Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Five Steps to Lowering Your Electric Bill

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As we struggle to manage our budgets, we look for ways to reduce our expenses. During the summer, the high electric bill catches our attention, so we scramble for ways to reduce that cost.

I was taken aback when I saw my electric bill for this last month. The amount was almost a third of what I paid last year at this time. I was expecting less, but not by this much. I felt a bit of victory. I think that we concentrate on electric bills, because they do seem to go out of control in the summer. Gas bills typically go down. Water bills go up, but never so dramatically. As an aside, I am looking at decreasing my water usage, even though I am not as worried about water costs. Water rates have been increasing, and we may find ourselves having to pay for the true amount for the service, so it is better to start now. The road to lower my electric bill has actually been a long one, but I am still not done implementing my strategy to reduce the amount of electricity that I use. I thought that I would share these steps to help you along this path.

Step 1) Understand your bill.  My electric service provider had me in a contract where I was going to face a fine if I broke the contract. At the time, I thought that I had a good deal, but I found that was not the case. When I began looking for another provider, I compared their rates for how many cents average for a kilowatt hour. As I talked to others, I found that they had all made the same mistake that I had: not understanding that the final amount involved more than that charge. I was comparing apples to oranges, and I was not aware that I was doing that. Fortunately, I was reading the fine print. I was familiar with the various charges on my old bill, and when going through a website for another service provider, I happened upon a statement about the other charges. Once I began to look for them, I found statements that indicated that fantastic deals could be more expensive than what I already had. Read through the sites to understand what they may be charging you to find the provider with the best deal. Rates may mislead.

Step 2) Green home conversion. Look through my posts under that category, and you will find what I have been doing to my house. To begin reducing your utility bill, you can change the light bulbs, insulate, seal, and follow other green advice. I did not tackle this overnight, and I am going to continue. What I do try to stress in these posts is the idea that you should understand why something is happening in your home, and then find the best way to address it. I begin one project when I have the money for it, or the time is right. I will not spend along time in an attic in a Houston summer, so there is still more installation to do, as well as other things.

Step 3) Be proactive. Our knowledge of how homes work, and how to best deal with their inefficiencies is growing, but we are not there yet. As manufacturers start producing products to meet the trend, you could already be there. I find that people will do one thing to reduce their electric bill, like adding insulation, but then they stop. Rates go up, so that one step failed you (or so you believe). When I cannot easily find a product off the shelf at the home improvement center there are other options. Buy it off the internet. Make it yourself. (I am finding that making things myself saves me money, and it is not hard to do). Discover the latest ideas.

Step 4) Reduce what you use. Bigger is better. More is better. We become stuck in our ways. I stopped using my desktop. The laptop uses far less energy. I do not pull out a kitchen appliance when I can do something by hand. Power strips are turned off after we use the devices attached to them, like computers or televisions. Lights do not stay on. Most methods of reducing are habits.  Once the children learn that they can pull up a shade for light during the day instead of using the lamp, you will find energy reduction. However, there is another aspect to consider. Do you need the largest television? Many consumer goods using electricity have advertising indicating their energy savings, but this does not mean that they are equals. Look at how much energy is used. Decide if you need the item, or is there a reason for wanting it. The top of the line coffee maker which does one hundred and one things is great, but if I only need it for coffee, why plug it in. The fancier coffee maker is probably using electricity all of the time.

Step 5) Do not use the electricity in the first place. With the heat advisory in Houston right now, I have not been able to take the children outside. Having them play, is a great way to remove them from the temptation of the television, computer, or gaming system. However, in the house, we read together. We draw. We have projects. If we are outside on a summer’s evening, no electricity inside the house is needed. The sun sets so late that we can continue the outdoor fun.  But not using electricity can mean more. Do you need a digital clock plugged into a wall outlet in every room? We strive for convenience without considering how we live. Most of us use our cell phones to tell the time anyway, so do we need the clock? Here I am picking on the clock, but look around you own house. How many power hungry objects are there which you do not use?

Is there anything earth shattering in these five steps? No. I bet you have heard them before this. However, I do want to stress step 3. I feel that this is where we fail. Who wants to think about working on their home? Set it and forget it is the motto we all can easily follow. Who wants to learn something new that may help reduce their energy usage? Well, you do since you are reading this blog. Considering that there is nothing new here for you, it may be the step 3 is where there is a hang up, but step 1 is also a problem area.  You have to take the time to go through the documentation if you want the best result.  Hopefully, I made you think about what you are doing.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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