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Month: November 2019 Page 1 of 2

Hot water has become a daily necessity. It's important to select the best water heater for your needs. Source: Dan Watson

Decisions, Decisions! The Best Hot Water Heaters & How to Select Them

When you buy energy-efficient electronics through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

There are many debates that have been ongoing as long as we can remember—crunchy peanut butter or smooth? Morning shower or night? Whether you fall into the AM or PM shower camp, if you’re like most people, your day is not complete without that ritual. Either way, there is one underlying necessity that many of us might take for granted: hot water.

For this reason and many others, your hot water heater is an essential household appliance that may not be in plain sight but is working on overtime every time you take a shower, wash your hands, do the dishes, or run a load of laundry—all important aspects of your day-to-day life.

There won’t be a day that goes by when you haven’t utilized the unique power of a water heater in your home. But did you know how much your hot water heater could be contributing to your utility bill? The answer might surprise you!  In this post, we explain how hot water heaters work, connect that work to your energy use and utility bills, and provide you with a guide to the best hot water heaters for your home and how to select one.

Hot Water Heaters, A Primer

As you may have gathered from our previous posts, we like to start with the basics. Once you understand how hot water heaters work, it will become clear why they require so much energy and why it’s worth keeping power consumption in mind in order to identify the best hot water heater for your home.

How They Work

The science behind the water heater is actually pretty straightforward. A fuel-burning source heats either stored water or a volume of water that flows past that heat source. The heated water then travels through the fixtures in your home to where it is needed. That would be the dishwasher, shower, bathtub, washing machine, sink, you get it!

Types of Water Heaters

As you may have gathered from the above description, there are two ways to categorize hot water heaters: by storage type and by fuel type. Comparing by storage type, we have:

Storage Water Heaters: these hold a considerable volume of water to heat at any given time

Tankless (or Demand) Water Heaters: as the name implies, these have no storage tank but heat water as it passes by the heating source

Heat Pump Water Heaters: these move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly and only for hot water.

Comparing by fuel type, we have:

Electricity: these are widely available in the U.S. in either storage or tankless formats

Gas: within this category, there are fuel oil, natural gas, and propane water heaters, also available in both storage and tankless heaters

Solar: these are most abundant in the Southwest U.S. but available throughout the country

Geothermal: these are available throughout the U.S., but you’ll need a geothermal heat pump system already installed to leverage this type of hot water heater.

Storage vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless heaters, also referred to as demand-type or instantaneous water heaters, do not store water. Instead, they only provide hot water as it is needed.

How They Work

Cold water flows into the heater when a hot water tap is opened. The flow of water is detected by a circuit board that activates the heat exchanger that heats the water as it passes through. Once the flow sensor determines that water has stopped flowing, it will quit heating it. In other words, a tankless water heater will heat water as long as the tap is open. Hence the term “demand.”

If you have a large home with fixtures that are pretty far from your hot water heater but want a demand-type heater, consider a model with a recirculation pump. This keeps hot water available in the hot water line and speeds up the delivery of hot water.

If efficiency is your number one concern, we suggest checking out even another variation of the tankless water heater which uses condensing technology. It captures the heat created by the outgoing exhaust gases and uses it to heat incoming cold water. This type of heat exchanger unit is very efficient in that it saves on your energy costs.

Why Tankless?

The initial cost of a tankless water heater is greater than that of a conventional storage one. However, tankless water heaters typically last longer, with a life expectancy of more than 20 years! They also have replaceable parts that can extend their life by many more years. Compare this to the expected 10-15 year lifetime of a storage water heater.

Additionally, tankless heaters boast lower operating and energy costs over those long lifetimes. If your home uses 41 gallons of less of hot water each day, demand water heaters can be 24 – 34 percent more energy-efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. Now that’s what we’re talking about! If you use a lot of water, that efficiency will go down, but tankless heaters will still be up to 14 percent more energy-efficient.

Storage Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters provide many advantages over storage water heaters. But conventional storage models are still the most popular type of water heating systems for the home.

How They Work

The storage water heater for a single-family home has a reservoir of water that can range from 20-80 gallons. It releases that hot water each time you turn on the hot water tap. And then it replaces that used hot water with cold water, which it heats immediately, to ensure that the tank is always full.

Why Storage?

Storage water heaters typically have a lower up-front price tag and installation-related costs. The operating system of a storage water heater is also relatively simple, meaning that it can require less maintenance.

However, storage heaters typically require more space and bring greater energy costs. Since water is constantly heated in the tank, even when a hot water tap isn’t running, energy is wasted. This is called standby heat loss. If you opt for a storage heater, one thing to look for is a heavily insulated tank that will reduce that heat loss and lower your annual operating cost. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests looking for tanks with a thermal resistance (R-value) of R-12 to R-25.

Heat Pump Heaters

If you feel like you still haven’t found your goldilocks system in storage and tankless options, there are three more types of water heaters that you can choose from: indirect, heat pump and point-of-use. The most common of these in home settings is the heat pump water heater.

Heat pump heaters use electricity to pull heat from the surrounding airspace and use that to increase the temperature of the water that it has stored. Essentially, a heat pump water heater works like a refrigerator, but in reverse!

Because this type of heater is moving heat instead of directly generating it, it can be two or three times more energy-efficient than conventional electric water heaters! However, heat pump heaters do require mild climates to be effective, so they are only appropriate in certain locations.

Water Heaters by Fuel Source

Regardless of whether you select a demand-type, storage, or heat pump water heater, you will also need to select the fuel-type for your heater. To make this decision, definitely reach out to your utility to compare the rates of each type of fuel. You can calculate and compare annual operating costs using the energy factor of a heat pump, and the fuel’s cost.

Gas-Powered Water Heaters

Regardless of fuel type in this category (natural gas, propane, or fuel oil), each of these types of water heaters operates with a thermostat built into the inside of the tank. Once the water temperature drops below a set level, a burner ignites. 

Additional cold water enters the tank from the top and follows the path of a dip tube to the bottom of the heater. That is where the burner is located, and as the water heats, it rises within the tank to exit via the hot water outlet to the fixture.

Combustible gases created from this process are vented through the center of the tank in a flue. The flue also acts as a heat conductor. The gases move slowly due to the baffle design of the tank system.

Electric-Powered Water Heaters

Electric water heaters also use a built-in thermostat but have a 220-volt current that runs through a circuit with two heating elements. When the thermostat determines that the temperature has fallen below a set level, electrical energy is converted to heating energy inside the heating elements. The heat transfers to the stored water, via conduction, heating it.

Believe it or not, your kitchen coffee machine uses the very same heating process! 

Renewable Energy-Powered Water Heaters

Solar water heaters and geothermal water heaters provide hot water without burning any fuel source. In the case of solar heaters, the sun serves as the “fuel,” and in the case of geothermal heaters, stored heat in the earth provides the “fuel.” While both of these types of systems will require additional planning, they can provide significant operating and energy cost savings over the long run!

The Best Water Heater For Your Home

With so many factors determining the best water heater fit, the right model for you may be different from that of your neighbor! However, we consulted with experts and customers alike to provide recommendations for each of the major types of heaters to support your water heating journey.

Best Overall Electric Storage: Rheem Performance Electric Elements

This tank is plenty large for a family of three or four and has dual heating elements to ensure you have plenty of hot water whenever you and your family need it. If you have a big family and need more water capacity, consider the Westinghouse 52 Gal electric heater.

Best Overall Electric Tankless: EcoSmart ECO 11 Tankless

This water heater works quickly and provides great control over the temperature of your water and consistent heating performance.

Best Overall Gas Storage: Rheem Performance Natural Gas

This heater is big enough for two to four people, and we love that its push button ignition makes the start-up process quick and easy. It also comes with a solid six-year limited warranty. If you have a big family and need more water capacity, our vote goes to one of the largest residential storage heaters on the market: Westinghouse 60 Gallon natural gas heater.

Best Overall Gas Tankless: Rheem Performance Platinum

This water heater has a sleek design that allows it to fit in small spaces that normal tank heaters would not fit. It offers great, consistent results and is definitely a winning option if you’re looking for a gas-powered tankless heater!

Things are Heating Up!

There was a time when the only way you could heat water in your home was in small quantities on the top of a woodstove. Luckily, hot water heaters have evolved with new technology changing and improving the way we do things in our daily lives. Selecting a new hot water heater can be a bit of a project, with all the varieties out there, but hopefully this post will help you whittle down your search and identify the best fit for your home!

To learn more about the electricity that powers your home and energy saving strategies, subscribe for updates and continue to follow along! Have a particular product you want to know more about? Contact us and we’ll be happy to do some power sleuthing!

Buying the best energy-efficient electronics will provide ongoing savings for your loved ones. Source: Jonas Leupe

2019 Cyber Week Shopping Guide: 7 Energy-Efficient Electronics Look To For

When you buy energy-efficient electronics through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

It’s the time of year we’ve all been anxiously awaiting. You know the one—where we cross off days on our calendar in anticipation, where we plan furiously for how we’ll strategically conquer it, where we seek out the best of the best deals and discounts so we can finally snag that to-die-for product we’ve been eying all year.

