Appliances, used unwisely, can raise electricity costs


October 01, 1994|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Special to The Sun

Q: Our electric bills are sky high, even when we don't heat or cool. We probably use too many convenience appliances, like electric can openers and knives. How much does it cost to use these?

A: Even though each small appliance uses very little electricity per use, the combined total can significantly increase your electric bills. Excessive energy usage also harms the environment.

Proper selection and use of appliances can easily cut your utility bills by more than $100 annually. Before purchasing appliances, read labels and instructions to estimate operating costs. They can vary substantially for similar appliances.

Heating appliances -- cooking pans, irons, hair dryers -- use the most electricity. At an electric rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs about 9 cents to use an iron for one hour. An electric cooking pan costsabout 8 cents per hour. By contrast, small motorized appliances -- can openers, electric knifes, mixers -- use very little electricity. You can open more than 50 cans for about a penny's worth of electricity.

In the summer, there is a hidden energy cost in using any appliance. All the electricity used, even by non-heating ones, ends up as heat inside your home. This forces your air conditioner to run longer.

To calculate the operating cost for each appliance, multiply the wattage of the appliance by the length of time (in hours) that you use it. This gives the watt-hours consumed. The wattage of the appliance is usually listed somewhere on its label.

Divide the watt-hours by 1,000 to get kilowatt-hours. Multiply this number by your electric rate in cents per kilowatt-hour to get the final cost to operate it. Call your electric utility company for your current rate.

For example, a 1,500-watt hair dryer used for 15 minutes at a rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, costs 3 cents per use. A 200-watt slow cooker costs less than 2 cents per hour. A bread maker costs 18 cents per loaf.

There are some simple steps to reduce the electricity usage of appliances. Unplug an instant-on TV when you don't plan to use it for a long while. Use a radio for background sound instead of a TV.

Cook several foods simultaneously in the same appliance when possible. This saves electricity and lowers dishwashing costs. Brew only as much coffee as you need and don't keep a half-full pot hot for hours.

Write for Utility Bills Update No.842 showing a chart of typical wattages and costs to operate 100 common household appliances, entertainment items, workshop tools and lights, and appliance use efficiency tips. Please include $2 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope: James Dulley, The Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

Q: We just replaced our old central air conditioner this summer. Our neighbors, who don't have central air and sleep with their windows open, complain that it is noisy. What can we do to quiet it?

A: It is very unusual for a new central outdoor compressor unit to be louder than an old one. Many new designs use super quiet scroll compressors. Variable- and two-speed condenser fan motors should also be quieter because they run at low speeds most often.

Contact your A/C contractor and have it checked. Perhaps something is loose or blocked. If everything checks out properly, it may be possible to install a soundproofing kit.

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