These devices may be quietly driving up your home’s energy use

Dish Space HeaterDo you know which systems and appliances in your home use the most electricity? Many people might guess that their heating and cooling systems are the biggest energy users – and for years, that was true. However, the digital revolution means that plug-in appliances are playing an increasing role in the typical home’s energy consumption. We often see three common electrical appliances that can unexpectedly raise customers’ energy use.

Gaming consoles and DVRs seem harmless, but they tend to use much more energy than customers realize. This is not only because consumers are acquiring more entertainment devices, but also because those devices are plugged in all the time, sucking out “vampire power” even when not in use. We advise customers to unplug their devices when not in use, turn to a low power mode, or consider investing in a smart power strip.

While their warmth might be great on a cold winter day, space heaters can heat up your electricity bill if used extensively. Some of our customers use multiple space heaters to heat their whole homes all day long. Others continue to use their space heaters after their circuit breakers trip (i.e., outlets shut off). This is not an ideal way to heat your home. First, if your circuit breakers trip while using a space heater, your electrical system has overloaded and automatically shuts off to prevent a fire. Second, central heating is the most efficient and economical way to heat a large space or your whole home. We recommend only using one space heater at a time and using it to warm up a small space for a short period (one – two hours a day). To find the best space heater for your needs, check our Space Heater Guide and entertaining Space Heater Video.

Another appliance that may be using more energy than you’d think is your second fridgeKill-a-Watt electric consumption meter or supplemental freezer. Having that extra cold storage in the garage for extra beverages might be great for entertaining, but be smart and consider unplugging it during off-seasons or between holidays.

Interested in learning more about how your home is using electricity? Sign up for our free, in-home energy audit or borrow a Kill-A-Watt meter from our free Tool Lending Library.

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Warming Up Safely With a Space Heater

space-heaterSometimes it makes sense to warm up just a small area like an office or bedroom rather than turn on your central heating system. Portable, or room, heaters can effectively and efficiently heat smaller areas of a home or business.

You’ll want to remember that space heaters, even though small, use a significant amount of electricity. With a typical 1500-watt unit, for instance, it will cost you about 16 cents per hour. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you leave a portable heater on for several hours a day or use multiple heaters, it adds up. Smart use of a space heater can save you money compared to using central heating, but being cautious about extended use is important.

Here are some tips on how to manage electricity costs if you use a space heater:

  • Remember to turn it off when you leave the room.
  • Select the right space heater for the situation. Check out our Space Heater Guide to identify what type of heater is best for you.
  • Space heaters work best in smaller rooms that are closed off to the rest of your home. An open door will quickly reduce the effectiveness of the heater.
  • If you’re using multiple space heaters for more than a few hours it may be more cost effective to use your central heating, which is the most efficient way to heat your entire house.
  • Since space heaters use a lot of electricity, multiple heaters on the same circuit can trip a circuit breaker.
  • The higher wattage of these units exceeds the capabilities of most extension cords, creating a fire hazard. Plug your space heater directly into an outlet.

The U.S. Department of Energy also provides some good tips on space heater safety and what to look for when making a purchase.

Meanwhile, putting on a sweater or sweatshirt instead of using that space heater could save you a dollar a day or more. For a little entertainment and a few tips, check out our video comparing three different types of space heaters.

High Electric Bills This Winter?

This is the time of year when we receive the most calls from customers concerned about high electric bills.  Temperatures have been colder; people were home for the holidays; and a lot of cooking, baking and entertaining occurred. When the bill arrives a month later, you may not associate these things with the higher energy use.

Herb Marshall Enery Audit
Herb Marshall

According to Herb Marshall, our Energy Conservation Coordinator who performs most of the in-home energy audits, he finds that portable space heaters and electric baseboard heat are the biggest culprit for higher bills in the winter. That’s why we developed a Space Heater Guide to help customers select the best space heater option for their needs.  Many customers don’t realize that space heaters cost about $0.15/hour to operate, but that can easily add up to an additional $30-$40 per month in cold weather!

Year round, we offer customers a free in-home energy audit to help identify ways to save energy and lower your electric bills, but this service is especially popular this time of year. We offer a number of other resources to help you save money and energy, as well as improve comfort in your home.  Check out our Energy Saving Tips and download one of our guides today!