A $12.43 Electric Bill for a 2600 Square Foot Home??

This is an article written by Amanda L Grossman blogs about living in frugal decadence over at Frugal Confessions. In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day Amanda discusses ways she plans to go Green.

The other day my friend emailed me her $12.43 February electric bill from her 2600 square foot home. I could feel the smug expression oozing through the computer screen and I have to admit: the competitive spirit in me felt put to shame, seeing how I had only ever managed a $34.72 electric bill in our 3100 square foot home. The other part of me was in awe—what an accomplishment!

My friend and I egg one another on in our frugal ways. We swap coupons, email one another deals, and have weekly bragging sessions about the products we have found at their pre-WWII prices. Since we are both environmental investigators, we particularly enjoy finding ways to live more sustainable, eco-friendly lives that also save us money. We find it thrilling when we manage to get through Houston humidity until June before turning on our Central A/C, or the day that we learned that if you throw rocks or bricks in the back of old toilet tanks you can essentially turn them into low-flow toilets. But a $12.43 electric bill? How does one manage that?

After much thought and discussion with my friend, I have come up with five different things that she has incorporated into her household in order to cut energy use but that we have not done in mine. I’d like to share these with you in the hopes that you also may fine tune your own energy consumption (and bank the savings!).

Image by Grant MacDonald via Flickr

1.       Install a Clothesline: I will admit that it is against deed restrictions in my neighbourhood to have a clothesline. We found this out after moving into our first home in the fall of 2009. This has stopped me from installing a clothesline thus far, but it turns out that my friend has one, and also has a deed restriction against it. How does she get around it? She installed a retractable clothesline in her garage. On laundry day she simply hangs up her laundry in there instead of from her tree. Brilliant!

2.       Air Dry Dishes: Most of the energy use in a dishwasher is during the dry cycle. By simply opening up the dishwasher and pulling out the racks to dry, we can still have the convenience of a dishwasher with the energy savings of hand-washing.

3.       Watch Less Television: Do you ever get into a TV routine that you can’t seem to shake? We find that once the television is on in our home, it is hard to turn off. Even though we meant to just tune into one show that we really enjoy, we end up watching it until bedtime. I find myself even wanting to turn the television on for background noise when I am cleaning, cooking, or writing. Instead, I will try to turn on the radio or use my iPod during these activities to cut down on energy use. We will also try to go for walks and bike rides more instead of just plopping down after work.

4.       Install Low Flow Toilets: We will be renovating our bathrooms over the next year and plan on installing low flow toilets. This will not only decrease our energy consumption, but decrease our water bill as well!

5.       Use a Window A/C in My Office: My office is on the upstairs floor of our home…and it’s about the only reason to be up there. We have a central A/C unit hooked up to our downstairs, and a separate unit for the upstairs. Instead of cooling off the entire upstairs floor for one room, we have purchased a window A/C unit.

It is hard for me to quantify the energy savings we should see from these changes, but I am hopeful nonetheless that the next time someone gets a sub $15.00 electric bill my household has a fighting chance!

31 thoughts on “A $12.43 Electric Bill for a 2600 Square Foot Home??

  1. Low flow toilets won’t affect your electric bill. It certainly will reduce you consumption of water. I live in a 1850 sq. ft. townhouse where my electric bill before taxes for 2 months is roughly $65. I replaced all the lights with CFLs, use the dishwasher once a week, laundry (4-5 loads per week), and everything else is pretty much normal. This bill does vary during the summer because I live in Los Angeles, however peak summer is closer to $85-95 for 2 months. I do use a setback thermostat to control the temperature and save money.

  2. I think it’s great that you have an eco-minded friend that you can collaborate with. You have given me the best idea with this article – a retractable clothesline in the garage!! We, too, have covenants prohibiting clotheslines in our neighborhood and this is just a brilliant solution. Thanks for a great article.

  3. I am very fortunate for my eco-minded (and frugal-minded) friend! I am glad to give you a great alternative to the outdoor clothesline. My friend says that she can use hers in the garage all year round here in Houston.

    1. How would a low flow toilet save on electricity? I installed 2 low flow toilets and at no point did I do any electrical work. They use cold water so the hot water tank/heater isn’t used. Please share – would be very cool if it saved on power too!

