Senior Planet News

Save Energy…and Money

October is Energy Action Month…but how savvy are you about your energy usage – and wastage?

Vampire Electronics! 

We all know to turn off unused lights and appliances. But plugged-in items, even if turned off, raise your bill. Most plugged-in electrical items steadily “bleed” small amounts of electricity even when they’re not turned on; it’s called “standby electricity loss” or “vampire electricity.”

The estimated cost of vampire electricity ranges from $165 to $440 annually per household.

Consider all your digital displays, electronic consoles, internet routers, and plugged in appliances, printers, rechargeable devices and anything with a transformer (those black boxes with energy cords). The estimated cost of vampire electricity ranges from $165 to $440 annually per household.

To reduce vampire electricity waste:

  • Use power strips. Buy strips with a timer that turns off automatically at night so that you don’t have to unplug items one-by-one.  “Combo” strips have timed and untimed outlets: half the outlets are on timers and the rest are always-on.
  • When possible, “group” items. Put kitchen appliances (coffee maker, toaster, mixers etc.) on one strip. Flip on the power only when using one or more items.
  • Dim screens. How bright do your TV or computer screens really have to be? The brighter the screen, the greater the energy usage. Dimming screens 50% saves up to 30% of your energy.
  • Audit energy usage. An eye-opening exercise is measuring the electricity usage of your equipment and appliances whether on or off. The Kill A Watt device is a popular measurement choice.  (

Appliance Energy

Large appliances suck…a great deal of energy.

Refrigerators alone can cost up to 13% of a monthly electric bill. Reduce that cost by reducing the temperature level of the fridge, clean the coils in back, and keep the freezer well stocked…but not enough to inhibit air flow.

Dishwashers:   Try a lower water temperature; 120 degree water still does the job and saves energy. Running only with a full load or at off-hours can also reduce overall energy costs.

Laundry: Keeping clothes clean doesn’t need to be an energy hog.  Warm water (not hot) cuts up to 50% energy per load, and cold water saves the most and also helps preserve colors. Aim for a full load with every wash, and use your washer’s maximum spin cycle to save drying time (it removes the most water). 

Drying clothes can be surprisingly energy efficient, as well. Those reuseable wool or plastic dryer balls gets more air to clothing and cuts drying time. Another tip: the cool-down cycle in your dryer. Despite the name, the heat remaining in the dryer finishes the drying. Always clean the filter after each use. For the ultimate in energy savings…try air drying. Fabrics last longer when dried outside or on a laundry rack. .

What about Energy Star appliances? 

ENERGY STAR-certified appliances (learn more here) meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the US Department of Energy. They use less energy, save you money on your electricity bill and help protect the environment by causing fewer harmful emissions from power plants.

Whether you rent or own your home, it’s smart to learn  the purchasing process for ENERGY-STAR appliances, from ceiling fans, and air purifiers to major appliances like refrigerators, washers, or dryers. New ENERGY STAR washers use about 25% less energy; dryers up to 20% less. Plus, many public utilities offer rebates for purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances – learn more here.

Want to learn more?

As part of October’s Energy Action Month, Senior Planet is offering a special all-participant Zoom meeting on Tuesday, October 19 3-4pm EST. Brittney Gordon from the EPA will speak about when it makes sense to buy ENERGY STAR-certified appliances.  Information and registration is here.



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