165 comments

I’ll show you my Electricity Bill if You show me Yours

With the feel-good articles of the Weekend Edition behind us, it’s time to get back to some hard numbers and some moneymakin’.

After slicing your car expenses, which we’ve done a lot recently, one of the next big areas with room to simultaneously save money and preserve some clean breathing air is your electricity consumption. How much are you using? Where does it all go? Are there ways to cut the waste without cutting the actual amount of fun you have in your household?

The answer is a definite YES. Check the following out:

From the website of the US Department of Energy, we see that,
“In 2008, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. household was 11,040 kWh, an average of 920 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 15,624 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.”

“Meh”, you may say. “Those numbers don’t mean much to me”. Well how about this:
“A Hundred and Ten Bucks Per Month at the average electric rate of 12 cents/kWh”.

Note that a Kilowatt Hour means using 1000 watts for one hour – a very bright old-school light bulb (100 watts) for 10 hours or an electric clothes dryer (5000 watts) for about 12 minutes.

Yet here in the MMM House, I just looked back at the past year’s electric bills and did some math. Our average is 299 kWh per month, less than one third of the US average.*  

(Update: since writing this article almost two years ago, we’ve made a few improvements and nowadays the average is a further 30% lower, at around 200 kWh/month).

This surprised me**, because I have a pretty big house (2600 square feet), a family of three, a big shiny double door fridge, very nice lighting, and we cook and “work” at home – computers and dishwasher get used almost every day. I also use lots of power tools and even do occasional electric welding here. Why do other people use three times as much electricity than I do for my admittedly luxurious lifestyle?

Using a simple energy meter and doing some calculations, I figured out that my 299 kWh are getting used up like this:
Fridge: 47
Lights: 60
Dishwasher: 40
Furnace blower (winter) or Air Conditioner (summer): 50
Computers: 36
Clothes Dryer: 30
Tools and other/unknown: 36

If the average household could get their energy use down to Mustachian levels, they would save about $75/month or $13,725 every ten years including compounding. So how can they do it?

I believe the big three would be these things:

Clothes Drying: your dryer is the biggest energy hog in the house. It costs 60 cents per hour to run it, which sounds cheap unless you are one of those fools who do two loads of laundry per day, in which case you burn $39/month versus the MMM family’s $3.60. We accomplish this by doing only about two loads per week (you only need to wash clothes, sheets, or towels if they actually LOOK or SMELL unusual – otherwise just hang ‘em up and use ‘em again). And hanging the clothes to dry most of the time, saving the dryer only for things that are annoying or time-consuming to hang like huge armloads of socks and underwear. Start hanging up your pants and shirts, I’m not accepting excuses on this one. You have plenty of free time now that you’ve cancelled your cable TV.

Lighting: This seems amazing to me, but many, many people still use old-fashioned incandescent lights in their house. Tons of them. These things are STUPID. If you are one of these people, get up from your chair RIGHT NOW. Take out ALL YOUR RIDICULOUS BULBS AND SMASH THEM. Put in compact fluorescent bulbs in all fixtures. No, they don’t have a different color, if you are smart enough to buy the “warm white” variety instead of the ugly “cool white” or “daylight”. They cost only about $1.00 each, and they save you about $8.23 per year each. That is an 823 percent annual return on investment. If you NEED to use a dimmer somewhere, get a dimmable CFL bulb. Go change all the bulbs right now, then punch yourself in the face once for each incandescent bulb you were still using, now, in the year 2011, more than ten years since CFLs became available. Then come back to your computer and finish reading this article. Welcome back. Remember to turn off lights you’re not using as well.. duh.

 

Air Conditioning: This costs 35-60 cents per hour that you run it. If you go crazy with it, you can burn $100 or more in a month.
But here there is a valid difference for some people. In the US, the whole bottom right quarter of the country is an absolute steam bath for half of the year. Mr Money Mustache wants you to cut out your waste, but not your comfort. So there’s going to be some serious air conditioning going on there. But you can keep it efficient by running the machine mostly at night and coasting through the peak hours with the windows and doors closed, keeping out the heat. Block any direct sunlight with insulated curtains. And chill the house only to 76 degrees and wear shorts, instead of being like the old folks who keep their places like a meat freezer and wear sweaters around indoors during the Miami summer.

And for the rest of us, like my beloved neighbors here in Colorado who are already using their A/C all around me, use the climate to your advantage. If it is cool at night, open the windows up entirely and use a window fan or whole house fan to blow out hot air all night while you sleep. A big fan burns 1 cent per hour of electricity, 50 times less than a whole house air conditioner. I do this, and even in July I can coast through a 100 degree day with the house staying cool all day – just long enough to open up for the next cool night.

If you hit those big three, an average person should be able to at least cut the bill in half.

And there you go, another 13 grand or so towards your retirement 10 years from now. Amazing, isn’t it!?

 

*Another interesting note about my house – last year I rented it out to some international friends who happened to be visiting the US for exactly one month while we were away on a long trip. The usage by the tenants for that month was 971 kWh, just a bit more than the national average. So there you have it – usage is controlled by YOU, not your house or your location.

**Actually, it didn’t surprise me, because obviously I’ve been watching my electricity usage for decades and know exactly how much I use. I mean, come on, I’m Mr. Fuckin’ Money Mustache!! But I thought it flowed nicely to say, “this surprised me”.. and more importantly I thought it might surprise YOU, Junior Mustache.

  • Kathy P. May 10, 2011, 9:49 am

    Well, I guess I’m doing pretty well at an average of 316 kwh per month. But I consistently pay 19 or 20 cents a kwh. Not sure why it’s so much higher here in NY than elsewhere. We do get a high percentage from hydro-electric and not coal.

    Reply
    • MMM May 10, 2011, 10:03 am

      Hi Kathy – excellent electric performance for you! (Of course, it’s also a bit sad because now you’ll have to look elsewhere for the easy savings).

      Yeah, I do feel the pain of New York State residents. I grew up right above you in Ontario, and basic living costs are also high there. Here in Longmont, CO the base electric rate for dirty coal power is something like 6 cents/kWh. I pay just a bit extra to get 100% wind power for my house, and it is still only 10 cents!

      Property taxes are of course much more of a bite than electricity – mine here in the Boulder CO area are $2500 per year, and similar value houses in Ontario pay more like $5,000.

      I think an important financial planning step for people who aren’t particularly tied down (New graduates and such), is to look at the cost of living of all areas before applying to jobs. I ended up choosing Colorado instead of coastal California as a place to settle just for that reason.

      Reply
      • GregK June 18, 2012, 12:15 pm

        Hah, yeah, we’re almost always under 200kWh/month (the highest ever was last august, when we hit 302 thanks to A/C), but pay an average of $39. Part of it is living in NYS (“F-it. Let’s just move to Longmont!” comes up in conversation quite a lot around here haha). You also actually pay a bit more per kWh when you use less, due to fixed costs… Anyway, I’d love to pay 10 cents for wind power. It would cut my bill in half!

        Reply
        • Kenoryn November 18, 2012, 11:45 am

          Here in Ontario our per-kilowatt costs are pretty cheap (12 cents in peak hours, 6 cents in off-peak hours) – it’s the other costs that are the bigger part. The electricity part of my hydro bill is $31 (plus 13% tax) but of that, $12 is electricity (for 150 kWh) and the rest is delivery charge, regulatory charges, and the good ol’ “debt retirement charge”. Total bill is $124 including water and sewer which are flat-rate charges based for some reason on the number of rooms in your house.

          Reply
          • Eldred October 29, 2013, 10:14 am

            Wow, you guys are ROCKING that energy use savings! I just logged into my electric account to check my usage for the past year. Average is 631 kwh with a high of 802 in January 2013 and a low of 490 in May 2013. I’ve been in this house since 2001, and had new windows installed when I moved in. I don’t have AC, so that isn’t the big draw in the summer, but I *do* run floor fans all the time. I don’t *think* I’m wasting energy, but obviously I have a lot of room for improvement. I know the walls of my house aren’t very efficient(I can feel cold air flow out of my kitchen cupboards when I open them in the winter). I also know that my ‘enclosed’ back porch holds NO heat(it’s freezing in the winter. But I can’t afford to get blown-in insulation at the moment, or rebuild the porch. I may have to try to find some money to get at least the insulation done next spring. But short of unplugging *everything*, I’m at a loss to see how I can create major savings…

            Reply
  • Jenny May 10, 2011, 9:55 am

    So, I checked and we used an average of 600 kwh per month, year round. We don’t have a/c, though (yet). We do have a family of five, and this summer, are going to dry laundry outside as much as we can, because we do more than two loads a week (average of 4-5 loads per week). We’ve already switched to CFL’s, long ago, but if you came and inspected, there might be a straggler somewhere – please don’t punch me in the face. :) I know there are a ton of places to improve, and this is because our solar panels are being turned on TODAY!!!! It will be fun to see if we can get our usage so low that the electric company pays US! However, we have an oxygen concentrator (probably worse than a/c as far as electricity), feeding pumps, suction machines and all kinds of other stuff we depend on. And, we’re getting a/c installed this year due to body temperature control issues with one of my kids, but we’ll use it sparingly, we’ve lived without it so far so we know the tricks! I’ll let you know – I can’t wait to get that credit!!!

    Reply
    • MMM May 10, 2011, 10:12 am

      Hi Jenny – nice work! 600 is a pretty good number to start with for a larger family with special requirements. And 4-5 loads of laundry with three kids is also a very good performance – I know of some bachelors who do this much just for their own fancypants wardrobe.

      Don’t worry, the article was only instructing Incandescent Light Bulb Users to punch THEMSELVES in the face.

      The only people that Mr. Money Mustache personally punches in the face are car drivers who cut him off when he is riding his bike :-)

      Reply
      • tina October 31, 2012, 4:57 am

        I continue to use old fashioned light bulbs for very good reasons. Here in cool Scotland my old fashioned house stays at about a constant 5-12 degrees centigrade every day of the year (without heating) so the heat from light bulbs can make a welcome difference especially in the long winter nights. If the bulb wasn’t putting out heat, that heat would have to be made up with some other power e.g. coal or gas which are both more expensive than electricity here.

        In the long summer days, the bulbs aren’t on, so I don’t waste heat/power then either, but after dark, a little heat boost is welcomed.

        Also, the old fashioned bulbs are more pleasant light and they are easily disposed of and don’t have to have “DANGER contains poison” on the packaging. I have found the new bulbs to last considerably less time than my old fashioned bulbs which are cheaper to buy, produce heat and are cheaper to dispose of (financially and environmentally).

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache October 31, 2012, 3:02 pm

          How interesting that gas or coal is more expensive than electricity (per BTU-equivalent) where you live! In most places, electricity is 200%-400% higher. In that case, it would make sense to do ALL heating with electricity, using space or baseboard heaters (and of course as many incandescent light bulb heaters as you see fit!).

          But do verify that your cost per BTU numbers are correct – or post them here and I can show you how to do the calculations.

          Reply
          • tina November 5, 2012, 9:38 am

            I have a 4kw multi fuel stove, I have found that I can burn that for 5 hours each evening, or run my 2kw electric fire to give the same effect in one room i.e. the room is more or less cosy for the duration except that the electric fire heats the room quicker, but the stove continues to give some heat after it has been “fed” for the last time in the evening.

            My 5 hours for electric fire = £1.31 + 5% VAT
            My 5 hours of coal (1/2 bucket) = £1.31, not including some wood, other lighting materials and chimney cleaning costs.

            Only six years ago, the coal was half this cost!

            As the electric fire has a thermostat, when I have to have the lights on they are no doubt causing the fire to be used a tiny portion less. As the electric fire can be moved around the room and does not draw air into the room so much, it also feels warmer This is not a scientific analysis and I still prefer my multi fuel stove as I can sometimes lay my hands on free scrap wood to burn and use it to cook if the leccy goes off due to bad weather.

            I did enjoy reading your site btw. I wish people in the UK were more money saving orientated – I currently run a business from home but have always tried to keep the running costs as low as possible – I have plenty of neighbours and acquaintances though who leave lights and heating on 24/7/365. Even though most of them are on some form of welfare (80% apparently in Scotland!) they wouldn’t dream of cutting their comfy tax payer funded running costs.

            Reply
  • Steve May 10, 2011, 10:35 am

    How is it that people in Maine have much lower consumption than Tennessee? Are Tennesseeans greedy gut rednecks? Or are Tennesseeans more likely to have a heat pump for heating, while people in Maine heat with oil or gas? Unless you also include heat fuel, your numbers are meaningless for such comparisons.

    Our average is slightly higher than the national average. We clock in at 1060 Kwh for a 1600 sq foot house in NC. Our highest bill was $190 and our lowest was $60. That $190 looks high, but we heat with a heat pump and use electricity for our hot water. I know people who heat with gas, and while their electric bill was $60, their gas bill was $300 during the cold months.

    Our highest consumption occurs in the winter. I’ve considered buying a fireplace insert, but that’d run ..probably around $1,500 to get a used one and have it hooked up properly. Not to mention the extra danger of having a hot fireplace in the house with a 2 year old and a lot more green house gases.

    A cord of wood is $75 each year. A savings of $225 estimated per year and a 7 year payoff..but a 13 year payoff if we’d just invested it. Not a high priority unless my electric costs increase greatly.

    We use fluorescent bulbs in our high use locations
    We have an HE washer.
    Dry clothes on the line in the summer
    We have an energy star refrigerator
    Temp is around 68 in winter and 72 in summer. We cut back on heat at night to 62.

    Reply
    • MMM May 10, 2011, 10:54 am

      Nice comparisons there, Steve.

      You are right that getting your heat and hot water from electricity complicates the calculations a bit. I have a gas furnace and water heater (and cooktop too – an electric one with an hour of use per day would add about 60 kWh to a home-cooker’s bill too).

      My natural gas use for water heating is about 15 therms/month (1.5 million BTU), which costs me $15. After making conversions for the fact that the gas water heater is only 58 percent efficient whereas electric heating is 100 percent efficient, this still translates to an extra 255 kWh I’d be burning if I had an electric water heater like you do – which would cost me $30. If people have the option, switching from electric to gas water heating is a great idea.

      Also, my winter heat bills average $70 per month for 4 months, which would use require quite a bit of electricity to get from a heat pump. But I can get my heat mostly free in Colorado from solar gain windows once I install them. In the fall it will be fun to do some some serious articles on heating costs/savings.

