These Are the Home Appliances Killing Your Energy Bill

Have a skyrocketing electric bill? These expensive appliances might be to blame.

If your electric bill eats up a significant portion of your monthly budget, you're not alone. According to a 2018 energy usage report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average American household spends $117.65 per month on their electric bill, or $1,411.80 each year. However, when it comes to your electrical bill, know this: All appliances aren't created equal. Everything in your house—from your major appliances right on down to tiny plug-ins like phone chargers—contributes differently to that four-figure fee.

So, which is the most expensive appliance to run? According to the EIA's "Annual Energy Outlook 2020," air conditioners and heaters top the list of energy-drawing appliances, accounting for 16 and 15 percent of the average home's energy usage, respectively.

Bringing up the rear in the heating and cooling category is your hot water heater, which typically accounts for 12 percent of a home's electric bill. And while keeping your food cold and your lights on may be non-negotiable parts of modern life, doing so is costing you a pretty penny, too. Refrigeration typically accounts for 6 percent of a home's electric bill, while lighting makes up approximately 5 percent of your total electricity costs.

While it may seem like high energy costs are a foregone conclusion, there is an easy way to lower the amount of cash you're spending on appliances sitting idle: "Just turn those appliances off when you leave the house," suggests George James, a licensed electrician with New York City Electricians. And on those days it's a little too cold or hot to turn off your furnace or A/C completely, a slight change to your thermostat settings can make a major difference. According to the Department of Energy, changing your thermostat by between 7 and 10 degrees from its usual setting for an 8-hour period each day can cut electricity costs by as much as 10 percent.

Even powering down smaller appliances can keep more money in your pocket over time: Simply unplugging your TV (which accounts for 4 percent of an average home's energy usage) or your computer and its related accessories (which typically account for 2 percent) are good places to start. Unplugging everything from your chargers to your portable generators can mean sizable savings, too. According to the "Annual Energy Outlook 2020," small electronics account for 31 percent of the average electricity bill each month.

If you're looking for a more time-intensive—but ultimately budget-friendly—upgrade, replacing an outdated HVAC system can lead to significant savings. "Keep your HVAC clean and consider replacing it after about 10 years or so," says Don Distel, retail sales manager at Progressive Service Company, who also recommends upgrading to a programmable thermostat and tankless water heater to reduce your total energy costs. Distel also suggests keeping blinds and curtains closed during the day in the summer, keeping them open during the day in the winter, and having your HVAC system serviced regularly to make sure it's working at peak capacity.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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