Opening the envelope for the utility bill is always a nerve-racking experience. For many of us the anticipation of this month’s electric bill creates so much anxiety and fear. And as soon as you see that dreaded dollar amount on the statement, the anxiety often morphs into rage leaving you screaming in your head, “why is this bill so big?” and “why do they charge so much for electricity?” But before you start driving yourself insane, you should analyze what things in your home cause the electric bill to skyrocket. Then, work on real solutions to tame or even totally eliminate your electric bill, such as considering a solar power system.
We’ve taken the liberty of listing down power hungry items (energy hogs) in your home that really eat up electricity. This way, you’ll know how to treat it and reduce the chances of unravelling that Incredible Hulk rage of yours.
THE ENERGY HOGS IN YOUR HOME
HVAC – Heating and air conditioning systems usually make up the bulk of the cost for electricity. It can be responsible for up to 40-50% of your monthly utility bill. According to directenergy.com, air conditioning and heating accounts for 46% of your electricity bill. Let’s face it, we all have to pay for comfort which is why homes and businesses have these HVAC systems to turn the temperature in each room into that comfy 70 degrees. The human body exerts heat and humidity, and the body’s normal processes and functions work best at the 70 degrees mark. Your body knows it; it’s why we often find ourselves reaching for that thermostat and adjusting it to our level of comfort.
A typical central air conditioning system uses between 3,000 and 5,000 watts of power depending on its specifications, and this device often runs a good part of the year to cool your environment. The amount of time the air conditioner is on during the day (and night) also depends on your geographic location and the typical weather in the region. If you want to figure out how much your air conditioning system is costing you each month, you can calculate it using an energy calculator like energyusecalculator.com. Simply plug in the specs of your system and what your local utility company charges in kWh. Keep in mind that your utility company may also have different rates at certain times of the day and periods of the year (i.e. summer rates vs. winter rates). An example of this calculation would be a 3,500 watts system running for 5 hours a day at .10 cents per kWh is about $1.75 per day, adding up to $53.24 per month and $638.82 per year.
You can certainly lower this portion of your bill by making some small adjustments to your habits and preferences. Changes such as using a ceiling fan, opening windows, and cooling only specific rooms in the house will help lower the energy bill. Turning up the thermostat a few degrees higher on summer days can also make a difference in shortening the run time of your air conditioner. Unfortunately, air conditioning may be a cost that you may not be able to avoid if you’re looking for total comfort, especially on scorching hot days with lots of humidity in the air.
A more permanent solution to lower or totally eliminate your utility bill is to go solar. That way, the fluctuating electric bill becomes steady, predictable, and sums up to a lesser dollar amount each month.
Pool Pump – It’s often said, “it’s better to know someone with a swimming pool than having one yourself.” That’s because between chemical treatments, the pool man, and running the pool pump for at least 8-10 hours a day is a huge monthly expense. Even during the winter season when a swimming pool is rarely used, a pool pump must still be on to circulate the pool water and avoid contamination, bacteria build up, and algae from forming. Ideally, the water in a swimming pool must fully circulate at least once a day which is why a pool pump is continually working. The bigger the pool, the more powerful motor is needed which also means higher wattage, longer run time, and usually a much bigger utility bill each month.
Depending on the cost of electricity in your area, simply operating a standard 1 HP pool motor can cost between $1-$5 per day, adding $30-$150 to your monthly electric bill. Pool pumps draw between 1.5 kW – 2.5 kW per hour, and in a day of running it for 10 hours, that averages out to 24 kWh per day, equating to 720 kWh per month. If you have a swimming pool, check out how many kilowatt hours is showing up on your utility bill, and surely, a good percentage of that bill is due to the pool pump.
Unfortunately, the only way to decrease the amount of energy used by your pool pump is to reduce its run time. However, the consequence of this action is likely faster algae build-up especially during the summer season. This generally ends up in adding costly chemicals and more work to eliminate the algae, and ultimately, running the pump back to a lengthier run time. Sadly, it’s a never-ending battle between high summer electricity bills and algae issues when it comes to a swimming pool.
