7 Common Mistakes That Can Make Your Electric Bill Soar, Experts Say
Save major money with these seven simple switches.
Wondering why your energy bill is so high on a monthly basis? You're not alone. According to a recent analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a quarter of Americans reduced or forewent basic needs such as food or medicine to pay an energy bill within the past year.
While this reflects bigger societal issues outside of the average American's control, there are also ways to bring your astronomical energy bills back down to Earth. That's why we consulted home experts to find out the biggest mistakes you're making that are increasing your energy bill. Read on for their best advice.
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Not cleaning your HVAC filters
One major mistake behind high energy bills is forgetting to clean your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters, explains Skylar Christensen, plumber and cleaning expert at Beehive Plumbing in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"This is a very common mistake that I've seen in too many homes. When the filters in your HVAC system are clogged up, the system has to work harder," Christensen tells Best Life. "It will have to run a lot longer to reach the intended temperature. This will drive up your electricity bill as your HVAC system consumes more electricity for the same function."
To reduce your energy bill, clean your HVAC filters every two weeks, the home expert advises.
Being careless with your air conditioner
We get it—it's hot out there. But if you're leaving your AC cranked to its highest level day in and day out, you may get an unpleasant surprise when the energy bill arrives.
Glenn Wiseman, RASDT, RHDT, a manager for the home maintenance and renovation company Top Hat Home Comfort Services, recommends turning off or lowering your cooling system any time you leave the house for prolonged periods of time.
"Changing the temperature to even five degrees higher when you leave for a few days will help ensure your energy bills stay lower. A programmable thermostat is a great investment if you want to change the temperature by a few degrees while you are at work or sleeping, as this can also contribute to overall savings," he tells Best Life.
Wiseman notes that it's also crucial to keep the windows closed any time your AC is running.
"This may seem obvious, but it is always an important reminder as temperatures can fluctuate a lot in climates that experience all four seasons. If there is a cooler day during the summer or you have a backyard event with a lot of movement in and out of the home, ensure you turn the AC off before opening all the windows. If you do not do this, your AC will continue trying to cool the home to the desired temperature, and you will end up wasting a lot of energy, costing you more when your energy bill is due," he says.
Not adjusting your water heater
Your water heater is another potential drain on your energy stores, says Adam Graham, an industry analyst at Fixr.com.
"Your hot water heater is on all the time, constantly using up energy. If you lower the temperature, you lower how much energy it needs," Graham explains. "Another option is to lower the water temperature of individual appliances and set them according to your needs."
He says that if you find your water heater is using up too much energy, you should consider switching to a tankless water heater.
"The upfront cost to install a tankless water heater is around $2,500 to $4,500 but could save you money in the long run since they heat the water you use instead of storing it," he notes.
Not getting an energy audit
Everyone's home is different, which is why one of the best ways to optimize your space is to have your energy levels audited by a professional.
"It's difficult to tackle a problem without knowing what the root cause is. Getting an energy audit done will identify the issues that are driving up that energy bill at the end of the month, allowing you to fix the problem more permanently," says Graham.
He notes that an energy audit should cost around $250 and can show you the biggest drains on your bills, from outdated appliances to bigger structural problems in the house.
"Contract a company that will do the audit and make the changes to your home for you. This can save you money as the company may roll the cost of the audit into the cost of the modifications," he suggests.
Not setting your appliances to their most efficient modes
Graham says that making small changes around the house can add up, and the more changes you can automate, the better. By resetting your home appliances to their most efficient modes, you can ensure they're not draining energy unnecessarily.
Not sure where to begin? Try setting your dishwasher to eco-mode so that it uses less hot water, or defaulting to cleaning your clothes in a cold wash setting, Graham suggests.
Ignoring air gaps
Air sealing your home—especially around windows and doors—can help decrease your energy bill by reducing unnecessary heating and cooling.
"Air gaps are a big part of thermal transfer," explains Graham. "When you seal up the air gaps, you help stop the thermal transfer, making your home more efficient."
Graham says the effect on your energy bill can be staggering. "Some estimates say that you can lower your bills by 20 percent, others by up to 40 percent depending on how much thermal transfer is stopped."
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Leaving your lights on and your devices plugged in
Finally, you can lower your energy bill by doing what your parents have been asking you to do for decades: Turning off the lights when you leave a room.
Similarly, unplugging any devices that could be draining energy stores when not in use can also drive costs back down. This can include televisions, gaming consoles, chargers, microwaves, coffee machines, and more.