LESLIE: Is your electrical bill giving you sticker shock? Well, figuring out how to reduce electrical bill starts with a solid understanding of where all that power is going.
TOM: That’s right. And a good portion of that juice might be going to places you’re not even aware of. So how do you find out where those electrical dollars are actually going? Scott Caron from TV’s This Old House is here to tell us. He’s the electrical contractor on the program.
SCOTT: Hey, Tom. Hi, Leslie. Good to be back.
TOM: So, these electric bills can add up quickly and when that happens, it’s almost always a big surprise, right?
SCOTT: It certainly is. Boy, do I not look forward to getting that electric bill. But a lot of it is easily correctable if you know where it’s coming from.
LESLIE: Alright. So we’ve narrowed this down to five areas to check to reduce electrical bill. So, where do we begin?
SCOTT: Those vampire devices: basically, any of those devices that have that black or white square that plugs into the outlet. It’s a transformer.
SCOTT: Even if the device is off, it is still using electricity.
TOM: So what’s the solution? You can’t plug it into the wall. What do you do? Use maybe a power strip with a shut-off switch on it or something?
SCOTT: Yeah, that’s good. Certainly, you can unplug it if you remember to. But that’s asking the impossible. They have plug strips that are somewhat intelligent, that if it’s not being used for a certain amount of time, meaning it’s not drawing enough electricity to keep that power strip on, it will shut it off and basically eliminate all that vampire electricity being used.
TOM: And I guess if you think about all the small electronics in our house, that can really add up.
Let’s talk about some of the big electronics. How about the energy hogs out there, like appliances and things like that?
SCOTT: Yeah. What a great terminology. Well, certainly, the dishwashers and the clothes washers and if you have an electric dryer, that’s a big one. The water heater. People don’t see the water heater, so they forget about it. But if you’re heating up that 40 gallons of water all the time, that’s a lot of electricity.
So, I’ve got a small solution for you. Run everything at full capacity. Wait a few minutes. If you have a half a load of dishes, wait. Wait overnight. Wait two nights. Just get it once so that you’re really efficient. Same thing with the clothes dryer.
TOM: And I guess setting some of those appliances to run when perhaps electricity costs are lower – a lot of times you have different electricity rates at night than during the day – can be a smart approach to reduce electrical bill, too.
SCOTT: Absolutely. A lot of electrical companies at night, when their power-producing costs are lower for the user and for them to make it, is when they give you the best rates.
TOM: Now, I guess the way you use your lighting inside your house can also have an impact when you want to reduce electrical bill. We tend to want to light the entire room but if we were to be a little more strategic with our lighting and just light the areas that we need, we can actually make an effort on reducing electrical bill, too, correct?
SCOTT: Now, wait a minute, Tom. That’s where I draw the line. I love light and I want it on in every room when I come into that room. However, you are right. It’s expensive. LED lighting has certainly made it better so that we can leave the lights on longer. And dimmers are good. You can lower the light even more. But you’ve got to shut it off when you’re not using it. That’s the best thing.
TOM: Now, I recently saw a smart ceiling fan. That’s another source of electricity that’s run on, essentially, an occupancy sensor.
SCOTT: That’s fantastic. If you have the ability to say that a room is occupied, leave the lights on. But as soon as someone leaves or within minutes after they leave to shut that off, there’s no better thing. Now, they don’t work really well in hallways because of your staircases. You want those illuminated. It’s a safety thing. But certainly, in a bedroom or a bathroom they’re fantastic.
TOM: So those occupancy sensors are not going to work for both appliances, like ceiling fans and lights.
SCOTT: That’s right.
TOM: Now, if we do have old appliances, it’s always a good idea to go as efficient as possible when it comes time to replace them, right?
SCOTT: Yeah. I mean old appliances, they do work. They have less technology in them. You know, the old washing machine with a turn dial has less technology than something with a computer on board. But they do work. It’s always a good idea, though, to get something that’s ENERGY STAR-compliant. They’ve really – it’s a good organization and they’ve really drilled it down to some of the best things that will save electricity.
TOM: I always think of ENERGY STAR as a government program that works. Fairly rare but it works really, really well. And they have manufacturers that compete against each other to make sure all of their appliances are as efficient as possible to reduce electrical bill.
SCOTT: Yeah. When you’re buying appliances, there’s really no reason to go outside their parameters. They’re watching it and they know what’s best. In the end, we’re all about saving electricity. It’s less power being produced and it saves the grid, saves everything.
TOM: We’re talking to Scott Caron. He’s the electrician on TV’s This Old House.
So, Scott, aren’t there ways to measure exactly where electricity use is highest?
SCOTT: There is. So, in my home, I have a watt meter that goes – ties into the electrical panel. Very simple, little device that goes up on the first floor in the kitchen. And what happens when you turn the lights on, you can see how much electricity that you’re using. It’s not that complicated. It’s not that you have to get an engineering degree to read this thing. If you have 1,000 watts of lights on, it shows you that. And then once you shut the switch off, it shuts them off. It tells you how much it costs, too, per minute.
TOM: Knowledge is power. Scott Caron, the electrical contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice on how to reduce electrical bill. Thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
SCOTT: Good to be here.