Cutting Our Electricity Bill

Fairbanks, Alaska, dubbed the Golden Heart City has a lot of positives to it.  The people here are welcoming and friendly.  The town is a great place to raise kids; it has a small town feel to it; there is very little traffic except for the two usual times of day and even that, after driving in I95 traffic on the East Coast is nothing.  All in all, after all the places I have seen in the US, it’s the type of town that I feel I can really settle down and put down some roots.  However, a big negative here are the energy costs.  Unfortunately, gas for cars and generators, fuel for heating and fuel for electricity runs high here so this makes the cost of living much higher here than it is in many places in the lower 48. 
When moving here, we moved from a townhouse in the military community where we did not pay for our electricity, back to our house where now we do.
When I first saw our very first electricity bill I was shocked.  $299 for one month, our usage was 1427 kWh.  At first I thought “well this is because of Christmas, it’ll go down next month”.  After overcoming my shock, I did look a bit at our bill and realized our cost for electricity here is .21 per kWh with all the surcharges, and taxes.  Ouch.  Still we made a bigger effort at turning lights off when we exit a room, making sure the television was turned off when not being watched and making sure to turn off the surge protector to our big computer when it was not in use since I read that computers in general can be lumped with many other electronics that are called “energy vampires”.  We also invested in a remote controlled surge protector for our entertainment center.  We did not get this until late January so it was probably too late to see a massively big difference on our next electricity bill.  My goal at that point was to get our bill down to around $150 so I knew we had to buckle down here and do our best. 
Next month, February.  I opened the email from the local electricity company here with great excitement, expecting great things!  Instead I see $219 for 985 kWh.  Upset, disappointed and frustrated I went back to the drawing board.  I pulled out every tool I could think of and then some.
We ordered some Belkin Conserve Sockets for items like electric toothbrushes or our kindles.  These are rather neat as you just simply plug this into the wall. Then plug in whatever item that only needs to be on periodically to be recharged.  It has three settings on it; 30 minutes, 3 hours or 6 hours.  We tend to use the 30 minutes setting most.  We then about once a week turn each one on to recharge items.  This way we can turn it on and then walk away without having to worry about coming back to unplug it later. I also ordered a Belkin Insight Conserve Energy monitor because I really wanted to become more educated about how much energy each appliance uses? How about when it’s not in use?  How much energy does it use then?  Is it really drawing that much of a charge?  Is it really costing me that much money to keep a toaster oven or an electric can opener plugged in, even though I am not using it?
This thing was actually really fun to play with as I hopped around the house unplugging various appliances and electronics to discover “which is using the most here?”  I have it now programmed to give us an approximate estimate of how much does each item cost us all based on our current charge of .21 per kWh.  Our findings?  It turned out I discovered our REFRIDGERATOR is the top user in our household.  This is for two reasons, first our fridge is older and the seals are not so great on it.  This lets a lot of cold air out which makes the refrigerator work harder to stay cold.  We will be replacing those seals here soon, and then later the fridge.   Next reason though is my entire family, myself included, has a really bad habit of just opening the fridge whenever we are looking for a snack, especially on the weekends.  I have advised my two guys that this habit needs to be nipped in the bud.  No more. 
The next biggest energy user was a no brainer. The Clothes dryer.  Unfortunately, this time of year here in Fairbanks there is little that we can do other than utilize our drying rack that we typically use during camping trips. 
Another appliance in our household that I thought would possibly be a bigger energy drain was our chest freezer.  I am currently conducting an experiment on this.  I noticed another Facebook user had mentioned that she has hers on a timer that switches off in the evening and then turns on the next morning.   At the time of writing this we have learned that our chest freezer costs us about $66 a year to operate.  Of course that is right now, during the winter season when the temperature is lower in the garage.  During summer I’m sure the cost will slide up slightly.  Soon I will be using a timer that will turn off our freezer at night and then turn it back on the next morning.  That too will be monitored to see; is there a difference.  One thing to keep in mind if you are thinking about doing this.  It’s important first to always keep your freezer full.  When we moved here, of course, it was empty when we plugged it in.  I quickly took milk jugs, filled them with water, let them freeze outside and then put them in the freezer.  A full freezer is a happy and energy efficient freezer. 

Anxiously I await an email from our electricity company.  I would love to see a bit of hard work and perseverance pay off and of course, the extra money I don’t have to pay would be nice too.  After all, who wouldn’t want to have a bit extra money in their pockets at the end of the month?

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