GREENSBORO, N.C. — It's the piece of mail no one likes to get, especially in the hottest part of summer -- the energy bill.
That's why producer Tom Santaniello submitted this VERIFY inquiry.
"Hey! I just moved into a new apartment, and I'm trying to find a way to save some extra money. One of my friends just told me I should unplug all my appliances because it's going to save me some money on my electric bill. So, the last thing I do every day before I leave for work is go around and make sure everything's unplugged. But, honestly, I'm not sure it works. Can you VERIFY this?"
Duke Energy identifies devices called energy vampires, which continue using energy even when turned to the off position. They come in two categories -- wall arts (like a cell phone charger) and bricks (like a cable box). Duke Energy projects you can save about $100 a year by unplugging these vampires. There is even a website calculator to estimate how much you'll save in your home.
But, home improvement expert Tom Garcia said these savings are minuscule, compared to the money you can save by tweaking five bigger appliances:
- AC system
- Hot water heater
- Refrigerator / freezer
"The first one is your AC system, especially this time of year," Garcia emphasized.
He explained the AC uses 30-40% of energy in your home.
"Even a small change in what you do with your AC system can make a big change in your energy bill. The answer -- a programmable thermostat, but you've got to use it..." he said.
The second-biggest energy user is your water heater. Garcia said to turn down your water heater to the lowest possible temperature at which you feel comfortable. If you're turning on your hot water, and you immediately have to switch it to cold to cool it down for your shower or bath, it's set too hot.
Number three is your electric dryer. Garcia suggested never running it in the middle of the day during summer, or else it'll add heat to the home and cause your AC to work harder. So, do laundry in the morning or evening, when it's cooler outside.
Number four is your oven. Keep the door closed while cooking, so you don't lose heat. Also, know how long your oven takes to pre-heat, so you're ready to start cooking, as soon as it hits the correct temperature.
Number five is your refrigerator and freezer. Don't set them colder than they need to be. Stick with 38 degrees for your refrigerator and zero degrees for your freezer. Do all these tips -- or even just a couple -- and Garcia said you'll notice a big difference on your energy bill.
Can unplugging your devices every day cut down on your energy bill? Yes, but not significantly month-to-month. Focus on the 'big five' first.
Garcia emphasized, "If you have time to unplug those things, great, but again, that's a small piece of the larger puzzle. Personally, I would take the effort to focus on the AC, hot water heater, dryer, that sort of thing. One little change there in a day will save as much energy as those other vampire things over a whole year.."
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