Turn off lights, cut costs

Published 1:12 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Turn off the lights. That’s what I heard when I was a kid and I’ll bet you heard it too. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why my parents thought turning off lights was a good idea. Besides, it wore out the pull chain. Now that I’m older, I understand anything we do to save and conserve is important. Of course, with higher gas prices and groceries costing more, it seems difficult to save money these days.

While some components of the cost of electricity are beyond customers’ control, one factor is controllable — usage. How much electricity you use determines the amount of the bill. So you can reduce your utility bill by reducing usage, and almost everyone has “some” control over electric usage.

Let’s take a short class on electricity. Call it, Conserve 101, an opportunity to reduce monthly household electric usage by 101 kilowatt-hours or more, in turn lowering your electric bill. Our goal is to help you reduce your usage by at least 101 kilowatt hours per month — a savings of more than 1,200 kilowatt hours per year that translates into a potential savings of $135 a year, or about $11 a month.

So what can you do to realize these savings? It’s as simple as making changes in the way you use electricity.

If you have a freezer, finish filling it with milk jugs full of water. The freezer runs less, and you have extra ice in case guests drop by. Two liter soda bottles filled with water also work great. Use a rolling pin or hammer to break up the ice.

Put energy conservation to work in every room. For example, by using a ceiling fan, you instantly make a room feel cooler than the actual room temperature. This allows you to keep the air conditioner at a more efficient setting, and it also works in colder weather to help circulate warm air.

Heating and air conditioning accounts for more than half — up to 55 percent — of energy usage, so making small changes results in big savings. Reducing your unit’s run time by one hour daily with the thermostat set to 78 degrees during warm weather and 68 during cool weather saves approximately 72 kilowatt-hours per month. The AC/heater filter captures that same dust you see on your ceiling fan blades. So change the filter every month.

If you have a pool, running the pump one hour less a day provides a savings of about 22-kilowatt hours a month. Cut down on the amount spent on water heating by nearly 10 percent each month simply by lowering your water heater’s temperature to 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reducing laundry by one load per week saves about 20 kilowatt hours per month. In addition, wash laundry and dishes in full loads, and use energy saving settings on washing machines and dryers.

And we can do something else we remember from childhood, dry clothes outside in good weather. Sunlight is free.

Information about other conservation practices is available from the Utility Board. Try a few, or them or all of them — your savings depends on how much you conserve.

Jerry Williams is general manager of the Andalusia Utilities Board.