Unplug and Save Money on Your Electric Bill

by Ann Marie Michaels on February 12, 2009

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unplug and save electricity

Last night I was watching an Oprah show about how to save money. They had a woman on named Rhondalyn from Baltimore, Maryland who shared a tip for saving money: unplugging all the stuff in your house you’re not using. Apparently we have to pay for the electricity for the things that are plugged in — even if they are turned off.

Honestly, I’ve heard about people doing this before and I always thought it was loony. Going around unplugging everything in your house to save a few cents? Seems nuts to me.

But then this lady Rhondalyn shared how much money she has saved. She said before she started unplugging, she was paying $268 per month for her electric bill. (We pay $275.) The first month she started unplugging, her bill was $91. That’s a savings of $177 per month! Now she had my attention.

She said the next month she became much more vigilant about unplugging and her bill was $60.42.

Over $200 per month, people. $207.58, to be exact. A savings of 77%.

I don’t think you have to unplug everything because not all appliances draw energy. You really need to watch for appliances that have “transformers” and devices that are in “stand by”. These include VCRs, DVD players, computers, cell phone chargers, and microwave ovens.

Read this page about which devices are most important to unplug and how much you can save: Vampire Power! (AKA Standby Power)

He says the average cost for phantom power is only 5% of your bill. So I’m not sure how Rhondalyn saved so much. But here’s my hypothesis… I bet that when she became more conscious of what was plugged in and what wasn’t, she probably used less electricity.

But heck, even if you could cut your electricity bill in half, wouldn’t that be nice?

I told my husband and he said, “Let’s do it.” Of course we won’t be unplugging the Tivo because we gotta record our shows. But what else can we unplug?

Looking around my house right now, I can see many many things we can easily leave unplugged. The microwave, for example. We never use it. Ever. All the computers and computer equipment in our office (there’s a ton of it). We also have a Wii, two Playstations, a DVD player — all things we could unplug.

And of course there’s my Sonicare toothbrush that I never use anymore. I bought it a few years ago when I was having lots of dental problems. I had to have a root canal and every time I turned around, I had more cavities. The dentist recommended the Sonicare.

But guess what? Since I’ve been eating traditional foods (drinking raw milk & eating grass-fed beef and butter, avoiding white flour and sugar) for the past year and a half, I haven’t had any cavities. Not a single one. In fact, all my tooth pain and sensitivity is gone. And I haven’t used the Sonicare once. Guess I can unplug that puppy!

We’re going to try this unplugging thing. I’ll keep you posted.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

FoodRenegade February 12, 2009 at 8:00 AM

Now this IS a handy tip! We keep most of our Vampire appliances unplugged, but we don’t unplug our computers. EVER. I wonder how much electricity this will REALLY save you (and me).

Please do a follow up post in the next couple of months to let us know!

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cheeseslave February 12, 2009 at 8:52 AM

It’s going to be an interesting experiment!

Of course I’d really love to get solar panels but maybe we can do that in the next few years… seeing how you and I are in Texas and California, we should totally be utilizing solar energy!

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Paula February 12, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Hi!
We installed this devise, http://www.ecoquestintl.com/CatalogProduct.aspx?ProductId=3589#ordernowstart
We now have full house surge protection, and it stops all that phantom stuff.
We are glad we got it, because MEA raised everyones bills by nearly 40% last month.
Last year, we had our bill as low as $120 I think. Everyone we know cut way back.
Guess how everyone was rewarded? They raised our rates 40% this year!
I don’t even want to think what it would have been if we did not have the device.
We are dreaming, along with every Alaskan of being off grid.
We have an artisan well, so we might be able to harness it with a turbine, and the excess water can go into the creek and water the gardens in the summer.
Solar panels would be a waste for us. Something that expensive, that is made with petroleum anyway; for it to be used 3 months out of the year would be a total waste.
Paula
Paula

Paula’s last blog post..Stimulating… What?

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Anna February 12, 2009 at 9:37 AM

Get a grounded mega power strip that has a switch for your computer desk. Ours carries the tv, dvd, computer, printer, speakers, internet (wireless and router), and the tv antenna. When we are not using the whole kit, we just flip the switch! This saved us about $10-15/monthly.

