If it seems that your electricity bill continues to surprise you every month – and not in a good way – you aren’t alone. According to 2017 research from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Texans spend an average of $122.47 per month on their electricity bill.1 This translates to nearly a whopping $1,500 per year you’d rather spend on something else.
It doesn’t help that understanding how you use energy on a day-to-day basis can be frustrating. Per a recent EIA study, here’s an estimated breakdown of where the charges on your electricity bill are going to each month:2
- 47.7% of your energy bill is from your HVAC (i.e. heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)
- 34.6% of your energy bill is from appliances, electronics, and lighting
- 17.7% of your energy bill is from your hot water heater
All of that looks fairly standard! You need to heat and cool your home. Appliances and consumer electronics are helpful. Having lighting and hot water are essential to modern life. Unless you’re going to become a recluse, how exactly can this information help you lower your electricity bill?
At Chariot Energy, we believe that a little education can go a long way. When you learn how your home uses electricity, it’s easier to figure out ways you can curb your usage.
Let’s Break Down Your Electric Bill First
Let’s review the three primary ways your home uses electricity and discuss the ways you can lower your home energy bills.
Space conditioning (your HVAC system)
87% of the electricity used for space conditioning is dedicated to heating your home – especially in places with cold winters. Turning up the thermostat even one additional degree can have a visible impact on your energy bill.
Obviously, the other 13% comes from running your air conditioner. Specifically, it’s the constant on-and-off activity created by a low thermostat setting that causes your air conditioner to run too long and use lots of energy. This percentage is much higher in warm states, such as Texas.
Appliances, electronics and light bulbs
Your appliances, electronics and lighting create the next biggest energy drain in your home, and it’s the most observable source of energy consumption. In fact, our increased reliance on digital devices has led to dramatic growth in energy usage, and it’s only going to rise as people use more smart and connected home devices.
As you’d imagine, the larger an appliance, the more energy it uses. It’s the reason the big appliances in your home – such as your dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and refrigerator – are referred to as “energy hogs.” Even more, they put off lots of ambient heat, which makes your home warmer, so if it’s summer, your air conditioner will work extra to cool your home. And that creates a feedback loop of energy usage that leads to big bill spikes.
Then there are your consumer electronics: Your chargers, entertainment centers, video game systems, and more. By themselves, the energy usage is relatively minimal, especially compared to your large appliances. But when you start counting up all of the devices you have plugged in around your home, that consumption will add up quickly.
Unfortunately, turning off the television at night isn’t going to solve anything. Even when a device is seemingly turned off, it’s still using power if it’s plugged into a wall. This concept – dubbed vampire power for its energy-sucking capabilities – include TVs, computer monitors and phone chargers, and it can leech up to $200 from your wallet every year.3
That’s hundreds of dollars lost simply because you keep chargers and electronics plugged into the wall when you aren’t using them. You can easily slay these energy suckers by using a power strip you can turn off with a flip of a switch. No wooden stakes required.
As for lighting, the golden rule of turning off lights in rooms you aren’t occupying still stands strong. This is especially true if that room is lit by a ceiling light, as those tend to use more energy than lamps.
Your hot water heater
It’s tempting to disregard water heating. After all, it uses relatively less energy than the other two sources, and a steaming shower at the end of the day (or in the morning) can feel so rewarding that the energy usage might be worth it.
Still, chances are your water heater still uses its factory settings – a scalding 140 degrees – and that’s what comprises nearly 20% of your entire electricity bill. To alleviate this, the EPA suggests turning down your heater to 120 degrees, which surprisingly doesn’t affect the warmth of your shower, but it does noticeably impact that monthly bill.
9 Easy Ways to Save on Your Electric Bill
Now that you know where and how you consume electricity around your home, we’ve collected nine tips that can guide you to a smaller monthly energy bill. Five are super-simple fixes, three of them are slightly more involved, and one effortless solution could slash it all.
