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Lower Your Energy Bills

With so many workers telecommuting from home, other issues besides the pandemic are impacting the bottom line – utility bills seem dramatically higher for many households. Some increase makes sense because you’re using more lights, cooking more at home, and using electronics at home instead of at the office. But for many, those changes don’t seem significant enough to explain such high bills. 

You already know to keep your thermostat lower in winter and higher in summer, and to check for air leaks through windows and doors and replace worn insulation, but there are other ways to save energy, too, main on your electronics use.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Berkeley Lab, the typical American home has 40 products constantly drawing power, amounting to almost 10% of residential electricity use. Many of these products such as air conditioners and microwave ovens can’t be switched off unless they’re unplugged, which means they’re drawing power 24/7. This type of power consumption is called standby power, and it’s one of many reasons for high utility costs. Appliances and gadgets that use standby power are those with an “external power supply, remote control, continuous display (LED) or charges batteries will draw power continuously.” 

Obviously, it’s impractical to unplug every lamp from every socket you’re using, but if you’re leaving the charger in the wall without your computer attached to it, it’s still drawing power. Unplug the charger when you unplug your laptop. Get into the habit of unplugging electronics you’re not using frequently such as guest room televisions or cordless vacuum cleaners. If you need to replace an appliance such as a refrigerator, look for one that’s certified Energy Star, which will have lower standby power. Arcadia.com explains that replacing a 10-year-old refrigerator can save you as much as $144 in energy costs over five years. 

EIA.gov explains that electricity consumption varies in predictable patterns. Use is higher during summer and winter and certain times of the day. Utility companies charge more for “peak time” electricity use, so if you telecommute from home between 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. on weekdays, you’ll notice higher bills.

According to Schneider Electric, higher consumption by consumers means they’re charged more per kilowatt hour. In other words, the more electricity you use, the more you pay per unit of electricity. Your bill is twice as high, but your actual consumption is much less. 

So what can you do? When it comes to appliances, balance effort and reward, says the utility company. Unplug power hogs when not in use, but don’t stress out over forgetting to unplug your cellphone charger. 

If your bill is dramatically higher, it could be something wrong with your meter.  You could also have a voltage leak in your electrical box. Pocketsense.com advises contacting your utility company to ask for a service call.