It’s the end of the month, and you’re going through your bills. You’ve paid your rent or mortgage, the credit cards, and the water and internet bills. You come at last to the electric bill, only something looks different. This month, the energy bill is through the roof. It’s higher than it’s ever been, and you can’t begin to imagine why. You think back through the last month and can’t remember having the heat cranked up, or leaving the lights on all night. So what’s going on?
A few possible culprits could be causing an unusually high electric bill. Some of them are fairly harmless, but some of them the may indicate a severe problem lurking beneath the surface. If you happen to notice an anomaly such as this in your electric bill, don’t ignore it. The problem could be more serious than you think.
Why Is My Energy Bill So High?
To help you narrow down what might be causing your problem, here are some of the top reasons for an unusually high electric bill.
- Inefficient Appliances
- Poor House Insulation
- Old Water Heater
- Fluctuating Energy Prices
- You’re Simply Home More Often
Are any of the appliances in your home a little past their prime? Before you say no, think carefully about the wide range of appliances in your house — the washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator or more. If any of these appliances are getting up there in years, they could be at least partially responsible for the spike in your energy bill. This is because of two primary reasons.
The first reason is that old machines simply have to work harder. As the parts get old and wear down, they don’t run as smoothly as they used to. Therefore, to do the same job, the machine must work extra hard consuming more energy than normally necessary.
The second reason is that machines and appliances were not always designed with efficiency in mind like they are now. Nowadays, every appliance comes with an ENERGY STAR® rating that gives you crucial information about how much electricity the appliance will consume, and thus, engineers design with this in mind. However, this didn’t come about until fairly recently. This means that if you’re hanging on to any gadgets from the 1990s, they could easily be responsible for guzzling electricity in your home.
The solution is simple — it’s time to upgrade your appliances. While there will be an upfront cost to making this upgrade, these appliances will pay for themselves over time in the form of lower electric bills.
If replacing your appliances is not an option, you might also try cleaning and maintaining your appliances. Clean the individual parts and clear out any dust, dirt and debris that may have accumulated and been responsible for the machine struggling to do its job. Try replacing any broken parts for new ones, and put a fresh spin on your old appliance. This will likely not have the same dramatic effect as purchasing a new appliance, but it may still help.
A Poorly Insulated House
While light bulbs, refrigerators and TVs are responsible for a portion of your electric bill, they only represent a tiny fraction of your energy consumption. The vast majority of our electric bills goes towards heating our houses in the winter and cooling them in the summer.
It can be challenging to maintain a controlled temperature in a large space like a house or apartment under the best of circumstances. But it becomes even harder when your home isn’t airtight. If the heated or cooled air is leaking out of your house and the air from outside is leaking in, then your climate control has to work twice as hard and is likely spending twice as much energy to achieve the same results.
The easiest solution to this problem is to take measures to keep doors and windows closed as much as possible. Don’t leave the door open for longer than it takes to go in and out. If you’re feeling overheated in the winter, don’t crack a window. Turn down the heat inside instead.
A more long-term solution is to investigate your insulation. If the walls of your home are poorly insulated, the heat or cold could be leeching out through the walls themselves. Fix this problem by giving your home an insulation-overhaul. The better insulated your home is, the easier it will be to control the temperature and the less money you’ll spend doing so.
An Overworked Water Heater
Your water heater is another appliance that is responsible for consuming a large portion of your total electricity usage. This will be the case no matter how efficient you work to be. However, based on the way you have things adjusted, it’s possible that you may be wasting more electricity than necessary in this single area.
It’s recommended that most water heaters be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower, and your water may not be hot enough. Any higher and it will become a safety hazard as well as an enormous drain on your energy bill.
The logic behind this is simple enough. If you have your heater set up to 140, which many people do, you’re not being efficient with your energy. You don’t need your heater set that high. It won’t do you any extra good, and all you’re doing is wasting additional energy in getting your water to this unnecessarily-high temperature.
What will likely happen is that this heat will leak out through the heater, escaping into your basement or wherever else the heater is stored. This means your heater has to work harder to keep the heater at the specified temperature, all the while the heat is steadily leaking out into the outside air.
Avoid this problem by targeting a lower temperature. Set your heater at 120 degrees and see the difference in energy savings.
Fluctuating Energy Prices
Unfortunately, no matter how many steps you take to make sure your home is operating efficiently and you aren’t consuming more energy than necessary, there is one significant factor that you can’t control — the price of your electricity. Ultimately, that’s up to the electric company, and there isn’t much you can do to change this. That’s the bad news. The good news? There are a few ways to work around this.
