6 Common Culprits Behind an Unexpected Energy Bill
If you recently opened your electric bill only to see an astronomical figure, chances are, once you picked your jaw up off the floor, you asked, "Why is this so high?" Multiple factors can impact your overall bill. Aging appliances, several devices left plugged in constantly and leaky windows and doors can result in you paying much more.
The good news? You can reduce your electric bill by following the six tips below. Stemming the flow does require you to be a bit more conscientious about your behavior, but it will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. Here's what to look out for and how to solve each issue.
1. Have You Recently Bought New Electronics?
Many people leave electronic devices plugged in and turned on all the time, even when these items are not in use. If you live in a four-person household where everyone has a laptop and tablet, that's a lot of devices!
Save money by powering down devices when they're not in use. If you need the ability to hop on a laptop in seconds for work or school, at least put them in sleep mode. Better yet, power them down and shut them off altogether, especially at night. Doing so saves energy and helps protect devices from hackers who need sophisticated tools to power devices on remotely.
2. Your Fridge Gasket Is on the Fritz
Did your mama ever tell you, "Stop standing there with the refrigerator door open! What, are you trying to cool the whole neighborhood?" While she was right — holding open the fridge trying to decide what to eat does waste energy — another culprit may lurk behind your astronomical electric bill.
Your refrigerator gasket refers to the springy plastic material that seals when you close the door. If this seal breaks down with age, you'll lose a ton of cooling out the cracks. Luckily, you can replace your fridge gasket quite easily, and all you need is a screwdriver, an Allen wrench and some petroleum jelly (plus the gasket itself, which costs about $75 at most hardware stores).
3. Your Appliances Are Aging Poorly
If your appliances are older overall, you may need to replace them to save energy. Today, every appliance comes with an ENERGY STAR® rating that gives crucial information about how much electricity the appliance consumes. As a result, engineers now design appliances double or more the efficiency of earlier models.
Are you a renter whose landlord refuses to upgrade? You can still save money and energy. Simply invest in a countertop microwave and toaster oven, and hand wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher (except for with large loads, like Thanksgiving dinner cleanup).
4. Your Air Filters Are Filthy
Be honest: How often do you change your air filters? Experts recommend changing them once per month, less often in the summer if you have a heating-only system. If you have pets or smokers in the residence, you should change them monthly year-round.
Filters cost less than $10 at many grocery and hardware stores. If your filters become clogged, the reduced air flow through your heating and cooling system can cause your heat exchanger to overheat and shut off too quickly. This issue will cost you approximately $175 to repair, and in the meantime, your house won't feel warm even as your electric bill soars.
5. Air is Leaking out Windows and Doors
Take a look at your front door (go ahead, do it now!). Do you see light leaking through cracks between the frame and the outdoors? You're bleeding heat and AC right out to your neighbors if you do. Unless you have a vested interest in keeping your front porch squirrel visitors happy all winter, invest in some inexpensive weather stripping to save significantly.
Do you feel hot or cold when you're sitting near a sunny window? If so, you may need to upgrade your windows. Renter? Instead of improving your landlord's property (they get enough of your hard-earned money), invest in some blackout curtains. These curtains can reduce the amount of heat transferred by your windows by as much as 24%, and as an added bonus, they reduce noise from outside, so urban dwellers rejoice!
6. You Need to Call an Electrician
Finally, if you've unplugged and checked the items above, you may need to call in a pro. An unusually high electric bill can indicate a problem with the meter or a short somewhere in the house. Since electric work carries a fire hazard, let a licensed professional do the work. This requirement is one area where renting has advantages — structural issues such as electric shorts are the landlord's problem to deal with.
Cutting Your Electricity Costs
There's no need to pay astronomical electric bills to feel comfortable in your home. By identifying the culprits sucking your energy like vampires, you can save money and protect the planets' resources.
Guest Contributor, Holly Welles
Holly Welles is a home improvement writer who believes anyone can make the most of their space. You can find more of her work on her blog, The Estate Update.