Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gas and electric bills -- after the polar vortex... YIKES!

Image by Peter Griffin
We had quite a cold spell last week when the polar vortex descended upon us. With the overuse of furnaces and electric heaters, there was a concern about power outages, so the electric companies were asking consumers to conserve energy, particularly during the hours of 3 - 7 p.m. 

My husband and I complied. We didn't do laundry. We ran the dishwasher in the morning. Then we went a step beyond and unplugged everything that wasn't in use. Of course, we do a lot of that anyway, but last week we did a bit more. We rarely leave our microwave plugged in, and never leave our toaster, coffee maker, chargers, or heaters plugged in. Why let those electricity vampires suck up energy, which translates to higher electric bills? What about you? Do you unplug as much as you should? What other ways do you save energy?

Image by Petr Kratochvil

Here are some other tips for lowering your use of gas and electric. The bonus is more money at the end of the month!

  • Dim the lights -- it's romantic, flattering, and cost effective.
  • Turn off the lights -- if they're not serving a purpose, flip the switch.
  • Eliminate air pockets around doors and windows -- even if you have to pad them with towels until you can come up with a permanent solution, pad away!
  • Is there a clear path to your vents -- a sofa blocking the heat really defeats the purpose of having a vent in your living room. Move it!
  • Clean your furnace filter -- clean filters ease up the load on your furnace. Don't make it work so hard.
  • Run full loads in your dishwasher -- while you don't want to overload it, make sure it's actually full enough to run.
  • Use a toaster oven -- toaster ovens are idea for small casseroles, heating up leftovers, etc. If it fits in the toaster oven, why heat up an entire oven?
Image by Shari Weinsheimer

  • Turn on your ceiling fans -- this can help keep the warm air from rising and heating the ceiling. Yes, it will use electricity but it will also circulate the warm air.
  • Turn off your computer -- when not in use, put your computer to sleep or turn it off altogether.
  • Turn off your television -- if you're not watching it, it's sucking up quite a bit of electricity just to provide "background noise." Besides, maybe it would behoove you and the rest of the family to enjoy some periods of silence. Quiet time is good for all of us.
  • Set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower. 
  • Turn down the setting on your water heater -- U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your tank to 120 degrees, unless you have a dishwasher, which requires a setting of 140 degrees.
If we all work together, we can help avert a power shortage when the next blast of cold comes our way. 

Keeping it green by cutting back my energy use,



  1. Great tips! Not only are they money savers, they’re also environmentally helpful. I think another helpful tip would be to heat only the specific rooms that we usually use instead of the entire house. Why heat the game room when no one really uses it, right?

    Eric Powell

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for another great tip, Eric!


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