How to Lower Your Electric Bill
Next to your grocery bill, I believe that lowering your electric bill is the one of the biggest frugal hacks to take advantage of. You can immediately see results and more monthly savings by paying attention and making changes on how you use electricity in your home. Today we will talk about meters and how to gauge how much electricity you are currently using, just with your meter alone.
Have you ever noticed your electric meter? I didn’t for the first 15 years of my married life. I just paid the bill for the first 10 years, and then as part of my husband’s pay, his employer paid the bill for the last five years. Cool perk, right? (Now, I’m not sure. As a landlord now, I don’t think I’ll ever pay my tenant’s electrical bill. It would be too hard of an expense to control when I’m not the one using it. I mean, you can get attention by saying “utilities free”, but I’d rather give the renter $50.00 off the price of their rent per month).
During this time we went from two children to five children. I remember one time hubby saying that the employer said the bill was over $400.00 one month.
Then we started a business at our home and hubby no longer worked for his employer. This business required more electrical heating in the winter and more cooling equipment in the summer. We had multiple water heaters, refrigerators and freezers. It was a dirty business – I mean you GOT dirty doing business, requiring several showers a day for several people in the family. The washing machine was being used constantly. A couple years or more and we were up to nine children; eight still at home and our electric bill was $1,200.00 A MONTH! I wasn’t sure if it was the lucrative business or our increasing family, but man that bill bothered me.
I called some experts out from the local university to do an energy audit. What did they find? Change a couple light bulbs and put a fan type heater above an outbuilding door to help keep heat in, and think about changing some motors out in some older equipment that sometimes ran. Basically, the audit was not as helpful as I had hoped. I just continued to pay the bill and tried not to think about it much. If you’re in a business that requires lots of heating and cooling equipment than you might have to do the same, but the majority of us are not.
After 10 years in business we decided to take another path, sold the business and moved. This is where we are at today. The move was a good time for me to challenge myself to see how low I could get our electric bill. Recording my daily or bi-daily usage was the first place to start. Currently our electrical bill is only $75.00 a month for a family of nine.
It Starts With Reading the Meter
To track daily use of electricity (the first step to a lower electricity bill), it helps to be able to read your meter. This costs nothing to do, but depending on your meter it may or may not be a learning process. Your meter is located on the outside of your home where your electrical wires come in. There are many types of meters, but they all measure your electricity. In some areas there are smart meters that register daily and have online capability where you can check your usage online. Ours does not. A representative from our power company (who we call the “meter reader”) comes out and checks our meter each month and records the total usage.
Number 1: Date
Number 2: Time
Number 3: Total kilowatts (kwh)
Number 4: Peak time
Number 6 (there is no 5): Off-peak time
This is how my meter reads. Yours may be different. Contact your power company to see what different numbers correspond to. In the above example, the number 3 is showing a total kwh hours of 1205. This is a relatively new meter. If you do not have on/off peak times your digital meter will simply read date, time and total kilowatts.
Older Style Meter
1. Read the dials from left to right. If the pointer is between the two numbers, always take the lower number.
2. If the pointer is directly over a number, write down that one. If the pointer falls between 9 and 0, write down "9" and reduce the reading you've already taken for the dial on it's left by one.
A bit more complicated, but you can do it. Before my meter was changed to digital one, I read an older style meter. Test yourself and see if you can read it*.
Now that you know how to read your meter, record the number daily, even better twice a day. I try to record mine at 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. Not a fancy spreadsheet, app or program just a notebook that looks like this:
Date Time Total Kwh On Peak Off Peak
6/7 11:05 am 1128 158 970
6/7 7:30 pm 1131 161 970
If I am not at home to do this, I just wait till the next time I can. After you start keeping track, you will notice how your usage changes from day to day. You will start asking questions like, “Why was it so much more this morning than yesterday?” This is first step in getting your electrical bill under control.
*Answer to older style meter: 60687
From Bethany: Stay tuned next week for part two! In the mean time, start your own meter-reading chart.