That’s right, it’s cyber week—and it’s almost here!

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you’re running out of time to plan out and purchase the coolest and very best energy-efficient electronics for your loved ones this holiday season (or, you know, for you—you deserve an awesome gift, too).

Our advice?

If you’re truly looking to hunt down some deals, we suggest you take a (brief) pause to read this article.

Why? Because we’ve laid out something pretty sweet.

Sure, we’re guiding you toward some super sweet suggestions—but it’s more than that. We’re offering up our take on the best energy-efficient electronics to look for come black Friday, and throughout all of cyber week.

At WattDoesitUse, we believe in gifts that keep on giving. And to us, that means buying electronics and appliances that can do good while being really great gifts. Why not find great deals on super cool items for your family, friends, and colleagues and facilitate energy savings through your purchase choices?! Win-win!

Okay, enough turkey chit-chat—lets get down to business and with some of the best energy-efficient electronics .

The Best Energy-Efficient Electronics for Black Friday & Cyber Week 2019

Now—we want to be super clear here. We don’t have a crystal ball that tells us that these products will absolutely 100 percent go on sale this cyber shopping week (man, wouldn’t that be something, though).

But, as you know, cyber shopping week tends to hit every genre, which means that it’s more than likely something very similar to these products (and maybe even these products themselves) are bound to see some steep discounts.

Black Friday and Cyber Week mean deep discounts on the best energy-efficient electronics.
We’re chomping at the bit for deep discounts on the best energy-efficient electronics this year! Source: Allie Smith

Keep your eyes peeled for energy-efficient like these this Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Sale Shopping Week!

Eugene Trash Scanner

We love this cool, little product. The Eugene Trash Scanner turns your trash or your recycling container into a high-tech, cutting-edge dispenser. This system allows you to scan every single item before you toss it and it lets you know if that item (or parts of that item) can be recycled. It even adds your trashed item to a shopping list!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

By helping you better understand what to recycle and how to recycle something, you conserve energy by reducing or eliminating the need to make materials from scratch. Not only is this expensive, but it’s labor-intense and uses up natural resources, too.

ENERGY STAR Certified Laptops

We’re throwing you a general topic here, but that’s only because there are so many deals to be had. If you’re on the hunt for a top-notch energy-efficient laptop this cyber week, check out Best Buy’s collection of energy-star certified laptops here. They even have some black Friday pricing up early—be sure to shop fast! Amazon will also have some awesome deals if you, like us, are hooked on Prime shipping!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

Laptops that prioritize energy will run longer and better off of their battery source, meaning you’ll be able to get by plugging them in and drawing power from your home a lot less than with a desktop or a laptop that doesn’t prioritize energy.

Whirlpool Zera Food Recycler

Whirlpool’s WLabs Zera Food Recycler helps you make composting way easier (and less messy) right in your kitchen. This neat gadget turns your compostable food scraps into fertilizer right in front of you—it even includes a carbon filter to ensure that your kitchen doesn’t smell from all those composted scraps. You can even hook up this smart gadget to an app on your phone to run it remotely!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

Composting helps by reducing the amount of energy pumping needed to treat water and wastewater when it comes to sewage and trash. Further, by composting, you’re reducing a large amount of garbage that’s sent to landfills, which use machinery (which requires energy) to sort, process, and eliminate that waste.  

ENERGY STAR Certified Tablets

If a tablet is on your shopping to-do list, you’re going to love this selection of Black Friday pricing that’s already available on these ENERGY STAR certified tablets at Best Buy and Amazon.

How It Helps Conserve Energy

These work similarly to the laptops. They’ll better prioritize their own battery life to ensure the tablet lasts longer, meaning you’ll need to draw less power while using it than with other, less efficient tablets.

ENERGY STAR Certified Monitors

We’ll keep it brief since you can probably tell this is sort of a trend—check out Best Buy’s collection of Energy Star Certified Monitors this cyber shopping week!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

An energy-efficient monitor has to meet stringent requirements to verify that it actually conserves energy. That means it’ll have limited power modes when the monitor is on and off, as well as a set maximum of power consumption. Monitors that have the Energy Star rating are 15 percent more energy-efficient than standard options.

SolPad Mobile Panels

Keep an eye out for these neat gadgets this cyber shopping week! SolPad Mobile Panels are small, diverse, and totally affordable (and even more affordable if there’s a deal!). They don’t require installation and are easy to use, making converting solar energy for power easier than ever.

How It Helps Conserve Energy

Solar panels harvest the sun’s energy to do work, meaning, you can use these panels to charge electronics, power your devices, and more!

Lifx LED Lightbulb

This Wi-Fi-enabled Lifx LED Smart bulb lasts up to 40,000 hours before it needs replaced. The best part? It’s totally controlled by an app on your phone, so you’ll never forget to turn the light off again.

How It Helps Conserve Energy

With a built-in guarantee that you can turn the light off in your home from anywhere, you’ll never accidentally waste energy by leaving a bulb on at home!

Pro Tips: Is It Truly Energy Efficient?

Energy-efficient gadgets are all the rage right now, and honestly, we’re totally here for it. (In fact, we’re so here for it, we even wrote up a list of the 7 best energy-efficient gadgets out there for your home).

But because energy efficiency is such a huge trend, it can sometimes be hard to tell if a product you’re investing in will actually make a difference or if it’s just claiming to conserve energy. How can you be sure that you’re not investing your hard-earned money into the real deal?

Here are a few ways you can tell if your energy-efficient product is legit or if it’s simply pretending to be something it’s not.

  • A lot of appliances and gadgets out there that are big-name brands and claim to be energy efficient will feature an ENERGY STAR certification. This means they’re verified to actually do the job that they claim they’ll do.
  • Talk to the brand directly. If you’re unsure if a product is actually energy efficient (aka it’s missing a certification), don’t be afraid to reach out directly to the brand’s customer service. Ask them (politely, of course) if they can provide studies, proof, testimonials, or research to confirm that the product you’re planning to buy actually makes an energy efficiency difference.
  • Speak with your electric or energy company. More than likely, they’ll be able to not only let you know if a specific product or brand can walk the walk, but they’ll also be able to recommend other products or brands that can help you cut down your energy consumption.

Time to Get Shopping!

If you’re feelin’ totally ready to tackle this cyber shopping week with an energy-efficient mission in mind after reading this article, then we’ve done our job! Let us know in the comments where you’re finding the best energy-efficient electronics, tools, and appliances this year—you know your fellow readers will appreciate it. May Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber Shopping Week all be good to you and gift you with the savings you love to love this time of year.

If you’re looking for more pro tips for conserving energy, other energy-efficient gift suggestions for the holidays, or simply are seeking out helpful information about energy and electricity, you’re in the right place. Keep up with our regularly updated blog on WattDoesitUse by subscribing and get ready to receive tips, tricks, and insight into the world of energy efficiency.

Investing in one of the best energy-efficient TVs can save you money. Source: Source: Jens Kreuter

The 3 Best Energy-Efficient TVs To Watch Your Holiday Favorites

When you buy through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

The holidays are approaching, and you know what that means. Oh, sure, lots of great food, time with family, and plenty of festivities. But also, let’s get real, whose Thanksgiving is complete without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Or the big football game (obviously not as big as your family’s pick-up game, but you know what we mean!)? We’re obviously not encouraging you to spend your holidays plopped down in front of the TV while the rest of the world celebrates. But outside of the Academy Awards and Super Bowl Sunday, it truly is the most wonderful TV time of the year. But the electricity bill associated with these past times can dull the mood if you don’t have one of the best energy-efficient TVs!

So, since you plan to schedule a little TV-family-programming this holiday season, we absolutely have to ask: is the TV you’re watching energy-efficient? If not, you could be missing out on some major savings (and who doesn’t’ want a little more cash to spend on cyber week holiday shopping?)!

Television Viewing in the U.S.

At WattDoesitUse we’re all about living your best life (especially during the holiday season), which is why we so firmly believe that the type of TV you’re watching totally matters. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, TVs are responsible for about 4 percent of residential electricity alone in the United States. You might think, just a measly 4 percent? Doesn’t sound like a whole lot! But if you think about it in the grand scheme of things that’s a pretty big proportion for one screen, particularly since it can be much less if you’re invested in one of the best energy-efficient TVs!

Consider this next part one of our holiday gifts to you—a complete guide to the best energy-efficient TVs so you can have the same great viewing experience while whittling down your electricity consumption (and costs) this holiday season.

Why Does Energy Efficiency Matter?

We promise we’ll jump into the list you’re looking for in a flash—but first, let’s answer this seemingly simple (but infinitely important) question.

Why does energy efficiency matter in my home this holiday (and beyond)?

We could honestly talk about this for hours, but we’ll be brief and just say this: by embracing energy efficiency, you use less power to complete the same tasks required for memorable holiday entertaining (and, of course, day-to-day tasks throughout the year). Less power consumption is important because:

  • The less power you use, the less energy your electric company needs to generate at power plants.
  • The less energy the electric company generates, the less fuel it needs to burn and the fewer greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.
  • The lower the greenhouse gas emissions, the better your air quality will be.
  • In short, the less energy you use, you more money you save and the more you help to save the planet!

