Column: Ideas For Lowering BELCO Bills

October 16, 2023 | 6 Comments

[Column written by Denise DeMoura]

I’d like to share a few of my easiest ways to save money on BELCO bills.

After I moved in with my husband, Anson Nash, he was shocked when I lowered our two-person monthly household electricity bill to about $100.

So with BELCO’s new Fuel Adjustment Rate [FAR], our monthly bill will increase about $20. But for those paying $500, it’ll go up to about $600! That’s a lot of money to find in a tight budget.

But it can be motivation. Fuel prices are expected to continue rising worldwide due to many international issues. They are out of our control. It’s usually not as convenient, but we do have the power to find ways to lower our electricity use.

Young people, especially, also remind us that we all need to use less of the kinds of fossil fuels that power BELCO and contribute to climate change. Anxiety about ecological crises is just one of the many stresses in our lives that make it difficult to change our habits.

I try to deal with feeling overwhelmed by focusing on small changes that I can make in my attitude and actions.

For example, unplugging any electronic devices that are not being used – especially at night and when out. Many of them use a startling amount of phantom power just “standing by.” Microwaves, computers, Wi-Fi, televisions, other entertainment devices and anything that has a digital light that continually stays on – are not “off” but still using electricity.

Unless they are unplugged which is easy to do if many devices are plugged into the same power bar, like computer equipment, and you can easily flip the switch to off.

I charge my laptop in the same way I do my cell phone and use it on battery. And never leave the chargers plugged in as they continue to draw electricity.

Refrigerators and freezers are more efficient when they are full, but still have enough space for the cold air to circulate. Add a few containers of water to empty spaces to make them run less. Open the doors as little as possible and place frequently used items within easy reach.

BELCO estimates that 15% of the average bill is lighting. Switching to low energy use LED light bulbs [if health allows] is easy. Thanks to our government, while supplies last, every household can get four free bulbs at any post office. If you didn’t receive a card in the mail, you can still fill one out at the post office to get your free bulbs. They use up to 75% less energy and last much longer.

But continue to turn lights off when rooms are not in use. Consider how many outdoor lights are really necessary. Pay attention to how electricity is being used and you can search the internet for more tips.

Shorter showers are another easy way to save on water as well. Waters heater use a lot of electricity and electricity is used to pump water from tanks. Hands can also be washed in cold water.

With air conditioning, it’s mainly lowering humidity that makes the air more comfortable. Try setting the temperature as warm as possible. A dry 78 is very comfortable and a temperature we are most used to in Bermuda. If you choose to leave AC on when nobody is home then leave the temperature as warm as possible and turn it colder when you get home, if necessary.

Efficiency is also very important. When AC filter screens are clogged with dust, the air can’t flow freely and more electricity is used. They are usually easy to clean and may need replacing.

When using AC [or heating or dehumidifier], make sure windows and doors are closed and try to seal up any leaks. If you feel hot air coming in anywhere, then air conditioned cool air is also escaping, which makes your unit use more electricity.

Often a fan and open windows is all that’s needed to be comfortable.

Laundry uses lots of energy. With both washers and dryers [and dishwashers], do not overload – but always do full loads to save energy. If clothes aren’t really dirty then consider washing them less, using cold water and the shortest amount of wash time [speed cycle]. Setting the spin time to “fastest” will also get as much water out as possible so that they dry faster.

The clothes dryer uses the most energy, but it’s very convenient and a hard habit to change. You can increase its efficiency in several ways like making sure the lint filter is cleaned before every use and even the vents.

Heavy material like towels take much longer to dry. Sheets and other light cotton items take less time and synthetics even less. Most synthetics can just be put on hangers to dry on their own with good air circulation around them.

Getting to know how little time some things need in the dryer is a fun exercise that some kids enjoy. They can feel for; and take out the dry items. This allows more room for heavier things to dry. It gives anyone a sense of controlling the amount of energy used.

Over-drying clothes also causes fabrics to weaken, and they may look duller and need replacing sooner.

Indoor drying racks or a light rope tied between door hinges can also support drying clothes. Then a few minutes in the dryer can remove any remaining dampness.

Outdoor clothes drying will always be free, not release more humidity indoors and also smell the best. I’m lucky that my Nana taught me when I was very young. My mom got a clothes dryer in the 70’s but it was really expensive and we just used when it was raining.

Now, it’s possible to buy more energy efficient appliances. Look for ones that have an “Energy Star” sticker on them.

Because we keep our usage under 250 kilowatt hours, BELCO charges us at a lower rate, and we pay a lower facilities charge. Yes, it is frustratingly complicated! I got most of this information from the Regulatory Authority website.

For the curious, my incentive to use less energy is driven by wanting to lower my contributions to Climate Change. We presently use only fans and no air conditioning, no hair dryer, clothes dryer, dishwasher, television or digital clocks. We do run a dehumidifier in a large closet that we can put damp clothes into.

I thought I was pretty hardcore about reducing energy use but an elderly friend chastised me for keeping our water heater on in the summer [it’s for Anson not me!]. Our tank water is never too cold for me to shower and water can be boiled for doing dishes by hand. But there are lots of ways to lower bills without being as extreme as us.

A low BELCO bill sure does bring us a lot of joy.

- Denise DeMoura

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Comments (6)

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  1. Thank you for the excellent tips says:

    I must try them. I learned a great deal.

  2. Toodle-oo says:

    The single most effective change one can make to lower their monthly belco bill is to install a timer switch on the water heater or turn it on on demand only .
    You mention the water heater but I’m surprised you didn’t point this out specifically.

  3. Triangle Drifter says:

    Have had my water heaters, small ones, on timers for many years now. They shut off at times BEFORE hot water is last needed. Lights are not on if the room is unoccupied though LEDs are nothing compared to the old incandescent bulbs.

    What takes power because they need to be on and was not needed in the old Bermuda are security lights, along with security cameras.

    What can be cut? Well, Government could eliminate the duty on BELCO fuel. Of course that would require Government to reduce it’s costs. We never hear of that happening.

  4. Mark says:

    Great but I did laugh when you said “thanks to our government” we get a few lightbulbs. That’s like thanking the person that shot you. This government is the problems and if we want to solve this problem permanently, we need to get rid of them and now! Rise up and take to the streets! Let’s run them out of our country!

    • LOL (original) says:

      “Rise up and take to the streets! Let’s run them out of our country!”

      Careful mate that could be considered incitement. Or did you not learn after Trump.

      • Toodle-oo says:

        LOL . and let’s not forget that the government had to be won back ‘by any means necessary’ according to dreb .

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