If you've been watching your electric bills soar, welcome to the club. A new report from USA TODAY finds that we've endured five straight years of increases, making it the largest leap since the energy woes of the 1970s.
Even if your earnings have stagnated, the cost to consumers for electricity has kept on rising. We now pay $1.50 out of every $100 we earn, according to the USA TODAY study. Prices are fueled (pardon the pun) by excessive home power use along with utility company increases.
The U.S average rate of 11.8 cents per residential kilowatt hour represents a record-high. The cheapest rates are generally in the Northwest, although New Yorkers are paying a walloping 26 cents per kilowatt hour. It all adds up to about a $300-per-year increase in household electric bills. Now what?
Time for energy efficient windows
If you've tuned a deaf ear to my suggestions to install replacement windows before, consider saving up for that home improvement project immediately. As much as 30 percent of your heat or cooling can flow out of poorly insulated windows. The Department of Energy (DOE) claims you can save 15 percent of your electric bills by installing ENERGY STAR rated windows.
A complete house window-swap into new energy efficient windows will run from $7,500 to $10,000, according to the DOE. Getting the real price of new windows starts with sizing up your needs by window type, glazes, gas fills, and frame materials.
You may find that your needs may also be mitigated by the north-south alignment of your home -- and by your climate. Replacement windows ratings are set by The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). By selecting solid NFRC ratings in ENERGY STAR windows, you'll get some of the best windows for saving energy.
Other home improvement tips
If you don't have a programmable thermostat, get one installed. There's really no excuse to run your electric-powered HVAC systems around the clock. The latest generation of models allows you to control your settings from mobile devices and computers. Why not turn down the heat or cooling when you're away from home?
Next, stroll through every room in the house and unscrew every incandescent lamp in the place. The new LED bulbs save money, and so do the long-life compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Add a dimmer and you've got fingertip control of how much light floods into the house day and night.
Then turn off the hibernation or sleep settings on TVs, appliances, chargers and computers. It may surprise you how many energy sappers are leaching off your wallet.