Energy vampires | How to reduce your bill

FRESNO, Calif.

Even in a new home built to be energy efficient, Shelli Deedon and her daughters can rack up $400 energy bills in the summer months. But when their bill climbed by $70, they went on a mission to find out why. The solution was easy to straighten out. "We found out it was a hot iron that was plugged in and even though it wasn't on, was still drawing lots and lots of power."

The Deedons learned a powerful lesson in energy use: Appliances are like energy vampires, sucking up electricity even when the power is off. When you're away, coffee pots and microwaves are drawing electricity for clocks. TVs, DVRs, and stereos -- doing nothing -- are also running up your energy bill.

Stephane McShane with A-C Electric said, "Cell phone chargers? Same thing. Cordless phones, if they're sitting on the charger? Same thing. All of those things."

Action News asked the electricians at A-C Electric to audit the Deedon home to see how they could cut their energy bill. Examples came quickly.

Steve Woodward with A-C Electric said, "That actually is a very good example of something that is doing absolutely nothing except drawing power."

Like many families, the Deedons leave most appliances plugged in. All day. Every day. They're not drawing a lot of electricity, but it's enough to make a significant impact on your electric bill.

McShane said, "I was just doing some research on this and its saying anywhere from five to ten percent, and that's a huge savings."

The savings can be simple. High end desktop computers left on 24/7 can cost you $400 a year. Turn them off when you're not using them and that number can go down to $40.

You can put your entertainment center on a power strip and turn it off when you leave the house.

Unplug any other appliances until you need them. For the Deedons, the audit could mean up to $40 in savings every month. And they found some familiar flaws.

"That's what's killing you right there. That flat iron's on," said Woodward.

Deedon was ready to make a few simple changes. "There. It's not drawing power now."

But some suggested changes can be inconvenient. Cable or satellite boxes need a few minutes to reboot if they're shut down.

Deedon said, "Probably won't shut that power strip off, but probably will turn some of the electronic items off."

She is willing to make some small investments to save even more, like replacing old light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.

Electricians say replacing 18 bulbs with CFLs will save you $1000 over the life of the bulbs.

Not everybody has the luxury of an electrician doing an energy audit at their home, but there is help if you want to do it yourself.

Certain websites will analyze how much electricity you could be saving by changing some of your habits.

Filling out the forms online takes a little chunk of time, but like unplugging appliances, it can make a big dent in your energy bill.

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