Budget on a wire


POSTED: Monday, May 04, 2009
This story has been corrected.  See below.

By now I think most folks already have heard the spiel about switching to compact fluorescent lights to save energy.

Since the year started, base electricity rates actually have been on the decline, so you should be seeing, on average, a lower electricity bill.

Here's the deal: Even though electricity rates are coming down and not as crazy as last year, there are a dozen simple ways you can trim your bill even more. What goes down will eventually go up, and taxes appear to be on the way up.

The best way to start is by looking at the largest energy users in the house, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.

The No. 1 energy-sucking beast is the central air conditioner, followed by conventional electric hot water heaters, swimming pool pumps, hot tubs and a second refrigerator. Lighting and home entertainment systems come next.

Of all household appliances, central and large split-system air conditioners use up the most kilowatt-hours of electricity. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts, a standard unit of electricity, and a kilowatt-hour is the amount of kilowatts used in an hour. HECO estimates the average household uses 600 kwh per month.

Summer months are coming up, so air conditioners probably will be coming on soon.

A two- to four-ton AC system is going to average from $133 to $265 a month. Opening the windows and using ceiling fans could save you more than $70 a month.

If you must use one, program your cooling system to turn off when the house is empty, and clean out your filter and vents for maximum efficiency. Setting the thermostat cooler than usual when you first turn it on will use up unnecessary energy, and won't cool your home any faster.

Here are some more energy bill saving tips:

» You might want to get that flat-screen LCD television. A 32-inch LCD TV on seven hours a day uses just 30 kwh compared with a 34-inch tube-type TV at 52.5 kwh. The 42-inch plasma TV uses the most power, at 57.1 kwh.

» If you've got a freezer manufactured before 1980, you want to update it with an EnergyStar one manufactured after 2001. It could cost you two to three times more to run those older models.

» A second fridge can be costing you an extra $180 to $1,080 per year depending on the model (power-suckers were made before 1980). Try turning it off for a month to see what you save.

» If you need to heat up leftovers, the microwave is more energy-efficient than the stove.

» You've heard it before, but here it is again: Changing one regular 100-watt light bulb to a CFL (compact fluorescent light) can save 80 kwh and save more than $24 per year per bulb (when used three hours a day). There are coupons, too.

» When you're not using them, it's a good idea to put cell phone chargers and other electronics on a power strip and turn it off when not in use.

» Line-drying instead of using the dryer eight times a week can save up to $29 per month.

» Cutting two minutes per shower could save up to 1,533 kwh and $460 a year.

» Only a little more than 30,000 households have signed up for HECO's EnergyScout program, which offers a $3 monthly credit for letting them install a device that shuts off your water heater during system emergencies. Signing up is free.

» Solar water heaters are still a good investment, especially if you have a multifamily household. It can save up to $10 to $15 per person per month. HECO offers an upfront rebate of $1,000 through its approved contractors. Federal and state tax credits are still available.


”;Here's The Deal,”; helps consumers stretch dollars in these tough economic times. It runs every other Monday. Contact Nina Wu at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)









This column originally said Hawaiian Electric Co. offers EnergyStar rebates for freezers. HECO offers rebates for EnergyStar ceiling fans, clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and room window air conditioners but does not offer a rebate on freezers.