The average U.S. household spends over $112/mo. (November 2018) for their electric bill. While the average amount depends on the geographic location, the average bill went up slowly but continuously from 2007 to 2014. Many Americans ask themselves why my electric bill is so high?
The slow upward trend is due to an increasing number of energy consuming devices in our homes while at the same time these devices are getting more energy efficient. Today, the average American home has multiple televisions, cable boxes, computers, game systems and refrigerators and a lot of rechargeable electronic devices.
Regional Differences in the United States
With air conditioning being the biggest electricity consumer, the regional climate causes variations in energy consumption. Another big factor are your local electricity rates. When comparing your electric bill, it’s important to compare it to the right group of electric customers.
Louisiana had the highest annual electricity consumption at 14,242 kWh per residential customer, while Hawaii had the lowest consumption at 6,074 kWh per customer. In both cases climate and electricity rates play a role.
Changes in User Behavior
Over the past decades, U.S. households increasingly installed more electric appliances, air conditioning and home electronics. From refrigerators and cooking equipment to microwaves and dishwashers in kitchens, from TVs’ to VCRs and computers, more devices are being added. The use of consumer electronics continues to increase. The latest trend shows an increase of installed connected or smart home devices that are typically always switched on.
Major Energy Consumers in U.S. Households
The average electricity consumption for residential utility customers was 867 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month in 2017. The EIA estimated that in 2018, electricity in U.S. households was mainly used for cooling (15%) and heating (14%), followed by water heating (12%), lighting (6%), refrigerators (6%) and plug-in loads like TVs and related entertainment equipment. Below, we’ll look at the five biggest energy hogs in your home and how to manage them to save energy.
Heating and Air Conditioning
A growing number of American households have air conditioning in their homes throughout all climate zones. Air conditioning is typically responsible for the biggest piece of your electric bill.
Energy consumption varies greatly depending on the capacity, efficiency and the type of the unit. While central air conditioning is more efficient than single window or wall units, energy consumption depends on many other factors such as the insulation of your home or the climate in your region.
Make sure to have your HAVC system checked regularly at least once a year and replace the filters when they get dirty. Install a programmable or a smart thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature for maximum savings when you’re not at home or during the night. Close off the vents in any rooms you don’t use and fix holes and cracks in your home, including caulking and weather-stripping for your windows and doors.
If your air condition unit is older than 10-years, consider replacing it. If you’re installing a new AC unit, add more insulation to your home and you may be able to downsize your system.
Water heating is responsible for 12% of home energy use. Possible savings depend on the type and size of your water heater.
Set the thermostat to 120°F. Every degree more will consume more energy than necessary. It also helps having a smart thermostat which will allow you to monitor your home’s temperature anywhere on Earth. Make sure the hot-water storage tank is insulated as well as the hot water supply pipes leaving the tank.
Use your hot water more efficiently: take shorter showers; wash clothes in cold or cool water instead of warm or hot water; your clothes will still get clean, install low-flow faucets and shower heads in your home. They’ll save you energy and water.
If your water heater is more than 10-years old, consider installing a new one with an Energy Star rating.
Lights are the third biggest energy consumer in your home. According to the EIA, about 82% of American households still use at least some incandescent lights.
By switching from incandescent light bulbs to high-efficiency LEDs, you can save up to 80% of energy used. LEDs also last up to 25-times longer than incandescent light bulbs. Turn the lights off when you’re leaving a room and don’t install more light than you actually need; especially when switching from incandescent to LED bulbs make sure you get the lighting products with the same lumens for the same amount of light.
You can use dimmer switches for fixtures where you want to lower the light level. Put outdoor lights on motion sensors and/or photocell to turn lights on/off automatically.
While the efficiency of refrigerates has increased significantly over the past decades, refrigerators and freezers are still major power consumers. A hidden energy hog is often that second refrigerator in the basement or garage: many people still keep the fridges they replaced running as backup or second refrigerators, which eliminates the savings and even adds more load.
The easiest way to save energy with your refrigerator is to adjust the temperature settings. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a refrigerator temperature of 40°F is safe for storing food. Your freezer can be safely set to 0°F.
Defrost your refrigerator when frost builds up and replace the seals if necessary. If you close the door on a piece of paper, the seals should hold it firmly in place.
Practice good refrigeration habits. Open the fridge only as long as necessary and close it in between other tasks. Label your food to be able to quickly find what you need and open the door only after you’ve decided what you’re looking for. After cooking, cool any hot food down before placing it in the refrigerator.
If your refrigerator is more than 15-years old, consider buying a new one. When buying new appliances look out for the Energy Star logo. A current Energy Star refrigerator uses only half the energy than a refrigerator from 2001. When shopping for a new model, consider model size and freezer orientation: bottom freezers are more efficient.
Televisions and Other Electronics
According to the EIA, TVs and similar devices are number 5 on the list of the biggest electricity consuming household items.
Use a power strip for your TV, cable box and games console and for the AC adapters of your laptop, cell phone or iPod. Turn them off when you’re not using you’re TV or when you’re not charging the devices. The chargers and adapters draw power even when no devices are attached or when the batteries are full. Do the same for computers, stereos and other electronics.
Prevent Your Electric Bill from Getting Too High
Now that you know why your electric bill is so high and some ways you can lower them. However, another great way to lower your electric bill is to compare providers. Finance Guru is here to help you find the best deal for you. Check out our deregulated energy guide for more information.