      Reply
      • Bakari Kafele June 2, 2011, 10:05 pm

        on water heating:

        Turn down the thermostat to the temperature where you can comfortably shower with the hot tap on and the cold tap fully off.

        Most people make the water hotter than they want it, and then cool it down with cold water. This is crazy! That would be like flooring the accelerator in your car at all times, and then modulating your speed by putting your other foot on the brake at the same time.
        As an added bonus, you don’t have to spend time getting the temperature just right every shower. Just turn on the tap, and jump in.

        When it comes time to replace an old water heater, get an instant on (tankless) heater. You get longer showers, but use less overall energy! Best of both worlds. Compliments a future solar hot water system too.

        Reply
        • MMM June 2, 2011, 10:59 pm

          Your suggestion of running the hot water tank lower is valid and does save money because the heat loss through the heater’s tank walls is lower at lower temperatures.

          However, mixing hot and cold in a shower is not at all like using throttle and brake simultaneously. It’s more like using a larger engine at a lower throttle setting (but without the increased engine friction of the larger engine, so the automotive comparison is still not quite valid).

          Let’s say the water coming into your house from the supply line is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

          If you take a 100F shower at 2.5 gallons per minute, and your water heater is set to 100F, you are using 2.5GPM from your water heater which is 50 degrees hotter than the supply. The heat consumed is 2.5 GPM * 50 degrees = 125 gallon-degrees.

          If your water heater is 150F, and you take a 100F shower, you set your showerhead to mix 50% of the hot water (1.25GPM) at 150F and 50% cold water(1.25GPM) at 50 degrees F. The temperature averages back down to 100F.

          Now you are using 1.25GPM of hot water, heated by 100 degrees (still 125 gallon-degrees of heating), plus 1.25GPM of cold water (Zero gallon-degrees of heating).

          Same heat usage, same water usage.

          The only difference is the hotter water tank in your basement loses a bit more heat through its sides. On the plus side, however, you have more stored heat, allowing you to pour a bath or have two people take showers in one short period of time.

          Tankless water heaters are of course even better because they don’t lose heat in standby, and they are usually built to 90+% efficiency by using outside combustion air and a much more advanced condenser system – my newish storage water heater tank is only rated at 59% efficiency :-(

          Reply
          • Bakari Kafele June 3, 2011, 9:28 am

            I think you are under-estimating the amount of heat lost during storage at different temperatures.

            “For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs.”

            Supposedly most houses have them set anywhere from 140 to 180 degrees, so going down to 100 would mean between 12% to 40% less money used to keep water hot.

            However, if one recognizes that its a waste of energy (and therefor money) but feels like the luxury it affords is worth it for more or longer showers (much like a large comfortable house) then I can’t complain about that.
            I think most people just leave it where it was when they got about it.

            Reply
            • Dillon May 26, 2013, 6:19 pm

              As much as I love saving energy (and regrettably have an electric water heater), you should set the temperature to at least 135F or else you might get Legionnaire’s Disease. Really 140F is much safer, but 135F works too as long as you do not use your water extremely frequently. Legionnaire’s Disease can kill you or at least make you very sick so that you should be hospitalized, and the bacteria thrives in warm water (but hot water kills it). The steam you inhale during baths and showers, or possibly from the hot water when washing dishes- that is how you contract it. That is why most people set their heaters high and then turn on both the hot and the cold water.

              I use about 1,000kwh each month on average. I live in NY and my bill is usually around $150 each month. I have a 2300 sq. ft. house and 4 boys (age: 3-8). I have an electric hot water heater which probably gets used more than normal because the boys are always dirty. My wife uses our dryer about 6 days a week. In the summer we do some hanging, but not frequently. I keep the fridge set on the 2 setting (1 warmest – 5 coldest). I do use my electric oven about 5 hours a week. We own 2 laptops and while we have bigger TV’s, we barely use them since we got rid of our cable about 3 years ago (best decision I ever made). though, the boys do use the 32″ LED every night, and sometimes I forget to turn it off until morning, so I might say an average of 4 hours on every day. The washer gets used around the same amount as the dryer. We only have CFL and LED bulbs and probably use about an average of 150 watts every hour of the day for all lighting, even including my outdoor lighting. My usage tends to be higher in the winter, ranging between 750-1400 over the year and more commonly between 850-1250. I use no air conditioning, and mostly only ceiling fans (I have 2). The house stays cool as long as I open windows at night and close them in the morning. My heat is propane. Around here, gas is not much cheaper than electric anymore, except for natural gas (which is not available in my area). I am very disappointed to find out I am above the national average (big wake up call) and will be trying to get it down around 600-700 a month. I am not sure I can do much better than that with my big family and big house. My dryer and water heater are currently in the basement, so that does not help either :( I will be moving them soon though.

              Reply
              • Bakari May 27, 2013, 8:09 am

                yes, you increase your risk of incubating Legionella bacteria in your water tank if you turn it below 120 degrees.
                This concern is pretty much akin to the hysteria over bird flu – and then swine flu – and next monkey flu, or whatever, who knows…
                Legeionellosis affects 0.006% of the US population annually – almost all of whom are elderly or have otherwise compromised immune systems and many of whom are smokers as well. It kills 0.001%
                There will always be innumerable places where water is stored at less than 120 degrees (pools, lakes, rain barrels, fountains, dehumidifiers, windshield wiper fluid tanks…). Considering the amount of stored water we come into contact with every day, and how rare the disease is, increasing the chances of incubating it still means the chance of contracting it are very remote.
                Most water systems are not contaminated with it in the first place (and in order to grow in your water tank, it has to get in there from somewhere). Most people who do come into contact with it aren’t affected. Most people who do contract it, recover.

                If you live with elders, or anyone with a condition that leads to a compromised immune system, or you are just concerned and want to be extra careful, all you have to do is turn your water heater up to 150 for a few hours once a month, thereby sterilizing the inside of the tank. This is enough to kill any growing population of bacteria that may be there.
                Then turn it back down so you aren’t wasting enormous amounts of energy the rest of the time.
                When it comes time to replace your water heater, go with a tankless (instant) water heater, and you don’t have to worry about the (extremely unlikely) possibility of incubating bacteria in the tank.

                And remember, there is a much higher risk (especially to young children and people with restricted mobility) of serious injury due to scalding from having the temperature too high than there is of contracting legionellosis.

              • Cinder May 27, 2013, 1:19 pm

                It won’t let me reply to bakari below, so I’ll do it here.

                I’ve always wondered why they don’t make a device that is the equivalent of a programable thermostat for your water heater. In the case of worrying about Legionella bacteria, if you could have your water heater cycle though 140* at some point once a week/month, wouldn’t that remove almost all worry, while dropping back down to a much lower temp for the majority of the time?

              • Mr. Money Mustache May 27, 2013, 2:31 pm

                These do exist – I learned about them in Hawaii where water is often heated with electricity that costs 30 cents per kilowatt hour, almost 3 times the price on the US mainland. At such levels, people start taking water heater energy consumption seriously.

              • stephane September 18, 2013, 11:33 am

                So I am trying to figure if it is safe and economical to turn on and off the water heater?

                Anyone with valid info?

              • Mr. Money Mustache September 18, 2013, 6:36 pm

                Yes! It is.. especially electric ones, since there is no lighting required – some people even put these on timers to save energy.

                For a gas water heater, it’s easiest to just turn it to the lowest setting when you won’t need hot water for a long time (vacations, etc.). Some ultra-efficient people I know actually leave the water heater way down, then crank it up just once or twice a week for laundry, showers, etc.

                The savings is small, however: even with mine left hot all the time, we still go through about $3.75 of gas per month for heating hot water for dishes, shower, laundry, etc. Then the gas company adds a $12 fixed fee so our monthly bill is around $16.

        • Glenn July 14, 2011, 4:01 pm

          One thing to note about turning down your water heater is do not turn it down too low. I recently learned about Legionnaires’ disease. It is caused by a bacteria that is present pretty much everywhere. Typically there is not enough of a concentration of the bacteria to cause a problem. The bacteria thrives in temperature of 90°-105°F, and can multiply at temps up to 122 F. So if you turn down your water heater too low, you could put your family at risk. The factory default setting of 120 F is a good balance to keep this bacteria’s numbers low.

          Reply
      • Lyn August 18, 2014, 4:20 pm

        Gas is often much higher than electricity where I live, in Colorado. Also, florescence are troublesome for those with seizures, so what is your recommendation then? I use incandescent lights for a reason, I have a very difficult time shopping in most stores because so many of then use florescent. Those lights flicker all the time, we tried them once, because my husband wasn’t sure they were the same as what stores use, one night we woke up in the middle of the night, and the lights, which were switched off, were flickering. I find it hard to believe that saves so much. Also when you consider that they use Mercury and whatnot in these other bulbs, how is that better for the environment? Normal bulb is, glass, brass and wire.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache August 19, 2014, 9:32 am

          Hi Lyn, that’s a common misconception that is worth addressing: Long tube lamps (as used in commercial buildings) can flicker if the bulbs or ballasts are of poor quality. But the bulb-shaped CFL bulbs for home use do not flicker – their light is constant and smooth, just like an incandescent.

          As for mercury – the quantity is absolutely negligible (and it is zero if you don’t smash the bulbs indoors) and you can even get mercury-free ones if desired. Ironically, using incandescent bulbs produces more mercury, because it causes more coal burning via coal power plants, which are the largest source of toxic mercury emissions in the modern world.

          No more incandescents!

          Reply
    • Mary June 9, 2011, 7:15 pm

      Interesting, I think Maine has one of the highest electric rates and Tennessee is near the bottom

      Reply
  • herbert salisbury May 10, 2011, 4:33 pm

    This is one area where I am definitely winning. My electricity and heat bills total almost $11 per month. Perhaps I live in a magic land where energy is almost free.

    When it’s hot, I open a window. When it’s cold, I close them. I wash my dishes with my hands, in the sink. I leave my noisy fridge plugged in, and one of my computers is on most of the time. I own enough socks and underwear to only need to do laundry every 3-4 weeks. I don’t own a microwave, but I do use my ancient electric stove daily. I still have incandescent lights in some of my fixtures as the fancy curly ones won’t fit, and since I rent, I’m not about to buy new fixtures for my landlord.

    Which brings an important question: Rent vs Own? Around here, tiny apartments like mine sell for $300,000-$1,000,000. Strata and taxes on them add up to considerable chunk of my current $1050 rent.

    I’ve always felt that owning an apartment (codename: condo) seems stupid, but a house is out of the question unless I move far out of cycling range to work or invest millions of dollars that I do not have. I’ve always lived debt-free and want to stay that way if possible. Should I say fuck it to the city, build a cabin in the woods and hunt for my food? Buy a stupid condo and hope that my neighbors aren’t whiny douche-bags? Or continue to rent happily near the beach and in bike range to the city? Is there an alternate solution that I am overlooking?

    Thank you for your continued good work,
    HS

    Reply
    • MMM May 10, 2011, 7:40 pm

      Dear Mr. Salisbury,

      Very thoughtful post. Your instincts are correct – there should be NO SHAME for even the most advanced Mustachian to choose renting over owning.

      $1050 per month would pay the mortgage interest on only about a $315,000 condo (at 4%), and you can consider the appreciation you get as a homeowner (assuming 2%) to be roughly cancelling out the effect of having to pay property taxes. If there are condo fees on top of that, which there usually are, that would further lower the effective value of switching to an ownership situation. If you can find a place that gives you enough added happiness over your apartment for not much more than $315k, it could still be a good plan.

      For me, having $400k tied up in a mortgage-free house plus property taxes of $2500/year, I am effectively “spending” over $2500/month on my own house.. but it’s a luxury I consciously don’t mind spending on, in exchange for spending less on other things.

      I definitely advise against moving to a commuter suburb just to be able to afford a house. Commuting is for suckers. However, if you can work 90% or more from home, as most computer folks can do these days, that opens up new location possibilities much more.

      As a wild strategy, since I happen to know you live in Vancouver, check this one out: Build a huge Money Mustache by saving loads at your current job. Meanwhile, start attending parties in Bellingham, Washington and work on meeting the lady of your dreams there. Marry her, and attain Dual Citizenship. Then you can maintain your Pacific Northwest Coast Beach lifestyle, at a very affordable price.

      Alternatively, just save enough to mostly-retire, then move wherever you like (since you don’t need a job aside from a few hours a week of online consulting).

      Reply
      • herbert salisbury May 11, 2011, 4:38 pm

        Dear MMM,

        Yep, I did the calculations again last night and the numbers agree with your statements. In my situation, renting is the smartest option for now. It doesn’t hurt that bikini season is about to start and I live near the beach. I would have to pay more money to have less bikinis in my neighborhood if i were to attempt to become a homeowner.

        Using the money i save to max out my TFSA and RRSPs, and ‘stache away in other places is indeed exactly what we are talking about.

        Our $200 challenge is going very well. If I don’t go out for beers, I should have lots left over. My meals have been between $3 and $8. I’m concerned that I have been eating a bit more potassium sterate than I normally would, but then again I have been spending $950 a month in restaurants up until now -who knows what is in that food.

        And since I haven’t been going out for beers in the evening, I’ve had more time to dedicate to building a residual income. But that’s another story I’ll tell you about later.

        Keep that upper lip furry!
        HS

        Reply
        • MMM May 11, 2011, 5:22 pm

          Haha.. yup, $950 a month in restaurants is a pretty impressive figure. That would buy you an entire house mortgage-free in the Bellingham area in 10 years :-) And it is true, restaurant food is so delicious because it is made with the most extreme amounts of saturated fat, salt, and whitebread carbs. Switching to a real diet will have you living a lot longer to enjoy your ‘Stash. I have to get some health-related posts going on in the near future because sometimes people forget that health equals wealth in many ways.

          Reply
  • Rainbow Rivers May 25, 2011, 2:33 pm

    Interesting post, while I knew the national average of about $780 a month for food for a family of 5 was insanely high ( I spend between $200 and $300 a month)

    I had no idea the national average for electrical usage was just as insanely high, great post!

    I just checked and our average here is 285 a month so I suppose we are doing fairly well compared to averages as far as power usage and food :) not so sure how I would compare in average monthly heating bills but easy enough to check!

    Reply
    • MMM May 25, 2011, 10:24 pm

      Yeah, we’ll definitely do a heating post when the winter returns to us Non-Southerners. That’s a fun one.

