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Paycheck Chronicles

Energy Vampires Can Suck The Life From Your Budget

I'd heard it a million times - you probably have, too - that leaving things plugged in can use a lot of extra electricity.  But a little experiment this summer proved to me how much of energy those plugged in electronics can actually use.

We've lived at our new place for a little over a year.  We moved in at the end of last summer, and our electric bills were bigger than I wanted.  Here's our bill from last September to October:

Yup, that's $214.64.  Seems ridiculous to me, but that's pretty common in my area.

This was our first summer in the house, and the first chance to participate in our electricity provider's Energy Savings Days program.  On days when the electric usage is predicted to be high, they offer a financial incentive if you curtail energy usage during the peak hours.  I challenged my family to figure out how low we could get our energy usage during those hours.  We turned off and unplugged almost everything.  We turned off the air conditioning, didn't run the dishwasher or clothes washer or dryer, showered before or after, and turned off all the lights and fans.  And, what seems to be more importantly, we unplugged all our cell phone chargers, computer chargers, and our printer, television, and cable box.

We saved a lot on those Energy Savings Days, but here's the amazing part - our bills have continued to be much lower since we unplugged all those things.  Here's our bill for the same period in 2017:

$104.01 - less than half our bill for last year.  Isn't that amazing?

Now, I haven't isolated every single possible variable.  We have one child who has moved to her college, but that can't be that much difference.  And our dishwasher isn't working, so we're doing dishes by hand, but that's actually supposed to be more expensive.  The billing cycle was one day shorter, so that would account for about 3% difference.  The only major thing we have done differently is put the television and cable box on a power strip, and the printer on a different power strip, and keep them turned off when not in use.

Obviously, this isn't a scientific study, but there are plenty of studies of the various amounts of electricity that appliances and electronics use.  Cable boxes and printers are amongst the biggest consumers of power even when off, as well as computers and DVDs, but there are any number of other things that might have changed at our house.  We'll never really know, but I'll enjoy the savings now and seek out the problems if our bill starts going back up.

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