Lower Electricity Costs by Reducing Standby Power – DFA Tip of the Week – 5/18/2009

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There are many ways to reduce costs in our every day lives, so to help do just that each Monday (or maybe later in the week) I will post a money saving “Tip of the Week”.

“And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.”  – Luke 19:17

This weeks tip involves…reducing your electricity bill by turning off certain breakers.

The Problem

I’m sure you’ve heard it before…your cell phone charger (and/or other electronic devices) hog power even when not in use.

Standby power (aka vampire power, phantom load, low power mode, or leaking electricity) – energy consumed by devices when they’re plugged in but not in use – costs the average American household between $200 – $300 a year and typically accounts for 5 – 10% of total residential electric consumption.

Today I will show you my action plan to reduce this problem in my home.

Here are examples of devices in your home that drain standby power as long as they are plugged into a live power source:

  • Satellite DVR boxes
  • Notebook (laptop) computers
  • Home audio systems
  • Televisions (especially rear projection)
  • DVD players
  • Microwave ovens
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Night lights – most people leave them plugged in & running 24/7/365
  • Alarm clocks – electric ones of course

One common solution you will hear is to install power strips in areas with many electronic devices – such as your entertainment center or office desk.  I have a easier, quicker, & cheaper solution!

So What’s The Answer?

To reduce the consumption of standby power in our home, without paying for a bunch of power strips, I looked no further than our home breaker box.

First I strategically marked any breaker not requiring a live power connection during the course of a normal day with blue tape, then added a quick & simple step to my daily routine.  Every morning before leaving for work I head down to the basement and flip any breakers marked with the blue tape.  When I get home, I head back down to the basement and flip the breakers back to their live position.

I made sure not to include breakers connected to necessary appliances such as my refrigerator, freezer, and range oven (because I don’t like resetting its digital clock every day).

Some may find this information incredibly useful while others may deem it a waste of time.  To the latter I remind you that every penny counts and the more areas you cut costs, the quicker you reduce your debt, and the quicker you’re able to reach financial freedom.  I have been employing this tip for some time now and find the implementation into my daily routine was adopted with nearly zero inconvenience.  The most time consuming part of the entire exercise is deciphering which breakers you can flip and which you must leave powered on.

On that note let me tell you why we leave some on:

  • Garage – because we didn’t leave it on at first then came home in a rain storm and couldn’t open the garage door!
  • Sump – do I really need to explain this one?  Okay, I will…we don’t want to come home to a flooded basement.
  • Furnace – I’m still debating whether or not I could turn this off.  Right now I am doing so in the summer, but not in the winter.
  • Basement – because we need light in the basement in order to turn the breakers on & off.
  • Family room, kitchen lights, master bedroom, microwave, and range (as mentioned above) are all left on because they have digital clocks that I got sick of resetting every day.  This sort of defeats the purpose, so after writing this post I’m recommitting myself to turning these off, then just resetting the clocks.  I’ll probably just never reset certain clocks, like on the range since there is a battery operated wall clock right next to it.

What do you think?  Is this something you would implement into your life to save a few hundred bucks a year?  Before you answer, let me leave you with this famous yet brilliantly simple quote:

“A penny saved is a penny earned!”

– Benjamin Franklin

Click here to see all our past DFA Tips of the Week.

DFA is passionately dedicated to helping others break the bondage of debt using biblical principles.



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1 Enemy of Debt

Great ideas! We really need to evaluate our situation and plan to make the same effort in reducing our annual costs! I have to admit that we are pretty bad about this. I did try for a very short time to go around the house before bed and unplug everything. This became a pain in the butt. I like the idea of flipping breaker switches. Thanks!

2 Matt Jabs

To incorporate the necessary changes into your life, you need to make them as simple as possible to implement. I’m a big believe in that.

3 Lee Holcomb

Matt, you should be commended for your willingness to do WHATEVER it takes to be a good steward!

4 Matt Jabs

You know what Lee, I am so committed to it at this point. Also, what I am finding is that every time I make a “sacrifice”, it turns out to be a blessing.

Simplicity is very attractive, and the more I get into my Debt Free Adventure, the more I am drawn to a simple lifestyle where I cut out all things unnecessary.

It is and exciting journey to say the least!

5 Nancy K

I was doing this with my electric water heater instead of putting it on a timer. An electrician told me that the circuit breaker switches weren’t designed for repeated on/off use. Not sure if it is true or not, but you could end up replacing them from excessive use.

Be sure to use a water heater blanket if you have a hot water heater tank.

6 Matt Jabs

I have heard this too Nancy but have found it to be largely untrue. Great advice w/the blanket… we installed one last winter.

7 Sandra

I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now. Yours is the only article I have found suggesting it. We have an additional drain in that our builder installed an AC system that runs the fan automatically all year long. There is no way to turn it off except to have an electrician get up in the attic to rewire it. I don’t need the fan running throughout the day when we are not in the house from 6 am to 5:30 pm. Our AC guy also told us that it was the fan that was pulling the most electricity. Add that to all the little vampires throughout the house and I would love to do this. Now I have to convince my husband.

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