Smart Energy: December 2017

DC Smart Energy: Saving A Ton of Energy When You’re “Home Alone”?

In the words of little Kevin McCallister in the movie “Home Alone,” “I don’t THINK so!” ’Tis the season for additional energy use. With family visiting, extra baking, heating, lighting and people spending more time indoors, it’s understandable why most everyone’s electric use goes up. So it stands to reason that when the rest of your family heads for Paris and accidentally leaves you behind, your electric use at the house should be practically nothing, right? Not so fast.

Now, Kevin practiced the safer and much more economical method of cooking his “highly nutritious, microwavable macaroni and cheese dinners” by using the microwave instead of the oven. Great job, Kevin. Any time you can use your microwave instead of your electric range, you will be money ahead. For example, the typical microwave is 1,000 watts. Your electric oven range will be around 3,500 watts. Translated to dollars, it’s about 12 cents an hour for the microwave compared to 30 cents an hour for the oven. And we typically only use the microwave for minutes, not hours. Another comparison worth mentioning is electric space heaters. No matter whether you pay $40 or $400 for the heater, watts are watts, and you will get the same amount of heat per wattage. A 1,500-watt heater will cost approximately 12 cents an hour to run.

But let’s get back to our movie and look at the heavy hitters. The family slept in, left in a rush and didn’t address some of the largest users. The freezers, refrigerator and water heater all run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether anyone is home or not. While it is difficult to turn off the refrigerator and freezer, you will save money by turning the water heater off at the breakers if you are gone for two days or more. With the Wet Bandits leaving their “water running signature calling card,” your cost for hot water would go through the roof. Are all those appliances using a tremendous amount less because it’s only Kevin? No. They continue to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Electronics, in comparison to large appliances, use very little electricity. But given there are probably five or six televisions in that huge house, unless they are plugged into a smart power strip, or unplugged altogether, they are constantly drawing electricity. Even when Kevin used every light in the house and a few other gadgets to keep the Wet Bandits at bay, it didn’t amount to as much as one large appliance.

We often get calls from Douglas Electric members snow-birding in Arizona. They want to know why the bill is so high when they are not home. Well for starters, they left the water heater on, keeping water at a constant 120 degrees for nobody. Along with the refrigerator, both freezers and the electric heat they left on at 55 degrees, the house hardly knows they left. If they heat with wood when they are home, turning on the electric heat could actually make their bill higher when they are gone. The main difference is no electronics use when they are gone, and as mentioned, electronics use pales in comparison. Our member may be taking a vacation, but their electric meter is not.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the story ends well. Everyone comes home. Kevin is safe and sound and even though he was home alone, the electric use probably stayed about the same. So visit these websites:, and to learn how to save energy all year long. As for money you’ll also save, “Keep the change ya filthy animal.”

Todd C. Munsey is the Member Services Director for Douglas Electric Cooperative. This column is a monthly feature of Douglas County Smart Energy, a project of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition. For more information on energy efficiency and renewable energy, visit