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Ravalli and Missoula Residents – Lower Your Utility Bill

flickr.com (MTGrizzly)

Last July, when our lease was up on the house my fiancé and I were renting, I convinced him to move to an apartment. See, I’m one of those people who prefers to dwell in a humble abode nestled in a complex, whereas my fiancé would rather live in a spacious house. My selling point to him was that not only would there be less maintenance, but also that our utility bill would be substantially less. So, here we are, enjoying everything about our brand new, third story, two bedroom apartment – everything besides the astronomical utility bill, that is. In fact, our current energy costs are barely less than what we were paying for our last rental, a two story house, which was nearly three times the size as our cozy apartment.

Like clockwork, we receive our bill every month, spend a couple days complaining about how high it is, write the check, pop it in the mailbox, and forget about it until the next month’s bill arrives. I finally took interest in our high energy costs when I received another bill the same week I had finished Christmas shopping. I sat down and racked my brain, trying to figure out where we were going wrong. We live in a new building, so I knew insulation most likely was not the issue, in fact, we rarely have to flip on the heat because the heat from the units below us rises, and actually keeps our apartment comfortable. After making a list of all the things in the house that we plug into an outlet, I zeroed in on the hot water heater and the big screen TV. I figured one or both of them must be the culprit. Then, I recalled all the pamphlets Northwestern Energy mails us – they typically contain tips on saving energy. Shame on me, I never read them and always treated them as junk mail and into the “round file” they went.

Today, I visited the Northwestern Energy website to see if I could find online tips to lower our bills. As I clicked through their site, I found this nifty Appliance Calculator. Basically, you select the appliances you use in your home, and how many hours per day you use that appliance, and it breaks down what everything costs you monthly and annually. To my surprise, it is astonishingly accurate. It calculated everything, and was only off a few dollars from our bill amounts. Plus, I found out that, yes, both our hot water heater and our TV together are making up for more than half our costs. After calculating your personal energy use and cost, it will then explain ways to reduce your usage, and ultimately, lower your bills. One of the tips I found helpful was lowering the temperature on our hot water heater. To my dismay, when I checked the heat level on the hot water tank, it was set at the VERY hottest setting! I turned it down to the halfway point, which was labeled “hot.” I’m sure that will make a pretty decent dent in our bill. Unfortunately, I will not be limiting the time the television is on. Admittedly, I don’t even watch much of it when it’s on, I just like the background noise. A tip that wasn’t on their website was washing your clothes in cold water, instead of warm to hot water. Once I started doing that a couple months back, it saved us a few bucks every month. Plus, unless your laundry is really soiled, warm water is completely unnecessary.

In the end, after educating myself about our monthly energy use, I wasn’t able to change too much about our energy costs, but at least now I know that our bills are accurate. I’m sure if money ever gets tight (not that it already isn’t), we can, and will, make more changes to save money.

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