A little knowledge can go a long way in controlling electricity costs

How Much Does Electricity Cost?

by Gary Foreman

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Mom just reminded Junior for the umpteenth time to turn off the light in his bedroom when he leaves. It happens in my house and I'm sure it happens in yours. Just how much electricity is Junior wasting? In fact, how much does it cost to run most of our common appliances?

Recently FPL, our local power company, distributed some information on just that question. It provides some interesting food for thought.

The figures assumed a family of four and that electricity cost $0.11 per kilowatt hour. If you'd like to compare your rates take a look at your last electric bill. Take the amount you paid and divide by the number of kilowatt hours used. That's your cost per KWH. You'll want to make your calculation including taxes. There are some major differences in cost depending on where you live.

Let's start in with Junior's light. A 100 watt light bulb costs $0.69 per month in average use. So Junior's light isn't that significant. But, typically where there's one light left on, you'll find more. If you find four or five lights left on it starts to add up. And you might want to think about replacing them with LED bulbs.

Electricity Cost in the Living Room

How about your television? Many families have a TV on almost continually. If your television is on for eight hours each day you'll add $6.60 to your electric bill. That works out to about two cents an hour for entertainment. Not too bad (I'll avoid the discussion as to whether television actually provides good entertainment!).

Naturally, you'll want to stay cool while watching TV. Ceiling fans are touted as an excellent way to keep cool cheaply. What's the truth? Well, that fan costs you $2.64 per month.

How does that compare to air-conditioning? The info provided by FPL didn't include air-conditioning. So much depends on the size of your home, how well it's insulated and how warm the temperature is. If I add up all the other uses for electricity our bill would be about $125 per month.

Determine if a new air conditioner will save you money on your electric bill

Here in South Florida the summer months can be a challenge for your air-conditioner. Our bills approach $260, so the air- conditioner must be consuming somewhere near $135 each month. Guess that ceiling fan's not such a bad idea!

Electricity Cost in the Kitchen

Next the kitchen. The electric oven costs $4.29 per month. A large element on the cook top is $3.45 each month. An interesting comparison when you consider that a fast food dollar menu meal costs about the same.

In our house we couldn't survive without the dishwasher. It's well worth the $4.40 in electricity it uses each month. Wish I could find other things that would save me that much time for so little money!

The refrigerator is somewhat surprising. FPL says it costs between $9 and $23 per month to run your refrigerator. Two main factors effect how expensive it is. The size of your refrigerator and the efficiency of the unit. Naturally, a bigger box uses more electricity.

See how to figure appliance electricity usage

The energy efficiency rating of refrigerators can be surprising. If your fridge is more than ten years old, a newer one could be nearly twice as efficient. We keep a second old refrigerator so we can stock up on sales. Wonder if it's time to think about buying a cheap new replacement?

Electricity Cost in the Utility Room

Let's move into the utility room. Another item that we wouldn't be without in our home is the washing machine. Using warm water it consumes about $5.50 each month. Another bargain in my book!

Drying those clothes is another issue. An electric dryer can cost $6.60 each month. That's not bad. But if you have the time and space to use a clothes line, the wind and sun are free! (Of course the rain is free, too, if you're unlucky!)

Ironing your clothes doesn't cost much in dollars, just your time. Your iron only costs about $0.55 per month. Sorry, but we can't use cost as a reason to quit ironing!

The hot water heater is another matter. It's typical monthly cost is $34. That's $408 each year. It's easy to understand why people invest in low flow shower heads and insulating blankets for their hot water heaters. You can also use a timer or turn down the thermostat to save some money. Some people even shift to the 'on demand' water heaters. (Be careful to maintain minimum temperature required for dishwashers.)

If you have a deep freeze you'll spend between $13 and $22 each month to keep it running. Just like the refrigerator, a lot of the cost depends on the size and age.

Electricity Costs Outside

What about outside your house? Many people have started using incandescent flood lights for security purposes. They cost about $4.95 per month each to operate. You might want to consider getting one with a motion detector that only comes on when there's movement in the area. Still good for crime prevention, but doesn't use nearly as much electricity.

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More and more people have backyard pools. If you have one you know that they're not inexpensive. Running your pool pump for six hours each day costs $29 each month. Although spas weren't listed they should be approximately $20 each month to operate.

Occasionally we all complain about our electric bills. But our modern families owe much of our lifestyle to electricity. Like any tool that we use frequently, there's opportunity for use and abuse. It's up to you to spend your utility dollars wisely. And a little knowledge of what specific items consume in electricity is the beginning of controlling that expense.

updated August, 2015

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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