Today I went to the local solar store, a place that has been in business at least since the 1970s. It sells solar panels as well as various fireplaces and other types of equipment. I told the guy I was there to determine if a solar installation were feasible and sensible for my house. He asked how much I spend on electricity and when I told him he said that was way under average and that I would "not qualify". I assume he meant qualify for rebates or special programs. He said that was a good thing, though.
I said I was concerned that sometimes my electicity bill kicked into the third tier and I wanted to back it out of there.
He asked about my refrigerator, light bulbs, water heater. I told him I'd be replacing the fridge soon with a more energy-efficient one, which he said was a good idea. I asked him about special switches for appliances and televisions that cut the current, because I know these things drain electricity even when they are not turned on. He suggested that I get timers for things like my rechargable handheld vacuum and cell phone charger, so that they are only drawing power the specified number of hours per day, and that I use a separate plug strip for computer accessories, things I don't always need to have on when my computer is on. I might be able to use a plug strip for the television, but I probably wouldn't use it for the DVR because I don't want it to start up every time, resetting and getting the time. I like having the time there, too, knowing it's coming from a satellite and is accurate.
So I am going to plug what I can into timers (I bought some at Home Depot for eight bucks and change each) and plug strips and see how I do this next month.
One thing that stuck with me: the guy at the store pointed to a solar cell panel and said that it takes seven or eight years for that panel to save the amount of power it took to make it. He said conservation is a much better move than using tons of power and installing solar panels to manage it.
It's nice to deal with honest, knowledgable people.