Between A/C in the summer months, heating in the winter months and your annual holiday light display, there’s always a chance your electric bill is higher than normal. Maybe you’ve recently received a bill from your electricity provider that got you asking, “Why is my electric bill so high?” If so, we’ll break down some potential reasons why and how you can cut back before next month’s statement arrives.
Why is my electric bill so high??
A high electric bill could be the result of one or more causes, including:
- Increased air conditioning use
- Home maintenance is needed
- Large appliances need an upgrade
- Energy vampires
- Leaving lights and appliances on
Thankfully, there are a number of quick solutions at your disposal to reduce your home’s electricity consumption and help you start saving.
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 homes accounted for 29% of the 2018 residential sector electricity consumption.
How to fix it: Fans and moderation
Change your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees from your normal temperature for eight hours a day to save as much as 10% on your heating and cooling costs, according to Energy.gov. For instance, if you normally set your thermostat to 60°F, turn it up to 67-70°F while you’re at work or school. Demanding that your home constantly stays at 60°F only overtaxes your A/C system and forces it to burn through excessive amounts of electricity and too many of your dollars.
Additionally, ceiling and floor fans may not cool the air, but they do move it around to make it feel cooler. When the air in your home circulates properly, it’s easier to maintain an even and cooler temperature throughout. 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 the cool air around your home. .
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.
Your home needs some maintenance
No matter how well you take care of your home, there’s likely more you could do to help make it more energy-efficient. This is especially true for homes that are a little bit older, as they don’t have the advantages of newer materials and technologies.
How to fix it: Spend an afternoon doing some home maintenance
Here’s a quick checklist 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. In general, you should do this once every three to nine months
- Make sure all your A/C vents are open and clean of dust
- Install window blinds and blackout curtains to reflect the sun’s heat back outside
- Replace old light bulbs with more efficient, brighter ones
Even just completing one or two of these tips could generate savings. Energy.gov estimates that sealing air leaks could lead to 5% to 30% in potential energy savings.
Your big appliances are old
With every newer generation of large home appliances, they get 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.
How to fix it: Use your current appliances more efficiently and upgrade when you can
Big appliances are huge internal heat producers, but it’s the price we pay for the convenience they provide. However, that doesn’t mean we need to be wasteful. 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 the 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 8 p.m. 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
When it’s 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 new and more efficient appliances in the future.
Energy vampires are sucking up your electricity
All 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 standby mode – they’re still consuming electricity, but as vampire energy. And, while many may focus on their larger appliances, they often ignore or forget the little vampires sucking the dollars right out their wallets.
How to fix it: Know thy enemy, and drive him out
Vampire energy can account for about 23% of residential energy consumption each year costing an average of $165 per household in the U.S., according to a 2015 study by the National Resources Defense Council. But by implementing one simple change — using a power strip or surge protector with a single on/off switch — you’ll soon quit paying to feed the vampire energy you’ll never use.
Not only does a power strip or surge protector 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 to turn them off.
You leave everything on while you’re gone
While it may feel nice to enter into a warm, well-lit home as soon as you walk through the door, you’re costing yourself hundreds of dollars a year. Keeping the lights and heat or A/C on while you’re at work all day is wasteful, especially for only a few minutes of immediate comfort.
How to fix it: Better your usage behaviors
This one’s an easy fix – at least in theory. Before you and your family walk out of the house, make sure the air conditioner or heat has been turned to a moderate temperature, the lights are turned off and the TV isn’t left on.
As mentioned above, changing your A/C or heat temperature for just eight hours a day can result in significant savings. Turning off the lights and using a power strip to switch off other appliances and devices not in use will help generate compound savings.
But if you’re often rushed (or maybe even a little forgetful), then consider installing home automation devices, such as 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.
The added benefit of all these changes you’ve made to your HVAC system, home, large appliances, energy vampires and usage behaviors will not only help reduce your electricity bills during the hot and cold month but will cut down your costs every single day of the year.
Originally published 09/08/16. Last updated 12/04/19.