Between A/C in the summer months, heating in the winter months and other potential electrical drains throughout the year, there’s always a chance your electric bill is higher than normal. 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.
What causes high electricity bills? Some high electric bill causes include:
- Air conditioning
- Necessary home maintenance
- Large appliances
- Energy vampires
- Leaving lights and appliances on
Luckily, there are 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 homes accounted for nearly 21% of the 2017 residential sector electricity consumption
How to fix it: Fans and moderation
Change your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees from your normal temperature for 8 hours a day — such as while you’re at work or school — 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 gone. 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 temperature throughout. 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 maintenance
No matter how much you love your house, there’s likely some way you could help make it more energy efficient. This is especially true for homes that are a little bit older, as they didn’t have the advantages of better materials and technologies.
How to fix it: Spend an afternoon doing some simple necessary home maintenance
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 windowsills) by caulking them up.
- Replace your A/C filters. In general, you should replace your filters once every 3 to 9 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 and 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.
3. Why it’s high: Your big appliances are old or angry or both
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 & 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 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: Energy vampires are sucking up 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.
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”
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 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.
5. Why It’s High: You’re Leaving Everything On While You’re Gone
While it may feel nice to enter a well-lit, chilly home as soon as you walk through the door, you’re costing yourself hundreds of dollars a year. Keeping the lights and A/C on while you’re at work all day is wasteful, especially for only a mere few minutes of immediate comfort.
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 of the house, make sure the air conditioner has been turned to a moderate temperature, the lights are turned off, the TV isn’t blaring, etc.
As mentioned above, changing your A/C or heat temperature for just 8 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, vampire energy draw and usage behaviors will not only help reduce your 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 than work to simply pay the electricity bills.
Originally published 9/8/16. Last updated 2/11/19.