5 Causes of Expensive Electric Bills (and How to Lower Them)

Electricity in the US already costs a lot, but experts estimate the rates to climb higher this year. For 2021 residential prices, the projected increase is 0.21 cents per kilowatt-hour. If this forecast comes to pass, the average rate will come up to 13.41 cents per kWh.

That should be enough reason to audit your home’s energy consumption. This way, you can determine the energy vampires in and around your abode.

To make things easier, we made this list of the most common high electric bill causes and culprits. Check it out as we also included tips on how to lower electric bills and save more money instead.

1. Outdated or Ill-Maintained Air Conditioners

On average, air conditioning makes up approximately 12% of household energy expenditures. So, if your energy bills amount to, say, 2,000 a year, $240 of that is for space cooling alone.

That still depends on where you live, though; the hotter it is, the more you likely use your AC. Old age can also be behind an AC causing high electric bills, as older units consume more energy. A lack of equipment maintenance is also one of the top causes of a high electricity bill.

By contrast, today’s top air conditioners are 20% to 40% more energy efficient than those made a decade ago. Well-maintained ACs, such as those that get cleaned regularly, also use less power. Their higher energy efficiency equates to lower bills and also fewer emissions.

So, you might want to consider a new residential AC installation if your existing unit is about 10 years old. If it’s less than that, then at least have it undergo professional tune-ups at least once a year, before summer. This way, you can avoid skyrocketing energy bills; plus, you get to trim your carbon footprint.

2. Having Too Many Energy-Hogging Appliances

A 40-gallon water heater that runs for 2 hours a day uses up an average of 2,190 kWh of energy per year. A 16-cubic-feet fridge that runs non-stop consumes approximately 642 kWh a year. Dishwashers, dryers, aquariums, and dehumidifiers are other energy-hogging appliances.

Just like with air conditioners, the older those appliances are, the more energy they use. The use of such outdated, high-wattage equipment can make your electric bills skyrocket.

If you have the budget, consider upgrading your old and worn appliances to Energy Star ones. For example, Energy Star-certified clothes washers use 25% less energy. They also use one-third less water than non-certified washers, so you get to save even more money.

3. Unaddressed Air Leaks

Air leakage occurs when outdoor air enters your home and heated or cooled air escapes from it. This can happen through cracks, gaps, openings, many of which you can find in windows and doors. Either way, such leaks raise energy bills since your HVAC unit would need to remove more cold or heat from the air.

Duct leaks can also waste up to 40% of heating and cooling energy. Holes in the ductwork allow conditioned air to leak out and dissipate before it reaches you. What’s more, they place extra strain on HVAC units, making them work even harder and use up more energy.

A pretty good trick to determine if you have leaks in windows or doors is to close them on a dollar bill. Then, try pulling it out; if it slips through without dragging, you’ve got an air leak right there.

As for duct leaks, you can inspect them for visible cracks, holes, and tears. You can also turn the AC on full blast for a few minutes while giving exposed ducts a walk-around. If you can feel air blowing out of them, that means your ducts are contributing to high electricity bills.

4. Worn Insulation

Insulating materials help prevent excessive heat exchange that occurs through surfaces. They help reduce heat gains from outside and from heat-generating equipment. They also keep conditioned indoor air from escaping outdoors.

That’s why damaged, worn, or poorly-installed insulation can lead to higher electricity bills.

If you have an older home, improving its insulation can lead to 20% savings on heating and cooling bills. Moreover, high-quality insulating materials can help with moisture control. You’d want to keep indoor dampness at bay, as too much moisture can trigger mold growth.

Molds, in turn, can affect your home’s indoor air quality. Aside from your health, molds can also affect your HVAC system’s performance.

For starters, these microorganisms can clog up your HVAC filters faster. They can also form layers of residue on HVAC components and restrict airflow. As a result, your HVAC unit uses more energy, driving your electricity bills.

So, as early as today, have your home’s insulation inspected and, if needed, repaired or replaced.

5. Keeping the Lights on All the Time 

Lighting makes up 15% of the electricity used in US homes and commercial buildings. That makes the improper use of lighting a culprit behind high electricity bills. Leaving them on all the time or for prolonged periods is a complete waste of energy.

Things could be even worse if you’re still using incandescent lights at home. While they’re no doubt one of the greatest human inventions, they’re energy inefficient. That’s because they convert as much as 90% of energy into heat and only 10% into actual light.

By contrast, LED lights are 90% efficient, converting 90% of energy into light. They also last longer than incandescent light bulbs, so you’d need fewer replacements.

Don’t Let These High Electric Bill Causes Deplete Your Savings

As you can see, some of the most common high electric bill causes include old and faulty home appliances. So, if you can, consider upgrading to modern, more energy-efficient models. Others, such as leaving the lights on even when not in use, are habits you can easily change.

The more of these energy-hoggers and wasters you can address, the more money you get to save.

Ready for even more strategies to lower your utility bills (and carbon footprint)? Then please feel free to check our other educational home resources!

Sudarsan Chakraborty
Sudarsan Chakraborty

Sudarsan Chakraborty, an adept blogger and writer, navigates the digital realm with finesse. His passion for storytelling drives him to explore diverse topics from Home Improvement to Business. With clarity and authenticity, Sudarsan captivates audiences, offering unique insights and fostering a community of engaged readers on his blog.

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