Knowledge Is Power. Turn It On.

BY: Todd Hoener, GVEA Energy Efficiency Specialist
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 4/3/08 Section A3

Of all your expenses, probably the toughest bill to manage is the electric bill. That bill is dynamic—you don’t pay for it upfront. If you don’t have the money for gas you might walk. If you can’t pay for heating fuel you might burn wood instead. However, with electricity, you use it today and pay for it later. This time lag can become a problem if money is tight and you’re not carefully managing your daily electric use.

However, you can utilize your electric meter and your bill to help you manage electric use and budget expenditures. Your meter and bill are your friends, not foes. With electricity, you buy kilowatt-hours (kWh). The function of electric meters is to record the kWh of electric-use between billing periods (about 30 days).

1. With pencil, logbook, calendar, and watch, you can begin tracking the reads on your meter. Each day, about the same time, log the date, time, kWh read, and what activities took place in the last 24 hours (such as, laundry, holiday baking, warmed a room with electric heater, etc.). Make it a family project.

2. Subtract today’s meter read from tomorrow’s read and log the kWh difference.

3. Audit what devices are using electricity in the house. Take notice of the outlets. Record what devices are connected. Examine the circuit breaker (or fuse) panel and note what breakers control what circuits (there may be a dedicated circuit for a single, high-load device, like a water heater).

After several weeks of logging use and activities, you should notice a pattern in the daily kWh use. First, there appears a kWh number you never drop below. That’s the baseload. It’s all those devices that are always on or used like the refrigerator or stand-by power. Second, there are high-use days. These are days when high use activity occurred or devices were used. A high-use bill is a function of either high use devices (e.g., electric heaters) or uncontrolled activities (e.g., leaving the lights on).

Use your electric bill to compare your past use with your daily log. GVEA bills post the average daily kWh use for the past 12 billing periods. To lower your use you need to either use more efficient devices (e.g., compact fluorescent lamps) and/or change your behavior to more carefully manage your electric use. Currently, to budget for an electric bill that is about $100, you’ll need to use, on average, no more than 17 kWh per day over 30 days.

In closing, you should develop your own Household Energy Policy or HEP (this column focuses on electric energy—your HEP should also include transportation and heating energy). If you need help in developing your HEP, there are local, energy specialists to assist you. GVEA’s home energy audit program, Home$ense, will assist you in creating your HEP today. Knowledge is power. Turn it on. It’s free.

Additional Information

Want to know how much power a device is using and what it costs? Check out the CCHRC Energy Use Calculator.