Living Green: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Energy Bills

If you’re concerned with rising electric bills or your contribution to global warming, but installing a complete solar installation isn’t in the budget yet, take these easy steps to save now and for the future.

What do light bulbs do best? Light the room, of course, but did you know incandescent bulbs turn 70 percent of energy into heat, which leaves 30 percent for light? Replace old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with compact florescent ones that use about one-fifth the power and last seven times longer. Most of the new ones say, “instant start” or “quick start.” They cost more but pay for themselves many times over. Find them at Topanga Lumber (use your 10 percent discount coupon from Messenger Mountain News ad) and Franklin Hardware both carry replacements. If you want dimmable bulbs or mini-light strings like those used for Christmas, go to a specialty store such as Bulbs Unlimited in Santa Monica.

Outdoor Light Timers. I wanted stair lights for guests coming down to the house. I priced trenches to run cables and it was $1,500. Motion Detectors solved the issue for under $15. If you have outdoor lights there is no reason not to have a motion detector to turn them on. They can be set for four- or 12-minute duration and most can be reset to stay on if you are expecting someone or have an outdoor gathering.

Washing Machines. Save water and power by using a front-loading design that first became popular in Europe. Union Gas explained why they are better for both your energy bill and your clothes:

  • They have no agitators. The force of gravity agitates the clothes as the laundry tub spins, saving wear and tear on your clothes.
  • Water use is 40 percent less per load.
  • Your water heater will be called on to heat 40 percent less water for hot water washes.
  • Clothes come out of a front-loading washer drier because the spin cycle is more effective in removing water, which means less time in the dryer and big energy savings.
  • Front-loading washing machines use less detergent, which is better for the environment, your clothes and your wallet.

Refrigerators. The Energy Star Compliant label on new models gives the kilowatt-hours and the cost in dollars of electricity.

Old Appliances. Assume any fridge over 12-15 years old can be replaced by a more efficient model. Just don’t put the old one in the garage as a backup because, first, you are now running two appliances instead of one; second, it will waste an incredible amount of power as the garage is usually hotter than your home.

Pumps for pools and spas. Next to electric wall-heaters, you can’t burn electrical power faster than with a 240-volt motor (what pools and spas use to filter the water).

  • Variable speed pumps are now required by code for all new pools. Replacing an old pump will cut consumption as much as 70 percent.
  • Do the math as to how long to run your pump to adequately filter the pool. Measure how many cubic feet of water is in your poo1 or spa (Length x Width x Depth), check the flow rate of your pump and filter, and any good pool supply service should be able to give you the minimum time requirements for filtration.

Tip for DIY canabis growers: Don’t grow dope indoors. The draw of grow lights and the fan to ventilate the space can add more than $100 a month to the electric bill.  Take it outside or go solar!


Topangan Lee Rhoads has been installing solar hot water and pool systems since 1980, as well as dozens of photovoltaic systems. Contact him at (310) 455-2958;


By Lee Rhoads


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