      Reply
  • Macs May 26, 2011, 7:38 am

    Greetings from the UK – a new mustachero reporting for duty, courtesy of Ermine @ simple living in suffolk ( and ERE, yeah, I trawl the interwebs for interesting bloggers since I sacked my boss…)

    I find some of the figures for energy use across the Pond quite staggering! As I am bit of a tree-hugging spreadsheet nerd with weekly figures of my juice consumption, I find I can keep on top of my consumption, on a rolling 12-month basis. Despite increasing prices I need to ‘phone my electricity supplier to reduce my monthly direct debit. I’m about three months ahead – even though they have over-estimated…

    Electricity usage: 691kWh/year
    Nat gas usage: 3575kWh/year
    Total bills approx £300 — I guess that would be about $500/year.

    For the record, gas covers heating, hot water and cooking.

    Fully agree on the incandescent lightbulbs! Decades ago I worked out the figures that proved buying CFLs (even at those old prices…) gave a better return than any savings account. I can’t believe people still willingly use incandescents…. but there again people do lots of strange stuff.

    I haven’t even started on solar hot water or electricity yet. My figures come down to: good insulation (again great returns!), having no TV at all, low-energy lighting and consciously avoiding ‘standby’ modes for stuff that’s not being used. Oh, and no dishwasher, clothes dryer or air conditioning (c’mon, it’s England, when do we ever need to cool the ambient air?)

    Anyway, I’m enjoying your words immensely, and especially the quote from Mother’s Day: “Surprise! I love you! Here’s a part of the planet I wrecked for you, Hooray!!” Excellent!

    Reply
    • Dylan June 9, 2013, 12:51 pm

      Maybe I just don’t leave the lights on enough or I suck at math, but I haven’t ever found the incandescent vs. CFL case to be that clear cut. We have 5 incandescent lightbulbs that get regular use. 3 in the living room are 60W bulbs. They get used from somewhere between 1 and 2 hours a day depending on the season (in summer I can go a couple of weeks without turning them on at all). I’ve then got two incandescents in the bathroom, one is a strange European socket size that we have a 20W bulb in, and gets used maybe two hours a day. The other is a 60W bulb in the fan. It is a small enclosure, and it has a warning to not put a CFL in it, but even so, that light gets used for maybe 15 minutes a day.

      The 3 in the living room are the most obvious candidates for replacement. But even using something like 1.5 hours per day all year round, and assuming they are on at max brightness for that entire time it is still close to a two year payback period. In reality these bulbs are generally used dimmed at about 20% of max light, which would extend the payback period considerably (and my understanding is finding CFLs that work well at that light level is still a little bit difficult and expensive).

      I do have two CFL bulbs in the kitchen (although usually only 1 is on at a time) Those get a little more use and are not dimmed, so I think the value case is stronger there.

      Reply
  • B May 27, 2011, 8:42 am

    Hello MMM, I found my way here yesterday through ERE. I am really digging your blog. My wife and just bought a house in South Longmont and had our first child in January. I find your blog easy to relate to since we have a little in common. I was just wondering what do you think of Evaporative coolers vs AC

    Reply
    • MMM May 27, 2011, 3:03 pm

      Hey! Greetings fellow Longmontian.

      I like the idea of evaporative coolers because they are massive energy savers compared to A/C when you live somewhere with crispy hot dry summer air as we do. But I actually prefer the feel of A/C air over the cool humidity of swamp coolers. And since I only use it on about the 20 hottest days of the year, the annual energy cost is almost negligible (about $50). So I’m glad my own house has traditional A/C.

      If I happened to buy a house with neither option pre-installed, I wouldn’t pay to have it added myself – I’d just throw in a window unit for July and keep it stored the rest of the year. The nights are too fresh and cool here year-round to justify $3000 for central air.

      Reply
      • ermine June 2, 2011, 5:40 am

        My power usage is about 3-4kWh per day, but I don’t have the heating or A/C load. I’ve made a coscious effort to use the line for drying, as the dryer is an awesome power hog. I’m surprised at your lighting load, it still looks high to me!

        Reply
  • Bakari Kafele June 2, 2011, 9:55 pm

    Now here’s what I don’t understand:

    I only have 250 square feet, my 1 watt LED bulbs put CFLs to shame, I have no dryer or dishwasher, and I’ve stopped using heat entirely (Jacob of ERE convinced me it makes a lot more since to just wear “outdoor” clothes indoors when its cold)

    And yet, according to my last bill, I’m using more electricity than you! (314kWh)
    I used to pride myself on my 40-60 kWh per month, but then they replaced the old meter, and as much as I’d like to say the new one is miscalibrated, honestly, I suspect its the old one that was.

    According to my rough estimates (no kill-a-watt, though maybe its worth investing in one now) the main power draws are refrigeration and charging my trucks batteries (I removed the alternator to increase fuel mileage because electricity is cheaper than biodiesel)
    I just switched the fridge to propane, so I’ll see if that helps next month.

    Reply
    • MMM June 2, 2011, 11:04 pm

      I don’t know, I think your old meter settings sound much closer to what I would expect in your situation. I guess it depends how much your battery charger draws and how many hours it runs each day. If you have the smart kind that shuts off when the battery is charged, that is good. My older chargers keep trying to trickle charge, which ends up just heating the battery unnecessarily.

      If you are suspicious, you can get a clamp-on power meter and measure the entire input into your RV through the single main cable. That will verify if the power meter is accurate, and also help you figure out if someone is stealing power somehow.

      Reply
      • Bakari Kafele April 27, 2012, 1:03 pm

        The old meter really was bad! I borrowed a kill-a-watt from my friend (who works for Instructables) and it agreed with the new meter.

        So…
        I have since replaced all chargers with solar.

        Also, entire entertainment center gets unplugged except when we are watching it. Turns out, when you have to actually get up and plug in the system instead of just using the remote, we rarely watch it at all!

        Most recent bill arrived yesterday, 149kWh from 3/15 to 4/14!
        :)

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 28, 2012, 7:21 am

          Hooray! .. and you made me curious so I just checked my bill too: 202 kWh for March for our whole household. It’s down almost 33% since I wrote this old article. I think it is mostly from switching out a few halogens for really nice LED bulbs as noted in a more recent post, although we’ve also pretty much eliminated the last bits of the electric clothes drying habit as well.

          Electricity use on this scale could really be covered by a very small rooftop solar setup. Or if you covered your whole roof, it would provide enough spare juice to power an electric car for all local errands as well. Or if you’re a biker, sell back to the grid to pay you dividends while you provide for the driving needs of your neighbors!

          Reply
  • Bakari Kafele June 2, 2011, 9:58 pm

    p.s.
    an often neglected tip:
    if you go to bed early, and wake up early, you get the same number of hours of sleep, but you use the sun for light instead of electricity.

    So many people claim to be naturally “night people” but I question how many wouldn’t adjust their patterns if they couldn’t use any electricity after 7pm, and had to do whatever they stay up doing in the dark.

    Reply
  • Wes Hansen June 20, 2011, 1:33 pm

    @Bakari Kafele, As an electrician I’ve heard several instances where new digital meters were inaccurate. And of course they err in the utility’s favor. A more common culprit might be your refrigerator. When refrigerators start to die The condenser cycles on with greater frequency and for longer periods of time, until eventually it’s always on consuming a great deal of electricity. Another possibility, If you have an electric hot water heater, and a leaky faucet somewhere, check to see if the drip is hot, if so your hot water heater is working overtime! Either way a clamp-on meter, or a kill-a-watt will help.

    P.S. I love this blog!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Bakari Kafele June 20, 2011, 10:27 pm

      @Wes Hansen

      Thanks for the feedback.
      Its actually not a smart, or even digital meter. Its just a newer analog.

      My fridge is an RV style ammonia-absorption cycle fridge, so there is no condenser.
      Water heater runs on propane.
      I suspect maybe the old meter really did run low, but the new one runs high.

      I’m leaning strongly towards getting a kill-a-watt… unless I can find someone who has one to let me borrow – that would be the Mustachian way

      Reply
      • MMM June 20, 2011, 11:21 pm

        I have a killawatt you can borrow. But it would cost a few bucks to mail it. Also, to measure the power going into your whole RV, which i think you want to do in your case, you just need this $20 clamp-on meter to measure the amperage: http://www.harborfreight.com/clamp-on-digital-multimeter-95683.html

        Reply
        • Bakari Kafele June 20, 2011, 11:26 pm

          I was more thinking someone who lived in my state, though I do appreciate the thought.

          I was just at Harbor Freight yesterday (replacing work tools that got stolen a couple months ago) and I looked at that very meter – but after reading you and Jacob’s blogs, I just don’t see $20 the way I used to anymore.

          Reply
  • John June 27, 2011, 9:21 pm

    My electricity bill in Texas is about 20 KWH per month. Most would not tolerate the no AC in summer though.

    Reply
    • Laura June 30, 2013, 7:15 pm

      How in the world do you use so little? You’ve done a fantastic job!

      We are moving to Katy, TX in two weeks. My light bill has been included in my rent for the past ten years. I’ve never had to pay for electricity in a house before. We are trying to get the expenses down so I can stay home with our son.

      It was 104 today here in Houston. The house is all electric. No gas. It’s a young neighborhood with no mature trees but there are planted trees. No way can I get it so low with a toddler who can’t regulate his own temperature. Any suggestions not mentioned here?

      Reply
    • DDDAVE March 12, 2014, 3:04 am

      I live in N. Central Texas, DFW. My kWh usage for the month of September was 3793. For Oct.3441. Nov. 2032, Dec.2899, Jan. 5192. Well, I can’t find Feb. but, you get the picture. 1600sqft., 4 person family, dbl. door fridge, a 1 cuyd. freezer on the back porch, 1 shower, (the wall tiles in the hall bath need to be fixed), 3 computers that pretty much stay on. There’s a flat screen and dvd in three bedrooms and the living room that get used maybe 3 hours a month each. We keep the lights off as much as possible. Ever since we moved in here some 12 years ago. When I got the first bill I about hit the floor. I called and said there must be some mistake but, no they said. I asked them to come take a look at the meter and see if there wasn’t something wrong with it. They said they did and no there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the meter. About the 6th yr. they swapped the old style to the smart meter and no change. My provider has what’s called “Energy Dashboard” on their website, You put in certain statistical criteria, like the stuff above about my house and such, and it says I use 178% more energy than the “Average” customer with the same criteria. I’ve spoken with a few of my neighbors and theirs is half as much. One neighbor is single and the other two don’t have kids but, daaaang! I don’t no what to do. Something has to be wrong somewhere. How do I go about seeing for myself how much energy we use? What, I have to buy one of those, at the wall plugin things, for every plug and light in my house? Or is there another way?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2014, 8:10 am

        You could try turning off all your breakers, then watching your energy meter to make sure it is still (not spinning or flashing the usage bars on its LCD). Then turn breakers on one-by-one to figure out which one(s) have the heavy draw. Then track it down from there.

        It is possible that there are some weird things installed (transformers, pipe heaters, fans, pumps) that you don’t even know about. But in general, it should be entirely possible to have a much lower bill. My house burns only about 50kWh/month when I am away, or less if I totally unplug the fridge and leave it empty with open doors. But we rarely leave for long enough to justify that final step.

        Reply
      • Oh Yonghao April 2, 2014, 11:58 am

        First I’d say to make sure that the computers go either standby or hibernate when not in use. My desktop pulls about 300 watts when just sitting idle, with 3 of them you are talking 24kwh/day, thats 720kwh for the month. Arguably in the winter this should negate some of your heating costs.

        Next I’m wondering why the freezer is on the back porch instead of in a garage, if no garage then that may be a good spot for it, but the electrical use will go up in the summer due to the increased temperature outside.

        Is there a need for a TV in every bedroom? These systems can run 200-300w, you might check what they are pulling with a kill-o-watt while plugged in and off. My stereo receiver pulls 50watts just being on. Again with these three you are looking at another possibility of 24kwh/day or 720kwh per month, depending on usage. If you only use them 3 hours per month why bother having 3 of them? They might be pulling 50w each while in standby, so best case scenario I would say would be 3.6kwh per day or 108 a month plus the 3 hours of usage may bump you up to 110, this is nearly half of our monthly usage.

        What kind of heating do you use? Electric or gas? Better insulation may help if the January number is due to winter heating, it will also help save during the hot summer months so you don’t have to use as much A/C.

        MMM breaker suggestion is good to see which one spins it faster, but a kill-o-watt might be borrowed from the local library possibly, or you can purchase one and just try it out in each place, you don’t need to run it for a full day, just a minute will tell you the watts which is being pulled, a 300w device ran for 1 hour requires 300wh, or 0.3kwh. You figure out the number of hours you use it per month and that will tell you the number of kwh it will use. Such as my computer example, it pulls 280w, about 340w while gaming. For every hour of gaming I would use 340wh, so in 3 hours I would have used 1020wh, or 1.02kwh.

        What I did was plug in my power strip for my entertainment center to the kill-o-watt and tested first one item at a time, then all items together. Depending on the item and how well its standby mode works you may find it takes negligible amount of power to leave plugged in, but my stereo subwoofer draws no matter what since it doesn’t have a standby option.

        I would say you can combine both methods, use MMM’s instructions to find out where in the house is drawing the most, then use a kill-o-watt to narrow it down further. If the above two assumptions are true we may have found 1400kwh of your usage. I’m confident in the computer numbers being around 200w, not sure about your TV’s.

        Reply
        • Eldred April 2, 2014, 1:50 pm

          Either I got a bad meter, or I haven’t hit the right button. I’ve left things connected for hours, and haven’t seen any numbers on usage. I’ll have to try it again this weekend…

          Reply
  • gregorius August 29, 2011, 3:16 am

    I live in Belgium.
    Our household of 2 uses 2160 Kwh a year in electricity. That’s considered rather low. I don’t see possibilities to improve, on the contrary. We installed floorheating in the kitchen, because the architect said it would lower our overall energy use. Hah! Gas use dropped 16%, electricity use rose by 50%! So we put off the pump as much as we could, but the installer said it wasn’t meant to be put off.

    Reply
    • MMM August 29, 2011, 8:19 am

      2160kwh/year = 180kwh per month – only a fifth of the US average, even with your electric heat – I would say that is pretty good! It is unfortunate that the electric heat is increasing your overall cost, but that is generally true of electricity – it is more expensive than burning gas or oil, on a per-BTU basis, so it is not a good idea to heat with electricity unless you can afford to pay the extra $, and your electricity comes from renewable sources.

