How to cut your electricity costs

This was originally published on Monday, June 19, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Electricity cost increases are in the news again, prompting some households to take a fresh look at energy consumption. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to lower your bills by changing how and when you use energy.

  • Light bulbs: Technology has revolutionized light bulbs. Have you ever stood next to a lamp with a conventional light bulb? You can feel the heat radiating from it. Newer light bulbs give off much less heat. Although the traditional light bulbs are not as expensive, they use more power and do not last as long.

CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) and LED (light emitting diodes) are more expensive, but use less power and last much longer. In the kid’s rooms and bathrooms, I installed light switches that automatically turn off after a set period of time.

  • Reduce the heat in the kitchen: Avoid using the oven in summer — try salads, smoothies or barbecue. You’ll reduce the heat in your home and save on your home cooling costs.
  • Laundry: Use the washer with a full load of clothes. Save even more power by switching from hot to cold water. The dryer uses more power than your washer. You can use the sun to help dry your clothes. Add a clean dry towel to your dryer to help absorb the wetness. If the clothes dry quicker the dryer will not need to run as long.
  • Prevent cold air loss: Add caulking or weather-stripping around doors and windows. It is costly to cool the air in your house. During the summer, be sure the kids do not constantly go in and out of the house.

Air conditioners are costly, so why let cool air escape between windows and door cracks? Installing weather stripping can keep your house cooler and lower your power bill.

  • Ceiling fans: These are a great way to circulate air in a room and keep you comfortable. A ceiling fan can save you about $15 a year per fan.
  • Paint: A great summer project to do before the rainy season is upon us again is to paint your house a color that is light and will not absorb heat. Concrete retains heat and will warm up a home. Your roof gets the most direct sun and can keep heat trapped in your house. Paint your roof with reflecting paint. This may cost a bit more than your typical white paint, but you will be able to feel the difference immediately.
  • Insulation: If your house has a drop ceiling, consider using insulation between the ceiling and the drop ceiling.
  • New appliances: If you are purchasing new appliances, look for Energy Star products. These products have specifications set by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy. Many notable name brands carry models that fall under the guidelines of energy efficiency.

If purchasing a new air conditioner look for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, SEER. The higher the unit’s SEER rating the more energy efficient it is. I recently replaced all major appliances and received a rebate from GPA. GPA may still offer energy efficient rebates for new energy efficient appliances.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him atmoneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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Money-saving ideas around the home

If you take a look around your home, you’ll find that there are plenty of opportunities for saving. Here are a few.

Replace old bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED lighting draw less electricity and last much longer than conventional incandescent bulbs, helping you save on your power bill over the long term.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, compact fluorescent bulbs use 25% of the energy of an incandescent bulb and can last ten times as long. LED lights use an amount of energy roughly similar CFL bulbs, but can last up to 25 times as long as the incandescent bulb. These bulbs may initially be more expensive, but their long operational life and reduction in energy use allow you to save money over the years that they’re in use.

Replace old appliances with Energy Star appliances. If you’re planning to buy a new washer, dryer, refrigerator, air conditioner, or other major appliance, look for an Energy Star appliance. To earn an Energy Star from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, the product has to energy-efficient, providing you with energy savings. If it’s more expensive than a similar traditional appliance, the product must make up the price difference by saving you money on your electrical bill within a reasonable period of time.

Use your air conditioner or cooling system with care. Take the time to perform basic maintenance and try to set as high a temperature as is comfortable for your family, to conserve energy and save on your electric bill.

Buy in bulk. You probably have many items in your home that you use over and over again, such as paper towels, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and dish soap. It’s often cheaper to buy such items in bulk. Buying large quantities requires fewer trips to the store, saving you gas as a bonus. Check the individual unit price on the item or use the calculator on your phone to make sure that you’re getting a good deal.

Buy used. If you need to cut down on expenses, consider used furniture and other used items for your needs. You can check the flea market, garage sales, stores that sell used goods, and ads on your newspaper, the radio, and online. Just remember to only buy the item if you need it, especially if you’re trying to trim your budget. Start with a list before you head out to search for deals, and stick to it.

Look for savings on your cable, Internet, and cell phone services. If your contract for a service is up, or if you don’t have a contract, take the time to look closely at your bills. The savings you find will add up, month after month.

You may find an add-on feature that you don’t use, or you may want to switch to a more basic version of the service or plan that you have now. Online services allow you to make calls and chat via video through the Internet, and this can help you shift to more basic service on your cell phone. A different provider may be able to give you a better deal, so be sure to look into different offers available.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com