Electric bill out of control! Help!

Like many of us we started out in apartment as a single guy or girl and maybe had a roommate or two. I remember tapping the windows and it almost felt like a thin layer of hard Reynolds wrap or sushi paper.

I knew after tapping the window that the winters and summers were going to be hard on my wallet because all that Texas air conditioning would be sucked up by the hot Texas sun right through that pathetic super thin pane.

The winters would make my window almost like an outdoor heater as the heat seemed to be blowing out my window as if it wasn’t even there. The heater and air conditioning ran continuously and nothing ever stabilized.

I lived alone in a 800ft, all electric, second floor apartment. I kept it as hot as I could stand in the summer, and as cold as I could handle in the winter. I barely used lights or air. In the spring/fall, when I didn’t use air at all, my electric bill fluctuated around $150. In the summer, it was as as high as $200. This was way too much money for me to spend on such a necessary thing. I frequently wondered what I could do that didn’t include permanent modifications to the apartment to lower my energy costs?

It turns out I simply had a few misconceptions about how to tackle my energy usage. I constantly kept my light turned off and my heating and air conditioning was set just enough to keep me alive it sometimes seemed like.

What ended up reducing my electric bill the most was buying weather stripping and placing it on the windows and doors. Adding thick curtains to the windows also had a huge influence on the reduction of my electric bill.

After making these minor adjustments my air conditioner and heater did not have to work as hard at keeping me a comfortable temperature and I was good to go from there with an energy bill that never went above $100 a month.

Your Home’s Energy Use

How We Use Energy in Our Homes

Heating and Air Conditioning Typically Accounts for the biggest portion of electricity consumption for a homes utility bill.

To begin you want to locate the areas in the house that use the most electricity. Pie chart shows energy use in a typical home: 34% space heating, 34% appliances and lighting, 13% water heating, 11% electric A/C, 8% refrigerator.This type of approach is known as the wholehouse energy efficiency approach. You can bring in a home energy audit specialist who can determine where the energy is escaping from holes and cracks in the homes ducts and exterior entrance and exit ways. Cracks and openings in windows and door seals are a few easy locations to look at. Single pane windows and attics and walls not properly insulated or updated with Radiant Barrier can also cause substantial energy loss. Many regional utilities in Texas such as Oncor Delivery and Centerpoint Energy provide free home energy efficiency programs to assist in making your home a more efficient and bring needed money savings to the bottom line for your families needs. Everybody could use a little extra money and these tips could give you more then just a little extra. Of course, many of these suggestions you could perform yourself but some of them require a utility or energy expert to take a look at. You can learn more about energy tools and audit’s that can help you in your search for energy savings by checking out the Electricity Guide or the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) member page.

Tips On Auditing Home Energy

  • See if the attic insulation is at the proper level, as well as exterior and basement walls, floors, ceilings, and crawl spaces. Go to the Electricity Guide to learn how to properly check your insulation levels.
  • Locate holes and cracks around ceilings, walls, doors, windows, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can cause are to come in and out of a home.
  • Close any open fireplace dampers.
  • Receive yearly air conditioning maintenance and take advantage of HVAC promotional maintenance programs in your area as they come available. You can find the recommended maintenance time frame in the owner’s manual of the air conditioner you bought.
  • Install energystar lighting and switches and monitor how your family uses lighting especially in high traffic areas. You can use lighting controls like dimmers, occupancy sensors, and timers to help reduce lighting usage levels. Replace outdated lightbulbs with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.

Creating a Reliable Plan

At this point you have located everywhere energy is being lost in the house. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How much do you spend on electricity?
  • Where do you loose the most energy?
  • How long will your energy efficiency investment take to recoup?
  • Are there any additional perks for you that will come from the energy standards you put into place (a more comfortable living space could be one possible example)?
  • How long do you plan to live in your current house you will be updating?
  • Are you able to do these energy saving ideas without needing to hire additional help?
  • How much money can you spend and have you checked what type of maintenance and repairs might be needed?

After you have put your plans in the proper order and know where your top priorities are you can start the energy efficiency project. Hopefully your plan will create an order so that you can buy affordable products that will pay off the most to make your home more efficient for the money. A few phone calls to some experts in town like, Home Depot or Lowes could answer some difficult questions in a few minutes. MaCenterpoint Energy and Oncor Electric Delivery both conduct free energy audits because by helping you they are able to reduce energy demand and not build as many power plants as they would need to otherwise. An energy expert can compare a homes energy bill to the energy system’s in place to see how much each costs a year to run the home. This however is quite easy by just reading the energy label on each appliance and doing a couple simple calculations. You can also hire an energy expert who specializes in performing various energy tests using blower doors, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find leaks and drafts. There are many different theories and devices recommended on how to properly test a house and you can research this by googling terms like “blower door”. The energy expert can give you a list of affordable solutions to make the home more energy efficient although most of the things they will recommend are common sense like, cracks around windows being filled, door seals, duct leaks, and updating or maintaining A/C Units. The expert will also calculate the return on investment when compared to older systems being used.

Photo of a ranch style house in winter.
Thermal photograph of ranch style house shows heat escaping through windows, doors, and front porch.

Heat Finding Its Way Out Of Your House
When you heat your house you want to make sure it all stays inside because most spend a majority of their energy dollars on heating their home. This image shows what happens and where it happens in this type of scenario. The  colors show white, yellow, and red which is in order of the least amount of heat loss to the greatest in thermal energy. The red color represents the most in heat loss from the house.

Tips to Find the Best Contractor For The Job

  • Word of mouth is best from family and friends
  • People pay a lot to be in the yellow pages so check it out
  • Find a local company as they are cheap and just as good as going out of town to find someone.
  • Find a licensed and bonded contractor.
  • When receiving bids be sure to get the details in writing and have atleast 3 company bids.
  • Get referrals and ask about experience
  • Call the companies references
  • See if they have any complaints with the Better Business Bureau

Electricity Bid helps you find an electric rate and provider to save you money and keep life simple.

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