this practice; talk to your provider to see if averaged bills will benefit you.

Make a List of Energy Using Devices

The next step you can take is to look around your home and make an inventory of the energy-using devices you have. People are often surprised at how many things they have plugged into their outlets, some of which have not been used in a long time. Many appliances use electricity even when they are not “turned on.” For example, television sets in unused bedrooms can consume electricity even if no one is watching them. Ceiling fans turned on constantly can gobble electricity to cool rooms you do not use. Make sure that you are truly using the appliances you have plugged in; if not, unplug them.

How Energy Efficient are your Appliances?

You should also look at the appliances you are using and determine their energy efficiency. If you have an old air conditioner unit, for example, it may be doubling your electric bill. It will cost a cash outlay to replace your old unit with a new, energy-efficient heat pump, but the unit may pay for itself in only a few months with the savings in your electric bill. Remember, it takes three times more money per degree to cool a room than to heat a room, so use air conditioning only when necessary. Fans and open windows can provide a great degree of ventilation and cooling on days which are not too hot.

Similarly, your refrigerator, stove, and other kitchen appliances, as well as your hot water heater, all have energy efficient ratings. If it is time to replace these appliances, be sure to buy new ones with a higher energy rating. Technological advances have greatly increased the efficiency of appliances; you may be surprised how quickly your bill drops just by getting the “dinosaurs” out of the house.

Update Filters and Seals

If you simply cannot afford to replace your appliances, you may be able to update them yourself and save some energy. For example, many refrigerators have broken or worn-out seals that let out a great deal of cold, making the unit work much harder and use more energy. You can check this by placing a lit flashlight in the refrigerator and closing the door. If you see light around the seal, it is time to replace it. Replacement seals can be purchase from the manufacturer. Repeat the process for the freezer, as well. Be sure your hot water heater is in good repair, as well.

Change your Habits

You can also use your appliances in more energy-efficient ways. Allow food to cool before placing it in the refrigerator; the unit will not have to work as hard to maintain the internal temperature. Increase the temperature of your refrigerator to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degree Celsius) and the freezer to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius). Sort items so you can find them quickly, and close the doors quickly as you use the unit; you will save entry of hot air, which causes the refrigerator to work harder. As for your oven, do not preheat unless you are baking and must have an exact temperature for a short period of time. Otherwise, put the food in immediately and allow the oven to warm. Just add a few minutes to the cooking time to make up for the cold oven start. This allows you to use all the heat generated for cooking. In the summer, use your outdoor or gas grill to cook meat so you do not have to use the oven at all, saving electricity and helping to keep your house cooler.

Use another Color

If you paint your rooms in bright, light colors, you need less artificial light, as pure light colors reflect ambient light. Study the position of light fixtures and lamps in the room and see where they can be most strategically placed. You can often use only one lamp for a whole room if it is located correctly. Of course, you should turn off any lights in rooms which are not in use. Investigate new CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs. These have a much longer life span than old bulbs, and use far less electricity.

Hot Water = More Money

Use your hot water sparingly. Most clothes do not need to be washed in warm water; in fact, some clothing is better off always being washed in cold. Reserve hot water for whites. Consider handwashing small batches of dishes, and set your dishwasher to “air dry,” or crack open the door after the wash cycle to allow air to circulate. Never wash or dry less than a full load of clothing or dishes.

It is not particularly difficult to make these lifestyle changes, and you will be happy with your new electric bill!

Alan Dunn

Written by Alan Dunn – one of our highly talented and underpaid writers. For more information on Alan follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

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