Here’s Why Your Electricity Bill’s So High (And The 5 Big Ways to Fix It)
Hats off to you – you’ve survived another sweaty summer! But now that August is in the past and its bill has arrived in the mail, you’re likely feeling the heat for every time you wanted your house just a little bit cooler. So, if you’ve ripped opened this month’s bill and are in shock by how much your electricity provider says you owe, let us help you figure out how to save on electricity so you can fix it before next month’s bill comes flying in.
The Top 5 Ways to Cool Your Hot (and High) Summer Electricity Bills
Without a doubt, solar panels are a great way to dramatically cut your electric bills. However, they do come with a bit of an initial investment of time or money to get them up and going. But, in the meantime, you also have quite a number of quick solutions at your disposal to reduce your home’s electricity consumption. So, let’s start saving!
#1) Why It’s High: Your Air Conditioner is a Big, Hungry Hog
In almost every home, the single biggest cause of a high electric bill is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (also known as the HVAC system). In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, heating and cooling your home accounts for nearly 25% of its entire annual energy consumption.
Here’s How to Fix It: Fans and Moderation
According to the Alliance to Save Energy, for every 1 degree you lower the thermostat, you save about 3% on heating and cooling costs. So, keep the house at a moderate temperature. There’s rarely ever a reason for you to try to have your home cooled to 60°F in the summer. Demanding that your home stay this cold only overtaxes your A/C system, and forces it to burn through excessive amounts of electricity, and too many of your dollars.
Instead, keep the temperature at something a little more, well, temperate and use fans to circulate the cool air that already exists, rather than forcing the A/C system to pump out new, cold air all the time. While ceiling and floor fans may not cool the air, they do move it around to make it feel cooler.
And when the air in your home circulates properly, it’s easier to maintain an even temperature throughout, and that means less work for your A/C system overall. Also, if it’s a cool night outside, open the windows to allow for some cross-breeze in the house, and then use those same fans to push it around your home when the air outside is cooler.
Just remember that heat rises, and you want to help it escape through the ceiling faster by pushing the hot air upwards and outwards. Therefore, when it’s hot outside, the fan should spin counter-clockwise to do just that.
#2) Why It’s High: Your Home Needs Some TLC
No matter how much you love your house, there’s likely at least some little way you could help make it more energy efficient. This is especially true for those homes out there that are a little bit older, as they didn’t have the advantages of better materials and technologies.
Here’s How to Fix It: Spend an Afternoon Doing Some Simple House Chores and Repairs
Here’s a quick list of home honey-dos that’ll save you hundreds after a speedy trip to the hardware store:
- Put new weather stripping around your door thresholds.
- Seal the cracks in your windows (and window sills) by caulking them up.
- Replace your A/C filters. (Experts recommend about once a month for the best performance).
- Make sure all your A/C vents are both open and clean of dust, etc.
- Install window blinds and blackout curtains to reflect the sun’s heat back outside.
- Replace those old lightbulbs with better and brighter ones. Let’s dive in deeper on this tip.
- If you keep a 60-watt bulb on for 12 hours a day, every day of the month, it would cost you about $2.77 per month. Now take that cost, multiply it by every single lightbulb in your house, add even more energy burned for the 75-watt and 100-watt bulbs you use, and then you’re looking at a more realistic number of the cost.
- On the flipside, a compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb – while more expensive upfront – would cost about $0.60 a month, if used under the same conditions. Thus, even with an upfront cost estimate of $32 to replace ten 60-watt light bulbs with CFLs, you’ll save about $123 per year. Plus, CFL bulbs generate far less unwanted heat, so you don’t have to waste money cooling that off once again.
Therefore, plugging your home’s energy leaks can save you up to 20% on heating and cooling bills. Oh, and they’ll also make your home more comfortable, so everyone’s a winner.
#3) Why It’s High: Your Big Appliances Are Either Old, Angry or Both
With every newer generation of large home appliances, they grow smarter and more efficient. And if your appliances are a little rusty (at least metaphorically speaking), then you’re only costing yourself more in both time and money.
