Ask the Experts: Electrical Excess

Q: I live off-campus with a group of my friends, and none of is exactly rolling in the dough. We’re just typical college students without much cash, so we rent a cheap place and drink cheap beer and eat cheap noodles–you know, college kid stuff. But our electrical bill does not fit the pattern at all. It’s like a mansion’s electrical bill, and we can’t figure out how we’re using so much power. We have appliances and stuff, sure, but we try to be good about not leaving lights on and things like that. How can we save money on electricity?


Expert electricians tell us that it is possible for electrical problems like faulty wiring to drive up your electrical bill. But they caution that, in most cases, it’s not the system: it’s the people using it. Take a second look at your habits in your space, and pay careful attention to things like appliances, your hobbies (do they use electricity?), and the use of things like power tools. If you’re still baffled, by all means, call an electrician. In fact, electricians say you should make sure that they’re regular visitors in your space, checking for issues and solving small problems before they become truly dangerous.


Assuming that you don’t dig up any old or faulty wiring to blame for your high bills, though, it may be time for you to take a look at your space’s energy efficiency. We Americans are not known for our energy efficiency: the average American uses 313 million Btu of energy, considerably more than the 75 million Btu that the average person from outside the States uses.


As a renter, you may or may not be able to get new appliances for your space. But if you can convince your landlord to make some upgrades, you could reap some serious savings. If every home in America had an energy-efficient furnace, for instance, we’d save a collective $171 million.


Smaller parts of your electrical system matter, too. Energy-efficient light bulbs can save you money on your bills and also don’t need to be replaced as often. Using the sleep mode on your computers, gaming systems, and other electronics will also make a big impact on your electrical bill.


And, of course, you and your roommates won’t be the only ones benefitting from the energy-efficient changes that you make. Across the United States, about 40% of our national energy consumption is going towards generating electricity. That means that a huge part of your personal environmental footprint comes down to how you use electricity. A few smart choices could both save you money and make the planet a little healthier for all of us.


“Electricity is really just organized lightning” – George Carlin


Written by Martin J. Young, former correspondent of Asia Times.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the opinions of King’s College or WRKC.