LOWERING YOUR BILL

Believe it or not, we want you to keep as much money as possible. As an electric cooperative, we are a non-profit utility based on the principle of neighbors helping neighbors. As winter an summer shows us time and again, none of us are immune from high bills. Yet, there are things each of us can do to lower how much electricity we use, which in turn helps lower our bills.

CHECK YOUR THERMOSTAT

Heating and cooling makes up a big chunk of your energy bill. One easy way to trim costs is to keep your thermostat set to 68° in the winter and 78° in the summer. Some people are uncomfortable at these temperatures, but each degree you turn down in the winter or raise in the summer can save around 2% to 3% of heating and cooling costs. In the summer, using fans to circulate the air will help you to stay comfortable with a higher thermostat setting. In the winter, if you're not comfortable at 68° using small electric heaters will end up costing you more. That's because electric resistance heating is less efficient than heat pumps.

If you're away from home much of the day, consider a programmable thermostat. These can save you money in the winter by lowering the thermostat when you're away and while you sleep, and in the summer by raising the temperature while you're out. Keep in mind that they should be set to to return to your regular temperature about an hour before you return home or before you get up in the morning.

Always keep your central heater and air conditioner filters clean. A clogged filter will drastically affect how well these appliances can heat and cool your home. If you have a heat pump or a central air conditioner, consider having it serviced annually. Low coolant can drive up your electric bill.

Always make sure your vents and air returns aren't blocked. This can restrict air flow, and make your air conditioner or central heater work harder to keep you warm.

If you're in the market for an air conditioner or heater, try to get the one with the highest energy rating. This can save you a lot of money over the life of the unit. Look for a SEER rating of 14.5 or higher. A window unit should have an EER of 10.8 or greater. If you're building a new home, consider a ground-loop heat pump. These units use water filled pipes buried in the ground to provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Since the ground usually stays between 50° and 55° at a depth of four feet or more, this can significantly lower your heating and cooling bill by providing an ample source of heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.

Also keep in mind that your air conditioner should be sized for your home or room. A unit that's too small will run constantly, driving up your power bill without you feeling comfortable. A unit that's too big won't remove the humidity properly, making it seem warmer, and will run more frequently as it cools the air near the thermostat before the rest of the home. Your heating and air contractor should have software to properly size your unit, and for window units always go by the chart recommendations.

Keep in mind that window unit sizing charts are based on volume. So if you have 10 foot ceilings instead of the standard 8 foot, your unit should be sized accordingly. To convert, simply multiply the width by the length by the height and divide by 8: (L x W x 10)/8 = Equivalent Area.

For example, let's say you're wanting to cool a 10 foot by 12 foot room with a 10 foot ceiling. The floor area is 10 x 12 = 120 square feet, but the volume is 120 x 10 = 1,200 cubic feet. To find the equivalent area on an air conditioner sizing chart, we divide by 8: 1,200 / 8 = 150 square feet. So you would find the suggested size for 150 square feet instead of the actual 120 square feet.

KEEP YOUR COOL

Any heat we put in the house in the summer is heat our air conditioners have to remove. Try to use the oven as little as possible on the hottest days. Microwave ovens can help reduce the heat in your home, and grilling moves the heat outside.

WATCH HOW YOU VENT

Kitchen and bathroom vent fans serve a good purpose, but they also vent air you've paid to heat or cool outside. Try to run them no more than necessary. If you're remodeling your kitchen, make sure your range hood has a damper to help prevent heating and cooling loss when the fan isn't running.

CHECK YOUR WATER HEATER

Lowering your water heater thermostat not only saves you money, but can make life much safer. Try setting your water heater so that it's no higher than 120°. If your water heater is set at 140°, turning it back to 120° can save you from 6% to 10% on your water heating bill. Besides preventing scalding, lowering your water heater to 120° will slow the build-up of minerals in your hot water tank.

However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, you should leave your thermostat at its present setting. Check your dish washer manual to see if yours has a booster heater.

A standard water heater runs every time the water in the tank drops below the set temperature. If you have an electric water heater, a special insulated water heater wrap can save you money by slowing how fast the water cools.

If you're going to be away for several days and there's no danger of freezing, consider turning your electric water heater off. That can save a lot of money, especially for vacation homes.

