During times of extreme weather, such as the body-numbing cold we’ve experienced in Iowa this past month, using more power to stay warm is a necessity. You may be startled by an uptick in kilowatt hours (kWh) totaled on your monthly electric bill. You may also wonder why your bill may be higher (or lower) than that of a neighbor or friend, or how your usage can jump up one month.
Factors that affect your energy use
Your bill reflects the amount of electricity you’ve used in the previous month. While the extreme cold may bring a sharp focus to your bill this month, there are several factors that determine how much energy you use. Your bill is impacted by your habits and behaviors, as well as the choices you make to stay comfortable. Some of these habits are:
- Space heating and cooling. Your HVAC system and hot water heater are usually the largest energy expenses, especially so in periods of extreme cold or heat. In addition, dehumidifiers, portable space heaters and fans all add (kWh) to electric bills.
- The number of appliances and devices in your home and how often you use them. There is a wide range in energy use between various appliances and the models of the appliances you choose.
- Your family size and number of visitors in your home. More people in the home lead to more laundry, more cooking and cleaning up, as well as more electronics charging, more lights on and higher usage of other appliances, too.
- Your home’s features. The size and age of your home, and how well-sealed it is and how many windows it has all affect the amount of energy used for heating and cooling.
- Your personal preferences and choices are important factors. Some people require (or desire) a warmer temperature in the winter and a cooler temp in hot weather, while others don’t mind bundling up in the winter and sweating a little in the summer. Note that recommended comfort levels are 68 degrees F in the winter and 78 degrees F in the summer.
Extra winter challenges
If you experienced a jump in your bill this past month, you may have altered your electric use in these ways; each of these habits can cause your bill to tick upward:
- Did you turn on portable electric heaters in drafty rooms?
- Did you use heat tape to keep your pipes from freezing?
- Did you turn on engine heaters to ensure your vehicles and equipment started in the morning?
- Did you turn up your heat a few degrees to ward off the chill caused by frequently opening the door to the outdoors (perhaps you had to check on livestock frequently or shovel out the driveway several times a day)?
- Did you have lights turned on more hours each day because it’s darker in the morning and in the evening during the winter (and often gloomy throughout the day, too)?
- Could the furnace filter have been dirty, causing it to run less efficiently?
- Were more family members home more hours, due to school closures?
- Were you able to snuggle under an electric blanket for a while, but used it longer than usual or forget to turn it off as soon as you walked away?
Maximize energy-efficiency efforts:
- Research how much energy each of your appliances uses. Find details on many common appliances HERE. Ask your co-op for ways they can help identify how much energy your appliances use.
- Become diligent in turning off appliances, lights, game consoles, computers/printers and TVs when you aren’t using them, and also turning off power strips utilized by standby devices that are always on. Some power strips make this easier with a feature that stops delivery of electricity to peripheral devices when the power is turned off to a main device, such as printers and scanners when a computer is shut down or gaming systems and movie players when a TV is switched off. Maintain all appliances to be sure they are at maximum efficiency (replace filters, clean coils, follow manufacturers’ maintenance schedules).
- Research before purchasing any new appliance and bring home the most energy-efficient model available (labeled as Energy Star) to ensure savings for years thereafter.
- Do all you can to make your home more energy-efficient. For example, check insulation and replace where needed, and seal windows and doors and any other openings into the home.
As your trusted energy partner, we’re here to help
- Ask us about rebates if you are planning to update your HVAC system to a more energy-efficient electric model or if you need a new energy-efficient electric water heater.
- Check in for additional energy-saving tips from our energy experts (check our website, too!) for more details.
- Enroll in budget billing so you can spread the higher cost of winter heating and summer cooling costs out over the entire year: you’ll have no surprises using this process!