|Wednesday, December 4, 2013|
August Challenge--Zap Home Electricity Expenses
All year long, we've been sharing money saving ideas sent in by participants in the 2008 Financial Fitness Challenge. This month, we're talking about saving money on electricity.
Reader Chris, a member of OnPoint Community Credit Union living in Pendleton, Ore., sent a truly fresh idea. He bought a $30 energy cost analyzer that shows electricity use in his home—in kilowatts and dollars. In the two months he's been using this monitor, his energy use has dropped 30%. He says:
When you see how much electricity you use in real time dollars and cents it makes it a good tool of persuasion to turn off the lights or investigate what appliances or fixtures are the most expensive to run.
The analyzer can be a device you plug into an outlet; then you plug an appliance or lamp or PC, for example, right into the monitor. It measures how much power the electrical device draws when you're using it—or in some cases, even as it sits unused but plugged in. Some monitors attach to your power box and measure electrical use in the whole house—similar to what Chris used.
Chris got his $30 monitor during a special promotion by his local Oregon electric utility. I researched some of the devices and found them running as much as $160—pretty steep for most people. But many local utilities have programs that can help.
For example, in Wisconsin, Madison Gas & Electric makes these tools available at public library branches for folks to check out a month at a time. That's plenty of time to monitor—and then modify—your use of electricity. The Eugene, Ore., Water and Electrical Board has a similar arrangement with the local library system. Call your own electric utility and ask about related programs; you might be able to borrow a monitoring device right from the utility.
Show your kids the direct relationship between energy use and money.
Change Energy Habits
People conserve energy every day without using this kind of tool but, for a lot of us, hearing or reading about ways to cut energy costs might not move us to change our habits. How many times have we heard that replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs will save electricity? And yet, how many of us are actually doing that? This idea gives you a way to monitor your electricity use, and that gives you motivation to modify your energy use.
I like another aspect of this suggestion—you can get your kids in on it. When I was growing up, a frequent exasperated reminder was, "Turn out the lights when you leave a room." How better to get your point across than by using a monitor to show your kids the direct relationship between energy use and money? You can teach several lessons—family teamwork, money management, and responsible use of our energy resources. Just be sure you're the one in charge when the kids are using this and other electrical devices.
2008 Financial Fitness Challenge
For his idea, Chris wins a $50 Visa card and becomes eligible to win $1,000 at the end of the year for the grand prize. Complete prize rules are here. We'll share another prize-winning—and money saving—idea next month.
Many local utilities have programs that can help.
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