The Top Features to Consider In An Energy-Efficient TV   

The number of features offered by today’s TV’s can be overwhelming. And if you’re like many people, you might worry that prioritizing energy efficiency means you’ll have to de-prioritize performance. Fortunately, that couldn’t be further from the case!

Follow our pro tips below to ensure you select the best energy-efficient TVs for your needs, meaning that it provides superb performance when you want it the most without spiking the energy bill and unnecessarily drawing electricity when not in use.

Picture Quality

Whether you know it or not, TV brightness and picture quality are linearly related to the amount of power that your TV consumes. The new, brighter OLED technology is “technically” more efficient than LCD technology, but it often ends up actually being more energy-intensive because of its brightness. The brighter the TV settings, the more energy an OLED screen will consume—which is why, when an OLED screen is at max brightness, it consumes twice as much power as LED LCD TVs at their brightest. With all that in mind, we suggest opting for an LED LCD model, which can still provide superb performance with fewer electricity requirements.

A couple other specs to look for include: a refresh Rate of at least 120 times per second and ultra-high definition (UHD) screens (i.e., “4k” resolution).

Size

We all know the whole bigger is better argument when it comes to TVs (don’t act like your neighbor has never brought you over just show off their huge flat-screen TV). But when it comes to energy efficiency, that’s not always the case. There’s a definite link between power consumption and size. Our recommendation? Stick to 55” and under if you’re opting to conserve energy. More generally, we like the ENERGY STAR sizing guidance:

  • Viewing distance: Measure your viewing distance and divide by 2 to determine your TV’s ideal diagonal length.
  • Line of sight: Aim to position your TV parallel with your eyes and no higher or lower than 15 degrees. Your space and willingness to mount your TV may impact the TV size that fits at an optimal angle.
Specific Energy Efficiency Features

Of course, if energy efficiency is your game, you’ll want to double-check that the TVs you’re looking at have features like:

  • ENERGY STAR Certification: As with other home appliances and electronic devices, if your TV is certified by ENERGY STAR, you can be confident you will be saving on operational costs versus other models. In fact, ENERGY STAR TVs consume on average 25 percent less electricity than conventional models.
  • Automatic Brightness Control (ABC): As we mentioned earlier, brightness and electricity consumption are linearly related. But depending on the lighting in the room, you might prefer a different brightness. ABC setting enable a TV to adjust brightness based ambient lighting in order to provide the best viewing experience possible for you, keeping energy efficiency in mind.
  • Local Dimming Settings: These settings allow you to turn off or dim sections of the LED backlighting which can save energy, and provide better contrast (when we say we want a black background, we want a black background!).
  • ENERGY STAR Picture Settings: okay we have to admit we love these! Are you watching a movie? Or perhaps a football game?
Compatibility

This one is more about taking the extra step before you buy to make sure your new TV is going to be compatible with your other accessories, gadgets, and even your energy-efficient lifestyle, too. Our best advice? Think about a new TV in a general sense. Ask questions, like, what other equipment will I need? What kind of connectors are required (HDMI)? How many of them? Answering these questions first is always for the best—that way you don’t have to worry about them right when Frosty the Snowman is about to start playing.

The Best Energy-Efficient TVs

Now, without further ado, here are 3 of the best energy-efficient TVs to be merry about your utility bill this holiday season without giving up your family’s favorite shows (because we’d never ask you to opt-out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Elf or to compromise your football viewing experience )!

Best For The Essentials: Vizio E60-C3 60” 1080p Full HD LED TV
Average annual power consumption: 80.2 kWh | Average annual power cost: $10.43

If you’re a family who’s into the TV every so often and is just looking for a good, solid performer that won’t break the bank or suck up all the energy on the planet, we suggest the Vizio E60-C3. It has local dimming features that really pack a punch when it comes to picture quality even with the energy-efficient 1080p resolution (less than the more common high-definition 4K resolution in many models). This Vizio is affordable, easy to use, and will save you on your utility bill to boot!

Best For A Budget: TCL 49S405 49” 4k Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV
Average annual power consumption: 115 kWh | Average annual power cost: $14.95

We’re all about TVs that minimize both the upfront price tag and the long-term power costs. The TCL is exactly that. This TV is a premium product at an affordable price tag—it provides Ultra HD picture quality, thousand of channels, and access to all apps you’d expect through Roku. No, it won’t provide you with a $4,000 TV experience, but as a basic option, it’s got great response time, wonderful color accuracy, and can help you save money on your utility bill like you wouldn’t believe.

Best For Action Seekers: Vizio PQ65-F1 65” 4k HDR TV
Average annual power consumption: 268 kWh | Average annual power cost: $34.87

If you love to love your TV and don’t plan to settle for anything less than the best but still want to be energy conscious, the Vizio PQ65 is the perfect choice for you! If you love fast-paced gaming and sports events, wide viewing angles, high refresh rates for smoother motion and clarity in those action and adventure movies, you’re going to love this TV. The best part? Because of its LED technology, it can do everything you want it to all while consuming half the electricity of the OLED models. You’ll get crisp motion, responsive viewing experiences, and more, all while minding your energy consumption. Sound like a win-win? We think so!

We hope this guide provided you with actionable advice to picking out your new energy-efficient TV.

BONUS HOLIDAY TIP: these bad boys make shockingly great gifts (if you’re looking for even more gifts suggestions, we may or may not have a list of those right here). Follow us by subscribing to our weekly update for downright solid information (if we do say so ourselves!) on how electricity works in our daily lives and pro tips to conserve energy and cut your utility bill.

Office admin scene. Source: Nick Morrison

Electricity 101: Understanding Your Electricity Bill

Having trouble understanding your electricity bill? If so, you’re not alone. We hear from many people who think every month, “what are all these numbers and why is my balance due so high?!”

Or maybe you think you know how to read your electric bill? Even so, you might be like many Americans who make several inadvertent but key mistakes.

Either way, we’ve got your back! Electricity bills can have a dizzying amount of numbers strewn across the page with units we rarely give thought to in our day-to-day. In a previous post, we explain these units and where your electricity comes from.

In this post, our mission is to demystify the electricity bill and make sure you are reading it correctly.

What Bill Are You Looking At?

First thing’s first, when it comes to understanding your electricity bill: you must make sure you are looking at the correct bill!

In some areas of the country, the electricity bill can come bundled with other municipal bills, like gas and water. In others, each energy source is managed by a separate entity which will send its own bill. If you live in an area that bundles utilities, remember your units of measurement for each energy type as you read through your bill. That way you can be sure that you don’t mix up or misunderstand what you’re being charged for:

What Monthly Billing Plan Are You On?

Another critical step in understanding your electricity bill is to understand whether you are being charged for the electricity you actually use each month or are on what’s often called a “budget billing plan.” Here’s the difference:

Monthly Usage

If you have this billing set up, you receive a bill every cycle (typically every month) charging you for the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) your household used over that period at the utility’s stated rate.

Monthly Budget

If you have this billing plan, your utility takes the number of kWh you consumed last year, assumes that you’ll use around the same amount this year and charges you a monthly average based on that assumption. With this type of billing plan, your utility essentially spreads out the total costs you pay for power over the course of the year so in typically high-consumption months you pay less, but in typically low-consumption months you pay more than if you have a monthly usage billing plan.

What Charges Are Making Up Your Electricity Price?

Your total electricity charge is often broken up into the many services associated with the steps of generating and transporting electricity to your home. Additional nuances to your electricity bill will arise if your utility uses any type of tiered service. It’s important to understand these components in order to identify opportunities for savings.

Common charges & Services

Most utilities break down your electricity charge include a number of different components. Three common services include:

  • Generation Charges – these are the charges from your local utility company (such as PG&E, or Duke energy) for the cost to generate the electricity that you consumed in the billing period.
  • Transmission Charges – these are charges from your local utility company for the cost of moving high voltage electricity to the lower voltage of the local electricity lines in your neighborhood.
  • Distribution Charges – these are the fees that your local utility company charges you to deliver the electricity through local lines into your home.

If you need a refresher on the electricity generation, transmission, and distribution processes, check out a previous in our Electricity 101 series.

How Much Electricity Are You Using Each Month?

Most electricity bills will show you how your monthly usage changes over the course of the year. They may even break out your daily use. This can cause confusion if you look at your electricity cost per day versus for the month. If you are tracking your electricity consumption using your own energy monitor, such as CURB Home Energy Monitoring System or Sense Energy Monitoring System, make sure the period over which you are measuring and assessing your usage matches that of your bill. Otherwise you might be comparing apples to oranges, which will get confusing if you’re trying to assess the effectiveness of your energy conservation or energy efficiency efforts. For most, tracking your monthly usage will be the best bet.

