Most households see a significant rise in energy costs over the summer months. With temperatures on the rise and a house full of kids, you likely attribute the spike in your energy bill to your A/C unit, but did you know that your household appliances may be one of the biggest culprits contributing to your high electricity costs?
Understand Energy Use and Costs
Most electric companies charge for energy usage based on the quantity of kilowatthours (kwh) you use per day. Pacific Gas & Electric, for example, has a tier based rate system that includes 4 levels of energy usage. The lowest and cheapest rate is called the baseline (tier 1) rate. Consumers who exceed the baseline amount are penalized with higher energy rates, which can be as much as 18 cents more than the baseline rate per kilowatthour—that’s an extra $18 for every 100 kilowattshours of usage!
To make matters even more confusing, some companies also incorporate Time of Use Plans, which increase usage costs based on the energy demand during certain times of day. For example, PG&E users see about a 16 cent rate increase over their standard tier rate between the hours of 1pm and 7pm.
PG&E Time of Use Plan Rates for Tier 2 Users
As you can see, controlling the amount of kilowatts you use every month (and the time you use the most energy) can have a significant impact on your energy bill rates.
How to Use Less Energy With Your Appliances
Appliances are a huge contributor to your energy draw, so making a few changes to how you use your appliances can greatly reduce your energy usage and keep you in the lowest energy rate tier possible.
Tip #1. Restrict Laundry & Cooking Times. To avoid paying higher Time of Use rates, make it a household rule that the dryer and oven cannot be used between 1 pm and 7 pm. From May to October, most energy companies penalize usage during these hours. For example, PG&E Tier 2 energy users pay 34.6 cents per kilowatthour during this time of day (that’s a 16 cent rate increase!). Penalties still apply starting at 10 am and ending at 9 pm, so your best bet is to do laundry and use the oven before 10 am or after 9 pm whenever possible.
Time Of Use
If you really want to save, consider running a simple clothes line or two in your garage or backyard to hang clothing. You can always run a 10 minute fluff cycle on the clothing once it’s removed from the line if you do not like how crispy your clothing is from the line. Adding a couple of fluffing balls to the dryer will help soften the clothing.
Tip #2. Wash with Cold Water. Your clothes washer uses a great deal of energy, especially if you use warm or hot water. According to PG&E, about 90% of the energy consumed for washing clothes is used to heat the water. Not to mention that washing in cold water has been proven to prolong the life of clothing and stop it from fading.
If you’re concerned that your clothes won’t be as clean without the heat, consider using a cold water detergent like Tide Coldwater Clean.
Tip #3. Test and Replace Your Refrigerator Door Gasket. If your refrigerator gasket isn’t sealing properly, then you are losing cold air from your refrigerator and/or freezer compartment. This causes your refrigerator to work harder to keep cool, which means that you’re paying for your compressor to run more frequently than necessary.
To test your door seal, feel the bottom of the gasket for rips or tears, paying close attention to the lower corners where they tend wear out fastest.
To test the integrity of the seal, place a dollar bill in the door and close it. If you can easily pull the dollar bill out of the door, then your seal isn’t strong enough. Call your local repair technician (or call Lake Appliance Repair if you’re in our service area) and have the seal replaced. The cost to replace the seal will pay for itself within the first year of energy savings.
Tip #4. Clean Your Refrigerator Coils. The dust and debris that collects on your refrigerator coils and fan can greatly reduce the performance of your refrigerator. The refrigerator condenser coils release heat back into the ambient temperature, so when the coils are covered by a blanket of dust, the heat cannot release. This causes your refrigerator to work harder in order to say cool. Either clean your coils yourself, or schedule refrigerator maintenance to have a professional do it for you.
Tip #5. Replace Your Refrigerator. If your refrigerator was made in 2001 or earlier, consider upgrading to a newer model. Look for the Energy Star logo to determine if the refrigerator is considered energy efficient by government standards.
Tip #6. Get Rid of Your Spare Refrigerator. We know how much you like your garage refrigerator, but if it’s from the year 2000 and earlier, it uses about 40% more energy than today’s most efficient units. In fact, it’s likely that the amount of energy you use to run that old fridge is pushing your energy usage into a higher tier.
If you don’t want to throw your garage fridge out, simply unplug it in high heat months and use it only as needed. When the refrigerator is unplugged, place a couple of boxes of Arm and Hammer sodium bicarbonate in the fridge to eliminate odors.