In the last quarter of 2021, consumers in the US faced a huge jump in their energy bills since 2009. The reason? The soaring costs for electricity, fuel oil, and natural gas. The price of electricity in October 2021 rose 6.5% compared to the same month last year, while consumers paid 28% more on utilities for gas according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With an anticipated colder winter, homeowners should expect that their energy bills will be more expensive. Luckily, there are some things that you can do to control your electricity costs and still keep your loved ones safe and warm at home.
One of the keys to energy savings is to know which appliances use the most electricity. In this article, we came up with a list of the top five energy hogs in your home and how to use them properly to save money on electric costs all year round.
- Cooling and Heating Units
Did you know that your home’s air conditioners and heating appliances make up 47% of the overall electricity that you consumed in a year?
Most space heaters run on 1.5 kilowatts of electricity per hour, which translates to $1.5 on your electric bill for eight hours of use. For an air conditioner, using the unit for eight hours a day can cost you from $14.40 to as high as $211.20 per month.
Here are some tips to help you to reduce the cost of using cooling and heating systems:
- Never skip a regular AC/HVAC maintenance service – Getting regular maintenance service at least once a year reduces the risk of expensive breakdowns, ensures that your system is running efficiently, and can save you up to 30% on your energy bill (according to the US Department of Energy).
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- Utilize your ceiling fans – Running your ceiling fan during summer will allow you to raise your thermostat by 4 degrees to 80 degrees and still keep you cool at a reduced cost.
In winter, changing the direction of the fan to clockwise from counterclockwise will create a downdraft. This allows the warm air near the ceiling to circulate around the room, allowing you to turn down the thermostat a few degrees and still be comfortable.
- Use drapes – Insulated curtains or thermal drapes are designed to help protect heat loss during winter and heat over the summer months.
- Improve energy efficiency of windows – Your windows aren’t probably top of mind when it comes to saving costs on your HVAC system. However, old and drafty windows make up 25% to 30% of your home’s cooling and heating bill. That’s a huge chunk of money wasted to produce cool or warm air that’s only escaping through your windows.
While insulated curtains can help with this issue, the long-term solution would be to get a home window replacement. It may sound like a significant investment, but replacement windows can pay for themselves in the long run.
- Water Heaters
A typical water heater runs for around three to five hours per day, and according to the Department of Energy, this translates to $400 to $600 electric costs each year just on water heating alone.
There are several reasons why water heaters can increase an electric bill such as:
- the water heater’s size is inappropriate (too large or not large enough) for the household
- if it’s too old (they are only made to last up to 10 to 15 years)
- the water heater tank has sediment build-up, reducing its energy efficiency
- the temperature is set too high
Here are the tips to follow to improve the efficiency of your water heater:
- Lower the temperature – Most water heaters sold today are set at 140 degrees or higher. However, this temperature is higher than what most people need and could even cost scalding or other injuries. The Energy of Department suggests lowering this setting to 120 degrees, to give you just the right heat and also save energy. Note that for every 10 degrees that you lower the heater can add 5% savings on your energy costs.
- Insulate your pipes – Especially during winter, insulating your home’s water pipes reduces heat loss, increases water temperature (up to 2 degrees to 4 degrees hotter than uninsulated pipes), allowing you to set the water temperature to a lower setting, thus saving you energy.
Although modern refrigerators are far more energy-efficient than older models, this appliance remains to be one of the energy-hungry devices we have at home. Based on the computation of the Energy Department, an average household pays around $23.10 per month on electricity to run a refrigerator.
Here are some smart ways on how to optimize energy savings from using your fridge:
- Increase the temperature – There’s a huge chance that your refrigerator is set at a lower temperature than it needs to be. If you want to make your fridge is more energy-efficient, set the temperature at 37 degrees and the freezer at 0 degrees. This will help keep your food fresh without you spending unnecessarily on your energy costs.
- Place refrigerator in a cool area – Make sure that your fridge is placed in a cool area, away from heat sources such as the oven, dishwasher, or a space that gets plenty of sunshine. Extra heat around the refrigerator will cause it to run more frequently, adding costs to your electric bill and also wearing the fridge sooner.
Read our pro tips on How to Make Your Electrical Appliances Last Longer
- Remove stuff on top of the fridge – Do you keep cereal boxes, kitchen napkins, and other stuff on top of your fridge? These things may be causing your fridge to consume more energy than it’s supposed to as they could block the heat from escaping, making the compressor work double time.
- Organize your fridge – Keeping the refrigerator door open for longer periods means you’re letting out more cold air, which in turn makes your fridge work harder. A quick solution would be to place items in your fridge in designated areas so they’re easier to find.
According to the website ecostsavings.com, the average cost to run a dryer per load is 29 cents. It might not seem substantial, but a single dryer cycle equates to running two loads of laundry in the washing machine or running the treadmill straight for three weeks. Also, if you sum it all, running a dryer for a month costs an average of $6.09 per month or $82.74 a year.
A few tips to save on your electricity bill when using the washing machine and dryer:
- Wash in full loads – Your washing machine and dryer use the same amount of electricity no matter the size of the load. By washing only in full loads, you’re utilizing energy and also cutting down your costs to wash your clothes.
- Use cold water – By using cold water than warm water when doing your laundry can cut your energy use by over half.
- Separate heavy cotton with lightweight clothing – The load will dry faster by sorting your laundry and separating heavier cotton such as towels from usual clothing.
- Electric Oven and Stove
Another power-hogging appliance in your home is your electric oven/stove. Typically, electric ovens draw anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 watts and will use an average of 410 kWh each year. If you use the oven for three hours each week, that costs around $60 on your annual energy bill.
Although the cost of running an oven or stove may not seem that much; however, the heat from this appliance can also affect the efficiency of your heating or cooling unit. If you run your oven often, you’re creating more heat in the kitchen, therefore requiring your air conditioner to work harder to keep the temperatures in your home comfortable.
You can follow these tips to save on electricity when using your oven/stove and also ensure the efficiency of your HVAC system:
- Cook huge batches of food – By cooking bigger amounts of food at once (think meal prep), you can cut back on the number of times that you use the oven.
- Keep the oven door closed – While it’s tempting to open the oven door once in a while to check on the food, you’re only spreading unnecessary heat in the kitchen. If possible, try to just look through the glass and only open the oven when needed.
- Clean your oven and range often – Did you know that the left-over burnt pieces and gunk in your oven affect its performance? This is because these buildups will act as insulation to the heating parts of your oven, thus making it harder for the appliance to produce heat and increasing electricity use.
- Explore other ways of cooking – If you’re seeking to cut costs on your oven use, might as well look at alternatives to cooking food. For example, an energy-efficient microwave is better to use than an electric oven. Or another idea is to grill your meals outside during the summer months to keep heat away from your kitchen and help your air conditioner work more efficiently.
Electricity is an important part of our everyday lives, and in our modern world, it would be impossible to live without it. With the increasing electricity rates, it’s wise to think about your energy consumption and how you can efficiently use energy-hungry appliances.
If you live in an older home, another important thing to consider is to have your electrical system checked by a licensed electrician to get the repairs and upgrades that you need. Poorly maintained electrical components, wirings, and appliances can increase consumption and cause your energy bills to soar.
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