Tiered Billing Structures

Understanding your electricity bill, particularly the breakdown of your charges, may be a bit more complex if your utility uses a tiered billing structure. One type of billing structure is based on consumption. In this structure, your first 500 kWh may be on price, and then your 501st hour is a different price. If your utility uses this type of structure, you will see a breakdown of the number of kWh that you use in each tier. Individual utilities may also have individual incentive programs or charges specific to your state/region.

In this sample bill from PG&E, you can see an example of a tiered electricity usage structure. Source: MCE Clean Energy
In this sample bill from PG&E, you can see an example of a tiered electricity usage structure. Source: MCE Clean Energy

Another type of billing structure that utilities might use is time-of-use pricing. In this structure, utilities charge different rates during different periods of the day.

  • Peak hours, also known as “on-peak” hours, are when electricity demand (and price) is the highest. In the summer, peak hours are typically 10am-8pm during weekdays. In the winter, peak hours are typically around 7am-11am and 5pm-9pm.
  • Off-peak hours are when electricity demand (and price) is the lowest. In the summer, this time is typically 11pm and 7am. In the winter, the hours are typically 9pm-7am.
  • Mid-peak hours that fall between on- and off-peak hours, when electricity demand (and price) is relatively average.  

Knowing whether your utility uses a tiered billing will be a powerful aspect of understanding your electricity bill and how to save on it. For instance, if your utility uses a consumption-based tiered structure, you can benefit significantly by decreasing your overall energy consumption. On the other hand, if your utility uses a time-of-use structure, simply adjusting when you wash dishes or run loads of laundry could result in significant savings.

Go Forth and Save Money!

Understanding your electricity bill is the first step to making changes at home that will enable you to conserve energy and save money. If you have additional questions about understanding your bill, let us know in the comments!

Devices with energy-saving technology can save money and the planet. Source: Simon Abrams

7 Must-Have Energy-Saving Gadgets for Your Favorite Techie

The 7 Energy-Saving Gadgets That the Techie in Your Life Needs

When you buy through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

It’s probably no secret to you that the go-green effort is in full effect. This movement is now touching almost every aspect of our lives—from the way we eat to the way we deal with waste to the way we drive our cars.

Because sustainability efforts have a hand in every part of our lives, the idea of helping the environment (and saving money) through energy savings plays a role in how many of us shop, too! Manufacturers of all kinds of products that touch our everyday lives are offering more energy-saving gadgets than ever before. Of course, being folks who are hugely invested in conserving energy and saving you money (because who doesn’t love saving money?), we’re all about this trend.

Still, it’s vital to point out that not every energy saving gadget is as useful as it sounds. So we’ve compiled a list of some of the most effective, must-have energy-saving gadgets on the market. They won’t just say they save energy. They’ll actually do it.

The best part? If you use them correctly and really embrace them, they’ll save you some serious bucks while saving the planet.

Even small savings add up when it comes to power consumption. Source: Aniek Wessel
Even small savings add up when it comes to power consumption. Source: Aniek Wessel

Why Does Energy Saving Matter?

If you’re reading through this blog post thinking, “sure, energy conservation is important, I guess. But what’s the big deal? Can I reallymake that big of a difference by switching a few things at home?”

The short answer: Of course you can!

The longer answer? That one’s coming at you right now:

Even small changes accumulate over time to have a significant impact. So the tiny stuff totally matters. Why? Because when you switch out your normal gadgets—i.e., old-school thermostats or lightbulbs—you’re doing just a little bit to change the way you use energy. But a little bit goes a long way here. Those small changes, well, they add up—and the more you conserve energy, the better off our planet—and everyone living on it—will be.

Sure, we know you might think the energy-saving gadgets are just part of the go-green hype, but there are tons of reasons (beyond the fact that it’s trendy) for you to consider shopping for energy-saving gadgets.

Save Money

Energy savings = financial savings on your electric bill! When you cut back on the amount of energy you’re using by investing in energy-saving technology, you can expect to see a steep decrease in your energy bill (potentially hundreds of dollars every year if you’re doing it right!). Less money spent in one area, means more can be spent in another! And with the holiday gift-giving season coming up, who doesn’t want little more cash to spend?!

SAVE THE PLANET

Because energy and electricity are produced (mostly) through fossil fuels in the US, the less energy we’re using means fewer emissions from fossil fuels. To put it into perspective, in 2018, about 64 percent of electricity generation came from fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Reducing the amount of energy you use (even small things in your everyday routine) decrease energy demand and production, which in turn reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

The Must-Have Energy-Saving Gadgets for the Techie in Your Life

Now that we’re all on the same page about why energy-saving gadgets are super important, we can move on to the good stuff.

 Whether you’re trying to find the perfect gift for the energy-conscious techie in your life or you’ve realized it’s finally time to hop aboard the energy conservation train (hey, welcome to the club, there’s plenty of room for everyone here!), you’ll definitely want to check out the items below.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats have long been a nuisance to homeowners, renters, landlords, and more. Why? Because they’re typically date and require manual adjustments. You know what we mean—that hassle of remembering to change the temperature setting with the change in season or time of day.

If you invest in one energy-saving gadget this year, make it a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats are powerful tools to reduce electricity consumption. Source: Dan Lefebvre

On top of that, as you may already be aware, the HVAC system which the thermostat controls is a huge energy suck—in fact, heating and cooling are the leading drivers of energy use (and bills!) in the home. Because of that, if you only install one new gadget this year, make it a smart thermostat. With smart thermostats, you can automatically change temperatures through the use of apps, pre-schedule temperatures for day and night schedules, and get a serious handle on your energy-savings in your household.

Looking for recommendations on which to choose or to get for your favorite techie this holiday season? You’re in luck—we devoted a whole blog post diving into the 7 best smart thermostats for energy savings and how to truly take advantage of them.

Smart Home Hubs & Energy Management Systems

We know what you’re thinking, and yes, these systems truly exist! There has been a major expansion of smart home devices and appliances available from various manufacturers. So streamlining the communication of these devices is more important than ever in order to leverage their energy-saving capabilities.

A smart home hub (or smart speaker) can serve as an energy management system that allows you to control your entire home (yes, you read that correctly) remotely with any smart device like your smartphone or tablet. We’re talking about lights, electric kettles, stereos, air conditioning—the works. It can all be controlled from one, single place. No longer will you have to suffer the energy consumption consequences of forgetting to turn the lights off when you leave the house—with an smart home hub, all it takes is the press of a button on your smart phone for all to be right with the world.

Amazon Echo is a family-favorite, voice-activated speaker that enables you to manage your home’s smart devices. But for full smart home management capabilities, we recommend Samsung’s SmartThings Hub.

LED Lighting

If you’re still using old-school regular fixtures and bulbs, you’re really driving energy bills and should switch to LED lighting ASAP! People used to hesitate about LED lights, complaining that they emitted harsh light. But they now provide much softer quality light. And in addition to running much more efficiently than incandescent bulbs, they have much longer lifespans and  can be dimmed, which gives you even more control over the lighting in your household.

LED light bulbs are becoming smart! Hence our categorization of them as must-have energy-saving gadgets.

Your techie will get particularly jazzed about Sengled LED bulbs, which are essentially high-tech appliances disguised as LED light bulbs. You can buy LED bulbs with a built-in Wi-Fi repeater, stereo system, or security camera, to name a few! And you can control Sengled bulbs from a smartphone app, which also measures your energy savings and allows you to track them.

Smart Windows

Most of us have heard about smartphones and smartwatches, but what about smart windows?! This is a super cool gadget that’s all the rage with energy conservationists, and something your favorite techie will love. Smart windows can help keep your home as energy efficient as possible year-round by using special filters. These filters activate when the exterior glass reaches certain transition points and tint the window to block unwanted solar heat and minimize glare. Smart windows therefore create cool space on the hottest days, saving you from cranking up the AC as much as before. And during cooler periods, they remain clear so your room takes in all the warming rays of light. The result? Less power required for temperature maintenance and a lower energy bill.

Smart windows are must-have energy-saving gadgets that help you manage the temperature of your home. Source: Adeolu Eletu
Smart windows apply filters to help you manage the temperature of your home. Source: Adeolu Eletu

Solar Power

If you’re trying to dramatically reduce your electricity and energy costs, consider solar chargers that can be stuck outside or in the window of your home to absorb the sun’s power. Then, use those solar rays to power your smart devices, charge your phones, and more!

We think your favorite techie will particularly love the Lumos unPlug Backpack to enable device charging throughout the day, even on the go! The Solio Solar Battery Pack and Charger is also super handy whether you’re at home, school or work.

Charging Stations & Smart Plugs

Have you ever heard of phantom load? It’s definitely spooky like it sounds, but not in the way you’re thinking. Phantom load is power drawn from the grid by electronics that aren’t technically “on” but are still plugged in (that’s right, the resulting energy use and increased cost are what makes this so scary). Phantom power pretty much sucks the power from your home for no reason whatsoever. But, there are some easy fixes.

First, charging stations help to automatically turn off and stop phantom power in its tracks when devices are fully charged. They can also be programmed to turn off automatically after a specific length of time, too! Similarly, smart plugs like the Belkin Wemo work with your wi-fi router and allow you to turn any appliance on and off from afar, with any Internet-enabled device. It will eliminate phantom load from any device or appliance plugged into it. For more tips on how to eliminate phantom loads in your home, check out our previous post with recommendations!

