5 On Your Side

Energy suckers drain household budgets

Posted October 19, 2011
Updated October 20, 2011

The average U.S. household pays $2,200 in power bills a year, so Consumer Reports shows how to use the biggest energy suckers in the home less.

"Start with your electronics. Powering them can cost nearly as much as powering your kitchen appliances," said Dan DiClerico, with Consumer Reports.

More than a third of U.S. homes have multiple computers, and half have three or more TVs.

The set-top box for those TVs is one thing you might not realize is a major energy guzzler. Combined with a high-definition DVR, it can actually use more energy than some refrigerators.

"One way to save: Ask your cable company for a new box that meets Energy Star's 3.0 standards," DiClerico said.

Another money-saver is to set your computer to sleep or hibernate when you're not using it.

Besides electronics, "appliances account for 30 cents of every dollar you spend on electricity," DiClerico said.

For savings, when you're buying a new appliance, look for one with the Energy Star logo. The program recently implemented stricter standards.

Always look to cut your heating and cooling costs, which account for around 40 percent of a home's typical energy use.

"The most effective way to do this – insulate your attic, make sure your ductwork is properly sealed and eliminate any air leaks," DiClerico said.

Energy suckers drain household funds Energy suckers drain household funds

Many attics don't have enough insulation. Consumer Reports says that cellulose insulation should be at least eight inches thick, and fiberglass or rock wool insulation should be at least 11 inches thick.

Making these changes can add up to an average savings of $500 a year.

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  • howdiditgettothis Oct 24, 2011

    Utility companies need to RIGHT the wrong charges, when they KNOW about them.

    Our 1800 SF house costs an average electric bill of $260.00 per month for ten plus years. We moved to a more "efficient" home (but 3600 square feet), and were surprised to find our power bills were about roughly the same.

    The people that bought our house told us 8 months later that they had Progress Energy come out to "inspect" (three different times) why the bill was so high. Finally, it was determined that the power usage was actually a neighbor's (the houses had been hooked up wrong in the first place).

    Did we get 10 + years of triple (or more) charges back? No.

    Utility commision says 18 months max reimbursement.

    That stinks!!!!

  • Luv2Camp Oct 24, 2011

    SaveEnergyMan is right. Good analysis

  • SaveEnergyMan Oct 21, 2011

    Another thing you can do is to unplug those block transformers that power electronics when you're not using them. Many are warm to the touch even when the device is off - that is, it's drawing energy.

    Rocky Mount and other ElectriCities rates are much higher than
    Progress or Duke. They buy their power from a third party and partially fund city operations through electric bill revenue.

    Electric rates are going up in the near future, because of the REPS legislation that mandates renewable energy production - that's thanks to the Gen Assembly not Obama. Also, power plants are turning off coal to meet enviro regs and adding new natural gas combined cycle. They are more efficient than coal, but the price of power depends on the price of nat gas - so look out if nat gas prices go up.

  • baracus Oct 21, 2011

    "If you're with Progress Energy in Wake County, yes, the rates have increased."

    OK, I just checked my bills. November of 2009 I paid $0.1043/kWh with taxes and fees. My last bill I paid $0.1088/kWh. I wouldn't call a 4.3% increase over two years "skyrocketing". In fact, it is a little less than the overall rate of inflation.

  • superman Oct 21, 2011

    One of the best ways to cut your utility bill is to put a timer on your hot water heater. Our water heater comes on at 9:00 to 11:00 pm and then comes on again from 6:00 to 8:00 am. During the day when no one is home it is not consuming electrity. With a 50 gallon hot water heater we have plenty of hot water even when the timer has turned the water heater off. Our house is total electric and this month our power bill was under $90.00. My wife and I are both retired and we keep the thermostat so that we are comfortable. We are fortunate that we can afford to keep our energy efficient system at a comfortable temperature. Sometimes with some electronic equipment they use a lot of power when you turn them on and off so that it actually ends up costing more when you turn them on and off. Insulating the hot water heater helps too and is a very low cost project. Dont use the heat dry on your dishwasher. They will dry without heat. Rates are cheaper if you sign up for the time of us

  • childofNC Oct 21, 2011

    "I don't think my electric rates have changed at all, much less sky rocketed, since Obama took office, so I don't know where you are going with this or what it has to do with this story."

    If you're with Progress Energy in Wake County, yes, the rates have increased.

  • baracus Oct 21, 2011

    "Obama said that energy rates would necessarily sky rocket. How do you like your change?"

    I don't think my electric rates have changed at all, much less sky rocketed, since Obama took office, so I don't know where you are going with this or what it has to do with this story.

  • sandiegom22 Oct 20, 2011

    Why does every article have to be linked to Obama and politics?

  • working for deadbeats Oct 20, 2011

    Obama said that energy rates would necessarily sky rocket. How do you like your change?

  • jdag Oct 20, 2011

    Along with these ideas, there are many low-cost/no-cost ways of reducing energy costs. Seal up air leaks with some caulk. Put foam pads behind all receptacle and switch plates made to block air flow. Clean your refrigerator coil. All this can save you a lot of money while not spending much. You can change your AC filter to one you remove and clean. I've seen as much as $100 a year savings on that.

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