      Reply
  • Wat September 12, 2011, 10:58 am

    I live in VA really close to DC, an area known for its hellish summers. I have a 700 sq/ft 60’s garden style apartment. It is partially underground as I have a bottom floor walkout. White shades help reflect the sun that sneaks through the shade, and thick brick walls are awesome insulators.

    In the past 12 months, I have used 1576 kWh of electricity for an avg of 131/mo.
    My highest month is Feb, at 191, and lowest was 89 in Nov of 2010. My past 4 months (hottest months of the year), May 95, June 92, July 93, Aug 106.

    My central AC almost never runs because I keep it nice and cool during the day. The apt rarely gets above 78, and I just chill in the undies. At night if it’s hot trying to sleep, rather than turn on the AC for the entire apt, I just run a fan.

    In the winter I set my heat at about 76 at night, and 65 during the day.

    Reply
    • MMM September 12, 2011, 11:22 am

      Chillin’ in the Undies.. very nice technique :-)

      Why would you heat your house to 76 for a winter night? So you can Roast in the Undies as well? Most of us do the opposite – for example, I do 67 for winter days, 60 for winter nights.

      Reply
  • Dan October 27, 2011, 1:50 pm

    Triple M –

    Can you assuage my fears of mercury being present in CFLs vs. money savings?

    Thanks!
    Dan

    Reply
    • MMM October 27, 2011, 2:51 pm

      The 4-5milligrams (and dropping) of mercury per CFL bulb is a tiny amount. Mercury is like tobacco smoke and radiation in that it is the total amount of it you are exposed to in your lifetime that matters. And none of the mercury even leaks into your house if you don’t smash the bulbs. If you do smash one, just clean it up with duct tape and plastic bags to pick everything up, instead of vacuuming.

      Note that the biggest source of mercury in our environment comes from burning coal in power plants. So you’re reducing mercury poisoning by using CFLs over incandescents.

      If you want the best of all worlds, however (infinite lifespan, virtually unbreakable, great light color, even lower power consumption), check out LED bulbs. They are still a bit pricey, but I’m using one in my kitchen so far in place of one of the GU10 Halogen bulbs to test it out – it is very nice.

      Reply
  • Amy November 1, 2011, 12:18 pm

    I think something is seriously wrong with our house. It is about 2,600 sq. feet and our average monthly usage is *cringes* 2,750 kWh. It was built in 1978 and I don’t think many significant upgrades have been made to any of the systems.

    Guess it’s time to invest in one of those meter thingies? And then what? We throw so much money out the window because we’re completely clueless!

    Reply
  • Yuriy November 16, 2011, 8:28 pm

    To all those pushing replacing fluorescents as an absolute must — have you considered the effectiveness of incandescents as heaters? Most energy loss from a light bulb is heat, so the way I see it, incandescent light bulbs are almost 100% efficient any time you would have the heat on. Combining heating and electricity expenses, I expect the savings from using fluorescent bulbs to be approximately 0 during the winter months, but I would be interested in some numbers on this. Considering the (supposed) greater amount of harmful chemicals used in the production of fluorescent bulbs, that makes incandescents a better choice if it was cold year around. An interesting corollary of this is when you leave a room and turn the lights off but leave the heat on, you are only saving 10% of what you think you are saving, assuming a good thermostat.

    I moved recently and picked any new bulbs I needed based on the fixture and how much heat it produces. A fluorescent is good for a lamp with a small shade because you can put in a brighter bulb without burning/melting it. They are also good for a reading light that is sometimes close to your head. Other than that, I went with incandescents, but I will consider switching them out next summer.

    P.S. I got to this blog via a link to the (evidently quite popular) cost of commuting entry, and I am really liking it!

    Reply
    • MMM November 16, 2011, 10:31 pm

      You do have a good point – but it depends on your heat source and your climate. Any electric device including a light bulb actually doubles as a 100% efficient electric heater (since all electricity you use in your house eventually ends up as heat). If you use electricity to heat your house during the winter, you are right that you would save nothing by using CFL bulbs instead of incandescent ones.

      In the US, most heat is provided from other sources like natural gas or heating oil. Natural gas is at least 50% cheaper than electricity when used for heat – so that’s one calculation you can do.

      And of course, you only WANT heat for a portion of the year. In much of the US, the heating season is short or nonexistent. These people actually pay to COOL their houses, so incandescent light costs you double – once for the light, and once to pay for your air conditioner to remove the waste heat from your house.

      In my climate, people do both heating and cooling depending on the season, and we use natural gas for heat – so the energy-saving bulbs are still a huge win.

      Reply
      • Yuriy November 16, 2011, 11:05 pm

        My current place actually has electric heat. I have heard (and will soon find out!) that it’s much more expensive than gas or even oil. I’ve been wondering — but have yet to research — why that is. I can’t imagine it’s actually MORE efficient to deliver oil by truck to a home and burn it in a small furnace than to use electricity from the grid produced at a big plant delivered by power lines. Much like the way electric cars are supposed to be more efficient. But I suspect there are other factors like government subsidies at play making oil/gas heat “a huge win” for the wallet compared to electric heat or “waste” heat from electrical appliances, even if* the latter is actually more efficient and better for the environment (depending on the power plant of course).
        *still an if — need to research this

        Reply
        • MMM November 17, 2011, 11:36 am

          Here’s why electricity costs more: the power plant has to burn a fuel to make steam, to spin the generator’s turbines. This is a lossy process, so in the end only about 35% of the chemical energy from the fuel ends up as electrical energy. Then you lose about 7% more in the transmission lines and transformers on the way to your house. The electricity that finally makes it to your house is then converted to heat at 100% efficiency.

          Meanwhile, when you burn the fuel right in your own furnace for heat, you get whatever percentage your furnace can extract. Crappy furnaces are 80% efficient, better furnaces are over 90% efficient. So you are wasting much less of the fossil fuel energy this way.

          Another neat fact: If you use solar panels for your electricity, you are getting about 15% of the sun’s original energy content – and that is energy that would just go completely to waste heating up your roof shingles. So solar panels are actually a good percentage of the net efficiency of a fossil-fuel power plant, although they are obviously a completely different species so comparing the efficiency doesn’t matter as much as the power output vs. cost.

          Reply
          • Ed November 19, 2012, 8:16 pm

            Hey MMM

            You are correct in that using an electric strip heater is much worse than gas. For a heat pump this is not the case. At least in a moderate climate. A heat pump basically reverses the thermodynamic losses of a power plant. Will be glad to discuss more if you wish.

            Thanks for the blog and cheers

            Reply
      • CTY April 12, 2014, 2:18 pm

        So as I archive dive MMM, I have a Q about the potential of using the incandescent bulb as a heater of sorts. In the winter in So Cal it is almost possible not the turn my gas heater on at all. But if I am on the reading or crafting at night and I get a little chilled (even though fully dressed with a warm sweater) would it be cost effective for me to switch to incandescent bulbs in the room while sitting there? Will it give a boost of heat to my area without turning on the heat? Or is the difference not really measurable?

        Reply
  • CG January 24, 2012, 10:55 am

    Yay, no face punching for me! We averaged 400KWH last year but being in NJ, we pay $.20 per KWH. Urg. We have gas heat, water heat and the stove. Our electric fuels the lights(all fluorescent), 4 fans, window ac, 27 inch tv, Wii, VCR, dvd player, 2 lamps, 2 nightlights, fan for the heater, dehumidifier(health need),dishwasher, washer, desktop computer, microwave, fridge, & upright freezer. We only have 800 square feet. I keep the house at 64* in the winter and only turn on the window AC when the house gets above 84*. I have all the electronics hooked to a power strip to reduce the vampire effect but I usually forget to click it.
    I did a two month experiment with my dishwasher and found that using the air-dry feature saved only $5 a month. I run about 12 loads a week so that’s a lot of drying for very little savings.
    The electric dryer is my nemesis. I hung out 90% of our clothes and linens until 4 years ago. Our second child has a myriad of allergies that require indoor drying. Since we don’t have floor space for my drying rack anymore with a 5 person family, I have to use the dryer. That easily costs us $30/150 KWH a month.

    Reply
  • Stashette January 27, 2012, 6:44 am

    Uggh. Even in the winter I’m using 450-550 kwh a month! I understand why it’s so high in the summer (husband like the house freezing cold), but we have gas heat and it’s winter now. We have all CFLs, newish appliances, and the only appliances we have running constantly are our modem/router and fridge. We even turn off the power strip to the TV so it doesn’t draw vampire power. I’ve started using a drying rack for all my laundry this month as a test to see if that’s the culprit.

    Maybe I need a Kil-A-Watt to see what the problem is. All I can guess is an inefficient fridge (although it’s pretty new).

    Reply
  • kiwano February 8, 2012, 11:59 am

    You can also cut air conditioning and heating bills by installing a trellis on the south facing wall(s) of your house, and planting squash, beans and other climbing vegetables to grow up it. In the summer, a lot of that heat that would otherwise be expanding your air conditioning bill is getting turned into tasty food that you can harvest for a one-two punch right in your spending’s face.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache February 8, 2012, 12:15 pm

      Oh YUM!! Now that’s an awesome tip. Thanks Kiwano!

      Our south facing wall is a driveway (can you believe it!? what a waste), but we’re definitely going to be planting some climbing vegetables somewhere this year and providing some much needed summer shade at the same time.

      Reply
      • Gerard March 6, 2012, 11:37 am

        Is there a way that you can grow things *onto* your driveway? As in, plant tomatoes or squash next to it and train them to sprawl onto the car-free parts of the driveway? They’ll get crazy amounts of sunlight/heat in the spring and fall and produce for a long time, and cut the amount that your driveway heats up (and then heats the air around your house).
        On the other hand, you guys have very hot summers and your plants might fry… maybe this is just a Canadian technique…

        Reply
    • cptacek October 8, 2012, 3:06 pm

      Oh, my goodness, this is such a GREAT tip! Thank you so much!!!

      Reply
  • Angela March 6, 2012, 10:06 am

    I’m having a panic attack right now. I really thought we were pretty energy efficient here — we use CFL in all our light fixtures, we don’t use A/C, we try not to overheat in the winter (wear sweaters, etc. indoors). And yet…. our average winter electricity usage is (gulp) 2800 kWh!!! (Trying not to hyperventilate). Our house is 2100 sq. ft, was built in the 50’s, but has new windows and has been fully insulated. We’ve been told our local utility has pretty good rates and gets most of it’s power from hydroelectric (I live in the PNW). BUT, our house runs entirely on electricity — until recently there was no gas available! We have baseboards and ceiling heat, electric water heater, etc.. We did look at converting to either a heat pump or traditional gas furnace — that would require a major investment in ductwork and equipment to the tune of $12-$17K, which isn’t an option for us right now.

    Help!! Feel like doing a case study to help us lower our energy usage?? :-)

    ~Angela~

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 6, 2012, 11:58 am

      Hi Angela! I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you: my own winter natural gas use during the coldest month this year was 97 therms (heat, hot water, and cooking combined). One therm contains the energy of 29 kilowatt hours, meaning my electric bill would be the same as yours if I used electricity for all these things.

      So the only issue to decide is on conversion: your electric bill is probably $300 for that much electricity, while I paid $77 for that much gas. Is a savings of $223/month during the winter and $75 or so in summer worth a $12,000 investment in a new furnace and gas line? If it also increases the eventual resale value of your home by that amount, I’d say probably yes.

      Reply
    • Bakari March 6, 2012, 5:35 pm

      Instead of putting in an entire 12+k central air system, you could always just put one or two independent gas heaters directly in the room(s) that get the most daytime use, basically just like how now each room has its own baseboard heater instead of a central electric furnace. Add some reversible ceiling fans to that to circulate the heat into other rooms and use a little electric heat when necessary.

      That’s the way many homes around here come standard – one single central heat source.

      If/when you look to replace the water heater, an instant-on / tankless heater is much more efficient whether it is gas or electric. They do cost a few hundred more, but nothing like the 12k a central air system would cost

      Reply
  • sdp April 11, 2012, 7:45 pm

    My Wife & I built a greenhouse as our christmas gift to each other this year and now that it is up and running my electrical use has doubled from aprox 315/mo to 600/month. We are using all flourescent bulbs and no heater. hmmm sure hope the cost saving by eating homegrown will offset that. We live in the high mountain west with a short growing season the only way to get tomatoes up here is to start them in a greenhouse. yummy food so far though…….

    Reply
  • Mike from nj April 22, 2012, 7:58 pm

    I know this post is older but we just got through our first month after taking advice from this post. Here’s the results.

    My electric usage for the past few months has been…

    January: 792 KwH
    February: 576 (we were on vacation for 5 days this month)
    March: 424 (Started being more mindful of power usage
    !!!—>>> April: 289 (After replacing lights and finding the vampires)

    BIG difference. For the record we have approx 1500 sq ft of living space, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a regular fridge/freezer and a standalone 16cu ft freezer.

    Amazing stuff.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2012, 9:59 pm

      Wow! It is great to hear that others can have similar results!

      Mine keeps dropping as well, as I have replaced a few of the kitchen halogens with nice LEDs, and found a few hidden wasters as well (the doorbell was powered by a crusty old transformer in the basement that wasted 50kwh/year, just for that one time per month some solicitor comes to try to sell me something! (friends know to knock or just come in, they never use the bell).

      Reply
      • Cinder March 28, 2013, 1:03 pm

        I recently got my wired doorbell working again, and know where the transformer is. What did you replace yours with, a battery? A newer, more efficient one? A wireless doorbell setup?

        I may be posting on the forums soon, We have baseboard electric heat and we had a REALLY leaky house. We had paid someone to come in and do an energy audit for us, and we found a TON of leakage into our attic! The area around our chimney didn’t have a ceiling built around it, and the previous owners had just laid insulation across the gap, then put blown ontop of it!

        We had them come in, seal up the headers, build boxes around our pot lights and our chimney (adding in the 3 inch gap for fire code), and add some additional blown insulation.

        The whole house is on electric, so our power bills were pretty outrageous, electric heat + leaky house from 1972.. We had a few $600 electric bills!

        We have a house in Central PA that is built on a concrete slab, and the lower portion that is directly on the slab is usually pretty cold. We want to rip up the floor, add insulation and possibly heated floors, but we have poured concrete counter tops, so we can’t just take them down and reinstall them, we’ll just need to totally replace them whenever we remodel our kitchen.

