Infographic: How To Hack Your Electric Bill

By Matthew Wheeland - July 16, 2012
*Last Modified: June 8th, 2014

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How to Hack Your Electric Bill

At $163 per month, the average U.S. homeowner’s utility bill is getting increasingly bloated. It’s not going to get any better thanks to new rounds of rate hikes being rolled out by big investor-owned utilities. Thankfully, there’s an ingenious way for you to keep that money for yourself (and maybe even game the system a little, too).

Hack One: Batch and Shut Off Your Gadgets

Energy meter devices like the Kill-A-Watt are great, but do you really need a new gadget to tell you how much power your old ones are using? The low-budget hack is to batch all your stuff on power strips, then turn the strips off when you’re going to work or to bed. For the real win, you can automate. A new generation of programmable power strips like the Titan Controls Apollo ($25.75) and the Tripp Lite ($35.21) let you schedule regular, up-to-the-minute shutdowns using digital calendars.

What to Auto-Shutdown When You’re Away or Unconscious

Device cost to keep plugged in (and turned off!) for one year:

  • LCD Computer Screen: $1.13
  • TV (CRT): $3.07
  • DVD Player: $1.55
  • Game Console: $1.01
  • DVR: $36.80
  • Surge Protector: $1.05
  • Digital Cable Box: $17.89
  • Coffee Maker: $1.14
  • Computer Speakers: $1.80
  • Microwave: $3.09
  • Computer Speakers: $1.80
  • Inkjet Printer: $1.26

Money you get to keep this year: $78.73

This data represents energy use in kilowatt hours for a whole year, assuming the device is in off mode for 23 hours each day. Cost is based on the national average for residential grid power. If you live in a state with more expensive electricity, you’ll likely pay more just to keep those gadgets plugged in!

Why does this matter?

People want to save money on their electric bills, but they don’t realize that just keeping those gadgets plugged in is costing them money. A study by the Consumer Electronics Association examines the problem. 60% of adults are concerned about the cost of their electric bill. But 36% of adults are “not concerned” with the amount of power their gadgets and appliances consume.

How to Automate

Set a house rule that only programmable power strips can be plugged directly into the wall. Everything else has to be plugged into a strip, then you can schedule strips to shut down when you’re at work or asleep.

Hack Two: Buy All your Electricity in Advance

What if you could buy all the gasoline you’d ever need for your car at today’s prices and get a bulk discount for doing it, too? That’s exactly what a sample of our solar homeowners from around the country did, using a little-known arrangement called a Pre-Paid Solar Power Purchase Agreement (pre-paid PPA). It’s different from a solar lease, especially in how much cheaper the electricity ends up being.

Benefits of Pre-Paid Solar Power Purchase Agreements

What these 39 homeowners used to pay:

  • $233.69 for 1 month’s worth of electricity
  • $2,804.25 for 1 year’s worth of electricity
  • $92,725.14 for 20 years’ worth of electricity

What these 39 homeowners did pay for electricity:

  • $151.36 for 1 month’s worth of electricity
  • $1,816.28 for 1 year’s worth of electricity
  • $21,795.36 for 20 years’ worth of electricity

Average savings for 20 years’ worth of electricity on a pre-paid PPA: 76%

Electricity Levels of Goodness:

  • Grid power: Ew, Gross. This is dirty, expensive, and getting 5% more expensive every year.
  • Solar lease: Getting Better. This is clean and cheaper than your current power bill. A provider puts a solar system on your roof for a low upfront cost, and you pay a monthly fee to lease the system.
  • Solar PPA: Really Great. This is clean and significantly cheaper than your current power bill. A provider puts a solar system on your roof for low or no upfront cost, and you buy the cheap power monthly.
  • Solar PPA: Hacktacular. This is a dirt-cheap solution. A provider puts a solar system on your roof, and you buy all the electricity you’ll ever need from it at a deep discount before it’s generated—performance guaranteed. In exchange, the provider gets your solar incentives.

Why it’s so great: You get electricity dirt-cheap. Homeowners find the trade-off of the deep discount for their solar incentives worth it. They prefer the simplicity of a single low price tag to managing complex incentives for decades.

States with available pre-paid PPAs

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon

How to get it: Pre-paid PPAs are only available in some U.S. states right now. Call your state legislators and demand good solar incentives for homeowners in your state. That’s when pre-paid solar PPAs will become available there.

Bonus Hacks

Tell your gas bill to go frack itself.

After going solar, buy electric space heaters and you can eliminate your monthly natural gas bill, too. Then, if you get an electric car like a Chevy Volt or a Nissan Leaf, you’ll be getting electricity, heat, and transportation—all from the sun.

Go full frontal.

The reason industrial washing machines are always front-loaders is because they’re gentler on clothes (no agitator), use a third of the water, and wring water out of clothes better at the end. This means reduced drying time, which can significantly lower your electric bill, because dryers can be a huge energy hog in your house.

Sources: Sample of homeowners’ average utility bills before and after solar pre-paid PPA, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Consumer Electronics Association.

What’s ?

makes it convenient and easy to understand and shop for solar energy. offers choices so homeowners can get a free solar estimate however it’s most convenient for them, either online at or by phone at 1-877-444-4002 — without the need for a home visit. Founded in 2008, has helped thousands of homeowners go solar in over 40 U.S. states and continues its track record of offering deals that save homeowners time and money on home solar systems.

By Dave Llorens

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