What’s a person to do to avoid high utility cost from a pool device? A great solution is to add a solar power system specifically for your pool equipment or for the entire house. That way the pool pump can be set to operate at the appropriate amount of time without having to worry about fluctuating energy bills. Circulating the water properly will also decrease the amount of chemicals used to treat your pool, saving you money and more importantly, time.
Refrigerators – We all love the fridge. It’s the sanctuary of all things good, keeping our food edible longer and our drinks cold and refreshing. The cost of running our refrigerator is certainly a cost we don’t normally think about. But, a refrigerator(s) can easily eat up electricity so you should at least know that a percentage of your utility bill relates to these types of appliances. After all, a refrigerator is something that’s on 24-hours a day/7-days a week. And, for many homeowners today, it’s pretty common to have a second refrigerator somewhere in the house, such as in the garage or some type of recreational room.
With an average refrigerator using around 725 watts of power, that equates to an amperage draw of approximately 6 amps. Luckily, once the temperature hits its settings (usually 40 degrees Fahrenheit/4 Celsius in the fridge and 0 degrees Fahrenheit/-18 Celsius in the freezer), the compressor motor shuts off. This ON/OFF cycle varies in length depending on various factors including the type of refrigerator, room temperature, and the number of times the appliance door is opened. According to pixelfridge.com a refrigerator’s average cycle is about 30 minutes (if it stays closed with the motor turning on to re-cool the inside). And if you’re in a large household, that cycle gets longer due to more times the door is opened. It’s a lot of electricity continuously used that we don’t normally think about.
There are ways to ensure you save on electricity when it comes to the refrigerator:
- Don’t leave the door open. Immediately close the door after taking out what you need. The longer the refrigerator door is open, more of the cold air escapes resulting in longer cycle and run time to get it back to the set temperature.
- Don’t stuff the refrigerator. Unlike the freezer, air circulation is necessary inside the refrigerator. Overstuffing the refrigerator may do more harm than good for your food and your wallet. When the vent inside the appliance is blocked, it will have difficulty reaching the set temperature, and the compressor will continue to run. Not only does it cause a higher electric bill, it will also shorten the life-span of the appliance. Overstuffing also causes cold and warm spots which can highly affect the life of the food inside.
- Make sure the door gasket is sealing properly. Check for leaks around the gasket. If it doesn’t stick like a magnet, chances are cold air is leaking out which leads to longer run time. Take the time to observe if your refrigerator motor isn’t turning off at appropriate intervals.
- Buy an Energy Star refrigerator. According to energystar.gov, certified Energy Star refrigerators are up to 9 percent more efficient. That can be a chunk of change that can save you on your monthly utility bill.
- Consider a solar energy system to power up your appliances. That way you’re not having to worry about the number of times you open and shut the refrigerator door.
Freezers – A dedicated freezer is great for buying meats and ice cream in bulk, but the cost of keeping the appliance on can quickly eat away all those savings. That old freezer you have running in the garage can be ice to your pocketbook. Old freezers from the 80s are definite power hogs sucking up wattage and dollars out of your wallet. A 20+ year old freezer consumes 800-1000 kWh per year compared to newer Energy Star certified ones that eat up 50% less energy.
A 15-cubic foot chest freezer can easily use up to 500 watts of power each time it turns on. The average freezer can be on as long as 300 hours per month leaving you with frost bite in your wallet. Like other appliances, there’s a power rating on the back of your freezer so you can calculate how much it’s costing you in electricity to keep it on. By the way, according to clearlyenergy.com, chest freezers are more efficient than upright models due to their fancier features that use up to 35% more energy.
If you’re only storing a small amount of food in a dedicated freezer, you may want to consolidate them into your combo refrigerator/freezer. It’s great to have a stand-alone freezer if it supports your shopping and eating habits (for example: buying in bulk for a big household). But, if you’re simply buying excess food that ends up in the freezer for months or even years, then turn that appliance off. If you don’t see yourself consolidating or unplugging that extra freezer, then consider a different way to power up your appliances rather than relying on the utility company for 100% of your electricity. A solar power system can produce the right amount of electricity your household consumes to drastically reduce what you pay the utility company each month.