  4. You’re pulling my legs, I don’t believe the $12/month electric bill.
    I’m guessing they have gas water heater, stove, and heater.
    Do they live in a more temperate area? What’s the temperature outside right now?

    1. My first thought was whether or not this was an “actual” billing vs an “estimated” billing. I worked for a power company in the prairies a long time ago and they didn’t actually READ the meter each month. Some months were estimates based on the consumption the previous year. This is great when your bill ends up tiny but we certainly dealt w/ irate clients who paid too little on estimated months then got a doozy of a bill on a real reading month.

  5. Amazing post and great work!

    Unfortunately, you’ll never see that low of a bill in Canada, especially in the winter.

    Houston, you will always have a chance in the spring and fall because it’s much more temperate.

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  7. Great post! I can’t imagine a $12 electric bill. We bought a small clothes drying rack and set that up in an unused space in our apartment. The clothes dry in less than 24 hours, and since we have to use a coin operated washer and dryer, we save .75 a load. That adds up to about 4.50 a week or $18 a month.

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  9. I think that your friend is pulling your leg. Do they light candles at night? Plug everything out…including the fridge? Or perhaps they have a huge solar array going on with a battery bank and she didn’t tell you anything about it.

  10. There must be other things that she has incorporated. I live in a 600sq ft apartment, and this month my bill was $55.00 because I have been running the a/c. During the winter the least it has been is $32.00 and I have been practicing these tips for a while, with the exception of the tv; which I watch a lot but is usually unplugged when not in use. Are there any previous tips I have missed?

  11. We are moving into an apartment that has a dishwasher. I am definitely going to skip the dry cycle on most occasions.

    I also like the idea of installing an air conditioner so you don’t have to cool off the entire house!

    1. There are just two of us. We wash delicate stuff and pots/pans by hand – every 2 nights or so. Then we use the dishwasher perhaps 3 times every 2 weeks. We usually run out of clean plates, cups and cutlery before we need to run the machine!

      It depends on the size of the dishwasher and it depends on the size of your family. We wrote a few sustainability tips on dishwashers too. Check the tab about and just do a page search on dishwasher for some more tips that may help you out.

  12. I’m just in awe at this accomplishment. Even when I lived in a top floor apartment my electrical bill was never under $35-40. Now that I live in a 1200 sq/ft semi-detached house I don’t think it has ever been below $100 (wait I just spotted one at $87 in the last 5 years) and hits $200+ regularly.

    Of course, our power company charges us a minimum of $19.73 just to have service before we use even a drop of electricity. There is also a $6 water heater rental charge in there. Heck my bill is more than double hers before I’m charged for the first watt.

    Everything in our house runs on electricity from heat, to A/C, to appliances. No natural gas, wood stove, or alternate energy sources here. That’s another reason it is so high.

    I’m not the biggest conservationist either. I tend to go for convenience and time saving wherever possible. I want to know how you guys don’t use the dry cycle on your dishwashers? Do you actually wait around the dishwasher or time it so you remember to go and shut it off or can you actually exclude it in your dishwasher settings? My dishwasher is probably 10 years old so it doesn’t have all the latest energy conserving settings.

  13. Our electric bill averages $220 a month for our 2400 sq ft home in Phoenix. By far the A/C uses the most electricity and I can’t see us using the a/c any less. We have looked into solar but it still is not as affordable as one would think!

  14. Small 1 BR apartment, our utility bill is $20 at minimum. I once had it in the low teens. We don’t have a dishwasher or W/D. I agree with others – they must be lying… The only thing I can think of is that the month(s) preceeding this was over-estimated by the power company and the $12 month was taking the previous month into consideration.

  15. I agree with Eliza. I think it is awesome that you have support from your friends and that you can share ideas. We hang dry our clothes right now and I have never regretted it.

  16. If you want a low flow toilet, you don’t have to buy a new one. Just adjust the chain in the tank. I have a post on my blog about that. It’s easy & free…

  17. While researching cost savings, I saw that low-flow toilets save on electricity as well. I guess I found some bad advice:). Thanks for the comment

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