First, it’s important to understand that energy rates fluctuate based in part on demand. During the peak of summer, when it’s extremely hot out, electricity might cost more just because there’s such high demand as everyone is looking to cool their homes. The same applies in the dead of winter when everyone is cranking up their heat. If you notice your energy bill is particularly high one month, it’s entirely possible that there has been such a fluctuation in the energy prices lately.
So how do you deal with this? Your best and simplest bet is to be aware of these high-demand times and decrease your energy consumption during them. For example, it might not be the best idea to run multiple loads of laundry on the hottest or coldest days of the year.
In addition to this, you can always try looking for different energy deals. Maybe a different provider will offer you a better deal, or perhaps you can switch to a different plan that will help you save a little extra on your energy bill.
You’re Home More
This one isn’t rocket science. We use more electricity when we’re actually home to use it. While certain appliances will run even when you aren’t home, such as the heat or A/C, refrigerator and water heater, the vast majority of energy-consuming machines in your house stay shut off when you’re not there. This includes light bulbs, electronics, TVs, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and more.
Most of us realize this, and that’s why we make efforts to shut the house down before we leave. We switch off light bulbs, for instance. Many of will even dial down the heating or cooling when we aren’t there. Both of these things help save electricity and save you money.
It stands to reason, then, that if you’re home more often, it’s very likely that you’ll consume more energy. The lights will be on, the heating or cooling will be running at full blast, and the rest of your house will be active, too. Someone might be showering, someone else might be running loads of laundry or cooking dinner in the oven, and someone else might be watching TV. All of this energy wouldn’t be used if no one was home.
Because of this, if you receive a high energy bill at the end of the month, it might be wise to think back over the past weeks. Have you or your family been home more than normal lately? Maybe you’ve been working from home, or the kids are on a break from school. Maybe it was a holiday, and nobody had to work. Any of these could be the culprit behind your high bill.
While this is an explanation, unfortunately, it isn’t much of a solution. This increased energy consumption is a natural result of more people spending more time in your home. However, you can take comfort in knowing that this month was likely an anomaly and that next month, things will be back to normal. And if this does represent a new normal, perhaps if you’ve started to work from home or some other permanent change has come to your house, then there are plenty of energy-saving methods to look into that can help.
How to Lower Your Energy Bill
When faced with an unusually high bill, we recommend running through the items listed above and checking if any one of these things might be causing the uptick in energy usage.
However, just knowing the reason for your high energy bill isn’t enough. Once you know the cause, the next and arguably more important step is figuring out how to lower it again. Here are our top tips to help you do just this.
Adjust Your Thermostat
This one is an easy fix. Just take the thermostat and raise it a few degrees if it’s summertime and lower it a few degrees if it’s winter. There’s no need to go crazy on this step, either. You might be surprised about the difference a few degrees can make.
One way to make this adjustment is to move your thermostat by just one degree at a time. When you reach the point where you find it’s too uncomfortable and unpleasant, just go back one degree. If you live with a family or roommates, be sure to be respectful and consult their opinion on this.
Check Your Insulation
Nothing helps lower your energy costs like a little extra insulation. By adding insulation to your walls, you’re keeping the heat or cold inside, while keeping the outside air out. This means your climate control has an easier time of managing your temperature, which saves you money on your energy bill.
Unplug, Unplug, Unplug
Did you know that most appliances and electronics consume energy even when they’re not in use? This includes TVs, laptop charger cables, toasters and so much more. While it might not be practical to crawl behind your dryer to unplug it every time you’re finished using it, there are plenty of areas where this can apply. It’s the work of a few seconds to unplug your phone charger when it’s not being used, for example.
Minimize Your Usage
We’re not advocating for you to stop using your washing machine or dishwasher — these appliances can be more efficient than doing such tasks manually, so there’s no reason to cut them out of your life. However, you can save both money and energy by only using them in full loads. Rather than running them often with half a load of laundry or dishes inside them, wait until you have a full load. You’ll find that by practicing this method, you run them less often and thus, use less energy.
Schedule a Tune-Up
Despite your best efforts, your energy bill might remain high. No matter how much you conserve, you may not be able to get that figure down. If you find that this is happening to you, it may be time to schedule a tune-up with your HVAC professionals. They’ll be able to check that your system is healthy and if they notice it needs maintenance or replacing, they will be able to do so. As a result, your energy bill should drop again.
Contact Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration
A high energy bill is nothing to ignore. After all, this doesn’t happen for no reason, and it could be a warning sign of a larger issue in your house. By investigating this problem, you can save yourself from future months of high bills, as well as help your home to run a little more smoothly and efficiently.
For more information about your home’s heating and cooling systems, as well as what you can do to improve their performance, contact us at Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration. We’re happy to answer your questions on the topic and help you get the energy-efficient home you deserve.