Updated on 09.17.14

The Bedtime Routine

Trent Hamm

Saving Money While You Sleep

Every night before I go to sleep, I go through a pretty straightforward routine. I start at the bottom of the house in the laundry room, the farthest place from our bedroom, and head upstairs slowly, doing lots of little things along the way.

This routine takes about three minutes. Most nights, I estimate that my actions during that routine save me about three dollars or so, all told. That’s $60 take home per hour of effort if you want to think of it in terms of wages. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

A Quick Routine that Saves Big

1. I check each faucet and showerhead to make sure it’s not dripping

This involves sticking my head into each bathroom and listening for a second for the sound of dripping or running water. If I hear it, I turn off whatever is dripping.

A faucet that drips one drop of water per second will waste two gallons of water overnight. Not only that, the continual dripping of the water is a noise in the house that can easily disturb sleep. Yes, it’s not a huge savings, but with the minimal effort required, it’s well worth turning the tap off.

2. I flip all switches that have electrical devices wired to them

For example, all of our entertainment center (save the DVR) is set to a single switch. Flipping that switch means that none of the devices are eating standby power, which is an energy savings.

If I have six devices hooked up to a single switch and each device eats twenty watts in standby mode, I save about ten cents during the overnight period by flipping that switch. Wouldn’t you happily take a dime in exchange for flipping a switch as you exited a room, particularly if it were a dime that magically just appeared in your checking account?

3. I turn off all lights

Yep, this is an obvious one, but it’s a vital one. Lights left on but unused are nothing but a financial drain; flipping them off when you’re leaving the room (especially when you’re leaving the room for many hours) is well worth it.

Every sixty watt light bulb that you turn off for an eight hour overnight period saves you about five cents in energy costs. So, if I’m standing in the kitchen and I go back to the laundry room, where there happens to be four light bulbs, and make sure the light is turned off, the savings is about twenty cents for about ten seconds of effort. That’s about $72 per hour in after tax money.

4. I check the thermostat and adjust the temperature if needed

Yes, we now have a programmable thermostat, but this became such a part of my routine that I still do it in the evenings. I make sure that in the winter, the thermostat is quite low. In the summer, I usually turn it up and make sure that the air conditioning is turned off.

Remember, when an electric furnace kicks on, it’s using somewhere around 15 to 20 thousand watts in a typical American home. That means for every hour that a furnace is running, it eats between $1.50 and $2. If your furnace kicks on every fifteen minutes and runs for fifteen minutes on a cool night, it’s running for four hours during an overnight period. If you can lower the temperature, you’ll not only give your furnace a period of not running, you’ll also reduce the frequency with which it needs to run. Then, the next day, when it’s warmer outside and there’s less temperature differential, the furnace won’t have to run as much to bring your home back up to the temperature you want. My estimates were that by lowering the thermostat five degrees Fahrenheit on a cold night, we were saving about $2 for the night and it didn’t make a whole lot of difference to us as we were cuddled under warm blankets.

5. I shut down my PC

The only service that might be useful to have on overnight is Skype and, to be frank, I don’t want to receive business-related calls in the middle of the night.

Shutting down the PC is just a pure energy saver. I have everything in my office hooked up to a “master-slave” power strip, which means that when the PC shuts down, everything else loses power, too. No phantom energy to my printer, my monitor, my speakers or anything else like that. Over a typical overnight period, this saves about thirty cents in energy, according to my math.

Yes, it does mean that I have to wait for it to boot up the next time I want to use it. But, as before, it’s on a power supply with the master controlling everything else. I just hit the button to power on the PC, then go downstairs with the kids. Then, when my work routine starts, everything is ready to go.

All of this takes about three minutes as I’m going to bed It saves about three dollars. This means, over the course of a month, my bedtime routine takes about an hour, all told, and it results in about $60 in post-tax savings.

If $60 post-tax isn’t worth wandering through your house a few times, you’re a far richer man than I am.

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  1. Wesley says:

    So, just going to throw out there that you could also hibernate your computer at night. Hibernate is a basically Sleep mode but without taking any power (you can hit your switch to turn off power without affecting it). When you turn it back on in the morning, it takes about as long as it takes to boot up after being turned off but all your programs and documents will still be open.

    I like it better than turning it off because I generally have about 10+ programs open that I don’t want to have to restart, and I don’t have to close documents I am working on.

  2. For the past few nights I’ve been going around making sure that the faucets ARE dripping.

    It’s been so cold and our place so old that the cost of dripping water for a few days a year is more then offset by the potential cost of water damage from a frozen pipe.

