For most us, living in base privatized housing means that we are responsible for our own utilities ... kind of.
In the Army, the military contracts with a civilian company to monitor and bill residents based on usage. Each month, a baseline is set (supposedly for each type of house in each neighborhood, but I’m not sure I buy that). If you go over that baseline, you pay; if you are under, you receive a refund.
In the past four years, there has never been a month where my family did not receive a refund.
How do we do it? I'll tell you.
How I get a military utilities refund every month- I asked maintenance to turn down my hot water heater. I really don’t need it to be scalding. Especially with small kids. Keeping it cooler saves energy.
- Put my Keurig on auto-off. I know it seems silly, but the extra two minutes to heat up the water is worth the time its not on. I also like to unplug the other appliances that I’m not using. The only thing in the kitchen that stays plugged in - other than the major appliances like my refrigerator, dishwasher and over -- is the microwave.
- We only turn on lights when we’re in that room. My kids are quickly learning this.
- I also try to unplug chargers when we’re not using them. I’ve considered buying power saving chargers but haven’t had the need yet.
- Our TV is really only on at night. Maybe a few hours during the weekend daytime hours, but we don’t use it a lot, and that pays off, particularly during the prime hours in the summer.
- Often times, I turn off my air conditioning long before my neighbors. Last spring, I think it was June before I turned the air conditioning on. We’re lucky that we don’t get a lot of direct afternoon sun.
- I only run the dishwasher when its full, and almost only at night.
- I make crock pot meals. Not only do these save time, money, and my sanity, they also save on gas. Each time I can cook a meal in the crock pot, I don’t have to use my oven or range, which are both gas.
- I wash some of my laundry on cold. Or hang dry your clothes (this would work well for me in Arizona where things dry really quickly). Or turn off the heated dry function on your dishwasher.
- We program our thermostat. Since we’re not usually home during the day, it doesn’t need to be super cool in our house. The air can kick back in about 5pm when we’re all home again and turn off about 7:30am when we leave. It was a pain at first to figure out the programming, but it works now.
- I turn off electronics. According to Cheapism.com, leaving your Digital Cable Box plugged in, but turned off, costs almost $42 a year in electricity. Also, make sure your desktop goes to sleep or you turn it off when not in use. An idle desktop costs $72 a year, one that is in sleep mode, $20 a year and the one you turn off, only $3.
All of these tips put together could save you a lot of money on utilities, despite your utility company or housing situation. Even just one of these ideas could help you get under that magic buffer zone and keep you from paying. What are your energy saving tips?
Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for almost 8 years; traveling the world with her two children and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader and actually enjoys most of the tasks of motherhood. She currently works as a counselor for the transitioning service members at Fort Huachuca, volunteers as a Family Readiness Group leader and as a Sparks Club AWANA Director. As a freelance writer, she has been published both in print and online. She has degrees in emergency management and geography. You can follow her here on twitter.