        Also, since we don’t have a basement, our water heater is directly in our garage, which is insulated but not very well. We added some insulation around the door (you could visibly see light coming in around the door). There is a baseboard heater in the garage, which we keep set to 50, but I’m sure a ton of that heat just goes right out our garage space. I’ve added insulation to the hot water tubing on our water heater, and am thinking of looking into a blanket.

        What the Energy Audit guy suggested was building a wall around it, and just keeping that area heated. I’m sure the 30~50* garage allows it to lose a ton of heat and it has to work really hard to keep the water where it should be.

        Really enjoying your articles, and I think I have converted a few friends to your ways, one is out in the Ft. Collins area finishing up his PHD. He’s hoping to stay living on a grad student’s stipend when he starts making more out there in the real world!

        Reply
  • Joe May 14, 2012, 5:48 pm

    “you only need to wash clothes, sheets, or towels if they actually LOOK or SMELL unusual”

    I guess you can say you only live near Hygiene :)

    Just kidding, I do the same thing. Just couldn’t resist the CO joke.

    Reply
  • CG June 3, 2012, 2:47 am

    The older I get the more I feel the cold, even when wearing umpteen layers of wool indoors, plus ‘wrist-warmers’ and woolly hat. My trick is to use one of these very low wattage panel heaters http://www.thermofilm.com.au/products/bliss/bliss.htm under my desk, and top up with whole-room heating only in the early morning and after the sun sets.

    Then I do my reading in bed with two hot water bottles, and a shawl around my shoulders.

    I switch on the hot water tank for a bath once a week and wash my undies in it as well as myself, doing a load of washing only when necessary, using the $3 communal machine (I live in a rented flat) and choosing a day when I can rely on drying it on the line.outside.

    Cooking is by gas; about 20 MJ a month in summer; perhaps 40 MJ in winter when I use the oven more. Electricity 97 kWh per month in summer; 213 kWh in winter.

    One person household. No television. No heating in bedroom or bathroom. A single pedestal fan for cooling on the 3 or 4 really hot days in summer (40­­°+).

    Do I qualify as Mustachian? [No car, one bike used for shopping; otherwise public transport for longer distances.]
    .

    Reply
  • jaydubya June 3, 2012, 5:38 pm

    Challenge accepted!

    Tomorrow the hunt begins, last month we used 1029 kWh and from our history that was low. We keep the AC to 78 degrees here but in Atlanta it has already been consistently in the 90’s. With 5 people living in the house laundry is a huge task for our 12 year old washer and dryer. I know there are a few non CFL’s still hiding out in the house. So we’ll see…

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 3, 2012, 10:22 pm

      Nice! .. if your washing machine is the old top-loading style you might want to check your local Craigslist for a front-loader (high efficiency) washing machine if you do that much laundry. They can be had in the $150-$300 range used, and will save you a significant percentage of that each year in reduced heat, water, electricity, and even dryer usage due to the faster spin cycle.

      12-year-old washers, much like 20-year-old fridges or 20-MPG vehicles, are often much more expensive to keep than to replace. The exception is a low-laundry family who does 1 load or less per week. For these people, the operating expenses are so low that there isn’t much more savings to be had.

      Reply
  • Alex June 18, 2012, 5:10 am

    *checks past years electricity usage stats…*

    Average Monthly Use (Over the last year): 166Kwh’s

    Hmmm… looks like I’ve out bad-assed MMM! :D haha

    For the record we have a 3 bedroom house, not huge, 2 people living in it and there’s normally at least one of us home all week with computers and such going too.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 18, 2012, 7:55 am

      Excellent! .. you’re in Australia, right Alex? I think your country beats mine quite handily in per-capita electricity consumption (I remember the hotels there required your keycard to be in the door slot in order for A/C and lights to even work, for example). Do you live somewhere where you can keep your house comfortable without A/C?

      Reply
      • Alex June 19, 2012, 4:55 pm

        Yup, I’m in Australia. The hotels do mostly require that but to be honest I never considered it a “saving power” thing… it just makes sense. Why would the hotel want to pay for some idiot leaving all the lights/TV/air con and crap on 24/7 even if they’re not IN the room? Saves them money.

        And there’s not really ANYWHERE in Australia where you can be “comfy” without A/C year round. Even in Melbourne you’ll get 45 degree days (113 °F) and to make it worse, it normally swings in and out really quickly. Like one day it’ll be 25… then it’ll ramp up to 45 the next day so your body has no time to adjust slowly to the hotter temps.

        Our whole house is super geared for power efficiency though as I did heaps of tweaking to pull costs down (and smart original decisions). We’ve never owned a cloths dryer, use the washing machine and dish washer about once a week each, have all CFL light bulbs, a brand new super efficient fridge and only 1 PC. We have gas cook top, gas water heater and gas central heating and the air con is used as you described where when it IS turned on, it’s a giant fan fared event of “HOLY CRAP ITS HOT – Lets turn on the AIR CON!!! woooooo!!!”. A great tip I’ve found is to simply have a 50Watt fan blowing directly on me all night long when it’s really hot instead of having the A/C on all night.

        Oh and we have a 1.5kW solar system and are using 100% Green Power :-)

        Reply
  • Chris August 17, 2012, 10:47 am

    Kind of ties into the cutting cable article, but I find a huge use of electricity is a big screen TV, AV receiver and satelite PVR box.
    I have a super efficient TV (think it’s <1W standby) and receiver.
    However, I think when these are powered up it's using 200W, not an issue if you turn them off when not watching….. Big problem if you leave the TV on for background while you are home – 6 hours a day would be 36kW a month or about $1k over 10 years using the savings multiplier

    The big problem is our Satelite PVR box. It pulls 60-70W at all times (which needs to be plugged in to actually record anything) and is nice and warm all the time, compounding any A/C needs in the summer.
    That 65W, 24 hours a day adds to another 48kW of monthly useage – another $1k over 10 years

    Even more reason to pull the plug on cable (or satelite) and cut the power bill.

    Reply
    • Bakari August 17, 2012, 3:04 pm

      I have a DVR, but not cable (its hooked up to a digital converter, to a roof antenna). I find it a perfect combination – no monthly fee, but there is always something I want to watch when I feel like watching.

      It only uses 34watts, but like yours, its the same power draw whether its on or off, 24 hours a day – IF it stays plugged in 24/7

      I found it was building up shows faster than I would watch them, so now I leave the entire entertainment center unplugged roughly every other day, or whenever I don’t expect to watch anything for a while. If I am expecting something specific to come on, I’ll leave it plugged in, but otherwise I might wait until I’ve seen and deleted almost everything on it before letting it run 24 hours a day for several days in a row.

      Reply
  • Alex September 12, 2012, 8:15 am

    Wow, where to begin. This is a big one.

    I’ve yet to inspect our utilities bill, but I know we can save there as well.

    Let’s break it down in parts.
    Overall information first: We live in the Ottawa area, but on the Gatineau side, where electricity is relatively dirt cheap (will have to look up the figures later on for precision).

    First: Heating and A/C

    Our house is about 1200 sqf, plus recently finished and well insulated basement. We have a dual heating system, using a gas furnace and heat pump (doubling as AC in the summer). I was priding myself in the fact that the furnace would not fire up a lot in the mild winters we’ve been getting, and having an efficient heat pump that can function down to -20 degrees. But now, I’ll have to look at the actual energy costs of both to figure out if I’d be better off to leave the heat-pump off for heating and rely only on the furnace. (We also somewhat like the ‘mellow’ heating of the heat pump as opposed to the intense heat cycle of the furnace) (I also definitely need to calibrate all my vents). From what I’m reading here, I’d be better off with the furnace.

    Next up: appliances

    Our current set of appliances (fridge, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer) are dated 20 years… In the coming years, the kitchen will need to be redone, so we may switch to a gas installation there, but in the meantime, we’ve been pushing back the purchase of new appliances due to the large amount of cash required that we don’t really have(even if it is to buy used ones). May have to revisit that as well…

    Tying in with the appliances, our clothes washing. We try to use cloth diapers for the baby, and combined with baby clothes, and the wife’s ‘classy’ dressing habits for her job, we probably do too many loads per week. Though we already keep the drying for annoyances and mostly hang to dry. We do, however, use a de-humidifier in the summer time to compensate for the added moisture of this type of drying that we do in the basement. (What do you think of a humidity control unit ON the furnace blower? And speaking of blower, we tend to leave it on all the time for large temperature differences between the 3 levels, is that a no-no?) We should probably get those standalone hang-racks and do our drying in the backyard, though.

    Finally, light bulbs and lighting. I had gone on a rampage not too long ago of replacing all with CFLs. I think I did it poorly, however, since I ended up buying the bad white ones, and some that don’t dim (we have lots of dimmers…). Wife had complaints about those that would take forever to reach their full intensity as well. Also, we have lots of fixtures using the GU 25W types, on dimmers, which I could not find CFLs that would fit. (Though I am now reading here about the LED option). While I probably deserve a few punches in the face here, in my defence, it has been unnaturally complicated to switch over around here (not to mention the poor selection of such bulbs at the local stores).

    And I’m up with a wall-o-text of things that should probably be evident but I just can’t seem to figure out the best way to go about… what do you think?

    Reply
  • Georgia September 17, 2012, 10:22 am

    I realize this is an old post, so my comment may not get read, but here’s hoping. Does anyone know the effect of old wiring on CFLs? I live in an old (Victorian) apartment building with very old wiring, and CFLs burn out ridiculously quickly — in less than a year! While I’d prefer to use CFLs for cost and energy savings, I’m not sure they’re actually worth it in this case. I have found that the CFLs last in floor and desk lamps that are plugged into power strips, but have had no luck with overhead lights. And, no, I can’t just use floor lamps for each room, because most of the rooms have only one outlet. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Bakari Kafele September 17, 2012, 12:29 pm

      I’ve never heard of CFLs having a problem with “old” wiring, and I can’t thnk of a reason why they would. Are any of the rooms on dimmer switches by chances? Most CFLs aren’t compatible with dimmers (of any age).
      If you are getting frequent power surges it could be a problem from the power companies lines, and not in your house. On the other hand, if the lights are flickering (even incandescent bulbs) maybe there are loose wires inside the walls somewhere, which could be dangerous.
      Don’t take my word for it, I’m not an electrician – you may want to ask this question of a real one

      Reply
    • Kim September 26, 2012, 1:17 pm

      We live in a 30 year-old house, but we’ve noticed the same thing. I’m so frustrated with my CFLs burning out in less than a year! And these aren’t bulbs that are being turned on and off a twenty times a day either.

      With the luck we’ve had with our CFLs we’re boycotting them in favor of LEDs. Although I’ve heard that they’re lifespans aren’t as good as promised either…

      Reply
      • Georgia September 26, 2012, 1:23 pm

        I’m glad (so to speak) that it’s not just me! But seriously, I never had to change incandescent bulbs this often.

        Reply
  • Tami October 9, 2012, 3:26 am

    I just purchased my first home and was so excited that my power bill was only $31.50, but after seeing this, I realize that was high! I used 425kwh the month of August. My local company charges 4.9 cent per kwh. I now also realize how lucky I am that it is that inexpensive.

    I am honestly puzzled as to how my usage could be so high. I live in a 520 sq ft home built in 1946. I have no dishwasher, wash machine, or dryer. My only appliances are a stove/oven, hot water tank, refrigerator, and microwave. I use the stove about once a week. I have a window A/C unit, but I used it only a few hours a day when the temps were very high – maybe 7 days that month. Mostly I open windows and run small box fans for circulation. When I go to sleep these are all unplugged.

    I only leave my computer on three days a week because of school needs. I shower twice a week, do my dishes in the sink all at once every two to three days, and have all cfl bulbs in my house. Actually, when I moved in I removed bulbs from all the fixtures. I didn’t need two or three bulbs – too bright! In most cases I only have one bulb remaining. I do leave my front and back porch lights on all evening for safety reasons, but being they are CFL’s I didn’t think it would be that costly.

    Goodness, what am I missing here? I haven’t even turned the heaters on yet. I’ve never had Cadet heaters before, and now I’m growing concerned about what my heating bill this winter is going to look like. Thankfully, I don’t mind a cold house. I’m comfortable with the temp dropping into the 50’s overnight.

    Any ideas or advice? Thanks for reading:)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012, 9:25 am

      Hey Tami – if your water heater is electric, that would make all the difference. It is hard to run one of those on under 350kwh/month, since even the standby energy use is fairly high (to keep the tank warm as it constantly leaks energy). Putting one of those insulated blankets around it would surely make a difference – my (gas-fired) water heater is carefully buried in insulation, which saves quite a bit of heat.

      Reply
      • Tami October 9, 2012, 3:51 pm

        Holy Moses! 82% of my power bill is my electric water heater? Unconscionable! I must fix this. It is in my home, but is in a corner of the house with exterior walls. It is 13 years old. I do not have access to gas, but will look into different options. Perhaps a smaller tank or a POS system is an option. I’ve got to come up with something, as this makes no sense!

        Reply
    • Bakari October 9, 2012, 10:48 am

      Since you only shower twice a week, I’d go even further, and just turn off the water heater completely except on those days.

      I’ve found it totally unnecessary to have hot water for anything except showers, and turning it off the rest of the time cut my gas bill more than 50%

      Just remember to plug it back in several hours in advance of when you will want to use it, because it takes a while to heat up so much water from room temperature.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012, 2:22 pm

        Good tip, Bakari – my Mum actually does this (even though I reassure her that she can afford to leave the thing running if she would prefer).

        Another neat solution is the tankless water heater (if you have gas service). I just installed one in a friend’s house and it was remarkably easy. The unit cost only $400 more than a standard water heater and will save his 4-person household about $75/year. Service life is supposedly longer as well (20 years vs. ~10 for a tank water heater).

        Reply
        • Bakari October 9, 2012, 3:37 pm

          You’ll loose out on some fancy features (like automatic temperature regulation), but you can get an instant / tankless water heater for much LESS than a tank heater (under $200, if you don’t need to run lots of appliances simultaneously).

          And you don’t have to have gas service, they come in electric too.

          Just go to ebay and type “tankless water heater” for 2459 options!

          Reply
        • Tricia July 22, 2014, 2:55 pm

          I was shocked to see a 50gal hot water heater in my awesome studio apartment. That seems really big for 1-2 people.

