Survival Skills for Real People
Real Earth Solutions
Real Earth Solutions

How To Slash Your Electric Bill Starting Today!


Always count the cost of what you get free…passive home

How would you like to start slashing those electric bills immediately? Like today? It’s possible!

One of the most overlooked ways to cut electric costs is through passive solar. The sun provides free energy to the earth that can be used to power our lives.

You’ll see passive solar used in most textbooks on solar energy and they somehow make it sound like a new theory of electricity. Folks, it’s not complicated. It’s been around since Neanderthals lived in caves.

Passive means exactly what it sounds like. You don’t have to do anything to get it and the best part is that it’s either free or relatively low cost. It means using the sun for heat or shielding yourself from the intense heat. It is a critical part of any on or off grid power system.

Start Here

Before you start thinking about using solar/wind power, on-grid or off-grid, you should first consider energy efficiency in your homes. It’s nothing new. American Indians in the southwest built cliff homes over a thousand years ago. These little energy efficient dwellings were homes built into the side of cliffs. This sheltered them from the worst heat of the day but allowed them to receive light when they wanted it. Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is a perfect example of these. There are also some very interesting ones outside of Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Now I’m not suggesting that you look for the nearest cliffs. No, you just need to take an inventory of your present home and see where you can use the sun to your own benefit.

Windows First

Check your windows first. Which windows get the most sunlight and at what time? Check them in all four seasons of the year.

When you decide which ones get the most sunlight, be sure you shield them from intense sunlight in the spring and summer. Low cost ways to shield them include:

  • Thermal shades
  • Wooden shutters
  • Thermal-lined drapes
  • Even simple curtains help.
  • Tinting your windows

In the winter, of course, you want to open them to the sunlight to bring heat into the house.

Energy Star Windows

Double-paned windows are a good investment for this purpose, too.

Check Those Appliances

Energy-efficient appliances are a good value when it’s time to replace your current ones. Older electric dryers are especially energy hogs so they should be a first consideration. Gas dryers are the most efficient. Always make sure to keep the dryer exhaust clean, as that is the only way any dryer can reach it’s best efficiency. Also, dryers are the #1 cause of house fires, with (cigar and cigarette) smoking and Christmas trees being left on being the next most common! All you need is one of those brushes with long flexible handles. Of course, if you want to go completely passive solar for drying clothes, don’t forget clothes lines.

There are all types of clothes lines, from a simple rope between two trees to elaborate folding umbrella type ones that are only unfolded when you actually need them and so do not present an “eye-sore” in your neighborhood. Nothing smells better than sun-dried sheets, a treat we try to reproduce with all sorts of dryer inserts but nothing beats the real thing.

Seal your homeDo it yourself

Next, you need to seal your home’s air leaks. All homes have some areas where air leaks in and out. The most obvious are windows and doors but don’t forget about those areas that have been opened up to allow plumbing, wiring, and light fixtures. You can caulk around the seams of windows and doors, and you can buy gaskets for your light switches and electric outlets. As far as pipes under your sinks and showers, you can caulk them or you can seal them with “spray foam.”

man caulking window during the day

It is also very good to walk around the outside of your house and look for holes where cables like TV and internet, pipes, and electric wires enter your home. All of these can also be sealed with the spray foam as well. Doing this has a second benefit as well- it’s harder for bugs and mice to get in! While walking around your house, look for gaps in seams, window mountings, and door frames. Plug em up!

Up into the atticattic steps

Next turn all the lights inside your home on. Now go into your attic with a flashlight on, and walk around. Make sure you only walk on the joists(boards) and not in between! If you walk on the insulation between the boards, you will find yourself falling through the ceiling, causing you injury, and costing a lot of money for repairs! Safety Above All!

Step on the boards, NOT in between!

Step on the boards, NOT in between!

As you move around each part of your attic, turn off the flashlight, and look for any light coming through. These are potential air leaks causing your utility bills to go up, up, up… If you’re not comfortable doing that, call a reputable handy man, or a independent carpenter. Be leery if he tells you that you need repairs costing a lot of money. Usually air leaks in an attic can be repaired for a few hundred dollars at the most. Ask your neighbors if they can recommend a person that they have had good experiences with.

More attic stuff

Heating ducts are another area that need to be sealed and insulated. You need a can of duct mastic and several rolls of adhesive insulation. It looks like a roll of foil with a foam backing. You will save 10 to 30% heat loss by doing this one job alone. Most of the home improvement stores have videos to show you how to do this and hardware stores usually can explain it to you, as well.

Your PC stays hungry!Electric-Meter

Computers are next. After heating and cooling your home and refrigerators and freezers, your home office is the largest consumer of electricity. Most people leave their PC and printer on all the time. After all, the manufacturer said it was ok, right? Wrong! Leaving your computer on 24/7 shortens it’s life by 30% to 50%. It also adds significantly to your electric bill. Of course the manufacturer says it’s all right, after all they want to sell you a new PC as often as possible!