Certified Appliances

Okay, we admit these aren’t necessarily “gadgets.” But no energy-saving product review would be complete without mentioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Program. If you’re looking to replace any appliance throughout your home, be sure to hunt down a product that sports the ENERGY STAR logo.You can find ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators, ceiling fans, toasters, coffee makers, and so much more (the list truly goes on and on). When you purchase these types of appliances, you know you’re getting up-to-date technology that puts energy conservation at the forefront—meaning energy-saving is a priority.

The result? You’ll cut your costs and do your part to conserve more energy without having to lift a finger.

Not a bad list, right? We thought so, too. Now comes the tough part for you: Figuring out how to convince your whole household you need every last one of these energy-saving gadgets on the list (we suggest showing them our blog post about how important energy conservation truly is! It also never hurts to mention you can cut your energy costs, just sayin’.)

If you’ve got any energy-saving gadgets that you think would be a perfect addition to this list, let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in other tips about how to conserve energy, insights on electricity and energy, or recommendations on ways to cut back your energy costs, keep up with our blog. The WattDoesItUse blog is regularly updated and overflowing with the need-to-know details about energy, electricity, conservation, and so much more! Don’t miss out!

Understand the drivers of energy use in your house to reduce power consumption and related costs. Source: Brian Babb

Electricity 101: Key Drivers of Energy Use At Home

Have you ever taken a long, sorrowful look at your energy bill, reached into your wallet for your credit card to pay it, and thought to yourself, where is all of this energy going? If you, like so many other energy consumers aren’t entirely sure what the heck is going on with your electricity bill, don’t understand your key drivers of energy use, or are simply overwhelmed by a high monthly electricity bill, then we’ve got some (hopefully) comforting news: you’re in the right place!

At WattDoesItUse, we truly get where you’re coming from. Knowledge is power, and our mission is to empower you with actionable information. So, what are the key drivers of energy and electricity use in your household? It’s not always easy to understand your electricity bill. But that’s precisely what we’ll seek to explain in this post.

More specifically, we will review some basics behind electricity consumption, followed by a room-by-room tour of your house to uncover the expected key drivers of energy use. Then, equipped with your enhanced energy literacy, we’ll take it a step further (you’re going to love this part) and brainstorm ways for you to conserve energy and whittle down your electric bill!

Now that we’ve established a solid foundation to get you going, let’s tackle the real reason we’re all here—discovering the energy hogs in your household! (No, we don’t mean your family members. We’ll handle the household appliances in this post; we’ll handle your family’s habits in another post!)

Who Uses Electricity?

To answer this succinctly—everybody! It’s pretty uncommon for commercial businesses or residences to not use electricity at all (that’s not to say some people don’t use it more efficiently than others, but we’ll get to that part later).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s make sure we’re on the same page about the basics.

Where does electricity come from?

We’ve got an entire blog post all about breaking down the logistics of electricity, but we’ll sum it up like this. Electricity is generated from sources like fossil fuels, wind, solar, and nuclear power. It is sent as a current through a transformer, which increases the voltage so it can travel a long distance. Then, that electrical charge runs through high-voltage transmission lines that run throughout the US. Eventually, the electrical current reaches a substation, which cranks down the voltage again so that it can travel through a smaller power line. The smaller power lines have built-in transformers that crank down the voltage further and help direct the electricity where it needs to go—to neighborhoods, businesses, apartment buildings, and more.

US transformer and electrical grid. Source: Sanna Linjos
Electricity travels through the extensive US grid to get from power generation plants to our homes. Source: Sanna Linjos

How do we measure electricity consumption?

If you haven’t read our electricity 101 guide about how we measure electricity (we definitely suggest it), you’ll need to know this: the amount of electricity a person uses over time is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kilowatt, which is a measure of power, is equal to 1,000 watts—it shows up as a kilowatt on your electricity bill because it’s far easier to measure large quantities of electricity in kilowatts.

If we’re using an 80-watt lightbulb in our home and run it for an hour, that means we’ve used a total of 80-watt hours—which means a total of .08 kilowatt-hours.

US Electricity Consumption Statistics

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are over 140 million customers of electricity in the United States. That huge number of customers is divided into three basic categories:

  1. Residential (122 million customers, about 37 percent of electricity sales)
  2. Commercial (17 million customers, about 35 percent of sales)
  3. Industrial (less than 1 million customers, about 28 percent of electricity sales)

How Much Electricity Does a Typical US Household Use?

Before we dive into energy saving opportunities, we think it’s important to first remind you that no one household is going to use the same amount of electricity as another. There are a ton of factors that drive energy use. For example, seasonality, geographic location, the actual foundation or structure of the household, and of course, the way the members of the household use their electricity can all play a role.

Despite all of these factors, we want to equip you with some basic statistics that are true of most households in the United States:

  • Electricity consumption will typically peak during the summer (think about how high you crank up your air conditioning when it’s blistering hot out).
  • On a more micro scale, electricity usage will also peak during the day, in the late afternoon, when people return home from work.
  • On average, the typical household in the United States uses 920kWh of electricity per month (11,040kwh per year). At the average national electrical rate, that translates to $1,468 annually.
  • The average breakdown of that consumption is as follows:
    • 29 percent – Heating
    • 17 percent – Cooling
    • 14 percent – Water heating
    • 13 percent – Appliances
    • 12 percent – Lighting
    • 4 percent – Electronic Devices
    • 11 percent – Other

Let’s Talk About Electricity: Where Is Your Electricity Really Going?

With those numbers providing perspective, let’s talk about the real reason you’re here: understanding the key drivers of energy use in your household. We already mentioned that heating/cooling and household appliances are the key drivers of energy use… and that utility bill!

Let’s take a closer look at these appliances:

Central AC

Though this number will likely vary for everyone, a central AC (that’s at least 2 tons) will use about 1450 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your AC Unit: don’t heat and cool the rooms you aren’t using, change your thermostat setting each season, and use “vacation” settings when you’re not going to be home for a while.

Water Heater Pump

For a 4-person household, you can anticipate that a water heater will use about 310 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Water Heater: consider scaling back the time you spend in a hot shower, don’t run water when you’re not using it, and consider replacing appliances in your home that can monitor your hot water usage.

Washing Machine & Dryer

A washing machine will use about 9 kWh per month while a dryer will use about 75 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Washer and Dryer: always wait for a full load before washing, clean your lint trap between dryer loads, and air dry your clothes outside during warmer months (if you can!)

Refrigerator

A refrigerator will use about 105 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Refrigerator: keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible!

Range & Stovetop

This will, of course, vary on the type of range or stovetop you use, but expect an oven range to use about 58kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Range and Stovetop: Keep the oven door shut as much as possible, cover your pots and pans to help trap heat, and keep your range and stovetop clean. Better yet, invest in a more energy efficient range or stovetop!

Dishwasher

Your dishwasher is probably using close to 30 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving electricity With Your Dishwasher: don’t do the dishes unless you have a full load and scrape excess food off your plate instead of rinsing!

Microwave

Your microwave likely uses about 15 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Microwave: Unplug it when it’s not in use but use it when you can (it’s a faster way to heat food up, which also requires less power!)

Television

A TV Will use about 27kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your TV: unplug your TV when it’s not in use, try using power strips that can detect when your devices are in standby mode, and try streaming through more efficient devices, like a tablet.

Lightbulbs

Depending on your wattage, you can expect to use about 50 kWh per month lighting a 4-5 room household.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Lighting: upgrade your lightbulbs to a more energy-efficient brand and remember to turn the lights off when you leave a room.

Additional Energy Conservation Strategies

Of course, the easy answer is to use your appliances less frequently, and when you do use them, be smart about conserving energy. But, there are plenty more tips out there that can help you conserve energy in every single room in your household. We’ve compiled helpful guidance right here:

  • Replace or cover drafty windows
  • Find and seal any leaks in your home (check spaces under doors, windows, and more!)
  • Make sure you’re scheduling regular service appointments for your AC and heating units
  • Unplug your appliances when they’re not in use or consider using a power strip that can cut all power to these appliances when they’re turned off.
  • Keep air moving throughout your house with efficient ceiling fans so you don’t have to use AC as much
  • Lower your water heating costs by scaling back your hot showers

Interested in learning more about electricity? Looking for ways to conserve energy, cut back on expenses, or be more energy conscious in general? Well, you’re in the right place. Our WattDoesitUse blog is all about sharing unique ways to conserve electricity, become more energy-efficient, and help you enhance your electricity literacy, too! Got a tip for our readers on how to conserve energy in their households? We want to hear it. Drop your advice in the comments below! Have questions or suggestions for new blog topics? Leave us comments about that, too!

Smart thermostats are powerful tools to reduce electricity consumption.

