A kind of boring utility question

A few months ago, we got our SmartMeter from SDG&E installed and I’m still trying to figure out how to use the information to help us save money or be more energy efficient or whatever.  We pretty much straddle the fence on efficiency: we want to do it, but we’re not really motivated until we see monetary incentives.

When we re-designed the backyard, we cut the amount of grass in half and installed stubouts for irrigation drip zones.  However, because our existing sprinkler system was so lacking, I think we’re using the same amount of water to water less lawn.  We did manage to eliminate the lawn in the front yard, though.

We’ve talked about solar panels, but even with the tax rebates, I’m not sure it works out financially, considering how much electricity we use.  I also hear a lot about using power strips with on/off switches to reduce the “vampire” energy suck of plugged in appliances not in use.  I purchased a Kill-a-Watt and plugged it in around the house and I’m not convinced my appliances are using a significant amount of energy.

Our SDG&E bills range between $45 and $80 (I think that high mark was when we turned the house heat on when my parents visited one winter).  In any given month $10 to $20 of that is the gas portion; the rest is the electric bill.  When people say they save $50 a month just by shutting down extraneous appliances and installing power strips, I’m wondering how that’s possible when $5o is my average bill total.

So, here’s my question: What does your electricity usage look like compared to ours?  Are we average, or do we use an oddly low amount of electricity?  Leading to: how much could we really save installing power strips and cutting power to unused appliances??

Here’s our stats:

  • 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms: essentially a bedroom, an office, and 2 spare rooms that aren’t used except for two kittens who don’t require plugging in
  • Gas furnace that is never turned on unless it’s really cold and we have guests.  Having said that, we plug in a couple of space heaters depending on what room we’re in at the time.  No central AC, but we have a window unit in the living room and a portable AC in the bedroom.
  • Gas water heater, dryer, range. Everything else is electric (oven included).
  • Standard TV, DVR, CD/DVD entertainment stuff. No video consoles.
  • We generally turn lights off when we leave the room.  Anything that can use CFLs, does.
  • Now, living with a homebrewer means there is a chest freezer and an upright freezer with temperature controls (to function at a temp between fridge and freezer), plus an extra standard fridge/freezer in the garage.  So, maybe that skews our usage up?
  • If I was going to plug anything into a power strip to turn off during the day, it would be my netbook and laptop, the cell phone charger, and the tv/dvd player.  I’m not going to switch off anything that has a clock to reset because that would drive me batty (microwave, coffee pot, cable box, alarm clocks, etc).

Is it worth it?  If it isn’t, is there something I’m missing that would lower our overall use?

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3 responses to “A kind of boring utility question

  1. Egad. Our electricity bill is about the same as yours but we only have a two bedroom, two bathroom condo. I suspect part of the bill is because Paul works from home and has three computers on all day.

  2. Our electricity bill is less than $20 a month because of our solar panels. I live in CA, so it’s never that cold. I also live in a 2 bedroom 1 bath home.

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