Follow the steps

Like many people, I work from my home office. So I spend 3 or more hours per day clacking away at my keyboard, and squinting at the display. I developed a simple set of rules to make it easy to take a break, and then come back to what I was doing. Following this protocol will definitely lower your electric bill, and extend the life of your computer.

  1. Set your monitor to go dark after 15 minutes. Avoid those “cute” screen-savers,as they keep your monitor on excessively.
  2. Set your computer to go to “sleep” after 30 minutes of inactivity. Both of these settings can be found in your Windows PC under “All settings” and then “display”. I’m sure the other popular operating systems are similar.
  3. If you are going to be out of the office for more than 1 hour, then turn it off. All the way off.
  4. If you’re like most people (including me), you have all of your computer gear plugged into 1 or 2 “strip outlets.” Turn them off before you leave your office. They only exception is your modem and router. Put them on their own strip, and leave them on. That way you will still have your wi-fi in your home.

5. Some printers are energy hogs, too. Ink Jet printers use less than Lasers. Leaving your printer on at all times is a convenience if you use it frequently but if not, turn it on only when printing. If you’re in the market for a new printer, look for one with an Energy Star rating. The claim is that you save up to 18% of the initial cost of the computer on one with that rating.

While all of this may sound a little “nit-picky” if you have only one computer, in a large household where everyone has their own, the cost savings can add up.

Do you see the light?Lowes LEDLED1

Next come lights. This is another area where you can really reduce your energy consumption. In an off grid home, it is critical to minimize power usage. Get rid of all your old incandescent bulbs, and switch to LED bulbs. These little gems us up to 90% less energy. They cost more initially, but they last almost forever. They can be found in all applications, even exterior bulbs.LED bulbs are much more efficient than the “CFL” fluorescent type  They will pay for themselves in energy savings in less than 1 year. And then the savings keep on going year after year!

Beware the phantoms

The saving that intrigues me the most is finding out how much your appliances that are plugged in continue to use power even when they have been turned off. That’s right. Those sneaky little devils never even take a nap.

While the electrical usage is small, it adds up. These are called “phantom electric use” and I don’t want any phantoms running around costing me. Are they related to zombies?

Check your power consumption

If you’re the curious type and really want to know how much electricity these “turned off” appliances are using, you can buy a little meter called a Kill-A-Watt. You plug it into each device and it measures power use and even keeps a total for the time it’s plugged in.

I’m not really that curious. I just believe that they’re costing me so they’ve got to go! Well, it would be a lot of work to go around each night or when you’re leaving the house and turn off all your appliances individually. Technology has solved that problem. In the past you could buy power strips with multiple outlets and plug all your appliances into them. It will take two or three so you have one for different rooms in your house but think of the ease of just turning all those appliances off with one click of the power switch strip.

Today there are smart power strips that automatically cut off power when a plug isn’t being used. These cost more but they pay for themselves in a short time. Check them out at home improvement stores, electronic stores, and online, such as Amazon.

Are you turning into your parents?dont-clean-the-house-just-turn-off-the-lights-funny-quotes

Other ways to save energy in your home are to add more insulation in your attic, install a glass door along with your regular front door so you can still see outside but are saving energy, and the old stand-by, turn off lights when you leave a room. Yes, that really does help. It’s not just something your parents thought up to fuss at you about. And the worst part is when I realized I was turning into my parents! Now I go through the house turning off switches and lecturing anyone in hearing distance about wasting electricity.Talk to the hand

If you’re in the market for a new home, then check into all the built-in ways that energy can be saved in new construction. The color of the roof and the floors are good examples. See how tile or slate flooring can help and how eaves help.

Landscaping is a good resource to save energy, too, but remember not to have too much shade on your roof if you’re planning on using solar panels.

Oldies but goodies

Just a reminder of some standard ways to save energy that you may have forgotten:

  • Install LED bulbs in all locations.
  • Install ceiling fans
  • Install an attic fan. (Solar attic fans are a great investment)
  • Change your filters once a month. (An old stand-by idea but it helps.)
  • Turn off Heat Dry on your dishwasher.
  • Lower the temp on your hot water heater.
  • Does your utility offer lower rates at certain times of the day? Take advantage of them.
  • Wash your laundry in cold water.
  • Use a programmable thermostat.
  • Little dryer balls do speed up drying your clothes and replace lint sheets.

I know. Most of these ideas aren’t new and you have been hearing about them for years. But now’s the time to implement them. This is one of the best ways to get your home ready for renewable energy. The less energy you need to replace, the fewer solar panels you’ll need.

So go through your house and start saving! Now!


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