A couple tries to understand their high energy bill

Sure, paying bills is just a part of life, but your electricity bill should never become a burden on your budget. If your energy bill is so high that it puts a sizeable dent in your wallet, then the solution lies in one or both of these factors:

  • You have a high electricity rate, so you need to change plans or companies
  • Your energy usage is too high, so you need to lower it

We’ve assembled10 questions you should ask yourself to help find the answer to your high energy bill problem so you can start saving money. 

1. What’s Your Current Electricity Rate?

Let’s start off with some basic statistics. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, here’s a snapshot of an average Texas residential utility customer in 2018:1

  • Consumed an average of 1,176 kWh of electricity per month
  • Their average rate was 11.2 cents per kWh
  • Their average bill was $131.65

So, with that baseline in mind, you should be able to determine if your electricity rate (the average price/kWh) is too high or around that number. Keep in mind that a few cents difference in the bill isn’t that big of a deal, but when it starts changing dollar amounts, your rate is probably too high, so you should start shopping for a new plan. 

We even have a blog post filled with tips on how to effectively shop for electricity in Texas.

If your rate is close to that average but your bill’s still too high, then you’re using too much electricity. If your energy consumption (the kWh amount) is higher than that state average posted above, then that’s the culprit of your higher bills. Which means it’s time to learn how to use less energy around the house. 

2. When is the Last Time You Changed Your Air Filter?

If your answer is “More than three months,” that’s a problem. A dirty air filter makes your air conditioning system work harder, which then requires more energy. A fresh air filter prevents dust build-up in your system that can cause big problems down the road. 

While replacing your air filter every two to three months is technically fine, we recommend changing it every 30-45 days to keep your HVAC system spick-and-span. Buy in bulk to reduce the cost, and you will always have a new one when you need it. 

Combine this practice with a quality fan, and you’ve got yourself a lower energy bill! 

3. Have You Checked for Drafts and Any Air Leaks Recently? 

If not, you can skip the professional inspection and look for drafts yourself. Simply dampen your hand with a little water and pass it slowly around common leak sites like these:

  • Wiring holes
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Vents
  • Recessed lights

If your hand feels cool, that’s the air coming through the draft is evaporating the water. It means you’ve found a draft in your home that needs to be sealed! 

Most likely, it’s because your weatherstripping material is old and needs replacing. Thankfully, weatherstripping is super inexpensive and you can replace it yourself. You don’t even need to know which kind you need. 

Visit your local hardware store online or over the phone, as they will most likely sell any type of weatherstripping you need. An associate can tell you which one is right for your particular drafty area. Believe it or not, this tiny swap can save you up to 30% in energy costs from heating and cooling.2

A woman replaces an incandescent light bulb for an energy-efficient LED bulb
Compared to regular halogen bulbs, LED light bulbs are so much more energy efficient, last for years, and will save you more money in the long run.

4. Do You Use LED Light Bulbs?

No? Well, you should be. In fact, by replacing just five of the most frequently used incandescent light bulbs in your home with LED versions, you can save up to $75 per year in electricity costs.3

Yes, just FIVE bulbs. 

The reality is incandescent light bulbs are 90% inefficient. Only 10% of the energy they use goes toward light production. The rest is heat energy, which raises both the temperature in your house and your electric bill, since that extra heat makes your AC work extra-hard. 

LED light bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescents, and they last up to 25 times longer. So, while the upfront cost of LED light bulbs might be a little more, they actually save you more money (and energy) in the long run. 

5. How Often Do You Use Your Oven?

The oven is essentially a giant heater that uses lots of energy. So, when you use it on a regular basis, especially during summer months, it makes your house hotter. In turn, your AC runs rampant to counterbalance the excess heat created from that big machine. 

Luckily, there are several ways you could conserve that energy. 

  • Microwave your food
  • Use your stovetop
  • Cook outside by grilling
  • Skip preheating if you have to use your oven
  • Use a toaster oven that doesn’t require as much energy and doesn’t create as much heat
  • Put that air fryer to good use

6. Do You Run Less than a Full Load of Dishes in Your Dishwasher?

Sure, dishwashers are so convenient, but they use lots of energy. Unless your dishwasher is filled to the brim, don’t turn it on. Otherwise, you’re wasting hot water and energy. 

Go even further and turn off the heat dry setting. It might seem super-convenient, but it’s definitely not necessary and uses unnecessary electricity. It’s similar to your oven in that it’s essentially a heater for your house. 

Thus, each time the rinse cycle is complete, hand-dry your dishes or just open the dishwasher and let the dishes air out on their own. The water is already hot, so it will evaporate quickly. 

7. Do you have a programmable thermostat?

And we don’t mean a fancy smart thermometer. A programmable thermostat allows you to automate your home’s temperature based on your family’s schedule. It’s perfect for people who are always on the go and need something they can just set and forget instead of changing the temperature settings.

However, it’s not the programmable thermostat that saves you money — it’s the temperature settings you program into the system! For the optimal energy efficiency tips, check out our articles about the best thermostat temperatures for summer and the best temperature settings for winter

Power strip
Power strips are a super cheap and efficient way to save money from vampire appliances that leach power.

8. Do You Plug Your Appliances into Power Strips?

It might surprise you to learn that your appliances may be leeching hundreds of dollars worth of power even when they’re “off.” In reality, many of your home appliances never turn off. They’re merely in standby mode, which slowly but surely drains power to keep them in this semi-off state, waiting for you to turn them on. 

This condition is known as are called vampire electricity, and it costs an average of $200 a year in every household, according to Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis.4 Common appliances that suck up vampire electricity include your: 

  • Water heater
  • Television
  • Laptop
  • Gaming consoles
  • Coffee maker
  • Microwave
  • Printer

The easiest fix is a power strip that collects as many plugs as possible into a single location. When you’re not using the plugged-in devices — say, at night or when you’re at work — you can simply switch off the power strip. 

9. How long does it take you to shower or bathe? 

If it’s longer than 15 minutes, you are doing harm to your energy bill and your skin! Dermatologists report that the longer you stay in the shower, the more your skin dries out. Moreover, really hot showers — those using more hot water and thus more energy — strip our skin of its natural oils, leading to a higher risk of itchy dry skin. 

We recommend that your shower last between five and 15 minutes and use warm ( not scalding) water. Your bill and your skin will thank you. 

Woman loading a washing machine
While some instances require washing your clothes in hot water, we recommend washing most of your clothes on cold to save money in water heating costs.

10. Do You Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water?

You could save as much as $66 annually by doing laundry in cold water, according to ENERGY STAR, a program backed by the EPA and the Energy Department.5 Not only is cold water easier on your clothes, but heating water requires a lot of energy. In fact, your water heater’s the third most energy-consuming appliance in your house. So, whatever you can do to cut down on hot water will no doubt slim down your bill. 

Additional Resources

We have many, many more tips to help you lower your home energy usage. Chariot Energy is an electricity company that actually cares about how you use power! For even more ways you can cut your consumption, lower your bill and help the environment, check out “Our Guide to Save Energy at Home” so you can become a more responsible, more educated consumer. 

Check it out here.


Sources

  1. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/pdf/table5_a.pdf
  2. http://winterizingyourhome.org/use-weather-stripping-to-save-money/ 
  3. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/save-electricity-and-fuel/lighting-choices-save-you-money/how-energy-efficient-light
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020926065912.htm
  5. https://www.energystar.gov/about/newsroom/the-energy-source/laundry_made_easy