For most of us the seasons have changed yet again.  As we enter Fall, the leaves change color and the kids head back to school.

With the air conditioner off for the next few months you expect your electric bill to be a bit more affordable. However, we’re always consuming electricity in different ways; some more obvious than others. Here is a list of energy usage lifestyle changes we might go through so keep in mind there are always ways to reduce waste, especially the hidden ones.

1. Back to School means Back on the Grind

The kids have assignments due, tests coming up and group projects on the go. They’ll be home quite a bit and most likely strapped to their work stations and means of communication – expect heavy use of desktops, laptops and mobile phones that need plenty of charging. The lights stay on as they study late into the night, and may even fall asleep without noticing.

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Power bars are a great way to give someone extra energy when they need a snack. But electric power bars will be what saves you money and time! While the thought of unplugging and rearranging your often tangled wires seems inconvenient, organization is the key to simplicity.  Create a centralized “charging station” where everyone can plug in and load up, and place lamps near desktops to have a more concentrated light. While we’re on the topic of lighting, go around the house and replace  any incandescent bulbs with either CFL or LED lighting – with a long school year ahead it’s better to do it sooner than later.

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If it’s convenient, utilize your local library as a way to promote further learning and energy conservation. It’s often quiet, climate controlled and full of resources that are available at little or no cost. It’ll also be nice and quiet at your place!

2. More Activities means More Everything

It may seem like since the kids are away for a good part of the day that less energy would be required throughout the house. However the busier you are, the more demands you have to fulfill. You’ve added to the wardrobe some new school clothes and athletic gear, so expect hunger, water use and laundry to all pile up once the tough gets going.

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Preparing multiple meals at once is a great way to reduce your energy bill. The stove and oven are considered a major appliance, and lots of use will result in higher bills. Using a microwave to reheat food is a far more economical choice and easy for all. Also, do bigger chores like laundry on the weekend and if you run the dishwasher daily, run it full during off-peak hours or before you go to bed.

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Waiting in line to have a shower or fighting over who has been using up all the hot water can be a bad way to start the day. Incentives are always a good way to push people into the right direction. Give everyone a challenge with bragging rights (and possibly more), on the line. Run a ‘speedy shower” contest – where everyone times each others’ showers throughout the week. The person with the least time in the shower will get the most time somewhere else  such as a later curfew, longer playing time etc…

3. Entertainment to Stimulate the Senses

Gaming consoles, gadgets and personal video recorders are often essential tools a hard working student (or parent!) utilizes to unwind during a long day. What many people may not know is just how much electricity is being consumed through these forms of entertainment. Since the PVR is awaiting the command to record at specified time slots, it remains on 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.  Consoles are also big energy eaters, so keeping them on when not in use does more damage than you think.

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Watch the shows you and your family have pre-recorded altogether. If it’s a certain weekly reality show or game show, make it a point to be involved as a group. Of course the PVR is meant for convenience, but it’s always more fun with friends. Delete any unnecessary shows still lingering and if you have an On Demand option for television shows on the internet, give it a try. Ensure the PlayStation and XBox are off if not attended to.

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Take entertainment to the outdoors. Once the weather really gets nippy, going out to enjoy it will be far less likely than the present. Toss around a football, bring out the nets for street hockey and use up the BBQ while you still can so you can cook an energy efficient meal with your loved ones by your side.

Enjoy the season!