1. Install a programmable thermostat
To lower your heating and cooling costs, which consume the most energy in your home, we recommend using a programmable thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature more effectively. Then, we encourage more energy-efficient settings, including adjusting the temperature to 75 °F during the summer and 68 °F in the winter.
2. Figure out which direction your ceiling fan spins
A ceiling fan is an efficient way to keep the air moving in your house, which is essential to heating and cooling your home. But have you ever noticed which direction your ceiling fan spins?
- During the summer, ceiling fans should spin clockwise to push cool air down into the room and across people’s skin.
- During the winter, ceiling fans should reverse direction to pull warm air up to the ceiling so it can then flow into the corners of the room.
Most ceiling fans come with a switch (or cord) that determines its direction. Thus, saving energy can be as easy as literally flipping a switch!
3. Avoid using your oven whenever possible
Most recipes involve preheating the oven before cooking. But since the oven is a massive energy hog, consider whether you really need to pre-heat it — or if you even need it at all. In general, recipes with a long cooking time can slowly cook as the oven warms up. Also, microwaves use much less electricity than ovens, so consider them your express pass to save time and energy.
4. Buy power strips to turn off vampire appliances
It’s the 21st century, so you probably have a phone and laptop that require regular charging. You might also have a desktop computer, e-reader, TV, multiple video game consoles, and a host of other gadgets. Now, multiply that number by the number of people living in your home. Suffice to say, the number of devices perpetually plugged into the walls of your home is probably larger than you realize.
As discussed earlier, these devices are essentially vampires that will drain your power when they’re plugged into the wall, even when they’re “off.” The easiest fix is to use a power strip that collect as many plugs as possible into a single location. That way, when you’re not using the devices, you can simply switch off the power strip. Additionally, you could unplug each charger when a given device is adequately charged.
5. Wash clothes in cold water and air dry (if possible)
Your washer and dryer are two of the most energy-intensive devices you own. When washing your clothes, heating the water alone accounts for 90% of its electricity use. Hence, washing your clothes with cold water can not only reduce electricity consumption, but also prolong the lifespan of your clothing.
As for drying, you have a couple of different methods available:
- Air drying is the best for optimal energy savings, but for many people, it’s not a feasible alternative, as it requires a significant amount of obstacle-free outdoor space.
- Leave the dryer 25% empty and toss in a couple of dryer balls to help your clothes dry faster and maximize the efficiency of your dryer.
6. Replace your air filters every month
Air filters are essential for cleaning the air in your home, especially during allergy season. Dirty filters place undue stress on your home’s heating and ventilation systems, so you should ideally replace them every month (or, at a bare minimum, every three months). Keeping your air filters clean can save 15% on your electricity bill.4
7. Fix drafts by replacing the weatherstripping
Have you ever felt cool or hot air coming in through your doors and windows? It’s likely your weatherstripping is cracked, broken, and busted. While you can use temporary fixes such as shoving newspaper or old clothing along the edges, the best permanent fix is to reinstall fresh weather strips. It’s cheap, fairly easy to install by yourself and can save up to 30% in energy costs from space conditioning.5
8. Clean your refrigerator coils
If your fridge constantly kicks on and off or has trouble staying cool, you may need its condenser coils cleaned. Some refrigerators need to be cleaned by a technician, but some can be cleaned by the homeowner. Cleaning the coils yourself – unplugging the fridge, removing the base grille at the bottom and using a vacuum and soft brush to remove the grime – can cut down on the electricity consumption of your fridge.6
9. Change your electricity company
If you’ve worked tirelessly to reduce your electricity consumption and your bill still doesn’t reflect your efforts, your energy company might be at fault. Read more about how to purchase electricity in Texas and other deregulated areas here.
By making these small changes to your home and lifestyle, you’ll lower your energy consumption, which is what leads to saving some serious money in the long term. Not only can these steps significantly reduce your bill, but they can create a more sustainable future for everyone in the process. And that’s what motivates us, too.