Living off the grid teaches you how to get more for less from your energy consumption.
Here is a distillation of the lessons I learned while researching my book Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America. They will save you money, and also (although it pains me to say so) help the local electricity supplier by reducing demand at peak times.
- Limit A/C use: If you're running an air conditioner, designate one "cool room" and keep the doors closed. You can also set the temperature on the A/C slightly higher, as it'll be cooling a smaller area.
- Drafts: Try to create cross breezes in the house by opening front and back windows, letting air circulate fully.
- Unnecessary consumption: Standby power consumption accounts for about 10% of the average electricity bill, so instead of merely putting things like the TV, the cable box, the stereo, or the computer on standby, turn them all the way off.
- Unplug your fridge: It sounds crazy, but they're so well designed these days that if you can find a few hours during the evening to unplug your refrigerator, and then refrain from opening it, the temperature inside will remain plenty cool enough and you'll be cutting down usage during peak hours.
- Late-night washing: To avoid peak hour rates, limit use of your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer to late at night or even while you sleep, during off-peak hours. Washing machines should only be used when there is a full load, and stick to the cold or warm water settings. If you have a yard, you can take advantage of the sun to line dry your clothes, giving the dryer a vacation. You could also charge cell phones and other portable electronics overnight.
- Give your hot water heater a rest: Simply turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater a couple degrees, you won't notice the difference and electric hot water heaters are among the biggest power guzzlers.
- Monitor your usage: Curious about which of your appliances costs the most to use? There are lots of energy consumption monitors available now, such as the Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor from Amazon.
- Install at least one solar panel: You can now buy a low-end solar panel for about $300. Besides reducing your electric bill, the solar panel can actually earn you money by feeding surplus power back into the grid. In the event of a blackout, a small, 150 watt solar panel connected to a battery would restore you lights and allow you to recharge your cell phone.
There are more tips on my website.