The Hidden Cost of Little Luxuries - Carolina Country

The Hidden Cost of Little Luxuries

Energy savings can add up

By Hannah McKenzie

The Hidden Cost of Little Luxuries

Q: I noticed a Himalayan salt lamp at my friend’s house that, for the first time, made me wonder what other electric luxuries are sucking energy around our homes. There are so many gadgets that my grandparents never would have imagined. Is a salt lamp a big deal for energy use?

A: It is interesting to note the funny places we find energy savings once we start looking for them. Most salt lamps use 15 watts, and assuming your friend keeps hers on all the time, the energy cost is about $15 per year. As you said, when we begin to notice all the little extras around our homes, it’s not a huge leap to then consider how much they contribute to our energy use.

Household extras are often decor or something that enhances the ambiance of our homes, like Peepaw’s countertop water fountains, Grandma’s oil diffusers, Susie’s miniature bathroom lamps or Mike’s noise machines. A number of households also enjoy a minifridge, wine cooler, ice machine, beer keg dispenser or even a second full-size refrigerator.

Luxuries are fine, but it can be sobering to stare into your second refrigerator and consider that nearly 900,000 children in North Carolina do not have enough food to eat, according to the NC Department of Public Instruction. What if you gave up your second refrigerator and donated the annual energy savings — about $125 — to a local food bank? (Find more information at

Oddly enough, pets also manage to consume electricity. Between dogs watching Animal Planet while their human is at work or my sister’s horse listening to 24/7 country-western music, the costs add up like taking a kid to a candy shop. Even reptiles, which need heat to stay alive, require a surprising amount of energy. If pet-inspired savings are possible, what about donating those savings to a local animal shelter, your favorite wildlife rehabilitation organization or your faith community?

Appliance and Home Electronics Energy Use

Device Wattage* Hours per day Average annual cost**
Countertop water fountain 24 $5
Oil diffuser 12  4 $2
Miniature incandescent lamps 40  10 $18
Outdoor string lights (LED) 24  10  $11
Outdoor string lights (incandescent) 132  10  $58
Noise machine 18  10  $8
Dogs watching TV 150  10 (weekdays) $45
Horse’s country music habit 8 24  $8
Bearded dragon heat lamps 100 12  $52
Aquarium  63 24  $66

Source: U.S. Department of Energy; find an online calculator at
* Estimated; always confirm wattage because it varies from product to product
**Assuming $0.12 per kWh

We often use energy without even thinking — $15 or $50 over a year may not matter for households who can easily afford it. But many in North Carolina still struggle to pay their energy bills, so passing along our savings in meaningful and impactful ways will go a long way to making everyone’s lives better, right here in our own backyards.

Contact your electric cooperative for information on other ways you can assist those in need in your community.

About the Author

Hannah McKenzie is a residential building science consultant at Advanced Energy in Raleigh who specializes in working with nonprofit developers like Habitat for Humanity to make new affordable housing energy efficient.

Comments (1)

  • Thank you for this informative thought provoking article. Please share more ideas about saving the planet.

    Carroll Beckham |
    October 30, 2019 |

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