7 Best Smart Thermostats For Energy Savings

When you buy through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

Whether in the depths of winter, the heat of summer, or the change of seasons, managing the thermostat can be a nuisance for homeowners, renters, and landlords/ladies alike! Is it better to keep it at one conservative temperature? Manually change the temperatures as you head out the door or come home from work? Attempt to pre-schedule temperatures for dav and night temperatures?  If you have been struggling to control your energy costs without adding to your already-long daily to-do list, you may have considered a smart thermostat. But which are the best smart thermostats for energy savings in your household?

With new products coming to market every day, the question is getting increasingly difficult to answer. But never fear!

Our goal is to support you in that decision-making process. In this post, we lay out the seven best smart thermostats for energy savings heading into 2020. As a bonus, there are many unexpected ways to leverage your smart thermostat once you have it. We dive into those opportunities in the second half of this post so you can make the most of your investment.

7 Best Smart Thermostats For Energy Savings

Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control

Loaded with features, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control features Alexa support, a remote room sensor, and a touch display. You can can connect it to work with many other smart home devices—we love the connectivity! It is also very easy to install and operate.

Ecobee4 

In addition to having built-in Alexa voice technology, the Ecobee4 will connect to other smart home devices. Plus, like its compatriot with built-in voice control, it is easy to install and operate. It comes complete with a room sensor and offers many different wiring options.

Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)

When you hear the term ‘x generation’ it usually means a new and improved design. the latest Nest Learning Thermostat certainly meets this expectation. It features all the functionality of previous generations, and then some. On top of that, it comes with Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT support so you can easily connect many other smart home devices. It has a sleek design and installs easily. It doesn’t come with a room sensor, but it does have that functionality and sensors can be purchased separately.

Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat With Sensor

This is a dual-band WiFi thermostat that employs long-range sensors to control the temperature in your home. It works with Alexa, Cortana and Google voice commands and is easy to install. Some downsides: there is no HomeKit support. It also surprisingly doesn’t work directly with other Honeywell product. And lastly, the IFTTT functionality is limited.

Lux GEO-WH Wi-Fi Thermostat

This smart thermostat made our “best of the best” ranking because of its versatility. The Lux GEO-WH Wi-Fi Thermostat provides many different scheduling options and is easy to install. It has a stylish look and supports geofencing. However, it doesn’t support IFTTT and doesn’t have remote room sensors.

Lux Kono Smart Thermostat

This is a sharp-looking unit. The Lux Kono Smart Thermostat is HomeKit-enabled and provides a great deal of flexibility. It is easy to install and supports geofencing. However, as with the GEO-WH Wi-Fi Thermostat, it has no room sensors and lacks IFTTT support. It also can’t integrate with other smart devices (as other products on this list, like those of Next and Ecobee).

Nest Thermostat E

If you have a complex multi-stage HVAC system, steer clear of this one. Otherwise, the Nest Thermostat E can handle most any home set up. In fact, it contains features you would expect on a much more expensive model. As with the other models on this list, it is easy to install, boasts a stylish design, and works with other Nest and third-party smart home devices. It also supports Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT.

Get Smart with your Smart Thermostat

So what exactly can you do with your smart thermostat other than control when your furnace or air conditioner goes on or off?

Well, they are called “smart” thermostats for a reason! The best smart thermostats empower you in many other ways to boost your energy efficiency and lower your utility bill through energy savings. In fact, Nest found a 10-12% savings on heating and 15% savings on cooling—about $131-$145—per year. Ecobee claims average savings of 23%.

But as with many types of technology, you have to understand its full potential and take advantage of that in order to truly realize savings. Here are some of the important features you should be aware of:

Smart Scheduling

We all know you can manually program your HVAC system with your smart thermostat. But did you know that it can also learn your habits? If you choose to allow your smart thermostat to do this, it will optimize temperature settings around your preferences and schedule. And you will barely have to touch it! However, if you prefer to personally control this process in order to maintain a rigid schedule around when you use and don’t use energy, you can choose to do so as well.

Home/Away Automation

Visiting family for the holidays? Fleeing the winter weather for a trip to the tropics? Remember when you had to remember to adjust your thermostat before you rushed out the door to the airport? Those days are gone! You can set your smart thermostat to automatically turn down your heat while you are away from home without having to worry about manually setting it. By using the Home/Away Assist or Auto-Away features, your smart thermostat will know when to adjust to “away” temperatures simply by monitoring a GPS signal from your smartphone.

HVAC Override Option

Your smart thermostat has a “Fan” option that permits you to override when your HVAC system’s fan kicks on or off. As an example, you can program the fan to run even if the heat or air conditioning isn’t. Because the fan can be an energy saving option versus air conditioning, we love that your smart thermostat can make this dissociation easy!

Access Permissions

Are the in-law’s in town? Considering AirBNB but worried about associated utility costs? If you have someone in your household who likes to fiddle with the thermostat settings, you can lock others out with a PIN. You can set this manually or via the app where you manage the thermostat on your smartphone.

Air Filter Reminders

Heating and cooling can represent up to 50% of your utility bill. As we mentioned in a previous post, tending to your HVAC system’s maintenance can therefore provide valuable savings. You can set your smart thermostat to tell you when an air filter is dirty—aka compromised—and you need to replace it.

On top of all this functionality, you can pair your smart thermostat with your smart home hub, which will allow you to control not only your smart thermostat, but also all of your other smart appliances and devices. From one place—your smart phone!

With that in mind, if you are sifting through bills and thinking, “there must be a straight-forward, low-maintenance investment to make a dent in our energy consumption and monthly bills!” — there sure is! Smart thermostats could be the perfect option to jumpstart that process, so long as you’ve done your homework to identify the best one for you.

If you are looking at additional smart technology to improve your energy efficiency and reduce power consumption, stay tuned! There are more reviews of the best smart devices and smart appliances coming your way.

Select the most energy-efficient range to save energy in the kitchen. Source: Gaelle Marcel

6 Of The Best Energy-Efficient Ranges, Stoves & Cooktops for Holiday Entertaining

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We all want to be that house when the sleigh bells start jingling and everyone’s lighting the menorah or singing about Christmas trees. You know the house we’re talking about—it has the best parties, the best holiday food, and killer holiday décor. Sure, all of those things are important components of holiday cheer (and they all play into that best holiday home title, too). But have you ever stopped to think about the energy (and financial) costs of being that home?

Historically, being an entertainment hub and holiday décor superstar home necessitated an exorbitant utility bill. Luckily, that is no longer the case! However, being the star of the neighborhood’s holiday festivities and avoiding a concurrent energy spike requires mindfulness. If you’re looking for help to become a more energy-efficient home this holiday season, you’re in the right place. We’ve got the tips and tricks you need to make it happen.

There are plenty of ways to achieve power consumption (and cost) savings in your home. We will cover those opportunities in posts to come, so stay tuned! But ’tis the season for holiday baking and entertaining, so where better to start than at the heart of the home: the kitchen. More specifically, the best energy-efficient ranges, stoves, and cooktops for you.

Why Energy Efficiency Matters (Even Beyond the Holidays)

Monitoring energy, mindfully conserving energy, and being energy-efficient in the kitchen matters because, well, energy consumption matters!

We don’t mean that as a cop-out answer—you probably already know that energy efficiency is a big deal. If you’re new to this, let us explain briefly. By embracing energy efficiency, you will use less power to complete the same tasks required for top-notch holiday entertaining, and everyday tasks, too! Being conscious of your power consumption helps on multiple levels. The less power you use, the less energy your electric company needs to generate at power plants. That, in turn, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And that improves the quality of the air that you and your family breath. By monitoring your kitchen’s power consumption, you’re also cutting costs. Who doesn’t love extra money for family gifts?

Why start in the kitchen?

Monitoring energy use in the kitchen is an effective place to start monitoring energy efficiency. Stop and consider for a moment the sheer amount of time you spend in your well-lit kitchen preparing meals, baking, and washing dishes. Sure, you’re expending your own personal energy making delicious meals for yourself and your loved ones. But your kitchen appliances are expending energy, too. And the use of these energy-intensive appliances add up.

Enjoy family time in the kitchen even more knowing you aren't wasting energy.
Baking is a time-honored holiday tradition. Enjoy family time even more knowing you aren’t wasting energy. Source: Brandless

Stoves, Ranges, and Cooktops—Oh My!

Before we dive into the reason you’re here—to identify the best energy-efficient ranges for your holiday entertaining—we need to tackle a couple important questions.

What’s the difference? Stoves, Ranges, and Cooktops Explained

A common question among homeowners is: what’s the difference between a range, stove, and cooktop? Let’s make sure we’re on the same page.

People often use the words “range” and “stove” interchangeably. They are one-piece units that include a cooktop and an oven. Alternatively, cooktops are separate from ovens and installed directly into a countertop. Kitchens with cooktops will have separate ovens, often built into the wall.

Which type of stove is the most energy efficient?

Well, as with many things in life, the short answer to this question is: it depends.

When it comes to stoves and cooktops, we’re typically dealing with three types of technology: induction, electric, and gas.