          I was curious about the energy draw and found out the electric plug is behind a locked panel so no turning off and on. However since its a dual temp, I’m wondering if It would do any good turning off (or way down) the temp on the lower 25gal.

          Would a mustached engineer have any mathematical thoughts on the matter?

          Reply
  • Curtis October 17, 2012, 1:28 pm

    Your electricity usage is amazing. Have you ever considered putting some of your savings into a solar panel setup at your house? With your low energy usage you wouldn’t need a very big setup to bring your total cost down to $0 and maybe even make some money if your utility companies will pay you for excess power generation. I think Colorado has some pretty good incentives for installing solar.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 17, 2012, 6:38 pm

      Unfortunately, the setup in my own city is that it would cost more to create a grid-tied solar system than to buy renewable power at my level – even if I got the panels, equipment and installation for FREE!

      There’s a bizarre policy where the monthly “connection charge” goes way up if you are a power producer. The increase would be something like $20 per month, more than my total power bill these days (it has dropped by another 33% since this article was written).

      But that doesn’t affect the solar decision for other people. Colorado residents served by Xcel Energy can profitably install solar, and California and Hawaii residents can make a huge return on investment by doing it!

      So instead, I’m celebrating my almost-zero power bill, and improvising some ways to get free winter heat (air and water) instead.

      Reply
      • Curtis October 18, 2012, 7:48 am

        If you are into free heat you need to check out videos on youtube on building your own solar air heaters. Lots of info on building solar water heaters as well.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqObr-M39Ug

        BTW, have you heard of the E-Cat low energy nuclear reactors that Andrea Rossi is working on? No third party tests yet but if this pans out you could heat/cool and power your house for only a couple hundred bucks a year. http://www.e-catworld.com/what-is-the-e-cat/

        Reply
  • Ed November 19, 2012, 6:02 pm

    Great site.

    My electricity usage in an all electric house was 3005 Kwhr for the previous 12 months. Average of 250 per month. Still trending down. Think I can get that to around 2700 but that is about it. Not much left short of installing a solar electric system. At least for now not even close to being economic. Live in the steamy south near Birmingham Al and have to run AC or swelter. Also must heat or shiver. Don’t do either; keep the place at around 75 average in the summer and 65 average in the winter. Mornings around 62, evenings around 68.

    Place is small; 1200 square feet heated and cooled area. Cool an additional 800 square feet of basement as needed for humidity control. Starts smelling musty if I don’t. House was a mess when I purchased it. Was what I could do with cash on hand. Divorce.

    While rebuilding insulated and sealed. Rebuilding is the appropriate term. Remodeling does not begin to describe the work. Used a radiant barrier along with additional insulation for the full cathedral ceilings. It is an A frame which sucks on many levels but it is what it is. Replaced the crap aluminum windows with double pane. Retired the old 3 ton central AC/ gas unit and replaced with two 18 SEER 1 ton mini split heat pumps. Installed an electric tankless hot water heater. Mainly because it takes up no floor space. The tank was very much in the way. Used electric because I wanted to get away from gas so as not to pay two separate capacity/service charges. If you are going with only one it pretty much has to be electricity. With all the improvements the mini splits are oversized but they do have a dehumidify mode that runs them at about half capacity. One unit is easily enough but when I have company I need to cool the upstairs. Downstairs unit will heat the upstairs nicely but not cool it very well. Hot air rises, cold air sinks. Got a modern energy star refrigerator. Old one was still working but was a mess. Came with the place. Wasn’t worth them hauling off. Built a solar space heater. My guess is that it supplies 35 to 45 % of my heating needs. My area is heating dominated but not by much. 2800 heating degree days and 2200 cooling degree days on average. It is actually humidity controlled. HDD and CDD don’t tell the true story in a hot humid climate.

    Don’t have a TV but have been thinking about it for the last five years or so. Not really opposed to the idea but apparently lack the motivation to go get one.

    Usually do two loads of laundery a week always cold water but only use dryer if weather is bad.

    Make accommodations for girl friend on weekends as she is skinny as Olive Oil and gets cold under about 70. She is worth it for sure.

    Have an energy monitor which is I got cheap on eBay. It actually paid for itself as I discovered some fairly serious vampire loads with it. Turns out my mini splits suck down about 45 watts each in standby.

    Reply
  • farely99 December 13, 2012, 10:27 pm

    We average 2100 kilowatts a month we are on the budge plan so pay 210.00 per month year round. I have done everything i can to bring that down. We dont heat our house. We have very limited lighting. We only do one load of laundry a week. One load of dishes a week. But we have someone that requires machines to live and i think that is where it is coming from. When we first moved into this house and everyone was healthy we average around 500 kilowatt a month. It would be great if I could get it down even further but I am out of ideas. But you have explained somethings and sparked ideas thank you for the article.

    Reply
    • Rob aka Captain and Mrs Slow January 18, 2013, 8:23 am

      sounds like you need to buy or borrow a kilo watt device

      Reply
    • CTY April 12, 2014, 3:07 pm

      In hopes that someone may see this–Typically electric providers extend lower rates to folks who have to run medical equipment. I would start there.

      Reply
  • Mike L December 17, 2012, 9:05 am

    Hey MMM,
    Interesting post and a good conversation/viewpoint generator.
    Do you have any thoughts on ground source heat furnaces?
    They use much more electricity than a conventional gas or oil
    furnace but they do not have to burn fossil fuels or store any
    combustible fuels in the house either. Many have a coefficient
    of performance claims of 3.5 to 5. Is it worthwhile to have a
    higher electricity bill and decrease greenhouse emissions or
    decrease electricity use and stick with traditional systems?
    Mike

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 17, 2012, 11:56 pm

      Hey Mike.. Yeah, if you have a coefficient above about 2, you break even with natural gas at $1.00/therm and electricity at 10c/kWh. So with 3.5 to 5, you should see cheaper heating bills that more than offset the extra electricity. Even more savings if you don’t have natural gas service to your house, since oil heat is much more expensive, and plain electric resistance heat is the worst of all.

      Reply
  • Segmond January 20, 2013, 1:19 pm

    I do laundry once a week, dryer once. 25watt light bulbs around house, I never have them on unless I’m actually using them. My desktop is on all day so is my fridge. My bills are higher. :-( $40. I rarely use the AC, used them 3 times last year, for the very hottest days.

    Reply
  • Alex in Virginia February 16, 2013, 6:07 am

    Absolutely great advice. But don’t forget the hot water heater!

    It’s easy to install a timer to control your electricity expense. Less than $50 for the timer. It allows me to have hot water when I am going to need/want it and not feed the electric bill the rest of the time. And make sure to wrap a thermoblanket around the hot water heater. Just $20 to buy and it helps keep your hot water hot/hotter for longer.

    Love your blog!

    Alex in Virginia

    Reply
  • Energy Nerd February 20, 2013, 6:20 pm

    MMM, maybe consider shooting for the Thousand Home Challenge (http://thousandhomechallenge.com/)? You seem to love a challenge. :) In our two-person household, we average 57 kWh of electricity and 7 therms (205 kWh) of natural gas usage per month.

    Here’s a reference that may be of use to others looking to prioritize home energy efficiency strategies: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/energy-efficiency-pyramid

    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 20, 2013, 9:03 pm

      Wow, 57kWh is pretty amazing!

      And wow, that would be quite an interesting challenge, going down 70% from what we use today. All the math I’ve done on the issue so far suggests I couldn’t do it cost-effectively, because our energy (electric+gas) costs are only in the range of $600/year total. Dropping it by 70% would save $420, but to make it cost-effective you wouldn’t want to spend more than $4200 on the conversion (or even $8k since I’m willing to accept low returns to save energy).

      Reply
  • Chrissy April 8, 2013, 7:35 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I wanted to add that not using the dryer saves money in another way too, because it keeps your clothes in great shape. The heat from the dryer breaks down the fibers of your clothing and makes it look worn and old quickly, and eventually will actually wear it out. Washing clothes only when they’re actually dirty (not every time you wear them!) and washing them only in cold water, and then hanging them dry, will make your clothes last forever.

    Reply
  • PaulF May 3, 2013, 7:55 am

    I know this is an old post (reading from the beginning) but thought I would share this tip. Some power companies will send their customers free CFL’s. I know here in the south east US Duke Energy will send you up to 15. I think they were a mix of 12 and 15 watt bulbs if I recall. I would imagine other utilities have similar programs. http://www.duke-energy.com/freecfls/

    Reply
  • Matthew May 9, 2013, 10:03 am

    Can you reccomend a site that would allow me to buy DIMMABLE CFLs in bulk? I have a lot of bulbs 60-75W bulbs to changes and Amazon + Lowes are not so helpful with the dimmable CFL.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Campinas May 10, 2013, 5:58 pm

    Ummm I dont wanna brag or anything but my last 2 bills were 50kWh and 83 kWh per month. Im new at MMM but thats pretty awesome isnt it? I must add I live in Brazil where we have no heating or air conditioning and I can count on one hand how many electronics we have plugged into a wall right now. Not sure I would have the same situation back home in Canada. Great article though. Id love to show you a pic of our crazy amazing air drying laundry setup. I can dry up to 5 FULL loads of laundry and have it hanging to dry nicely in one small space. Im so proud of it.
    Keep em comin’ MMM!

    Reply
  • Lucio May 28, 2013, 7:58 pm

    I did not even know such a thing as a Clothes Dryer even existed until now.

    Reply
  • Taresa June 14, 2013, 3:40 pm

    Check it out! Literally! I just learned that my library lends these out! I know what I’m doing on this Friday night! Being a badass!

    Reply
    • Melanie November 3, 2013, 4:50 pm

      Reading this article today…my county’s libraries allows you to check them out too! Awesome, and thanks for the tip. I would have NEVER thought to check my library for this.

      Reply
  • Nina July 28, 2013, 7:01 am

    1600 kWh per year, 133 kWh per month, no a/c, no dryer, lots of energy saving lights (including industrial light in kitchen and bathroom – not the usual “here a decorative bulb and fixture, there a decorative bulb and fixture” I have seen in the US), one load laundry per week (HE front loader) on average, energy saving fridge and freezer, as well as stove, oven and dish washer (which is a luxury but motivates me to rather cook than go out for dinner). Single person in a major European city, heating with natural gas is being billed separately.
    According to my energy provider I’m listed as very frugal – they send an overview regarding consumption levels with the annual invoice.
    Funny thing is they changed the definition of very frugal from 1700 to 2050 kWh per annum over the last two years.
    Did I mention that they charge at least 38 US cents (28,43 Euro cents) per kWh where I live?
    Some American home owners would go bankrupt due to our energy price if they had to pay according to our price level.

    Reply
    • Johan August 1, 2013, 5:28 pm

      Quick questions. If I have appliances plugged into a power strip and switch off whatever I’m not using is still drawing power or is the only way to get rid of vampire suckage by unplugging the cord? Also, does the power strip itself consume energy?

      Reply
      • Oh Yonghao April 2, 2014, 12:53 pm

        After much testing with a kill-o-watt I have verified that a power strip does not consume any energy and items plugged into will not consume any while the strip is off.

        Reply
  • V August 13, 2013, 7:11 pm

    At least in this area I’m doing ok!
    I’m averaging 300kWh in winter, and about 450kWh during summer for a big house, and that’s for desert California (it DOES get hot).
    I don’t feel bad about using 450kWh, as with all the A/C cycling discounts, “save power days” and other promotions from our electric company my summer bill is only about $14-16 (it’s not a typo and I did not forget a zero).
    The biggest help in keeping the house cool was installing cheap roll-down sun screens on south-facing windows, that was the best investment!

    Reply
  • Tom October 17, 2013, 8:03 am

    A “trick” you can do to cool off your house in the spring/summer is to use a dehumidifier. When you lower the humidity in the room, it feels cooler, even if the temperature stays the same. I live in Europe where nearly all a/c units can act as a dehumidifier; using that option saves $$$. If your a/c unit doesn’t do that, then just go buy a portable one off of ebay.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 17, 2013, 9:06 am

      Yes! All A/C units act as dehumidifiers, and in fact a dehumidifier is just an A/C that vents the waste heat into your house instead of outside. They both consume an equal amount of power, so if you’re going to run one as a means of keeping cool, definitely use A/C as it will get the job done more efficiently.

      Reply
      • tom October 17, 2013, 9:18 am

        That doesn’t sound right to me. My a/c unit had a specific humidifier setting and when used, it’d blow cooler air. Or, perhaps it was the same temp air but with less humidity; it felt cool which is what was important. However, the best part was that my electric bills PLUMMETED! It did not use the same amount of power as the a/c unit, there was just no way. Even in the manual it said it used less power. There were limitations with its use though, and the fan only went one speed, but it was a huge money saver and it’d cool a room. I can’t recall ever seeing home a/c units in the states having a dehumidifier-only setting. Just heat, cool, and fan.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache October 17, 2013, 9:30 am

          Hmm.. I believe you Tom, but I guess we’d have to see a technical description of what that machine is actually doing and measure the temperature and power use to resolve our little dispute.

          I mainly made this point because several other people have commented over the years that they run a standard dehumidifier indoors in the summer to save power, which is a misguided idea because of the similar power use and added heat – better to just use an efficient window A/C when needed.

          Reply
          • tom October 17, 2013, 9:52 am

            This is the type of a/c unit I’m referring to (see link below). These are used in most of Europe and the Middle East/Asia. They are a “split” unit, with the fan and all the working components being located outside the house, while the other unit is on the inside and they are connect via ducting. One outside unit per one inside unit. Oftentimes they are one to a room or even one to a floor, so in my last house I had 4, which is nice because you don’t have to cool the entire house. If you want to geek it up a little, which we all know is in your blood, you can look at the user manuals which are also at the link below. My last units were Daikin, but not these specific ones; I can’t remember the exact ones I had.

            http://www.daikin.co.uk/products/index.jsp?singleprv=FTXS-K&pf=0#operationmanuals

            Reply
          • ed October 17, 2013, 11:03 am

            I think that what Tom may be referring to is the dehumidify mode on his mini split. If it is like mine it runs at a low inside fan speed and also low compressor speed. It is still in fact an AC with heat rejection to the outside as normal. Just operating in an enhanced moisture removal mode. So it is not your standard dehumidifier which as you noted actually heats up a room. I generally use mine in the dehumidify mode as I live in the humid southeast. It does work pretty good. Don’t really know if it is running at a better COP than in normal AC but it might as it is running at a very low power level.

