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Sunday Scaries: High Electricity Bills

Money makes the world go round, so why give it all to your electricity bill? According to the US Energy Information Administration, average energy costs for residential users has increased by almost 8% since 2021. This staggering increase is due to reasons like staying inside more and not practicing energy conscious habits. One of the most costly reasons is inefficiencies in the HVAC system. The HVAC system makes up almost 70% of your electricity bill, but often is the most overlooked system in the home. Reducing your energy consumption is the most effective way to lower the overall cost of your electricity bill. Knowing all the contributing factors to your energy bill and how to lower consumption is the most effective strategy for reducing electric costs.

Causes of High Electricity Bills:

Your electricity bill is influenced by many components within the home. While some habits you may be conscious about like turning the light off when you leave a room, others go unnoticed but still consume energy in standby states. Here is a list of different factors that might be contributing to your excessive energy costs:

Old Appliances: As appliances depreciate over time, so does their energy efficiency. Many older appliances are not rated for energy conservation and can drastically impact the amount of energy being consumed in a home. Newer appliances now take up a fourth of the energy that older appliances take up. Even if they were highly rated at the time of purchase, appliances lose their ability to maintain the same capacity as they age and will require more energy consumption. Timing of replacement is dependent on the type of appliance. While items like refrigerators can last several years, dishwashers have much less of an efficient lifespan.

Old HVAC System: Naturally, your HVAC system loses efficiency over time. Knowing when its past its prime can help to preserve your energy bill from unintentional costs. When your HVAC system is outdated, it will often cycle more frequently and require more power to keep you comfortable. Energy bills will remain high despite other energy conservation habits are in place when there is issues with the HVAC system.

Inefficient Use of HVAC: The biggest operating expense in an energy bill is through the HVAC system. Having any little inefficiencies in this system can hugely effect the overall bill. One of the greatest obstacles  for the HVAC system is keeping the windows open during operation. The cooled or heated air escapes through the open window, requiring the system to overwork.

Poor Home Insulation: Another part of the home that may be failing the HVAC system is the insulation. Without adequate insulation, the thermos-regulated air escapes the home, increasing the overall effort of the HVAC system to cool or heat accordingly. According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), around 90% of homes within the United States lack adequate insulation. Almost 50% of this is due to gaps in windows, doors, and drafty attic spaces that create air leaks.

Electricity During Peak Hours: Many electricity suppliers offer power rates that vary depending on the time of day. These peak hours of demand are the most expensive times of energy expenditure. Naturally, these peak hours are when most consumers are at home with activities that typically require electricity.

High Electricity Rates: Comparing energy providers is not a usual practice. Often the rate given with the current provider is accepted without exploring other options. Even if there is a small difference in the rates, it can make a substantial difference in saving money over the course of the several years in your home.

Some states however, have a regulated energy market. This is where one power company is responsible for everything related to electricity service. In these areas where electricity is maintained by one company there is no choice available but to pay the utility charges given.

Excess Hot Water Usage: Water heaters that operate on electricity account for about 18% of a home’s energy bill. As hot water is used for laundry, dishes, and bathing, electricity is used to heat more water. By default water heaters are set to 140 degrees F. However, water heaters are able to operate at the same capacity as low as 120 degrees F. This discretion in numbers can cost anywhere between $30-$60 in unused heat expenses.

Extreme Weather: When the weather fluctuates dramatically, your HVAC system has to work harder to keep your living space a comfortable temperature. This process requires more power and can lead to a negative effect on your electricity bill.

Standby Mode: A silent killer in energy bills are the items in standby mode. These are appliances and electronics that are consistently plugged into the outlets, even when not in use or “off”. While these items may not be in use, they are still receiving energy from the outlet which keeps them partially on and active. Having these appliances and electronics in standby can drive the energy bill by about 10% every year.

Incandescent Light Bulbs: Within the last several years popularity has grown around LED light bulbs, and rightfully so. Older light bulbs like incandescent light bulbs used to be cheapest and easiest option for lighting a home, however they use a considerable amount of energy to light a home depending on the wattage and length of operation. One of the main reasons incandescent light bulbs are inefficient is due to their production of heat. Having several placed around the house can increase the internal temperature by a couple degrees and therefore causing your HVAC system to work harder in cooling the house.

Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill:

Replacing Old Appliances: Knowing when to retire appliances is very helpful in the conversion of energy. If appliances are not energy-star-rated or not operating to full capacity, it may be time for a replacement. Energy-star-rated products not only advertise energy efficiency of a product but also give details on the estimated energy spend for the appliance, so you can determine its quality before purchasing.

Old HVAC System: Scheduling a yearly maintenance checkup for your HVAC system before the summer season is the best way to ensure your system is running efficiently. A technician will be able to inspect and give details on any potential issues. Consider getting a new system about every 10 years to avoid high energy costs.

Inefficient Use of HVAC: Make sure that all windows and doors are closed when operating your HVAC system. If you suspect an air leak, get it repaired as soon as possible to avoid any fluctuations in the temperature-controlled air.

Poor Home Insulation: While the overall insulation is not easily modifiable, checking for gaps in windows, doors, and attic spaces can help to prevent air leaks throughout the home. If an air leak is found, seal it or replace the item as needed.

Electricity During Peak Hours: While some activities are unavoidable during peak hours, being mindful of using electricity throughout the day can sometimes help to avoid these increased costs. For example, running your dishwasher before you leave for work in the morning rather than waiting until dinner time.

High Electricity Rates: When electricity rates seem to be substantial, find out if your state has a regulated or unregulated energy market. If unregulated, shop around for other suppliers to ensure you are making the most affordable option. Note that electricity rates fluctuate with the seasons for increased use and may not be limited to your current suppliers’ rates.

Excess Hot Water Usage: Change the default setting on your hot water heater from 140 degrees F to 120 degrees F to maintain same results while reducing energy costs. Limit use of hot water when applicable to decrease energy expenditure into producing hot water. This includes only running washing machines and dishwashers when the system is full and shortening the time within the shower.

Extreme Weather: There is no controlling the weather, but controlling reactions to the weather can help save money in the long run. Help your HVAC system when it gets hot by using ceiling fans and closing windows. As it gets colder, dress warmer and turn on a fireplace to avoid fluctuations in the thermostat.

Standby Mode: Unplugging appliances and electronics not in use is the best way to combat inactive energy conversion. While some appliances like refrigerators always need power to preserve food, unplugging items such as chargers and toasters can help control unwanted power consumption. This includes power strips that bank energy for multiple products and can overconsume power from the outlet.

Incandescent Light Bulbs: Replacing light bulbs with an energy efficient and cheap option has never been easier. LED light bulbs not only help maintain the heat emitted from their bulb, but also help avoid strain on the eyes with more natural colors. They remain affordable and easy to install like old incandescent lights, with additive benefits.

Other Cost-Effective Strategies:

While these strategies cover the majority of energy costs, other daily habits and long-term practices can also help to alleviate electricity costs.

Perform an Energy Audit: This is the most effective way to determine power consumption. An auditor will  review current practices and make recommendations in improving energy efficiency. This information will review the details of power usage and major concerns for the home.

Adjust the Thermostat: Turning down the thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees from its usual setting for 8 hours a day can yield as much as 10% of savings a year. Picking up on this habit before leaving the house allows the HVAC system to not consume as much power in production. Many modern thermostats have this advancement included in their system to make this an easier programmable action.

Install Ceiling Fans: While fans do not produce cool air, they help to circulate the air within the space. When in motion, ceiling fans can cool a room by about 4 degrees F without needing to adjust the thermostat.

Note- Make sure that ceiling fans are spinning in the right direction. During the summer season, make sure that the ceiling fan is moving in a counterclockwise direction, this way the blades can push the cool air downwards.

Change Your HVAC Filter Regularly: Having a clogged air filter in an HVAC system creates a greater need for power usage. Change the filter approximately every 3 months to avoid build-up. Clean and replace as soon as the filter is dirty.

Don’t burden yourself with electricity bills. Take back your money. Find what energy efficiency habits work best for you!

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