What are some worthwhile ways to reduce household electrical power consumption & costs? Here are some of the actions I've taken so far:

  • AC - turned thermostat to uncomfortable level
  • Electric Stove - broken, have not replaced
  • Lights - replace with LED bulbs, turn off when not in use
  • Washer, Dryer - run after dark
  • Television - switch off when not in use
  • Audio system - switch off when not in use
  • Computer - turn off when not in use

And I have unplugged a few unused devices.

I've got other ideas to further reduce usage. Which of these would make the most sense/impact?

  • Microwave - turn off to avoid vampiric power drain?
  • Coffee Maker - turn off to avoid vampiric power drain?
  • Television - turn off to avoid vampiric power drain?
  • Audio system - turn off to avoid vampiric power drain?
  • Computer - turn off when not in use?
  • Internet Router - turn off at night?
  • Internet Switch(es) - turn off at night?
  • VoIP phone - turn off at night?
  • Cellphones - charge only at night?
  • Tablets - charge only at night?
  • Game systems (PS2, PS3, Wii, DS3) - turn off when not in use?

I have considered installing a solar panel system (I live in Georgia) to reduce the amount of electric grid usage during the summer, but the cost is a challenge. What other measures might be worth considering?

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    Why does a dryer cost less after dark? Are you in an area where cost changes based on time of day? Jan 18, 2014 at 3:53
  • You might want to fix the stove. The additional food costs of microwavable foods and easting out may overwhelm the savings from not using the stove. Jan 18, 2014 at 11:58
  • @JoeTaxpayer - energy.gov/energysaver/articles/… By going offpeak, the power company doesn't have to buy power on the market, therefore can lower costs.
    – MrChrister
    Jan 18, 2014 at 18:56
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    p.s. to those voting to close as "primarily opinion based", no, actually, this stuff is measurable and it has a hard cost. Worthwhile can be determined in kilowatt-hours and dollars & cents. Admittedly, this isn't a sexy investing question or tricky tax issue, but energy is a major expenditure in any household and it is on topic: "Strategies for creating and sticking to a budget", and "Strategies for saving more money". Jan 20, 2014 at 16:08
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    Also: you could stop using the dryer entirely. Creating heat from electric takes a lot of power. Line-dried clothes are great -- something about the UV in sunlight killing bacteria. It gives clothes a fresh smell they've spent millions trying to replicate in a dryer sheet. You can hang them to dry inside too, if outside isn't an option.
    – Patches
    May 18, 2014 at 1:03

3 Answers 3


First measure the actual power draw for your devices, or you may waste effort through premature optimization. It might not be worth the trouble to unplug an idle device every night just to save a penny or two.

I suggest you get your hands on something like the Kill-A-Watt, to begin with. Essentially, it's a pass-through device that measures power consumption for whatever you plug into it. Manufacturer says:

[...] cut down on costs and find out what appliances are actually worth keeping plugged in. Simply connect these appliances to the Kill A Watt®, and it will assess how efficient they really are. Large LCD display will count consumption by the Kilowatt-hour, same as your local utility. You can calculate your electrical expenses by the day, week, month, even an entire year. [...]

IMHO, something like this is worth the cost, and I've had one for a while. A nearby library may also have units on hand to lend out.

While the Kill-A-Watt is easy to use, the primary drawback is that it doesn't handle everything in the house: i.e. anything hard-wired (no plug) or else running on 240V (electric range, clothes dryer) can't be measured. To handle those you'd perhaps want to look at solutions that can monitor from the panel, such as TED or something similar.

  • The Kill-A-Watt is a great idea! Jan 20, 2014 at 16:06

The key is measuring. Like any project you need to evaluate a baseline, make a change, then re-evaluate. Otherwise you are blindly spending money to save, or worse, being manipulated by advertising.

Like Chris W. Rea said before me, using a tool like a Kill-A-Watt to measure the effectiveness of what you are about to do is the most important step. For example, if you have an incandescent light bulb in a back part of your basement that you never turn on, it doesn't make much sense to replace that bulb with a $9 LED to save money. If you have an empty freezer in your basement, turn that thing off. Measure your power usage, then you can know for sure what is the most effective action.

If you have a family like mine, the best of intentions still leave lights on all day or tvs on a screensaver all night. Invest in simple automation like motion sensing outlets or light switches to automatically turn off power. (It is my full time job to go around a turn off lights, and I want to retire)

The biggest payback that I know of is insulation and caulking of your home to make the energy you do use more efficient. If you don't have enough insulation, that is a great place to start. Here is a calculator to estimate the payback of adding insulation.

The US government has a cool website with a bunch of tips for saving energy.

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    If one has an exhaust fan in their bath or shower area, changing the switch to a mechanical timer is great. Never forget and leave the fan on when you head out for a weeks vacation. Jan 19, 2014 at 0:57

As has already been mentioned, measure, change, measure.

Stopping vampiric power drain in the items you mentioned is going to save you very little electricity or money. There are much larger power users in your home that can be tackled first. If you have a fridge, freezer, and electric water heater on Time-Of-Use billing, shifting their energy usage to off-peak hours can yield significant monetary savings.

I have put my water heater on a timer that turns the thing on 3 hours before I get up and shower, and turns off just before shower time. I get more than enough hot water for showers, and the heater isn't maintaining a tank of hot water during the day or night when I don't need it.

Same can be done with your fridge and freezer. Set the fridge a little colder and run it off-peak and your food will stay cold/frozen during the day.

Note that while putting the water heater on a timer may get you both money and electricity, doing the same for the fridge and freezer will only get you financial savings as you time-shift your electric usage. I was able to get a 20% saving on my electric bill by time-shifting my water heater and fridge. Your mileage may vary.

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