WHAT'S COOKING?

Your kitchen appliances can cost you not only in the electricity it takes to use them, but in the heat they put into your home in the summer. It might not seem obvious, but your refrigerator alone can make up a whopping 7% of your electric bill. Plus, a refrigerator and a freezer are like little heat pumps sitting in your kitchen, pulling heat out of the food and putting it right into your home.

You can help your refrigerator or freezer operate more efficiently if you keep them full. Once the food is chilled, it helps the refrigerator or freezer to maintain their temperature. As bonus, if the power goes out, a full refrigerator or freezer will stay cold longer - provided the door stays closed as much as possible.

Keeping the right temperature can also save you money. Keeping your refrigerator between 36° and 38° will keep food chilled without freezing. Keeping your freezer between 0° and 5° will keep your food frozen. To measure the temperature, put a waterproof thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator, or between the food packs in the freezer, and read after 24 hours.

Leaking door seals can let that cold air leak out, and allow moisture and frost build-up. Replace them if they're worn, split, or not making a good seal.

If you have ice and frost build-up in your freezer, regular defrosting will help it cool better, saving you money.

Keeping the coils free from dust will help your refrigerator and freezer work better and with less electricity. Always use a mild blower, like a vacuum cleaner attachment, to clean the coils. Never brush or rub the coils. This can make a hole in the tubing or break them, which will ruin your refrigerator or freezer, as well as your food.

You can actually save money if you use your dishwasher for full loads. In general, a dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. You can save more by selecting air-dry instead of heated dry. Modern dish washers can handle more food residue than old models, so a quick scrap to remove the heaviest is all you need - you save money by not pre-rinsing.

Your stove is a huge energy user, so it makes sense to keep it as efficient as possible. Keeping both the oven and drip pans clean means better heating, which can save you money. This goes for your microwave, too. Cooking with lids on pots, when you can, helps save energy by trapping heat (of course, always follow the recipe and microwave instructions). Microwave ovens are a better choice than the stove when it comes to warming small meals, and a crock pot uses less energy, and both put less heat into your home than using the stove. Pressure cookers can also save you money by cutting cooking time.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

If you have windows on the south side of your home, opening the blinds or drapes on sunny days lets the sun help heat your home. Best of all, it's free!

Just reverse this for the summer. On hot, sunny days make sure the blinds and drapes are closed on all windows facing the sun.

THINK GREEN

Planting deciduous trees on the south side of your home can make a difference. In the summer the trees leaf out, shading your home. In the winter, the leaves fall, allowing sunlight to warm your home.

If you water your lawn, consider letting the grass grow a little taller. Longer grass helps shade the soil and loses less water to evaporation than short grass. Better yet, consider grass and ornamentals that need little or no additional water. Native varieties are already adapted to your climate, and usually require less maintenance than more exotic varieties. Not only will it save you money in the amount of time your well pump runs, but it can sometimes save on yard work.

DODGE THE DRAFT

Don't let that air you've paid to heat or cool leak out. If you're not using your fireplace, make sure the damper is closed. Make sure there's no cracks around the doors and windows. Caulking and simple foam weather stripping can help. If you're remodeling, consider storm windows over your existing windows, or insulated windows if you're changing them out

SEE THE LIGHT

Lighting makes up 10% of the average electric bill and puts heat in your home in the summer. Compact Fluorecents (CF) bulbs screw into existing fixtures and reduce your energy use. Although they cost more, they last longer, and the electricity you save can pay for them in less than a year. A 13 watt compact fluorescent uses 78% less electricity than the old 60 watt incandecent. Be sure to pick the right bulb for the right job. Dimmer switches, three-way sockets, and special shapes require special CF bulbs. If dust is a problem, CF bulbs that look like conventional incandescents will catch less dust than the "corkscrew" design. Just keep in mind that CF bulbs aren't right for every job. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations, and always use incandescent appliance bulbs in your oven and refrigerator.

LED bulbs, while roughly twice as expensive than CF bulbs, can last up to two and a half times longer and use even less electricy. It takes only 11 watts to produce the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandecent. As with CF bulbs, LED bulbs are not right for every job. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

If you use a night light, consider one of the new LED types. These come in a variety of colors, produce a brilliant light with less heat than an incandescent bulb, use less electricity, and last longer.