Induction stovetops and cooktops are widely considered to be the most energy-efficient cooking appliance out there. An induction stove isn’t all that complicated—and the science behind it is actually pretty cool. An induction cooktop harnesses the power of magnetic energy. It’ll heat things up in a flash. Induction heating also makes it very easy to make precise, micro-temperature adjustments.

In other words, induction cooktops will heat your pots, pans, and what-have-you’s through direct contact. That way, you’re effectively keeping heat where it belongs without losing it to the air around your cooktop. In fact, according to Green Building Advisor, induction cooktops feature about an 84 percent efficiency compared to electric cooktops, which land in the mid-70s, and gas burners, which land in last place at 50-55 percent efficiency.

So, technically, an induction cooktop is the most energy efficient, then electric, and then gas. That being said, we always have to mention the caveat that sometimes, it is less what you use and more how you use it. The best energy-efficient range is the one used the most mindfully. Someone who purchases an induction stove will not necessarily save more energy than a person using an electric stove if they’re not being energy conscious.

Energy saving strategies in the kitchen

Check out a few of our pro tips to conserve energy—and save money—when using your stove and range, no matter what technology you’re using!

  • Keep your metal burners and pans clean. Shiny, clean surfaces reflect heat where it’s supposed to go (toward the pot or the pan). A messy crust will simply absorb the heat, making the stove work longer to heat the pan. Clean pots, pans, and burners, and you won’t be diverting all the heat toward caked-on messes.
  • Turn off your electric burners just before you’re finished cooking. No, we don’t mean leave your raw chicken on a powered-off burner. If you have 2-3 minutes of cooking time left, feel free to shut the burner off. Your food will keep cooking, you’ll avoid over-cooking and drying out your food, and you’ll save a little bit of energy!
  • Make sure you’re matching your pots and burners. Ensuring you are using the correct burner for the current pan in use will result in sending that valuable heat into the kitchen (without surface area to absorb it). As an example, if you’re cooking a small saucepan, choose one of the smaller burners/coils available.
  • For dishes that get better over time, use a slow cooker. Slow cookers are extremely efficient. They can provide hours of heat to create a luscious meal with minimal energy. We love slow cookers so much, we’ll be writing a post just on them soon, so keep your eyes out for it.
  • How long have you had your current pans and pots? If they are irreparably caked, scalded, and scratched, consider replacing them. They’re not doing you any favors.
  • Did we mention keep everything clean? We’ll say it one more time: keep everything clean. It’s going to help your kitchen appliances—ranges, stoves, and cooktops included—function much more efficiently. Your food will turn out better too!
Select the best energy-efficient range for your kitchen's set up to save energy and money
Select the best energy-efficient range for your kitchen’s set up to save energy and money. Source: Dane Deaner

The Best Energy-Efficient Ranges, Stoves, and Cooktops

Now you have all the background. So without further delay, friends, we present to you the much-sought-after selection of the best energy-efficient ranges, stoves and cooktops!

As a quick note, we’re providing you with more than just induction options. We’re including ranges, stoves, and cooktops that are lauded for their energy efficiency—which means they’ll give you that extra energy consciousness within their own unique categories, this holiday season and beyond.

  • Most Efficient Cooktop: Diva DDP Induction Cooktop Series
    • As we discussed in this post, induction is technically the most energy efficient technology for cooktop meal preparation. We are big fans of the “runner up,” as well: Duxtop 8100MC 1800W. But the Diva DDP series ultimately gets our vote, because it provides options to handle a larger volume of cooking expected in a home’s kitchen.
  • Best Compact Cooktop: The Fagor Countertop Induction Cooktop
    • This induction is great for students, or someone in search of an affordable, efficient, portable burner.
  • Best Electric Cooktop: Summit SINC424220 Induction Cooktop
    • This cooktop is a bit smaller. However, it performs well, and we love that it provides many of the same features as larger counterparts.
  • Best Gas Range: Samsung 30” Convection Gas Range
    • We love that this range’s gas cooktop features 5 specialized burners so you can match flame size to the pan in use. The fact that its oven uses efficient convection technology is an added plus!
  • Best Electric Range: Whirlpool 6.4 cu Ft. Electric Range
    • Whirlpool is a brand that has become synonymous with reliability over the years. This range provides the efficiency of electric cooking technology with the size required to handle stress-free entertaining.
  • Best High-End Electric Range: The GE Double Oven Smart Electric Range
    • This range boasts impressive versatility and an ability to handle multiple dishes at once without spiking your utility bill. Perfect for big holiday gatherings!

As we mentioned before, you don’t need the holiday season to get your kitchen into energy-efficiency mode. But it doesn’t hurt to have a catalyst to kick you into gear. The way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs, so start by identifying the best energy-efficient range, stove, or cooktop for your kitchen and then work from there.

We’ll be here to help you every step along the way. Want to learn more about electricity and how to conserve energy? Follow The WattDoesItUse Blog to stay in-the-know! 

The kitchen holds significant opportunity for energy efficiency savings.

12 Ways To Save Money Through Energy Efficiency in the Kitchen

The kitchen is the central hub in most homes. It is the place where families gather for everything from meal preparation and craft making, to grabbing a quick bite, to helping kids with homework. So often, we prepare and cook meals without considering whether or not the tools and appliances we use for these tasks cost us more than they need to. By merely observing your habits and understanding the amount of electricity used in these acts, a few simple alterations can help you achieve energy efficiency in the kitchen. This will help you not only save electricity, but also save money on the utility bill and help the environment.

One Room, Many Ways to Save

The stove, refrigerator/freezer, and dishwasher are the most electricity-intensive appliances in the kitchen. On top of that, if these items are used haphazardly or are not regularly maintained, their efficiency levels rapidly decrease. In this post, we present 12 expert tips to help you embrace energy efficiency in the kitchen and enjoy energy savings.

4 Ways to Save with Your Refrigerator

#1 Allow for Air Circulation

The condenser coils in a refrigerator work best with ample air circulation. So, make sure your refrigerator is not pushed into an extra-tight space in the kitchen. If possible, leave at least 2-inches between your fridge and the surrounding walls. 

#2 Clean the Coils

The condenser coils are generally located either on the backside or underneath your refrigerator. In these locations, they can attract dust and debris, which reduce their cooling ability, requiring them to work harder.

Make it a habit to clean the coils every quarter or at least twice a year. A quick sweep with the vacuum hose will capture the accumulated dirt and enable the condenser coils to move air more freely.

#3 Promote Consistent Ambient Temperature

Maintaining consistent temperatures inside and out of your refrigerator will help it work as energy efficiently as possible.  Here’s how to achieve that:

  • Avoid positioning the refrigerator in heat-generating areas, such as near the dishwasher, oven, or where it is exposed to heat from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid leaving the refrigerator door open for extended periods while searching for items. It will have to work harder to keep the temperature down.
  • Before placing hot items inside your fridge, allow them to cool down as much as possible. The moisture produced from hot, or even warm, foods and liquids will lead to the same result as leaving the door open. The compressor will need to work overtime to maintain the interior temperature of the fridge. Feel strongly about refrigerating items immediately to maintain a safe temperature? At the very least, cover them up tightly to prevent releasing warm moisture.
  • Note that these tips also apply to your freezer!

#4 Stay Up To Date

If your refrigerator is 15 years old or older, it could very well use twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR refrigerator. A new ENERGY STAR-rated fridge can save you over $250 over the next five years in addition to significantly reducing your carbon footprint. So consider an upgrade. It could be a big boost to your energy efficiency in the kitchen.

WattDoesItUse will provide recommendations and purchase tips when it is re-launched in December—stay tuned! Until then, you can find the energy consumption of your specific refrigerator using WattDoesItUse.

5 Ways to Save with Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are generally more cost-efficient to use versus washing dishes by hand. On average, households spend about $50 per year on the electricity to run their dishwashers. Implement the tips listed below to ensure you’re using the dishwasher as effectively as possible.

#1 Use Appropriate Settings

Most newer model dishwashers have an “economy” or “energy-saving” setting. This reduces both the temperature and amount of water used, saving you money on not only your electric bill, but also your water bill!

#2 Cycle Duration Matters

Make the most of the dishwashing cycles by running it only when it is full and always choose the shortest cycle possible to reduce energy usage.

#3 Check Temperature Settings

As we mentioned in a previous post, heating water can account for 14-25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Verify that the temperature setting on both your water heater and dishwasher is no higher than 120-degrees Fahrenheit.

#4 Clean the Drain and Trap

The drain and trap located at the bottom of dishwashers can both accumulate food and debris. By cleaning these areas weekly or monthly, you’ll avoid having to re-wash dishes and help your dishwasher will run more smoothly.

#5 Forego the Drying Cycle

You might be surprised at the amount of electricity (and money) you can save by merely allowing your dishes to air dry, rather than using the drying cycle. Crack the door open and let the residual heat dry them, and your savings on dishwasher-related electricity use could amount to up to 15%.

4 Ways to Save When Preparing Meals

#1 Invest in the right appliances

It’s easy to fall into the habit of comparing only price tags when considering a new appliance. But house—and especially kitchen—appliances are an investment. They add to (or detract from) the value of your home. And they can continue to save (or cost you) money when you operate them. Take, for example, the oven. Should you go with a convection style or traditional style oven? You may not be aware that convection ovens are designed to be much more energy efficient. In fact, they require approximately 20% less energy than a standard oven.