CFL’s in overhead lights, another $5-10. Keeping indoor temps around 67 F easy-peasy, because our bedroom has a southern exp. window: About $10/monthly in winter.

So, all told, our one bedroom, totally electric apartment runs anywhere between $40 to $90. And we aren’t all that vigilant about turning off lights or unplugging the microwave.

Speaking of lights, have you heard of this: http://www.earthhour.org

Anna’s last blog post..Safe from the Storm

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Paula February 12, 2009 at 9:40 AM

Oops, I wrote 40% twice LOL! Can you tell we are upset?
Should have added that we know lots of people now, who must choose between groceries or their bills.
AP keeps reporting that our average gas price is $2, but its more like $4.
Oh well, I can soap box all I want, but it does not matter. Government is far to powerful…
Paula

Paula’s last blog post..Stimulating… What?

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Paula February 12, 2009 at 9:46 AM

Hey Anna, those strips are great, but they can only handle a surge one time, and then you have to replace them. Gets expensive :o( Thats why we installed the device I linked to.
It does not need replaced when hit. With the heavy snow load we get, power can be sketchy and surgy!? is that a word? throughout the winter.
Paula

Paula’s last blog post..Stimulating… What?

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Paula February 12, 2009 at 9:47 AM

Hey Anna, those strips are great, but they can only handle a surge one time, and then you have to replace them. Gets expensive :o( Thats why we installed the device I linked to.
It does not need replaced when hit. With the heavy snow load we get, power can be sketchy and surgy!? is that a word? throughout the winter.
Paula

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Alyss February 12, 2009 at 10:06 AM

Great post! We’ve got one of those surge protector strips for our computer set up as well. Our apartment is all electric so our bills were cheap cheap cheap in the summer – like 30 a month – but these last two months have been up around 100 because of heating. We have SUPER inefficient heaters, but sometimes I think it’s worth it to not be so cold you can’t do anything in your house.
Oh – and as for the solar panels. Paula in Alaska may have an excuse to not invest in them, but no one else does. Germany is the country using the most solar energy in the world and they get fewer sunny days per year than we do here in western Oregon. After I make my first million I’m going to put solar panels on every home in Portland.. hah! :)

Alyss’s last blog post..Mission: Yellow Curry PDX Entry 002

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Diane February 12, 2009 at 10:22 AM

I was telling my hubby about this, I had heard about it a few months back. He didn’t believe me & we never did anything about it. We don’t use our microwave, but our kids & some guests do & it’s mounted to the wall & the plug is buried behind it, so that’s not really possible for us………..

Our computer is a laptop, we use daily, & needs to stay charged…….so I don’t really see how we can do that…………

The TV stuff I’ll have to look into…………really only my hubby & stepson use it……and yeah, my stepson has a Xbox & we have a VCR, DVD, DirecTV box, & surround sound system…………..

Regarding the teeth………..I have some receding gums (from brushing too hard for so many years when I was younger) & I used to have EXTEMELY sensitive teeth due to this. And I have noticed that the better I eat the less sensitivity I have…….amazing, huh?? Especially right now while I’m pregnant, I keep reading that this is the time women have more cavities & sensitivities, etc with their teeth & I’m not having ANY!!

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Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio February 12, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Oh.
My.
Goodness.

Is that the going rate for electricity? Or is that a local thing?
My electric bill has never been as high as $70 and that includes water and sewage and trash service (I live in the city limits.)

Of course I also have gas for my stove and hot water heater, but even still that one is far less than $100.

Or maybe I’m already doing some of that saving stuff? I don’t own a microwave, or a television, or a dryer, or a dishwasher. I don’t use a hair dryer or other styling appliance daily.

But my computer with cable internet is always on and so are one or two laptops. I don’t unplug that because it would kill my network. I do unplug if I’m going to be away from my home for several hours though.

Does anyone know if you can safely unplug your fridge/freezer for a few hours, when you run errands? Will it stay cold enough for safety?

Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio’s last blog post..A Little Sad

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Paula February 12, 2009 at 11:11 AM

Carrie,
We have our chest freezers outside, so during the winter they are unplugged.
Unplugging inside units for short periods will cots you more in the long run.
Restart and recooling pulls tons of electricity.
Our electric bills are state wide.
We just found out that they have decided to be “nice” and lower the 40% hike by 1.9%. Is that not thoughtful?
Paula

Paula’s last blog post..

