Electricity powers our homes and businesses. But making certain electric mistakes can end up draining your wallet without you even realizing it. As an electrician with over 15 years of experience, I've seen these costly electric errors over and over.

Read on to learn the top 7 electric mistakes to avoid, along with real-life examples and easy tips to prevent them from hitting your own bank account.

1. Keeping Old Incandescent Light Bulbs

Those traditional incandescent light bulbs may seem familiar and comforting. However, they are extremely inefficient compared to modern LED and CFL bulbs.

In fact, incandescent bulbs waste over 90% of their energy generating heat instead of light! This waste directly translates into higher electric bills for you each month.

For example, replacing just 5 frequently used 60W incandescent bulbs with equivalent 14W LED bulbs would save about $75 per year in electricity costs. That adds up to over $450 in energy savings over just 6 years - for 5 light bulbs!

The solution is simple - switch out all your remaining incandescent bulbs for LED or CFL replacements. The upfront cost is a bit higher, but you'll quickly earn that back through dramatically lower energy use.

2. Using the Wrong Light Bulbs Outside

Putting indoor bulbs outside sounds logical, but it's another costly electric mistake. Indoor bulbs aren't designed to withstand weather elements like rain, snow, and temperature swings.

I've seen customers use standard bulbs outside, only to have them burn out after a few months. They then waste more money buying replacements again and again.

Outdoor floodlights, path lights, and porch lights should all use bulbs specifically rated for outdoor use. Look for bulbs labeled "suitable for wet locations" or "weather-resistant".

LED and CFL outdoor bulbs will save the most energy and last the longest. Using the right outdoor bulbs from the start will avoid continual replacement costs down the road.

3. Ignoring High Electric Bills

It's easy to glance at a high electric bill, wince, and then move on without investigating further. But stepping in to analyze and address costly electric bills can really pay off.

For instance, one customer had bills averaging $180 per month for their small 2 bedroom home. After a thorough audit, I found their ancient, inefficient refrigerator was the culprit.

Replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR model saved them $45 per month - over $500 per year! The new refrigerator paid for itself in under 3 years through electricity savings.

Don't ignore a pattern of high bills month after month. Take some time to audit electric use around your home. In many cases, one or two changes can lead to significant savings.

4. Using Extension Cords Long-Term

Extension cords seem handy when you need to plug in "just one more thing". But when used permanently, they can waste electricity and be a fire hazard.

Extension cords have high resistance compared to permanent wiring. This resistance creates heat, wasting electricity even when nothing is plugged in. The heat also makes the cords more susceptible to overloading and fire.

I've been called to homes where extension cords are daisy chained together across rooms, hidden under rugs, and coiled behind furniture. This is extremely dangerous and directly increases your electric bills.

Limit extension cords to temporary, occasional use. For permanent access, have additional wall outlets installed by a licensed electrician. This one change can make your home safer while also reducing wasted electricity.

5. Using the Wrong Size Light Bulbs

Putting a 100W bulb into a 20W fixture may sound like a good way to get more light. But it's an electric mistake that creates waste and safety issues.

Light fixtures are designed for specific wattage bulbs, based on their wiring, spacing, ventilation, and shade materials. Using overpowered bulbs leads to excess heat that damages fixtures and can even melt insulation or cause fires.

On the other hand, using bulbs that are too low wattage for the fixture reduces light quality and causes glare. The "right size bulb for the fixture" maximizes light quality without safety risks.

Check all the light fixtures in your home and swap any incorrect bulbs for ones that match the specified wattage. Your fixtures will last longer while providing optimal lighting.

6. Keeping Old Secondary Refrigerators

Many households have a second older refrigerator in the garage or basement. But keeping an aging, inefficient refrigerator can cost much more than you might expect.

Most older models use 2-3 times more electricity than modern ENERGY STAR refrigerators. Even small, dorm-sized units can add $100-150 per year to your electric bills.

One homeowner kept an old mini fridge in their garage for "just a few drinks". When I measured its usage, it added $8 per month to their bill - almost $100 per year for an empty, rarely-used appliance!

If you have an older secondary refrigerator or freezer, strongly consider replacing it with a new, efficient model or getting rid of it altogether. You'll be amazed at the savings.

7. Running Large Appliances During Peak Hours

It's tempting to turn on the clothes dryer, dishwasher, and air conditioner the moment you need them. But for maximum savings, delay usage during peak rate periods.

Electricity costs the power company more to generate during peak afternoon and evening hours when demand spikes. In turn, peak rates can be 3-4 times higher than overnight off-peak rates.

I recommend my customers shift large appliance use to late evenings or early mornings. This takes advantage of lower off-peak rates while also minimizing strain on the electric grid.

One family reduced their electric bill by $35 per month simply by running their pool pump and AC during supervised daytime hours instead of while they slept.

Be conscious of peak versus off-peak rates and try to schedule large appliances accordingly. Your electric bills will thank you.

In Summary

I see firsthand how certain electric behaviors - often done without realizing - directly increase costs for homeowners. Small changes like switching light bulbs, avoiding extension cords, and replacing old appliances add up to major savings.

Keep these 7 common electric mistakes in mind in your own home. A little awareness goes a long way toward keeping more money in your wallet. Your electric bills (and safety) will benefit.