Why Is My Electric Bill So High?

High Electricity Bill in Washington

Spending time evaluating how you use electricity can help you cut your electric bill without having to sacrifice convenience or comfort. We at Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning have put together these tips to help you save energy and money in your Seattle home.

Heating and Cooling Systems

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) systems are the most energy-hungry appliance in homes and buildings. There are ways to keep their energy use at a minimum, primarily through maintenance and smart operation.

Air Filter

The single most important thing you can do to keep energy use low is to change the air filter regularly. Nothing drives up your cooling and heating bills faster than a dirty filter.

A clogged filter slows the passage of air through the system, which makes it run longer to condition your house. Make it a point to check the filter monthly when your air conditioner or furnace is running frequently.

Routine Maintenance Is Key

Next to ensuring that you have a clean filter, having your system serviced at least once a year is the best thing you can do for your HVAC unit. The technicians from Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning will go through each component carefully, cleaning and adjusting the parts as necessary. When dirt collects on the parts, efficiency drops. Electricity can’t flow as quickly through the electrical parts and as a consequence, the performance suffers. If your system is new, the manufacturer or your dealer may require proof of professional maintenance to keep the warranty active.

Ductwork Leaks Drive up Costs

You may have ductwork leaks that can waste a significant amount of electricity because you’re sending cooled or heated air to places where you don’t need it. These leaks are not uncommon and can occur at any time. Your HVAC tech from Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning will look for signs of leaks by inspecting the areas around the registers for excessive dust or dirt, or by running pressure tests. Uncomfortable rooms are another telling sign of ductwork problems.

Sealing the leaks will cut your electric bills quickly. It’s especially important to keep an eye on your ducts if you use any vented gas appliances. A leak can pull carbon monoxide (CO) into the ducts from vents that service gas dryers, water heaters, and even furnaces. Circulating CO poses a significant danger to your household.

Programmable Thermostats Help

Using a programmable thermostat instead of a manual thermostat can help you lower your electric bills. If you’re away on a daily basis or sometimes forget to adjust the thermostat for overnight heating or cooling, consider having Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning install one. Besides managing temperatures, smart thermostats can alert you to system problems, let you control the temperatures from anywhere, and change temperatures in unoccupied rooms.

Energy Sinks

Your home may lack adequate insulation or have many air leaks around doors, windows, the roof, or the foundation. You can look for cracks or gaps in these areas or hire a professional energy auditor. Our technicians use pressurized equipment to identify where the leaks are. Your roof and windows are common problem areas for heat escaping or entering your home. An infrared camera scan will show exactly where the problem areas are.

You can conduct your own energy audit by using a candle or incense stick to check for leaks. It’s best to wait for a windy day when air infiltration will be high. Walk around the exterior walls inside your home with a lighted candle or incense stick. When the smoke starts to move, there’s probably an air leak nearby. Mark the location on a piece of paper. Pay attention to the windows, foundation area, and corners.

Attic Insulation

Insulation in the attic and walls is essential to lower electric bills. If you can see the tops of the rafters in your attic, you probably need to add more. The DOE recommends that you have 16 inches of insulation in the attic, which you can achieve by blowing in loose insulation or increasing the level of batts. Cellulose and fiberglass are the two most common types used in attics, and fiberglass batts are found in walls.

You can check the amount of insulation in your walls by removing an exterior outlet cover. Before starting be sure you turn off the circuit breaker for the area where you’re working. Once the cover is off, look inside to see if the stud cavity on the exterior wall is full. The insulation should not be tightly packed, but it should cover all areas inside the cavity. While increasing the amount of insulation in the attic is relatively simple, walls sometimes present a challenge.

The most effective solution for improving insulation levels is to blow in loose insulation. Home improvement stores often rent blowers to customers who buy their insulation. Although it’s a messy job, it’s not complicated. You can also hire a contractor to do the project for you.

Problems With Water Heaters

Aging or poorly maintained water heaters will cause an increase in energy use, especially for electric units. They are more prone to mineral buildup since the water comes into direct contact with the heating elements.

Even though Seattle’s water is fairly soft, over time mineral deposits still form. To prevent them, you should flush a few gallons of water from the bottom of the tank every six months. Every water heater has a spigot at the bottom of the tank. Hook a hose to it and run the water outside or into a drain to prevent an excess of mineral buildup.

Keeping your water heater at temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit also contributes to excess energy use. Higher temperatures also raise the risk of scalding. Dishwashers normally have heating elements that raise the wash temperature to 140 degrees. If you want hotter water for handwashing dishes or cleaning, fill a pan from the tap and heat it on the stove.

Energy Vampires

If you use older battery-charged devices like cellphones, cameras, or appliances that you leave plugged in 24/7, you may be using more electricity than you realize. Energy vampires are items such as chargers and appliances that use electricity continuously, even though they’re not in use.

Coffee pots, microwaves, and your home entertainment components use energy nonstop. You can cut that consumption by putting the appliances you don’t have on timers on their own surge protectors and turning them off until you need them.

There are several other solutions to stop this power drain from your devices. You can purchase power strips that use technology that turns the outlet off after the charged device is full. Another approach is to look for the Energy Star label on packages when you need to replace a device. These use technology that turns the charger off automatically when the device is full.

And Everything Else

Other appliances that can drive up your electric bill include clothes dryers and space heaters. Dryers benefit from operating lint-free while space heaters should be as free from dust as possible. Always remove the lint after each load and use space heaters judiciously.

Contact Us for Top-notch Service

When you need help with your water heater or HVAC system, contact Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning. Our technicians have advanced training in HVAC systems and have earned NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certification, the most stringent measure of knowledge and performance standards in the industry. In addition to heating and cooling repairs, installation, and maintenance, our team provides duct cleaning, indoor air quality, and electric services. We look forward to helping you save energy and money while prolonging the life of your equipment. Give us a call today to learn more.