    The water is so cold from the tap in the mornings that I have been worried about freezing pipes, I’ve captured some of the water for drinking and plants but it’s not all that much to waste either.

    Better insulation would be a good idea but I can’t access much of the pipes.

    What about locking the doors?

  3. bubba29 says:

    great routine. i actually do that the whole time i am at home. i am an energy consumption freak. usually there really is no reason to have a lot of the lights on that are left on. my kids are getting good at it too and my wife has been good at it for a while. our electric and gas bills are consistently much lower than houses of comparable size and age. we do have our thermostat set hotter in summer and cooler in winter than most but we dress accordingly.

  4. lurker carl says:

    Wow, $3 per night! That’s $90 each month. Since I don’t normally check for dripping faucets and stray lights burning, shut down phantom energy users or have a programmable thermostat, my energy provider owes me $10 at the end of each month once I start.

  5. valleycat1 says:

    That pretty much describes my dad’s routine when we were young.

    One of these days I’m going to let a faucet drip for an hour or two into a bowl to test that assumption, as I have always been skeptical that it adds up to that much water. Even though for us it doesn’t matter because we use well water, & a slow drip doesn’t make the pump cycle on. And my spouse is sensitive enough to the noise that if anything’s dripping after we go to bed, the faucet will get turned off fairly quickly!

  6. Johanna says:

    Dripping faucets waste water (and those other things waste energy) during the daytime too. Wouldn’t it be better to make sure the faucets are not dripping (and the lights turned out, etc.) every time you finish using them?

    I can see how that routine might be complicated by small children in the house, but it seems to me that for most people, if you’re old enough to use a faucet by yourself, you’re old enough to make sure it’s shut off correctly.

  7. Steve says:

    You only get those savings if faucets were dripping and lights were on. If you check and don’t change anything, you didn’t actually save any money that time. That doesn’t mean these tasks aren’t worth doing, just that your expected “income” from them is drastically lower than what you state.

  8. Josh says:

    These tasks would not save me anything because I just turn stuff off when I’m done using them.

  9. Tracy says:

    I have to admit, those estimated savings seem really high to me, unless a lot of people in the house have the tendency to not shut off lights/turn the water off. 90 dollars is half again my water, electric and gas bills combined on the highest months – during the spring/fall, it’s MORE than my bills. (typical 3 bedroom, two story house, not an apartment)

    Myself, I let my computer go into hibernate mode.

    I have an automated thermostat (installed for free by the electric company as part of their energy efficiency program) that I use to automatically adjust temp based on standard leaving for work/arriving home/going to bed/getting up times.

    And I make it a habit to turn off lights in rooms as I leave them.

  10. Greg says:

    Don’t forget to turn off your cable/DSL modem and wireless router when you switch off the PC. These things don’t even go into standby mode when they are not used. You can also turn off your cordless phone (but you may want to keep a fixed-line or mobile phone to be reachable in case of emergency). If there is frozen food that you want to cook the next day, put it in the fridge to thaw slowly (you won’t need to use energy for thawing it the next day, and it will keep the fridge cool, reducing its energy consumption).

  11. Mary says:

    Good routine. My boyfriend and I have agreed the absolute maximum limit for our thermostat in the winter can be 68. No more. Dressing in layers helps, working out does too, and I know this isn’t saving water, but I take a hot shower to warm up. I usually time it right to take my shower at night right before bed because that’s when I’m usually cold. I wish we could get a programmable thermostat, alas we are renters.

    Doesn’t help that whenever we let our dog out, it takes us a minute to get the dog’s 40′ tie up leash on him because the metal part freezes up outside, with the door to the deck open during that time, so we have to warm it up with our hand. My dog takes forever to do his business, especially in the cold. :P

  12. Lauren says:

    I’m always impressed with people who can sleep without air conditioning in the summer, but I just can’t. I’d be up all night long without A/C. I like to be cold at night, so I save money in the winter on heating costs and use up all those savings in the summer on the A/C’s electric bill!

  13. Leah says:

    Johanna, I agree with you totally. but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a restroom stall while an adult woman was washing her hands and come out of the stall to see that the water is still partially on. Didn’t she look again?

    We have our microwave on a power strip, and we only turn it on when we need to use the microwave (maybe twice or three times a week). We don’t pay for electric right now, but when we did, that move alone saved me a buck or two a month. The printer, speakers, and other computer peripherals only get turned on while we’re using them. Those little things add up too, I’m sure. I find it easier to turn off items as soon as I’m done using them rather than just turning stuff off for the night.