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Carla February 12, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Thank you for this! I had no idea that what goes unused also leaks electricity. My SO does unplug his audiophile equipment when we go away for a few days (I think to protect it) but that’s it.

Carla’s last blog post..Giveaway: Erbaorganics Baby Lotion

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FoodRenegade February 12, 2009 at 12:54 PM

I would love solar energy, but for now I just fork out the extra cash each month to pay for Green Energy to my electric co-op. I think it’s all wind energy from west Texas. Anyhow, despite my energy being from all renewable sources, I *still* wouldn’t mind lowering my bill!

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Motherhen68 February 12, 2009 at 4:52 PM

I saw that same show. Let’s break it down:

She said her March electric bill was 260 (or whatever). Then she started unplugging stuff and in June, her bill was 70 (or whatever). I’m guessing she lived up North, so her bill would have been much higher due to the cost of heating her home, especially with high gas/oil prices last winter/thru last fall. I highly doubt that she’s saving that much just by unplugging things, but rather by conserving more energy by not running her heater so high.

Plus, we all know ole Oprah has been duped two or three times by her book of the month authors, so who’s to say this gal is telling the truth. It’s not like she showed her energy bill.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter if she saved as much as she did. I started line drying this January and in mid-January I started turning off (with the surge protector thing) my computer, network, printer, and monitor. I have also plugged all my Xbox360, TV, DVD into a surge protector that I’m turning off when I go to bed. I keep it off till mid-afternoon the next day when my kid get to play their game. I did leave my DVR plugged in and turned on all the time since we record some shows late at night. I just recently began unplugging my coffee pot and microwave. I can’t reach the stove’s plug, nor the washer & dryer. I think that would be too much of a hassle to deal with daily. I wouldn’t unplug my fridge or freezer as I wouldn’t want to risk food storage safety for a few cents!

I haven’t been able to get a true, full month reading since my bill runs from the 15th of one month to the 15th of the next. When I get my March bill, I’ll be able to compare it to last year’s as well as January’s bill.

Motherhen68’s last blog post..Grocery Shopping 2/12/09

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Paula February 12, 2009 at 7:50 PM

We have everything in our entertainment center on a power strip. We set the power strip right next to the TV. Whenever we want to play a game (PS2), watch a DVD or TV, we just flip the strip on. When we are done, we flip the strip off. We unplug our microwave and toaster over too. We unplug everything in the basement because we are never down there. It has a play area that gets plenty of light from windows. It has a guest room down there so we only plug everything back in. It is a little bit of work, BUT our bill also went down a tremendous amount. Almost half what it was at this time last year. It is totally worth the little bit of work.

Some other things that help: keep the thermostat low. We set ours at 65 last year. This year we have been fine at 60! :) The kids love dressing up in layers, and we wear wool socks and wool sweaters. Also, turn off the circuit breaker to rooms that you don’t NEED to use or have electricity in.

Paula’s last blog post..Hidden Freebie: Alphabet Copybook

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Kristin February 13, 2009 at 8:16 AM

I’m glad to see this is becoming more “mainstream”. Pretty much anything that is plugged in that has a digital display or clock that is running is pulling a small amount of power. This includes some stoves, fridges, and washers.

GFIs also pull power all the time. These are the outlets in your bathroom & kitchen areas that have the little buttons. I believe this is why the National Electric Code was switched to GFCI. The latter are circuits where you need only one GFI to protect multiple outlets in a given area. We wired ours with switches so we could turn the outlets off completely when not in use.

TVs, computers, and some stereos always pull a small amount when off so they’re “warm” and ready to fire up when you turn them on. Not sure about the newer flat panels but I suspect it is the same. The power strip is a great way to eliminate these phantom loads.

Electric heat and A/C are going to be your biggest users of electricity, hands down. So spending a few dollars improving your attic insulation will likely give you the biggest bang for your buck. You also want to be certain your attic is well vented to keep the summer heat from building up.

Electric clothes drying will be the next in line followed by electric hot water heating. You all know how to reduce the drying. You can replace your HW Heater with a more efficient model if it is old, turn down the temp on it, and/or insulate it for a few bucks. Reducing your hot water use helps too. Then there are solar roof-mounted hot water heaters with some nice tax credits right now for installing them!

