According to the Congressional Research Service, the median annual income of citizens age 65 and older was $30,770 in 2008. Like most elder women, my income is lower than that (men's is higher on average) and although I get by just fine, I am always looking for ways to stem the outflow.
In additional to the electronic bill that arrives via email each month from the local power company, Portland General Electric here in Oregon also sends out a monthly newsletter with information and advice on reducing usage and lowering the bill. Until recently, I hadn't paid much attention but now I have discovered how useful it is.
This month, there is a story on four ways to lower high winter heating bills which led me to an entire page of cooking tips that lower energy usage. Among them, use the microwave whenever possible because of shorter cooking time.
Using lids on pots shortens cooking time too and they suggest that unless precise temperature is critical, skip pre-heating the oven.
There is other good advice for saving energy and therefore money on other large appliances – dishwasher (well, I never use it, but some people do), refrigerator and freezer. For example, I did not know that both freezers and refrigerators run more efficiently when they are full.
In another section of the website, PGE calculates an estimate of electrical use in my home. Here is their first estimate, based on my address, square footage, number of occupants and type of heating showing that three-quarters of my energy bill is taken up by heating and lighting:
Because I have swapped out about half my incandescent light bulbs for CFLs and I am careful about winter heating temperature control, I was pretty certain that couldn't be right.
So I spent the 20 minutes it took to fill out a more detailed form about what appliances I use with what frequency and such details as whether I use cold or hot water for laundry and how often I bathe, etc.
Here is PGE's revised chart showing that although heating and cooling take up more than half of my monthly bill, lighting has dropped to a tiny percentage.
The chart is wrong about that big blue chunk labeled cooling. (UPDATE: This is an error. In the comments below, see comment no. 1 from Cop Car and my response in comment no. 3.) I have yet to even turn on the air conditioner, but there was no choice on the form for “never use it.” That's forgivable; I still have a reasonably good idea of where my energy dollars are going. And look how I stack up with similar homes:
Actually, I spend more per year with PGE indicates, but it is still much lower than similar homes. It helps, of course, that only one person lives in this place. If I had a husband or roommate, the cost would be higher.
The company also supplies appliance-buying guides, upgrade advice with both no-cost and low-cost choices and charts to help lower energy use. This light bulb chart [pdf] compares costs, savings and usability among incandescents, CFLs and LEDs.
And here are 24 energy saving tips ranging from “without spending a dime” to “larger investments with big payoffs.”
I mention all this because although I do not recall such rich, useful websites for the power companies in Maine and New York where I previously lived, that doesn't mean they don't have them and perhaps your power company is equally informative.
Anything that helps save a few dollars is a good thing.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Don (Greywolf) Ford: Gone Fishin'