  14. done that says:

    OK Trent you really hit a sore spot. We have a wireless router that stays on 24/7 and my DH is hooking up a spare computer to be the server for our system that will also stay on 24/7. The entertainment center stays on or it will lose its settings and have to be reprogrammed. The microwave sadly has the same problem and no, it won’t cook without having its clock reset after losing power. You don’t need a night light to walk through our house at night because there are so many indicator lights it’s just like living in the city.
    Sigh. It’s a great routine, just not currently compatible with family harmony in our house.

  15. Dean says:

    You don’t use energy efficient light bulbs? A 15 watt bulb can kick out as many lumens as a 60 watt traditional bulb

  16. dogatemyfinances says:

    Math fail, Trent. It would take a heck of a lot of water and power to get to $60/month. That would be like 30% of my current bill, and I’m betting I have a much, much bigger home than you with a heck of a lot more AC. I would have to really try to leave that much power and water on.

    Why don’t you just buy energy efficient bulbs???

  17. lurker carl says:

    Teaching your family to turn off lights and water is common sense. Even toddlers will fixate on making sure lights and faucets are off when they leave the room, especially when they are able to reach those fixtures. Repair or replace faucets that are prone to drip. If you can’t have everyone on board, install motion detectors on lights and faucets to make it a no-brainer.

    Let’s focus on that big energy hog – electric heat. Replace the electric furnace with a geothermal heat pump. It will pay for itself within five years, faster if you take advantage of the current 30% tax incentive.

    Now you’ve saved yourself one hour each month and considerably more than $90.

  18. Gretchen says:

    Not only is the microwave clock on 24/7, our new tv always has an indicator light to be on, as is the tivo.

    Ah, modern intentions.

    Not sure why you can’t do the other things during the day and agree with the “it’s not savings unless you were spending/wasting it” postings.

  19. kjc says:

    Hmm… I can’t imagine Trent has an “electric furnace.”

    Wouldn’t a home built in the last couple of decades in Central Iowa have gas forced air heat?

    Ah, Trent doesn’t respond to comments, so we’ll never know…

  20. jim says:

    Dripping faucets generally won’t make the water meter turn. Nearly all meters are not sensitive enough to register that low of a flow rate. You would be saving water, but not money.

  21. krantcents says:

    All right I am convinced, I am going to start shutting down my computer and entertainment center. I will monitor it and see if it was worth the effort.

  22. Brittany says:

    I am not rich by any means, but it’s worth an extra dollar a night to not freeze in my sleep. I don’t magically “not notice” the thermostat is set to 55 because I have a blanket. I have a job so I can pay for heat. It’s nice.

  23. David says:

    Abracadabra, thus we learn
    The more you create, the less you earn.
    The less you earn, the more you’re given,
    The less you lead, the more you’re driven,
    The more destroyed, the more they feed,
    The more you pay, the more they need,
    The more you earn, the less you keep,
    And now I lay me down to sleep.
    I pray the Lord my soul to take
    If the tax-collector hasn’t got it before I wake.

    Ogden Nash

  24. Luke says:

    I leave my main server and a wireless router on 24/7. It runs Skype with an adapter that allows me to use my regular house-type phones with Skype. I have a live phone # that I use through Skype for $30/yr + $36/yr for unlimited calling in USA/Canada. So, what I waste in electricity, I make up for in cheaper phone service. :)

  25. Telephus44 says:

    I agree with the general idea, but also think that the cost savings are bogus. However, I am going to ask my husband if we can put the tv/cable box/blue ray player/etc on a power strip to turn off at night. He’s the tech guru in the house, so his say on that is final.

    Also to note – I don’t worry about this before bed, but I do check before I leave in the morning. Sometimes my son’s night light is still on, or someone left the coffee maker on, etc. We are gone all day, so it’s worth doing a final sweep before we leave to make sure things are turned off.

  26. Johanna says:

    If you can turn down the heat at night and still be comfortable, are you sure you’re not setting the heat higher than you need to during the day? For me, anyway, there are all kinds of things I can do to help keep warm while I’m awake (get up and move around, put on more clothes, drink some hot tea, take a hot shower) that I can’t do while I’m asleep – and even though most of me is under the warm blanket, my face is still exposed, which makes sleeping uncomfortable when it’s too cold.