I would NOT recommend unplugging freezers or fridges. Might work in Alaska but I wouldn’t risk it in the lower 48. If you have them outside and it is freezing, they just won’t run. DO replace them with more efficient models if you have the money. You can see how much you’d save here: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=refrig.calculator&screen=1

I’m also skeptical this woman lowered her electric bill that much by just eliminating phantom loads and agree it is more likely that she was and is not now heating or vis versa with cooling. We had a friend ask us to help her lower her electric bill. Before we could get up there she told us it had gotten lower on its own and she wouldn’t need our help. I pointed out to her that the summer a/c season had ended and she would soon be paying for natural gas to heat her home. She didn’t even realize she had natural gas heat!

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Aseem March 9, 2009 at 4:09 AM

I saw the same episode and was left confused, if a electrical circuit is not switched on why will it add on the bill.

I have heard about this few times but never believed . . I think the best will be to try and even to ask Myth busters to try this out. I agree on the transformer concept as those appliances keep converting AC to DC and consume power but it should not happen when the circuit is not open !

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Chris March 9, 2009 at 9:50 PM

The more you save on your energy bill, the more the utilities will ask for rate increases. You should be investing in renewable energies, and get off the grid completly.

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Stacey March 27, 2009 at 4:17 PM

After reading this post I just went and unplugged my microwave – it’s in the laundry room and we hardly use it and I had forgotten about it – thanks for this reminder.

I also saw the Oprah program and became fastidious about turning off lights and our tv/dvd player and encouraging my husband and young son to do the same. Our electricity bill in February was $86.41 (we have gas for heat and cooking) and after the conservation methods it was only $61.80 – our lowest bill *ever* and a 20% decrease from last month! Very cool.

I’m a bit of an AC slave (we live in NC and it gets hot!) and I’m already thinking of ways I can keep the house cooler without this summer.

Thanks so much for this post!

Stacey’s last blog post..Food Waste for the Week

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cheeseslave March 29, 2009 at 9:32 AM

Stacey, that is great!!!

I’ve been trying to unplug but I need to get power strips throughout the house for most of our heavy hitters. Belkin sent me the Conserve Power Surge Protector which I will be setting up next week for our entertainment center (see link below — enter to win if you haven’t already).

It’s SO cool because you can just mount the remote control on a wall and just hit it like a light switch when you leave the room. AND you can set it so some appliances (up to 2 per switch) are always on (like the Tivo or the fax machine).

I’m actually going to order another couple Conserve Power Surge Protectors for our home office. Belkin is going to offer 15% off to my readers for the month of April (and to me) so they will only cost $42.50 each. They will more than pay for themselves.

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Music symbols July 9, 2009 at 9:15 AM

theres one other person living with me. we are getting a one bed room. and he likes to play video games. and we usually have the computer on. we usually have all the lights off because we get headaches.

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Music symbols July 14, 2009 at 8:14 AM

I do not know the amount of watts for the mini fridge, but the electric company charges 8 cents per kWh… So i figured the fridge will be running 24hrs a day, for 31 days.

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Jacob Johnson October 5, 2010 at 11:38 AM

power strips are very useful but they octopus connection is dangerous,”;

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John | WaysToSaveMoney.tv October 27, 2010 at 8:32 AM

Wow, I never knew that it’d be so much. But it does seem like a pain to constantly plug and unplug. In hotel rooms in other countries, the power is often tied to a switch, so that you turn on the power by putting your key in the switch. That could be a great addition.

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Can Crusher · November 8, 2010 at 7:40 PM

microwave ovens do consume a lot of electricity but hey, it is great for heating up those pizza ”

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QIn Tang November 26, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Great tips. Love your blog.

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Saving Electricity February 15, 2011 at 9:46 AM

That is unbelievable. We have been able to reduce our electricity usage by almost 50%, but nothing like that.

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LeahS July 19, 2011 at 10:52 AM

I need to be better about this. When I build a house I want a light switch for EVERY outlet so they are super easy to flip off!

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Kelly Seo May 3, 2012 at 10:39 PM

Why cant we just switch off at the power socket instead of unplugging ?

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Betsy October 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM

You can in other countries.

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Connie December 16, 2013 at 8:32 AM

I did not know the surg protector could only take one hit. How do u know to replace it?

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