June 19, 2015 in Smart Money

5 ways to slice summer power bills

As the temperatures skyrocket, power bills seem to do the same, but you can stop them!

If you want to cut your power bills this summer, remember three things: vampires, ice cream and poker parties.

Cutting your electric bills doesn’t have to mean buying a bunch of gadgets — or sitting alone in the dark.

Here are five low-cost, no-stress ways to slice your summer power bills. And some of them are almost as much fun as eating ice cream.

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Where’s the one place people waste power and don’t even realize it? Vampire power: It’s the energy some appliances and electronics drain from your home when they are turned off.

“I think the biggest one is one we all should know but probably don’t: that ‘off’ means unplugged,” says Bob Hart, a real estate broker in Santa Barbara, California, and green designation instructor with the National Association of Realtors. “People have no idea how many things in their house (use) electricity 24 hours a day.”

Signs of a vampire: Anything with a clock or light that’s on when the item is turned off. Also, any kind of plugged-in charger can be a vampire appliance — whether or not it’s charging anything.

Staking vampires doesn’t mean going around constantly plugging and unplugging your electrical items. (Unlike real vampires, that would get old fast. See what we did there?) Instead, hook things up to surge protectors. Or use outlets that connect to wall switches for vampire items. When the wall switch is off, there’s no power to drain.

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You might be planning to get one. You might already have one. But until you actually learn how to use it, that programmable thermostat isn’t doing you any favors.

It’s kind of like buying a Ferrari key chain to go with a broken-down old car. Sure, it looks cool, but it’s not going to make things run any better.

So get out the booklet that came with the thermostat and read it. Or have the customer service department talk you through the basics. Some power companies have special help lines for just that purpose, too.

When you use it, a programmable thermostat can save up to 10 percent per year from your heating and cooling bills, says Ronnie Kweller, director of communications at Emerald Cities Collaborative and past spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy.

And who couldn’t use a little extra money?

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Jackson Browne was right: You don’t want to be “running on empty.”

Especially if you’re talking about a dishwasher or washing machine. You use the same amount of water and energy whether or not the machine is full.

But with full loads, you get a lot more for your money. And you run the machine less often. Win-win.

Some other ways to save:

If clotheslines are prohibited in your area, try a discreet drying rack on your back patio or deck. Or, if you’re not jonesing for that fresh-air-and-sunshine laundry smell, you can even set it up in a tub or shower stall.

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Who doesn’t come in from the sweltering heat and vow to crank the air conditioning down to a temperature usually reserved for penguin nesting grounds?

But icing down the whole house just to cool you off for a few minutes is expensive. So keep the air conditioning at a reasonable setting and look for other ways to chill when you first come inside. Have an icy drink, put a cold compress on the back of your neck or change into some cool, absorbent clothes.

Another effective strategy: a quick, cool shower.

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Sometimes it pays to get away from the two-dimensional electronics for a little while. Literally.

Ditch the Facebook friends to spend a little time with people you know from the real world (not to be confused with “The Real World”).

Organize a game night, a poker party or a craft night with friends.

Close Candy Crush long enough to grow something healthy in your yard. Or, have some fun with a container garden on your patio. (Real tomatoes don’t require wattage. And if you eat what you grow, you can save on your food bill, too.)

The goal: Get unplugged, unwind and connect in a way that has nothing to do with power cords and networks. You’ll save some electricity and recharge your own batteries at the same time.

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