Other Appliances – There are other appliances in your home that heavily eat up electricity that you may not realize. That dishwasher not only uses a ton of water but also gobbles up plenty of energy while it’s on. And if you’ve got a cook/baker in the family, that electric stove and/or oven can swiftly toast your piggy bank. Directenergy.com says an electric oven can draw between 2,000 to 5,000 watts of power, while an electric burner draws between 1,200 and 3,000 watts. Depending on the utility company, that can cost between .10 to .14 cents per kWh. For instance, 3,500 watts at .12 cents per kWh equates to .42 cents per hour for using that oven. Preparing meals three times a day using these appliances can “eat you out of house and home.”
Going solar gives you the freedom to use your appliances without hesitation. Having the power of the sun to create energy during the day and getting credit for unused electricity for consumption at nights will net lower or leave you with no electric bill.
Lighting – There are no rooms in your home without lighting. According to an article in Fortnightly, it’s estimated that there are 67 lights in an average American home, and single-family homes have an average of 85 lights. That chandelier in the entry can have as many as 10-20 bulbs. Kitchens are brightly lit with multiple recessed lights ranging from two to as many as 12 depending on the size of the room. There are lamp shades in the bedrooms, track lighting in the rec room, and multi-receptacle vanity lights in the bathrooms. And, we can’t forget about deco lights, flood lights, address lights, and motion sensor lights outside the home. That’s a lot of energy-sucking lights!
Lighting can really “knock your lights out” when it comes to the utility bill if you’re not paying attention to conservation. A good portion of your electricity bill is due to lighting your home, accounting for 9% of the energy bill. That can also vary depending on the type of light bulbs you’re using. The good ol’ incandescent light is the biggest electricity hog of all bulbs with only 10% of its energy converted into light and the rest wasted as heat. If that’s the type of bulb you’re using at home, then it’s time to make a change to more efficient bulbs such as LED. Not only are LED bulbs 80% more efficient, but they also last 25 times longer. Check out energy.gov which compares today’s new types of energy-efficient bulbs against traditional incandescent.
Reducing energy consumption due to lighting your home isn’t difficult. Swapping out conventional switches to motion switches make lighting convenient and saves on energy to automatically turn lights off after a specified time. Using solar lights for the garden, adding timers, and using digital technology like SmartThings and Alexa switches are additional ways to control lighting. And, the old fashion way of simply hitting the off switch for lights when exiting rooms not only saves money, but is also a great habit.
Computers, Monitors and Televisions – A computer is an essential component in our lives. It gives us information, helps with transactions like paying bills, entertains us in many ways, and much more. But that computer device can also be a power hog when always left on. According to Kompulsa, an average desktop computer (without a monitor) can draw between 5-250 watts of power depending on usage and the types of components installed in them. Computer components such as the CPU, fans, and video cards have different power requirements and can draw electricity beyond the mentioned wattage depending on the tasks they’re performing. So when computers are left on they can add to an already high utility bill.
Late model LED display monitors for computers and televisions are actually very efficient and don’t cost as much to use as they once did. According to CNET, these products range from .50 cents to $3.18 per month to operate. However, plasma televisions (if you still have one) are power hungry devices that can double or triple your energy consumption. Regardless of the type of monitors and televisions you may have, leaving them powered on at all times still increases your bills. Simply pushing the power button cuts down on electricity and increases longevity of the device.
JUST SAVE WITH BETTER HABITS
We can go on and on with appliances and other components found in our homes that contribute to high electric bills. Carelessness and bad habits are also to blame. Minor adjustments to your lifestyle can make a world of difference in saving money. Turning off lights, immediately closing the refrigerator door, and paying attention to what’s on in your surroundings can make a huge difference in how much you pay for electricity each month.
Unfortunately, electricity prices continue to rise due to increasing production costs and more expensive natural resources. Renewable energy like solar power is one of the best ways to save on your utility bills. Solar energy systems produce huge amounts of power during the day, and the extra energy they generate is fed back into the grid and exchanged in the form of a credit. That credit is redeemed for electricity when the sun goes down. Ultimately, solar power systems net a lower or no bill for electricity at the end of the year.
Getting a quote for a solar power system is fast and free. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much you can save with solar.