Q - My family seems to have hundreds of small electric gadgets around the house. How can I tell how much electricity it takes to run these small convenience appliances, like an electric can opener? H.T.
A - Although most small convenience appliances use only a small amount of electricity, the total is quite significant. In the United States, lighting and small appliances account for 8 percent of the total energy consumed in a home. If every home cut that usage in half, the total savings would be tremendous.Generally, heating appliances - electric cooking pans, irons, hair dryers - use the greatest amount of electricity. At an average electric rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs about 9 cents to use your iron for one hour. An electric cooking pan costs about 8 cents per hour used.
In contrast, small motorized appliances - can openers, electric knives, hand mixers - use very little electricity. You can open more than 100 cans for about one cent of electricity. In addition to using less electricity when they are running, you only use them for a very short time.
In the non-heating season, there is also a hidden energy cost in using electric appliances. All of the electricity used by an appliance, even for non-heating ones, eventually ends up as heat inside your home. This heat forces an air conditioner to run longer to remove it.
There are some simple things you can do to reduce the electricity usage of appliances. For example, if you have an instant-on television, unplug it when you don't plan to use it for a long while. Use a radio for background sound instead of a TV.
Cook several foods simultaneously in the same appliance when possible. This not only saves electricity, it also lowers the dishwashing costs. Brew only as much coffee as you need, and don't keep a half-full pot steaming hot for several hours.
You can determine how much each appliance pushes up your electric bills. To calculate the cost, multiply the wattage of the appliance by the length of time you use it. This gives you the watt-hours consumed. The wattage of the appliance is usually shown somewhere on its label.
Then divide the number of watt-hours by 1000 to get kilowatt-hours. Multiply this number by your electric rate in cents per kilowatt-hour and you have the cost to operate it. For example, a 1500-watt hair dryer used for 15 minutes at a rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, costs 3 cents per use. A 200-watt slow cooker costs less than 2 cents per hour used.
You can write to me for UTILITY BILLS UPDATE No. 031 showing a chart of typical wattages and costs to operate 100 common household appliances, entertainment items, and workshop tools. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royal Green Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Please include $1 and self-addressed STAMPED BUSINESS-SIZE envelope.
Q - We try to take showers instead of baths to reduce hot water usage. Whenever a toilet is flushed while someone is showering, he almost gets scalded. What should we do? G.M.
A - When the toilet flushes, there is a reduction in the water pressure on the cold water side. Then only hot water comes out of the shower head. First, try setting the water temperature lower at the water heater. This will also save energy.
If you still have a problem, you can get a pressure-balancing bathtub faucet at most plumbing outlets. They are expensive, about $100.