In Arizona, the energy bill conversation centers around the summertime bill.
“What’s your highest bill in the summer?”
“What temperature do you set your thermostat?”
“Do you have a pool?”
“Oh, that’s why.”
And so forth.
Some people share their disgustingly high bill as if it was forced upon them by the electricity czar. They puff and pout about their bill, but can’t seem to associate the bill with their behavior.
I’m the other guy (annoying in my own right) who shares how low his bill is.
Here’s my electricity bill for 2014 (I don’t have any other energy bills):
I’ll spare you the math. My total electricity cost for the year was $1028.
Those of you Arizonans with $450 August bills may be shocked to learn that I live in a 2300 square foot house built in 1979 with original single-pane windows.
Now, I realize these figures might not mean much to those outside of Arizona, but here’s how I compare to houses of similar size in Arizona (courtesy srpnet.com):
But this post isn’t really about the numbers. Its about saving money on electricity.
You didn’t see that coming, did you?
How I Do it
Here are some practical ways I save money on electricity, but stay to the end of the post to see how I REALLY save.
- Switch out the light bulbs. CFLs have gone down in price, and are even cheaper in some areas with the electricity company subsidizing part of the price (don’t ask me why). In addition to using much less electricity than regular bulbs, these bulbs also cut down on heat, which saves money on the biggest electricity hogs, the air conditioner. Now, these bulbs do change the way things look compared to the old incandescents, so don’t take on this project when your wife is pregnant or it might just put her over the edge (don’t ask me how I know this).
- Take a look at programs. Our electricity company offers lower rates 21 hours a day if you will take a higher rate from 3-6pm. A programable thermostat helps keep on the program. We also turn off anything we can during these hours and it saves us about $100 per year.
- Fans. The biggest hit to the electricity bill is air conditioning. Your body produces heat and it tends to stick right around you, unless you have a fan nearby to blow that heat away. Fans also cost about one-one billionth the cost of HVAC. Look it up. Actually, here is a real chart of some electricity usage so you can see what an electricity hog the AC is. Fun fact: a ceiling fan uses less electricity than a regular fan.
- The whole-house fan. For about four months of the year, it is nice and cool in the morning and evening, but the house doesn’t benefit. Unless you have one of these fans. It sucks air from your house into the attic, thereby sucking in air from the outside into the house. Open the windows, turn it on, and blammo (sp?), you’ve got fresh, cool air without having to fork out for AC. Bonus: the fan is loud. Like a jet engine.
How I really do it
But how do I REALLY save money on electricity in the summer? Wait for it..
Kidding, you guys.
I could go on about 8 Weird Ways to Slash Your Electricity Bill (the Government Doesn’t Want you to Know About), but really, the internet is full of ways to cut down your electricity bill, like say, unplugging your phone charger (see graph above).
The way I really save money is psychological. I’ve learned about hedonic adaptation, tried it out, and its true. Basically:
- When something changes in your life, it makes you happy, or sad, or whatever.
- Then you get used to it, and you go back to being just as happy as you were before it happened.
That’s it. Humans are really adaptable. Once I realized that, I could see that I wouldn’t be miserable if my thermostat was set at some hellishly high level. I’d just get hot. Then I’d get used to it. It still feels REALLY good to go into a cold supermarket in the summer, but I don’t think I’d get that same joy if my thermostat was set at 68 degrees in July.
I won’t go too much farther into the hedonic adaptation theory here, but understanding it has been the way that has helped me save more money that anything else.
I hope you learn that saving money isn’t about scrunching your brow and powering through it while you scrimp and save as an unhappy person. You can be just as happy being frugal as when you spend like crazy.
Shocking, I know.