Here’s How to Fix It: Use Your Current Appliances More Efficiently & Upgrade When You Can
Big appliances are big internal heat producers, but it’s the cost we pay for the convenience they provide. However, that doesn’t mean we need to be extra wasteful about it. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of the home appliances you’ve already got:
- Run your washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher during the cooler hours of the day.
- Load each machine fully (but don’t overstuff them) to get max efficiency out of each cycle.
- Do your laundry and dishes during non-peak hours.
- Some electricity providers offer cheaper energy during off hours, and while they may differ slightly based on where you live, after 8pm local time is usually a safe bet.
- Lower your hot water heater’s goal temperature from 140°F to 120°F.
- Keep your refrigerator to a moderate setting.
- Requiring it to constantly be too cold can force the refrigerator to freeze over, which means that you now have the extra headache of defrosting the appliance, likely losing some food, and then having to pay to get it cold once again.
And when it comes time to replace your large home appliances, seek out the Energy Star label. It gives you a breakdown of an appliance’s energy efficiency, and helps you predict how much you can save on your electricity bill by using a new and more efficient appliance in the future.
#4) Why It’s High: There’s a Vampire in Your Home and He’s Eating Your Electricity
You know every single one of those electronic devices you have plugged into a wall outlet right now? Well, each one is drawing out power and driving up your bill – even when you think they’ve been turned off.
When all these various devices and appliances are not actively being used – and are thus sitting in stand-by mode – they’re still consuming electricity, but as vampire energy. And, while many folks focus on their larger appliances, they often ignore or forget the little vampires sucking the dollars right out their wallets.
Here’s How to Fix It: Know thy Enemy, and Drive Him Out
“Plugging your home’s energy leaks can save you up to 20% on heating and cooling bills”
In 2014, sleep-eating electronic devices and electric appliances ate up 22% of all appliance energy consumption and 10% of the total residential energy consumption across the entire United States – all in stand-by mode. And although the power needed for their stand-by functions (such as displays, indicators, and remote-control capabilities) is relatively small, the enormous amount of vampire energy collectively consumed by such devices costs the average American home more than $200 a year. But by implementing one, simple change, you’ll soon quit paying to feed the vampire energy you’ll never use.
Buy a power strip or surge protector with a single on/off switch. Use it.
Not only does this little gadget increase the number of available outlets in your home and protect your devices from power surges, but it also makes killing the energy vampire super easy. Simply plug as many devices as you can into the power strip, and whenever you’re not using that cluster of devices, just flip the switch built into the strip and begin multiplying your power conservation in a matter of seconds.
And, as an added bonus, these power strips also cut down on the potential hazard of electrical fires, as far few devices in your home are even using electricity at any given time.)
#5) Why It’s High: You’re Leaving Everything On While You’re Gone
While it may feel nice to enter into a chilly home as soon as you walk through the door, you’re costing yourself hundreds of dollars a year. Keeping the A/C on while you’re at work all day is all kinds of wasteful, especially for only a mere few minutes of immediate comfort.
Here’s How to Fix It: Better Your Usage Behaviors
This one’s an easy fix, folks – at least in theory. Before you and your family walk out the house, make sure the air conditioner has been turned to a moderate temperature (experts recommend around 85°F) – but not off. This happy medium allows your home to keep itself relatively cool – and without humidity – while you’re away. And once you do return home and turn the A/C system back down to something more comfortable, like 75°F, your system doesn’t have to suddenly struggle to chill everyone down from a drastically hot temperature.
On that same page, we’d also recommend walking around the house and doing a quick sweep of all the lights, turning them off as you go. Because there’s nobody there who needs to see anything while you’re all out and about, so why pay for the waste?
But if you’re often rushed (or maybe even a little forgetful), then consider installing a Smart Thermostat or a Smart Lighting system to help you reduce your waste and energy costs. They let you zip out the door and adjust the temperatures and lights from afar. They even let you program certain temperature and light settings so that you can offload the responsibility of having to remember to switch these devices off every single day.
The added benefit of all these changes you’ve made to your HVAC system, home, large appliances, vampire energy draw, and usage behaviors will not only help reduce your summer electricity bills, but will cut down your costs every single day of the year. And all this money you’ll save in the long run will let you do so much more then work to simply pay the electricity bills.