When we are trying to lower our utility bill the most obvious answer seems to be to turn off as many lights as possible. Either that or replacing our light bulbs with more energy efficient ones. In today’s post I am going to show you this may not be the most effective way to conserve. In fact, it may be the least effective.

O.k I’ll try to make this as short and simple as possible. Just as a side note I called three representatives from my local power company and after having them fail at explaining the billing process to me I got on the phone with my father(electrician of 35yrs) and did a couple hours of research on the web to put the pieces together. Here is how we are billed for our power use:

The power company bills us a certain amount per KWh that we use. ( That’s Kilowatts hours, 1 Kilowatt is 1000 watts)

If you don’t have anything to gauge 1000 watts by think about your light bulbs. If you had 10-100 watt bulbs on for 1 hour that would be 1000 watts that you used for an hour. You would be charged 1 KWh for that usage. If you live in Fayetteville N.C that would cost you about .07cents (Look on your bill to see how much you are charged per KWh)

The formula: Watts x hours used /1000= Kwh

Ok now let’s do some comparing.

In my home I have 40 light bulbs that are all about 40watts a piece. If I had them all on for 4 hours I would use 6400 watts or 6.4 KWh. I would pay about .44 cents for that usage. If I left all of my lights bulbs on for 4 hours everyday for 30 days I would pay $13.44  (192KWh)

Now $13.44 may seem like good savings but let’s  look at some of the other appliances, namely the heavy hitter: The A/C system.

In your heat pump (we’ll get to other systems later in this post) are heat strips that come on when you turn your furnace too high or if your unit has a mechanical problem. These Heat strips are 5000 watts a piece. There are almost always two of them which would give you a total of 10,000 watts or 10KW

If my heat strips were on for 4 hours I would have used 40KWh and would be charged about 2.80 for that usage. If I left them on for 4 hours everyday for 30 days I would use 1200KWh and would be charged about $84.00 for that usage. Yes that’s correct $84.00 It’s not even close to the $13.44 saved by cutting the lights off. That’s about six times as much!

You may be saying that this does not apply to you if you do not have a heat pump or rarely use the heat. In that case let’s take a look at the air conditioning. An average A/C uses about 4000 watts to run and closer to 5000 watts if not serviced. If I ran my unserviced A/C in the summer for four hours a day everyday for 30 days I would be charged for 600 KWh which is about $42.00. This is still about three times as much as the lights. Not to mention air conditioners that aren’t running properly run much longer to cool the house. An unserviced A/C may run twice as long as it has to.

Don’t worry about the lights. When it comes to saving money on the electric bill focus on the heavy hitter: The ac system. If yours hasn’t been serviced in awhile you may be throwing away more than the cost it takes to have it serviced. Call us today if you would like more information. Do you have questions? Leave a comment below.

(910) 797-4287



Understanding your electric bill, why you shouldn’t worry about the lights.

8 thoughts on “Understanding your electric bill, why you shouldn’t worry about the lights.

  • March 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    i have a question . i just purchased a new home with new heat and AC units and the last 2 months my bill has been 300.00 or better . i do my best to conserve energy .all the things i have done . unplugging item not used regularly,turning off lights, useing natural light when possible, low watt energy saving bulbs,water heater wrap, thermostat set with no changes at 74 degrees, check to make sure chalking is good around all my windows. how do i combat the cost.

  • March 16, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I have not used my ac/heater in almost a year. My electric is still over 250 a month. How is that?

  • March 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    You have to check the water heater. it is a big power sucker as well. and if you wash clothes a lot the dryer will also do it. Does this sound like it might relate to your situation?

  • March 23, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    The dryer maybe. The water heater is energy star rated and has a low power setting. I keep it at about 120 degrees and on the power saver setting. I do was clothing in cold water mainly. I guess though that I do a lot of laundry since my husband is a mechanic and I have two toddlers.

  • March 29, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Same here we wash clothes all of the time. The dryer has heat strips in it which are high power suckers.

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