More than just flipping a switch: cost versus value of electricity


For most of us, there’s nothing essentially exciting about electricity — unless of course there’s an outage on the first night of the final season of Breaking Bad. Otherwise, we pretty much take it for granted and are just annoyed when it’s not available.

In this, the fifth edition of our Energy Enlightenment series, which aims to simplify the very complicated energy biz, we’ll explore what your electricity is really worth to you.

In a previous post, I mentioned that paying for electricity is essentially comparable to paying for a new roof, tires, or an appendectomy: each may be essential, but none is particularly fun.

We like to spend our money on fun stuff like big screen TVs, smart phones, tablets,  fishing reels, concert tickets, the latest fashion, or whatever tool, toy, or outfit appeals to our individual psyche.

But many of those very same gadgets and toys rely on electricity to work. That fashionable outfit needs to be cleaned – again, electricity.  And while some items like fishing reels or concert tickets don’t directly require electricity, if you researched them online, you used electricity.

shutterstock_156920330There was a time when electricity was the newest iPhone.  Way back when Edison introduced the first electric light bulb, electricity was the really really cool new thing.  People were ecstatic to have this thoroughly fascinating alternative to oil lamps.  And with each new electric application, electricity got another round of applause and admiration.

But that was then and this is now. We’ve all grown up with electricity. We no longer appreciate it, we expect it. And since it is no longer novel or cool or sexy, we want it cheap. Because, again, we like to spend our money on fun stuff.

I like to spend my money on fun stuff too. Though the appendectomy bill was worth saving my son’s life, and the new tires make me safer on the road, I did not enjoy spending that money. Not at all.  And I’m dreading replacing my roof.

But I’ve learned over the years that it helps me feel better about un-fun purchases when I really examine what I get from them.

So, what do you get for the dollars you spend on electricity? Well, for starters, you get more time. Yep, that’s right – more time.  All those lights you have on every evening allow you to do much more with your day, whether it’s household chores, homework, playing games, or just hanging out. How much does that cost you? Lighting costs about $50 to $150 a year for the average home. That’s about $4.17 to $12.50 a month. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

And what about that television? Mine is on every weeknight and ALL weekend long during football season. It costs anywhere from about $0.80 to around $5.00 a month to power that TV, depending on the makshutterstock_160593215e, model, and size.  Did I a say a month??? YES.  A month. And how much did that television cost?  Hmmm.

That smart phone you cannot live without costs all of about $0.07 a month to charge.

Your tablet? $1.36 per year. Washer? Somewhere between $0.20 and $0.50, depending on the age and efficiency of your washer and water temperature. Dryer? About $0.40 a load, less if you have a high efficiency front loading washer.

You can do your own calculations using our energy calculators for appliances, lighting, heat pump, even “ghost energy” — the energy your appliances pull even when they’re off.

All of this includes the cost to build the power generating plants, create the power, build the transmission and distribution system, and deliver the electricity to your home.  Wow.

What costs the most to power? No surprise here – your air conditioner. Again, something else we take for granted. It’s not exciting until you don’t have it. But what is it worth to get a good, comfortable night’s sleep? To not wake up in a pool of sweat?  To cook a meal without feeling cooked yourself?

There are many people who are stretched to cover the fundamental costs of living.  That’s a real concern to be addressed, and CPS Energy does, with a range of discount programs.

But for most of us, what we really get for our electricity dollar is a sweet deal.

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