            Reply
  • Eldred November 5, 2013, 9:25 am

    Question to those of you who have swapped out your incandescent bulbs for fluorescent… In fixtures where the max bulb was say, 60w, is it ok to replace them with 75w equivalent fluorescent bulbs? I find that the equivalent bulbs don’t seem to give enough light. I *did* just replace my 4 basement light bulbs though, and have an energy meter on order from Amazon to see where else I can cut back.

    Reply
    • ed November 5, 2013, 11:15 am

      I don’t see why it would be a problem. The equivalent rating displayed on florescent blubs is a light output compared to an incandescent not a actual wattage rating. The actual wattage is what counts as far as the fixture is concerned. The fixture is rated based upon heat output and power usage of an incandescent bulb. To large a wattage can destroy the fixture due to heat. In the case of florescents the actual wattage is typically about a factor of 4 less than the equivalent. So a 75 watt equivalent florescent will typically draw about 20 or so actual watts. The actual wattage is on the package in smaller print

      Reply
      • Eldred November 5, 2013, 12:42 pm

        Yes – the ‘100 watt’ CFL is 23w, so the 2 bulbs together is still less than ONE of the 60w incandescent the fixture was designed for. Cool. Now I just have to figure out how to make the house more ‘efficient’ overall until I can afford to have more insulation installed.

        Reply
        • ed November 5, 2013, 4:18 pm

          Probably the cheapest thing you can do is to seal air leaks. A simple way to do this is on a mild day put a box fan in window seal it in with cardboard or whatever,close everything up get some incense sticks, turn the fan on and start looking for air leaks with the smoke off the stick. Get a scent you can stand as it gets pretty nasty. Also be careful not to start a fire. You will likely find air leaks around windows, doors, baseboards. Several tubes of caulk is your expense. I used around 20 when doing my very leaky house. Mine was a special case. After major modification got my annual electricity usage down to less than 3000 kwhrs and it is all electric. I keep it comfortable. But I did a lot of things including replacing old heat pump with high efficiency minisplits. Did everything myself so it was not terribly expensive but a lot of work. The house needed major refurbishment to begin with. Insulation if you blow it in yourself is not so expensive. I am this week planning to increase the insulation in another house that I bought and an refurbishing. Current attic insulation is around R10. Going to add R30 of cellulose, for r40 total. That is what is recommended for my area. Cost will run around $700 for around 2000 sq feet of attic space. Most of the big box home improvement store loan the blower with a minimum amount of insulation purchase. Not a job for everyone but easier than a lot of things.

          Reply
  • PaulC_PE December 15, 2013, 6:25 pm

    New to MMM.. really enjoying the blogs and feedback…but having a hard time believing the average consumption figures. My rates this month are just under $0.10/kWHr and my bill is $215– sky high by MMM standards, but low for me compared to summer months–where here in the deep south, my bills soar to $500-700/month. Last month was 2,630 kWhr, this month 2070 kWhr. (both months are no A/C, heat only months)

    Here are some of my specifics…

    ~3K sq ft 25 yr old home. New 19 SEER heat pump installed in 2012 for 1st level. 12 SEER 2nd story unit.

    Metal roof energy star rated because of color/reflectivity properties.

    We set A/C to 78* in the summer and heat to 68* in the winter. We supplement our heat with wood burning fireplace insert. We also use propane as backup heat source (instead of electric heat strips). These temp settings are evening settings. Programmable T-stat kicks heat down to 60 at night/daytime and 82 during day during cooling season.

    We have family of 5 and do a lot of laundry. >30 loads/week is not uncommon.

    Appliances: 2 refrigerators, 1 freezer in basement and dehumidifier in basement, window A/C unit in room above garage 9.8 SEER.

    I believe my biggest consumption appliances are:

    water heater (teens shower until 50 gal tank is empty despite my best attempts to curb that). When it goes, I hope to replace with gas/propane (or would this be a mistake?)

    clothes dryer -> 30+ loads a week (240V@30A*0.75hrs/load*30 loads)=162kW, ($16 @ $0.10 per kWhr)

    oven (how to estimate?)

    2 refrigerators/freezer

    dehumidifier

    We have a whole house fan we use in the spring and fall when humidity is bearable which saves a lot…

    The house has R19 walls, R19-R38 ceiling (varies due to trey ceilings). Basement ceiling/floor R19 (basement is currently unfinished)

    In winter we recoup dryer exhaust for upstairs heat.

    Other than replace my 12 SEER 2nd story unit with a 19 SEER unit, and perhaps replace my window A/C for one of the Mitsubishi local heat pump solution, what steps can I take to have any hope of MMM usage?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 15, 2013, 8:00 pm

      Dude.. it’s the insane laundromat you are running!!

      We’re a family of 3. We do MAYBE one load per week in the high-efficiency front-loading washer. And then hang it to dry. Since I’m generous, I’ll let you do TWICE as much laundry as me, even though you only have 1.6 times as many people. So that’s two loads. You are doing fifteen times more than that. FIFTEEN!! You’ve got 720kWh per month just in the dryer. Then the energy to heat all that water for the washer.

      You’ll also want to move to ONE energy-star fridge/freezer – nothing in the basement, no second unit. And if you can get a natural gas water heater, do it today. A Tankless one – no need to wait for the current unit to go – it is draining your blood by the second. Second choice might be a heat-pump electric water heater. In your warm climate, this could be efficient.

      Then, you can install a 1.5GPM showerhead and put some sort of timer where showers END at five minutes. Whether you have soap on you or not. Kids gotta learn not to be energy gluttons, or they will suffer from this weakness for life!

      That is why you use almost 15 times more electricity than I do.

      Final note: my own electricity consumption is regularly mocked by more efficient people – especially Europeans, apartment-dwellers, and the young and badass. So it should not be looked at as some unattainable goal, but rather as a HIGH threshold you should blow through and then report back to me to encourage me to get my act together :-)

      Reply
      • PaulC_PE December 16, 2013, 6:58 am

        No idea how to only do 2 loads/week. 5 showers/day= 1 load/day just in towels. That’s 7 of the 30…. Energy to heat water for washer=0. We only run cold/cold cycles. You are figuring 6KWhr/load, correct?

        Why move freezer from basement? Aside from space issues, basement is always cooler–so should cause compressor to run less. Correct?

        Natural gas is not available in my area. Propane better than electric? Tankless– like the idea but concerned showers would become even longer! Any links/info on costs/retailers for heat-pump water heater? I like that idea. How well do they work? Anyone here have one and can comment on how well they work, savings, durability?

        MMM–appreciate the encouragement–at this point I’d be tickled to cut my use in 1//2, let alone by factor of 15!

        Reply
        • Eldred December 16, 2013, 7:39 am

          Why would you need a new towel every day? After your shower, you’re CLEAN! So the towels shouldn’t get dirty when you dry off. I use the same towel for a week. So I’ve just cut your towel laundry from 7 loads to 1. :-)

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache December 16, 2013, 9:00 am

            Yes! I think this unlocks the mystery of Paul’s Laundromat. Even in hotels, where laundry service is free and done automatically by the workers as part of your room rate, 75% of people re-use their towels without washing them each day.

            This depends partly on climate, but check out the math:
            – I take a shower on average every SECOND day (which is more than plenty for most people, except competitive athletes or oil-rig workers. And this is despite the fact that I do 100% of my local transportation (including hauling groceries and small loads of lumber) by bike. Exception granted for people working outside in Alabama humidity in summer!)
            – I hang up my towel on a dry and well-ventilated towel bar so it dries quickly
            – I only wash it when it stops smelling fresh – for me, this is about every 10 showers, or every 20 days.

            There’s an instant 95% reduction in laundry use for showers, right there.

            For the freezer – yes, running one in the basement should use less power. But I was suggesting to use only one refrigeration machine for the whole house, instead of three. However, if the basement freezer saves you from extra trips to the grocery store or allows you to buy larger stocks of stuff at a deep discount, it is worth keeping it around. The main problem arises with people who keep that second fridge running in the garage, just for beer and soda.

            I hope you don’t mind if I quote your laundry example in a future article, because many could learn from it. We’re often conditioned to re-create a certain level of cleaning, air-conditioning, heating, etc. from our parents and peers, without questioning if it is really the ideal level.

            Reply
            • PaulC_PE December 16, 2013, 8:10 pm

              MMM,

              First – I don’t mind at all if you use in future posts.

              Here in HUMID, AL, shower every other day is not an option for most of my family members. You are exactly right about the climate. In Colorado, re-using towels or going 2 days w/o a shower would probably be OK because in the arid climate I imagine a towel is completely dry in < 2 hrs and sweat evaporates very quickly, keeping clothes dryer/cleaner. Here, even if you hang and air dry your towels after use, the bathroom will smell funky within 26 hrs–with 5 towels hanging. It takes well over 12 hrs to fully dry. In the summer often I'll end up taking two cold showers working outside in 95% RH and 100*.

              I'm looking into the water heater heat-pump– looks quite promising. and perhaps keep existing in series with inlet as a pre-heater (placing outside in the AL sun). If promised energy reductions are real, would pay for itself in just under 3 yrs.

              On the freezer – yes, allows us to stock up and reduce trips into town. (40mi round trip).

              Any recommendations on window films or other options to minimize heat gain in summer? Our house faces due west and 9 large west-facing windows heats the house too good in the summer. I considered awnings for the 2nd story windows, but in addition to aesthetic concerns, the heavy thunderstorms prevalent in the area would probably turn them into a perpetual maintenance issue.

              Thanks for your input and suggestions.

              Reply
              • Eldred December 16, 2013, 10:15 pm

                Is there a Lowe’s in your area? Try this:
                http://www.lowes.com/pd_335252-74130-10341561_0__?productId=3416000&Ntt=reflective+window+film&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dreflective%2Bwindow%2Bfilm&facetInfo=

                Or check with storefront merchants in town and see what they use on their windows.

              • paulC_PE December 20, 2013, 2:03 pm

                Just a note of thanks to Eldred for the window film link– I lucked out and got 4 48″x15′ rolls for the price of one! ($32) Hope to install over the holidays…

                Also to MMM–thanks for the heat pump water heater suggestion.. I am getting some quotes soon…

                New question–now considering upping my attic insulation to R45 from R19. Blown in or batt? Batt appears to be about 2x the cost of blown in. Is it worth the premium?

              • Mr. Money Mustache December 20, 2013, 3:57 pm

                Awesome, Paul! Blown-in is actually better than batts, even while cheaper and more environmentally efficient to produce.. so it is a win^3.

              • Eldred December 21, 2013, 11:38 am

                “paulC_PE December 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

                Just a note of thanks to Eldred for the window film link– I lucked out and got 4 48″x15′ rolls for the price of one! ($32) Hope to install over the holidays…”

                Sweet – that’s a heck of a deal! Were they running a closeout special?

              • Eldred December 21, 2013, 11:41 am

                MMM – is the blown-in insulation you’re referring to the gray(cellulose) or the white(fiber fill?) kind…? My house doesn’t know the MEANING of the word insulated

  • PaulC_PE December 15, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Quick follow-up to my last comment–

    Went here:
    http://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/reports/2009/state_briefs/pdf/ga.pdf

    And the yearly for Ga is 89.5M BTUs–which if my math is correct is ~26,230KW-hr yearly or ~2186 kW-hr/month. This seems more congruent with my personal expenditures in AL….

    Still though would appreciate any obvious ways to cut my usage back significantly…

    Thanks.

    Reply
  • PaulC_PE December 24, 2013, 2:48 pm

    To Eldred– Not sure but I think perhaps they are not going to carry that product (or perhaps just that size) product anymore. I bought the last four rolls..

    New question for MMM–on blown-in: fiberglass or cellulose? I’ve read a couple websites that suggest avoiding cellulose in high humidity areas. Last thing I want is mold/mildew issues. Appears fiberglass is more $$ and doesn’t have as high R-val per inch–which is a definite downside.

    My attic is floored (plywood) and I just plan to but 10-12″ of blown in on top. Any issues with doing this that anyone here knows of? One issue for me will be how to keep it from coming down thru the attic pull-down stair access. THinking to just add a perimeter of rigid foam around both stairs and fan. We store most Christmas stuff and some baby furniture up there. Also have a whole house fan and am concerned I won’t be able to use any longer?

    Reply
  • Eldred January 6, 2014, 2:14 pm

    I was just looking through this again, comparing your yearly usage to mine. I used 7321 KWH in 2013, so not quite ‘average’. I changed out 90% of my incandescent bulbs for CFL last month. The rest are ‘chandelier’ bulbs that I haven’t found replacements for yet. I’ll get those eventually. But…where are you finding CFLs for $1?!? Around here, the lowest price I saw was $7.98 for a 2-pack, so $4 each. And how long until you(or anyone) saw a payback from switching the bulbs? Since I’m good at turning off lights when I leave a room, I’m not sure I’ll see any significant change just from that one thing. But, I’m still hoping to drop my electric usage in 2014.

    Reply
  • Travis January 19, 2014, 3:50 pm

    I averaged 634 KWh last year in a 1300 sq ft, 3 bedroom apartment in Tacoma, WA. I don’t have any air conditioning except for a couple ceiling fans. I have wall and floor unit heaters in each room of the apartment, but try hard not to use them. My lowest month was in June with 470 KWh and highest was last January with 950 KWh. Depending on usage, my heating bill adds about $30 a month during the winter.

    I really don’t know what my specific appliance usages are, but I noticed that I used 6-7 KWh per day while we were away on vacation in December. Except for things plugged into walls, the only items that should have been running was a lamp my wife uses to grow plants indoors. We might have to take a closer look at that project if it’s costing $10 a month.

    Reply
  • Brent February 6, 2014, 3:30 pm

    I have an older 1K sf house that’s uninsulated and I live in a desert climate. Single person household, heating is with gas, dryer is electric, cooling is a 25K BTU in-wall AC.

    I used 4,627 kWh over the last year, or 386 kWh a month average. My winter load is around 225 kWh/month, and the peak July cooling load is about 700 kWh/month.

    My yearly bill is up a little (~10%) over last year because I switched from a laptop to a desktop computer for the better performance/$, and I wanted a triple monitor setup for productivity and gaming.

    I’ve done everything I could reasonably do to lower the electric bill. All lighting is 40 watt LED bulbs (almost all on dimmers). I have an efficient 7 cf top-load freezer, and my fridge is the same model freezer converted to work as a frig. (super efficient). My other loads are really just my triple-head desktop pc, laptop (security software running on it), printer, and misc networking equipment. I also charge my GEM electric car 2-3 times using about 25 kWh/month (my primary transportation).