Another major opportunity for energy efficiency in the kitchen—and in the other rooms of your house—is lighting. Of course, everyone prefers a kitchen that has plenty of light. Even if you are taking advantage of the many benefits of natural light in your kitchen, additional lighting is often required. Be sure to use energy-efficient LED bulbs. LED lights may cost a bit more upfront, but they are bright, longer lasting, and use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs. Opting for these bulbs can help you save even more money and electricity in your kitchen.

Take the time to research the relative power consumption of particular products and/or technologies before making a purchase. It’s also a good rule of thumb to look for the ENERGY STAR logo as an indicator of a product’s energy efficiency.

#2 Use the Right Appliance

Most homes have a variety of cooking appliances, including traditional ovens and stovetops, microwaves, toaster ovens, and crockpots. The energy requirements for each vary. Here are average electrical costs to expect per hour of use:

  • Oven – $0.25 per hour
  • Stovetop – $0.15 per hour
  • Crockpot – $0.03 per hour
  • Microwave Oven – $0.12 per hour
  • Toaster Oven – $0.12 per hour

Whenever possible, opt for a smaller appliance if it can still handle the job and produce the results you want.

#3 Choose Appropriate Cookware

Using high-end cookware will help food cook more evenly and require less energy. Ceramic and glass dishes are not only durable; they are conductive, so they need less heat and reduced time in the oven. The best options for stovetop cooking include glass or copper bottom metal pots and pans. When preparing food on the stovetop, select the right size cookware and use lids, while also choosing the best size burner to get the job done. Even these minor changes can help you make the most of your time in the kitchen and save energy costs.

#4 Cook Less Often

When you are cooking meals, consider cooking in larger batches to make the most of a heated oven or burner. Not only will this cut down on energy costs, but the convenience of preparing additional meals ahead of time will also free you up from cooking over the week and allow you to spend more time with the family—something we’re certainly eager to have! 

Whether it’s replacing your old appliances with new energy-efficient ones, adopting new methods and tools, or simply embracing better habits, there are many ways to improve your energy efficiency in the kitchen. Whether you love cooking or do it out of necessity, the recommendations in this post will help you minimize your electrical (and financial) waste. Think we missed one? Tried one of the tips with great success? Let us know in the comments below!

Millions of miles of wires span the US to transport our electricity.

Electricity 101: What Is a Watt? And Where Does My Electricity Come From?

What exactly is the deal with electricity? Where does my electricity come from? Maybe these questions hit you as you flip on a light at midnight to rummage through the kitchen for a snack. Or perhaps they occur to you as you crank the air conditioning on a hot summer day. Maybe they even come to you when your laptop is at 1% and you frantically reach for your charger to plug it into the wall. No matter when or how, we know you’ve thought of this. And there’s no shame in not fully understanding electricity—we get it!

If you’re wondering about the basics behind electricity, like what exactly is a watt? Or, where in the world does electricity come from? Or even, what’s the difference between a watt and a kilowatt, anyhow? We’ve got some shockingly good news. As people who can’t help but talk endlessly about watts, electricity, and voltage, we’re all charged up about sparking your interest in electricity. And we’ve got amp-le resources to keep you informed! (We’re so amped up that we’re not even sorry for the sheer number of electricity puns we threw in that last paragraph!)

Let’s Talk Watts: Your Introduction to Key Electricity Terms

The best way to really dive into the world of electricity is to cover the bases on all the basics. That means you’ll need to be familiar with a few key terms: watts, kilowatts (and kilowatt-hours), volts, and amps.

What is a Watt?

We’ll start with a concept vital to the electricity conversation: the watt.

What exactly is a watt? We’re so glad you asked.

The watt is defined as the SI unit of power, which are equivalent to one joule per second, corresponding to the power in an electric circuit in which the potential difference is one volt and the current one ampere.

Yeah, even we’re scratching our heads at that definition.

Instead, let’s think of watts like this: a watt is a measurement of the rate at which electricity is flowing. Similarly to how you measure miles per hour in your car. Think of watts as the MPH of the big bad world of electricity. The watts are the measurement that tell you just how fast the electrons are going. As an example, if a lightbulb is an 80-watt lightbulb, it’s going to consume electricity at a rate of 80 watts.

Watts vs Kilowatts: Which is Which?

At this point you might be wondering: if watts are the measurement of drawn electricity, why does your electricity bill show up with a measurement of kilowatt-hours (kWh)?

Here’s the deal—a watt is a measure of power, right? Well, the kilowatt is a measure of energy. Energy is—in all science textbooks everywhere—described as the ability to do work. So, think of energy as creating heat or lighting something up.

Remember that 80-watt lightbulb we talked about? If you run that 80-watt lightbulb for an hour, you’ve used a total of 80 watt-hours—or .08 kilowatt-hours (hint: 1 kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts).

So—why does your electric bill show up like that? Simple. It’s just easier to measure large amounts of energy in kilowatts.

Wait—So Where do Volts and Amps come in?

Okay, we’ve got the watt, kilowatt, and kilowatt-hour questions sorted. That still leaves us with another big question: what’s a volt? We know, we know, there’s a lot to understand. We promise, it’s all going to come together. Stick with us!

A volt (or voltage) is defined as the way we measure electromotive force that causes a current of a single ampere to flow through a conductor. An ampere (commonly shortened to amp) is: the basic unit of electric current.

As with the watt, scratching our heads, but don’t give up! We’re going to simplify this too.

Remember how we said that a watt is like the mph that measures how fast your car is zooming down the “road” of wire? Let’s change that image up a bit. Now, let’s think about electricity as if it’s a steady stream of water (heck, it can be anything you want—coffee, wine, whatever makes this image more fun) flowing through a tube.

The amount of pressure that drives that water-wine-coffee-combo through the tube is voltage. And amps are the volume of water-wine-coffee flowing through that tube all the way to your glass. The watts—in this scenario—would be the total amount of energy/power that water-wine-coffee could provide you (the tube’s capacity).

Starting to make sense?

Crash Course in Electricity Production

All right—we’ve got the basics down. Watt, amp, voltage, check. Answering those questions has probably led to another, even bigger question: how exactly is electricity made? Or more specifically, where exactly does electricity come from in the U.S.?

Never fear, we’ve got you covered. Now that you’ve got the basics mastered, we can build on that foundation to understand how our electricity comes to be.

How Electricity is Made in the US

It’s no secret that electricity isn’t magic. But the entire process might seem so foreign and confusing that it might as well be something you read in a made-up fairytale. We’re here to change all that—let’s break it down.

There’s no one single way to produce electricity. In the US, we use predominantly fossil fuels to create electricity. Fortunately, we also use an increasing amount of alternative sources like wind, solar, and nuclear. Not all electricity is created equally. In fact, the type and amount of emissions produced by your electricity all goes back to how your electricity is generated. You can see how yours is generated here!

In the US in 2018, approximately 64 percent of electricity generation came from fossil fuels (like coal and petroleum), 19 percent came from nuclear energy, and 17 percent came from renewable energy resources.

The Logistical Process: How Electricity Gets to Your House

How exactly does electricity go from being made at a generation station (using coal, natural gas, water, or wind, as we discussed earlier) to powering your home when you flip on a light, plug in your phone, or turn on your AC.?

The US electrical grid has 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.
The US electrical grid has 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines. Source: American Public Power Association

First thing first, electricity has to travel a long way to get from the generating stations to where your house is. It could be hundreds of miles away from where you’re flipping your light switch on! That’s part of what makes electricity so cool (we think, anyway).

 We’ll simplify this process by taking a look at a step-by-step:

  1. Electricity is made (we’ll save that story for another day)
  2. That electricity is sent as a current through a transformer. That transformer increases the voltage. (Side note: remember the pressure in our liquid-of-choice analogy). This enables it to travel a long distance without any trouble.
  3. The electrical charge will run through super high-voltage transmission lines (which stretch all across the US).
  4. Eventually, that current will reach a headquarters of sorts, called a substation. This substation cranks down the voltage significantly. That way, it can safely travel through the smaller power lines in your neighborhood.
  5. As it travels through those smaller power lines, little transformers (you’ve seen these in your city or neighborhood for sure) will reduce that voltage a few more times. This ensures that it’s safe enough to use inside your home.
  6. The current makes its way through those transformers and into your home. In the process, it passes through a meter that measures how much of it you use.
  7. From there, the electricity goes to a centralized location in your house—like a circuit breaker or a service panel. There, the electricity is “on call” for duty. It travels through the wires in your walls when you signal a demand for the power, either by flipping a switch or plugging something in.

See, it’s not all that complex! Did this post wet your appetite? Wanting to learn more about electricity? Then watt are you waiting for?! Let us know lingering questions in the comments. And sign up for updates from the WattDoesItUse blog to get even more electricity insights, tips on how to conserve energy, new product reviews, and advice on cost savings!

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