Sustainable Living: What Contributes to the Energy Bill in Your Home?

Photograph provided by MGE

It's no surprise that heating and cooling are responsible for about half of the energy we use in our homes in Wisconsin. But what makes up the rest of our energy bill?

While we expect to have hot water, lighting, and clean clothes, there are some steps you can take to save energy and manage costs when operating water heaters, lighting fixtures, and washers and dryers.

Water Heaters

• Check the temperature of your water, and adjust your water heater accordingly. Your water should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Install a low-flow shower head. Eligible customers can receive a free one from our partner in energy efficiency, Wisconsin's FOCUS ON ENERGY®.
• Take short showers instead of baths.
• Consider upgrading to a more efficient heat pump water heater.


• Incandescent light bulbs are inefficient, converting only 10 percent of the electricity used into light. Opt for more efficient LED bulbs instead. You can save three-quarters of your lighting costs by replacing your most used incandescent bulbs and fixtures with ENERGY STAR® bulbs and fixtures.
• Turn off lights that are not in use.

Washers and Dryers

• Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible.
• Wash and dry only full loads.
• Consider drying clothes on clotheslines outside or use drying racks.
• Use the moisture sensor on your dryer to avoid overdrying clothes.
• Clean the dryer lint filter after every load to improve air circulation.
• Ensure the dryer vent is vented to the outside and is as straight and short as possible. The shorter and straighter the vent, the faster your clothes will dry.
• If you are shopping for new appliances, purchase ENERGY STAR models for maximum energy savings.

Phantom Energy
Phantom or standby energy users are devices that require electricity even when you are not actively using them. That means appliances or electronics that are plugged in use energy even when they are switched off.

Individually, these devices don't use much power, but collectively, they can significantly affect your monthly energy use. The average family can spend up to $120 annually in standby energy costs.

Some standby power is useful—without it we couldn't use remote controls or summon Alexa for the latest weather report. Other uses are not needed, such as cell phone chargers, printers, or laptops that draw energy while sitting idle.

Devices that draw the most phantom energy:

• Computers, monitors, printers, and related equipment, like routers and modems.
• TVs.
• Digital cable and satellite boxes.
• Gaming consoles.

Additional standby electricity users include household items with a digital clock (microwaves, DVD players), coffee makers, and cell phone chargers.

Follow these tips to reduce phantom energy use:

• Unplug devices that are not in use. This is the easiest way to curb phantom energy.
• Use power strips to cut off phantom energy being drawn from multiple devices by flipping one switch. Smart power strips are a good option. They automatically cut off power when equipment is plugged in but turned off. Smart power strips are available from Focus on Energy at .

If you are shopping for new electronics or devices, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR-rated products use less standby power and less power overall.

If you would like to take it a step further and determine which of your devices draws the most phantom power, check out a free energy meter from the local library. Meters measure the voltage, electricity costs, and electric consumption of your appliances.

Ask the Experts
Contact MGE for answers to your questions and additional tips on managing your household energy use.

• MGE Home Energy Line: MGE's energy experts are available from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 608.252.7117 or email .
• You also can get more energy efficiency tips at and at under Our Energy Use.

Photographs provided by MGE.