    About the only place left for me to save would be to turn off the desktop PC overnight. Would save maybe 360 kWh a year doing that, but I have the PC doing light tasks overnight that would have to be switched to the laptop running my security software.

    If I insulated the place, and replaced the single-pane aluminum windows I could save on AC cooling costs, but it probably doesn’t make economic sense. I estimate the AC represents about 1,600 kWh of my yearly electricity usage. So I’m only looking at a savings of about $200/year if I cut out the AC use completely. Insulating the (flat) roof and walls will take a very long time to pay back. And because I only have 2×4 walls, I’d probably need expensive spray foam insulation to really make an impact. Wish I could figure out a cheap way to get the place insulated.

    I could look into a $500 swamp cooler that might allow 75% less AC usage (but still need it during the monsoon period).

    Reply
  • Nigel February 18, 2014, 7:24 pm

    We’re a family of four in a ~1100 sf split level house, about 2000 sf total living space. Reading this, I was inspired to check our kWh usage (had never done this before – face punch #1) and found we use about 500 kWh in a non-ac month. So how could I get closer to MMM levels? We don’t use the clothes dryer much (socks and skivvies only), so not much help there. Then I looked over at the tall black upward facing halogen lamp that is on a lot in our living room – 300W! (face punch #2). Time to pick up a cheap standing lamps at Target and use cfls. I next realized we’re still using incandescents in the very often-used bedroom ceiling fan light because I assumed I couldn’t get cfls to fit – a quick check of the Home Depot website set me straight (face punch #3). We tried cfls in the bathroom over-mirror lights several years ago but they kept burning out within a couple weeks, so we went back to 40W incandescents – but I’ll give a cfl a try again, maybe they’ve improved since then, and maybe my new ‘2-minute challenge’ to the family (max 2 min of running water per shower) will cut down on the moisture enough make a difference. I’ll need to check the power usage on the fridge – it’s pretty old and I’m guessing its a hog, but in all fairness I suppose my late-night gazing-into-the-open-fridge habit doesn’t help much. That’s all I could come up with – it will be interesting to see if I can make a dent in the bill with these changes.

    Reply
    • Brent February 19, 2014, 12:28 am

      You seem to be doing well compared to the average household of your size. Don’t forget to take a look at outside lighting as well. Get a Kill-A-Watt meter and also take look at the electronics and appliances around your house (especially your frig/freezer.) My frig uses about 250 watts a day (energy star chest freezer, converted to frig for $50) and the freezer uses about 750 watts a day. Saves a lot of power over the year.

      Reply
  • Stacy March 10, 2014, 1:39 pm

    An energy meter! **facepunch** I swear I learn something new here everyday. I think MMM should replace the traditional “home economics” curriculum in our schools.

    Reply
  • Oh Yonghao April 2, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Having recently moved from the reasonably priced utility area of Vancouver, WA to the much higher priced area across the river known as Portland-metro area, I’ve been paying more attention to my electricity usage. In Vancouver it goes at a rate of about 8.4 cents per kwh and you get a kickback for the Bonneville dam production, depending on usage it may drop you down to around 7.8 cents per kwh. Now it is more around 12 cents per kwh.

    We get daily usage from PGE and also have an hourly breakdown. Our first two weeks in the house used 261kwh. After that we borrowed a kill-o-watt from the library and replaced every light with CFL’s which had gone on sale with huge rebates at Costco. We also noticed that the alley light which is required by the HOA to be on has a broken light sensor making it on 24 hours a day, so we removed that bulb until we got a notice and have replaced it with our first LED bulb, also purchased at Costco with a $9 rebate, making it $10.98 for 3 LED bulbs.

    Our second month we came in at 290kwh, considering the first month was only for two weeks this was a great improvement. We set a goal for 9kwh/day, and the next month we got 276kwh in a 29 day period, a little high at 9.5kwh/day.

    With the warmer weather our gas furnace isn’t blowing as often and we have noticed a drop in usage. We are looking at hitting our 9kwh target this month, and that includes the increased computer usage due to a new video game update release.

    We have also recently purchased a portable hanging rod to begin hanging our clothes instead of using the dryer, even though we have a set of 2 year old HE front load washer and dryer. We should see further reductions throughout the summer.

    Reply
  • BismarckianBucksMustache April 29, 2014, 4:30 am

    I am a new joiner on this fabulous site and you guys see me amazed by the energy costs that you are paying! North-America sure is the region with the most ridiculously low energy prices.

    While having a yearly consumption of just about 2100 kwh for a 2 bedroom flat, I am paying 0.36 Euro cents per kwh. This is due to German legislation that aims at subsidizing renewable energies by putting a surcharge on everyones hourly rate. This is particularly annoying as I am already opting for 100% renewable power.

    Talking about money now, this means that I pay round about 850 € per year when including the additional fees and taxes. Here in Germany, the only way to lower your energy bill is to change suppliers on a yearly basis as this will give you access to their new-customer bonuses that can range from 50-150€.

    Quite hard to be a smart power Mustachian here in the land of Bread and Sauerkraut!

    Reply
  • Jessica May 6, 2014, 6:02 am

    I live in Longmont. I was wondering if the time of day you run your appliances affects the cost? I have all energy star HE appliances. I set the delay timer to wash clothes and dishes in the middle of the night. Is this saving money?

    Hanging clothes on a line to dry is against HOA regulations, unfortunately.

    We have a family of four. We homeschool, so we are home all the time. I cook all our meals, this creates a lot of dishes. I just purchased a brand new dishwasher, they are supposed to be getting more energy efficient all the time.

    I wash towels/sheets once a week. For the 4 of us I do one load of laundry a day.

    My City of Longmont bill climbs every year. It is now averaging $250 a month (I know there were some increases because of the flood.)

    We sleep with the windows open to cool the house. We have insulating film on the western side of the house, the afternoon sun is brutal. The home is 10 years old and I believe the windows are pretty efficient.

    We have a gas water heater. There are 3 showers a day, one for each of us. My husband showers at the gym.

    I’ve read all the previous posts, looking for ways to bring that bill down. Back to the original question, does time of day matter?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 6, 2014, 8:10 am

      Hey Neighbor!

      Here in Longmont, we don’t have time of day billing yet. But you are still helping out by using your power at night, since it lowers our power system’s peak demand, which lets the power company get by with smaller, more efficient plants.

      You can line dry clothes indoors or on a portable rack outside – I don’t use our dryer and yet don’t have a permanent outdoor clothes line. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/06/27/my-new-1000-annual-return-on-investment-clothes-dryer/

      I think your biggest energy cost is probably the dryer (try washing your sheets/towels less often – we do it monthly and everything still smells fresh), and the three of us do 1-2 loads of laundry per week. But also check your light bulbs – are there any incandescent or halogen bulbs still hanging around in frequently used areas? Change for CFL or LED.

      Although it shows up on a different bill (Xcel rather than Longmont), you can replace your showerheads with lower-flow ones to cut your water heating costs in half: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/11/30/an-800-gift-from-me-to-you/

      Optionally folks can take fewer/shorter showers, especially in the cool seasons or on days they are not involved in competitive sports or construction.

      Finally, you can request a smaller trash bin to cut that Longmont bill by a few bucks a month. Invest that savings into buying renewable power from LPC instead of coal!

      Reply
  • Eleanor Oyen June 29, 2014, 6:39 pm

    I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and learned that an HOA can’t prohibit use of outside line for drying clothes. The State of Colorado says you may, so the HOA must go along with it. It’s worth confirming that for yourself.

    Reply
  • vr August 28, 2014, 4:00 am

    What’s your advice for people living in cold countries? I live in Scandinavia and we have +30C (+86F) summers and almost -30degrees (-22F) winters. Summers are easy for me, I can manage +25C even at night and my apartment is shadowed by a few bigger trees that give a nice breeze when spending time outside.

    The wintertime is the broblemn. It’s a row of flats with a wooden frame and consumes direct electricity for heating. My electric bills are about 50€/month at summer but in the wintertime they rise to almost 150€/month. About half of that is taxes and transfercosts from the electricgrids owner, but still it makes too large hole in my wallet. I have laid some extra carpets to keep the cold under the floor and using the air-source heat pump to aid the heaters, but that’s about it, keeping it to about +19C inside the house, bedroom is +17C or +18C. Some extra advice would be welcome on my way to cutting the costs :)

    edit: Fireplace would be an excellent choice as I get the wood for free, but building one costs about 3000-5000€ so that won’t be an option right now, maybe after two to three years when I’ve paid my student loan and shortened the mortgage enough…

    Reply
  • Amanda M. August 28, 2014, 1:30 pm

    My father was an HVAC man, and he instilled pretty good A/C discipline in me at a young age. I live in an apartment in CA now (desert area) and average 182 kWh in a month (high of 450 in December, low of 98 in May). Apparently the end of November/beginning of December was a very cold time. During this time, the baseboard heating in my apartment was turned on and activated when it sensed a low temperature, which I remedied for my late December trip, and with similar temperatures I was able to lower my usage from 450 to 244 kWh.

    Through vacations and daily tracking I’ve discovered that my minimum usage is about 1.5-2 kwh per day. I unplug my router, TV, and associated equipment. This has saved me a lot, but I’m not sure I can go much lower.

    Reply
  • ocean September 3, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Greetings from Hawaii. I’m real late to the party, as I recently came across MMM and started growing my ‘stash. Love the blog and I’m methodically going through every post.
    Anyway, I thought I’d let you peeps know how cheap your energy is on the mainland. I did some quick calculations from the time I’ve lived in my house.

    $0.4228 per KWH (no joke)
    $5.37 per day average.
    12.74 KWH used per day average.
    380.4 KWH used per month average.
    $160.84 per month average.

    I have some serious work to do, but not terrible for a family of four that also works out of the house. If the average US household consumption of 920 KWH @ $.04228 per KWH, the monthly bill would be $388.97… I bet that would change some lifestyles!
    Thanks MMM and crew, this blog is a game changer!
    Aloha

    Reply
    • Eldred September 3, 2014, 9:28 pm

      I don’t think it would change any lifestyles, because that would just be TOO outrageous of a bill. And many people wouldn’t be able to AFFORD it, myself included. I seem to average about 600 KWH for the past 12 months. Lowest usage was 503(May), highest was 680(October). I live alone. I have 4 computers that run pretty much 24/7, but other than that I don’t see what’s burning energy. I’m good about turning out lights when I leave a room, except for my living room which is on a timer. Electric stove and oven – maybe that’s it? I have fans running in the summer because I don’t have AC. I’m impressed that your usage is so much less than mine. Now I have to figure out why…

      Reply
  • Trevis Kelley September 13, 2014, 9:43 pm

    MMM,
    I just looked at my energy consumption, and I am definitely failing big time in this area. I knew it had to be high, so I got an energy audit done. Near 18 air changes per hour. We are spending money to get everything sealed up and some extra insulation put down. The energy person said he would test it again, but he thinks with the things we are doing, we are going to reduce that to 3 air changes per hour. I think we can probably do better, but it is a 100 year old house. What do you think?

    On another note, is it difficult to install a light switch to control an outlet? I have an extremely bad back, and bending over to hit the power strip switch hurts bad enough I need the wall to get up, so I don’t do it. However, if I had a light switch to flip, I would definitely hit it to make my bills better whenever I am not using the system. My wife is still not convinced of my frugal ways, so we still have the desktop computer and a bunch of consoles with a home entertainment center. I think turning them off at night and when we leave the house (and any other time we aren’t using it), but she just tells me to turn it off if I think it’s important. A light switch would help quite a bit with that.

    I also have 5 ceiling fans that run all of the time. What does that do to my energy bills? Any reason I would need to turn them off? They seem to make the house more comfortable, but if they are costing a ton, then I could probably live without them just fine.

    Even with all of this power consumption, we are spending just under $22,000/year (not including my mortgage, but including our car loan and student debt). I think we could get rid of our car and student debt in 2 years (or sooner if my wife lets me sell the stupid truck we have). Then, we could pay off the mortgage much sooner, and reduce our spending to $16,000/yr (less if I can get our energy costs down). Thanks for your amazing blog, MMM. You are inspiring many to reduce consumption, which can only lead to good.

    Trevis

    Reply
  • Taryn September 24, 2014, 7:52 am

    This is such great information. I am curious as to what you all will say to my electric bill. We live in Northern West Virginia 3 almost 4 people in a 2600 sq ft home. These are the things I do to cut down on electric:
    We do not use our AC but do run ceiling fans when home
    Hang the clothes out on the line
    Run the dishwasher after 8pm (maybe folk lure but I figured it cannot hurt)
    Unplug the coffee pot
    No lights on during the work day
    We have no incandescent bulbs and use CFL
    We do run a dehumidifier during the day and a fan in our basement

    So are you ready for this our average consumption a month is 1531 kwh
    So for this it is about $150 a month and higher

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 24, 2014, 9:09 am

      I’d bet that your dehumidifier is a big part of that – those pull a high current and run for a lot of the day, exactly like an air conditioner. You could start by looking for the most efficient dehumidifier you can find (see if there are measurements based on water extracted per kWh of electricity). Also see if there are ways to block moisture leakage into your basement (exterior grading and downspout kickouts, etc)

      Reply
  • Stellar October 13, 2014, 9:27 am

    Yikes. I feel super hog-like now. Our square footage is 1650 or so (includes garage I think), live in Houston’s tropical like weather: last month’s kWh usage was 1,958 (per kWh) = $0.152). We can partly blame old windows (probably from 1975), a split level plan (kitchen/living) upstairs and poor attic insulation? Hmmm… I found your blog last week or so. I’ve tried to use fans when sleeping and in the living room. I need to brainstorm further.

    Reply
  • Meredith December 1, 2014, 2:09 pm

    My last bill (end of October/early to mid-November) was $35.39. I live in a 700-square-foot apartment with no washer or dryer. I am surrounded on all sides except two outside walls. My mom lets me do laundry at her house for free. :) I do clean and mow the lawn there occasionally to help out. I’ve tried to pay her to no avail.

    I unplug or switch off the bar for almost EVERYTHING. I use a space heater. Water, sewer, and trash are paid for by the complex.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

Ads

$25 Unlimited Smartphone
The Lending Club Experiment
A $500 Signing Bonus... WTF?
How to Start a Blog

latest tweets