    If you’re comfortable with the heat at X-5 degrees at night, why not try turning it down to X-5 degrees during the day, and see how that works for you?

  27. April says:

    These are great tips. Even if it’s not saving you big bucks, they’re still good ideas to help cut back on energy waste.

  28. Marie says:

    Contact your local energy company to see if they provide a free programmable theromstat and have an energy savings program in place. Ours does and I just recently signed up for it. In the summer in times of peak usage (between 8-5, M-F) they can shut down the AC compressor for 15 minute intervals to save energy (and $$). I’ll let you know if it saves any money for me.

  29. Snowy Heron says:

    One thing I would not recommend turning off at night is outdoor lights around your doors. It is a fact that neighborhoods are safer when there are outside lights on – it really discourages break ins. Also, they do make compact flourescents for outdoor lights, so it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

  30. Interested Reader says:

    Before you keep your outside lights on all night check with your neighbors to see if it would cause problems.

    I’ve been in a couple of situations where someone’s security light was shining right in my bedroom window. The worst case (where it was light enough to read) the neighbors didn’t care. Even though the police station was less than a half mile away. I did use shades, but when the weather was nice I couldn’t open my window and enjoy the night breeze.

  31. J.D. says:

    What master-slave power strip do you use? I did a quick search online, and it looks like they can be as expensive as $400. Do you recommend a cheaper alternative?

  32. My husband is worse than our five year old about leaving lights on. I can literally follow him around the house and turn lights off behind him in every single room…it drives me nuts! How hard is it to flip the switch when you’re done??? (I guess when someone else does it for you your whole life you just don’t think about it! :-)

    We also have tons of electronics in our house, and I agree with #14 that turning them all off would be impractical. I don’t want to dive behind the entertainment center every single night to hit the power strip, much less reprogram the whole thing every time. I would like my husband to get onboard with the hibernating computer(s).

    I love our programable thermostat. Thank goodness for one thing I don’t have to personally manage.

  33. jim says:

    Purely electric heat is one of the least cost effective and a poor choice for a cold climate. If you do really have an electric furnace in central Iowa then you definitely should look into a more efficient form of heat. Lurker Carl points out that a heatpump could be a good alternative. A natural gas furnace would also save you a lot compared to basic electric. If you are in a rural area then you may not have gas service. You could also get a highly efficient wood stove or pellet stove. Any of these could potentially cut your heat bill in half versus a plain electric furnace. Your electricity doesn’t sound cheap.

    A more efficient furnace will cost you a few thousand but in your climate it could pay for itself in a few years.

  34. Mary Sue says:

    I have an 11 watt bulb hanging lamp on a timer in the main room of my apartment. It is on currently from 5pm – 6am, whether or not I’m home during those hours.

    Those few cents per day I consider a wonderful investment in my safety and security, since I live alone, on a dead-end street, that is a major pass-through for people at all hours of all stripes heading to the MAX public transit trains.

    Also, since my apartment is so small, the light provides illumination for all rooms, reducing the number of broken toes I’ve gotten from slamming into things in the middle of the night.

  35. Bruce says:

    Some of us do these things right away to save the bedtime stroll. $60 per hour? Yeah right and I am the cookie monster.

  36. Mike says:

    How do you know that it is saving you 10 cents a night? Do you have any PROOF of that, I am from the Show Me State. Get yourself a Kill-A-Watt and you will be able to tell exactly how much you are wasting or saving for that matter, you also have to consider how much power it takes when you turn it back on,many people don’t think about that part plus the time it takes to fix the settings, plus the extra wear and tear on it, that might save you $1 a year but if it shortens the life of the device by 2 years you have cost yourself money in the long run. Do you have any cfl lights? Also 20k watts for the furnace avg. Where are you getting these numbers?

    Just My 2 Cents

  37. pamela says:

    Surely some company can make electric gadgets that can store information. I turn off my static bike after I use it and have to reprogram it every time I get on. It doesn’t seem like rocket science to add a small bit of static memory that can hold info like my weight, age etc
    It’s good to see such small actions changed into $.
    I have my computer and tv stuff on a power saving strip and that seems to work well night and day. But other things I do manually. One tip I was given is that if the switch is one you push rather than an up for off down for on type then it’s only putting the equipment on to standby.

  38. Vickie says:

    I really like these tips. It’s good to get into a habit like that. I do similiar, plus check to see if the doors/windows are locked, kid is okay. Leads to a better sleep knowing everything is secure. ☺

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