Always turn off your lights when you don't need them. Turning the bulbs on and off doesn't appreciably shorten their life, and can save you a lot of money. A single 60w bulb left on overnight costs $27.33 per year!

Speaking of lights, always keep your fixtures clean. A dirty light fixture can reduce the light you see by 25%.

DON'T SPRING A LEAK

Leaking faucets and pipes can cost you money, not only through water damage, but by making your well pump come on more often. A leaking hot water line is even worse, because it can make your water heater run more frequently.

You can also save some money by installing low-flow shower heads and aerators on faucets. These work by injecting air into the water, making the flow seem almost the same, but with less water. The less water you use, the less your well pump and water heater will have to run.

THIS IS THE WAY WE WASH OUR CLOTHES

Laundry day can make up quite a chunk of our electric bill. If you're in the market for a new washing machine, consider one with an Energy Star label. These range from top-of-the-line front-load models to more conventional top load models. Energy Star washers can save an average of $50 annually just on electricity, and use an average of 7,000 gallons less water per year than a conventional washer. That 7,000 gallons means less money spent to run your well pump. They also have a faster spin cycle, to take more water out of your clothes. This means it takes less electricity to dry them.

Not looking for a new washer? There's still ways to save money. Wash with cold water when you can. Every gallon you save is a gallon you don't have to pay to heat. Since washers uses about the same amount of water for both large and small loads, you can save money by washing only full loads when you can instead of several small loads. And always used the high-speed spin cycle. That gets more water our of your clothes, which shortens drying time. You can also try separating slow-drying clothes from fast drying ones so that your dryer does not have to run as long.

We can also save money at the clothes dryers. Dryers don't have Energy Star models (all dryers use about the same energy), but if you're in the market for a new one, consider a dryer with an automatic shut-off. These sense when your clothes are dry and turns off then instead of waiting for the timer to run out. Try to dry only full loads. Dryers use about the same amount of electricity whether they're full or empty. And remember to try to separate slow drying clothes from the ones that dry fast.

Dryer lint can not only cost your money, but can be a safety hazard. Always make sure the duct and outside vent are unclogged. Clogged ducts and vents not only lengthen drying time, but can be a fire hazard. And always remember to clean the lint filter. Like ducts and vents, a clogged lint filter can lengthen drying time.

If possible, consider a good old fashioned clothes line. That's easier said than done in the South, where we can have high humidity, dust, and pollen, but in good weather a clothes line is a good way to save money.

A LITTLE BIT HERE, A LITTLE BIT THERE

Modern electronics can run up your electric bill even if they're not turned on. That's because many electronics, including computers, aren't actually "off." Instead, they constantly draw some electricity. This includes TVs and DVDs. A good way to prevent this is to plug these appliances into a power strip and turn it off when they're not needed. You might not want to do this for your TV and DVD, though, as they would lose their settings.

A charger, such as for your laptop computer or cell phone, or the adaptors to devices like keyboards, are surprising energy hogs. These devices draw a little bit of current while plugged into the wall outlet, even if the other end isn't connected to anything. That's because chargers and adapters work by stepping electricity down to a lower voltage, and there is always slight energy usage. Utilities face the same thing with inactive transformers on the line. Fortunately, stopping this energy use is easy: When you're not using a charger or adapter, just unplug it from the wall socket.

One Georgia business began following these measures in their office, and was surprised at the savings it made to their electric bill.

All of these suggestions, when used together, can help lower your electric bill.

LEARN MORE

The following links have even more ways you can save energy and lower your electric bill:

ALAMO HEADQUARTERS

26 W. Railroad St
Alamo, GA 30411
1-800-342-1290
912-568-7171

DIRECTIONS

DUBLIN

2337 U.S. 441 S.
Dublin, GA 31021
1-800-342-1290

DIRECTIONS

McRAE-HELENA

193 E. Oak St.
McRae-Helena, GA 31055
1-800-342-1290
Closed 12:30-1:30 PM

DIRECTIONS

Willy Wirehand

OFFICE HOURS

MONDAY - FRIDAY
Alamo & Dublin: 8 AM-5 PM
McRae-Helena: 8 AM-4:30 PM

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Little Ocmulgee EMC