Author Topic: Massive electricity bills...reasons?  (Read 6487 times)

GoCubsGo

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Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« on: January 07, 2015, 02:43:26 PM »
So I just got done with the utilities tally for last year and I'm confounded by why my electricity use is extremely high in comparison to others here as well as other homes in my neighborhood.  My utility provides a quarterly comparison and every time it says I use b/w 40%-%70 more electricity than my neighbors with similar sqft homes.  I had them check my meter this summer and it was working fine.  Here are the basics.  I think I know the answer but any thoughts would be appreciated:


2,000 sq ft home built in the 1920's (Average electrical bill is $160 month)

New windows on entire second story.  First floor has original windows but I built and installed interior storm windows which greatly cut down drafts.  I also temporarily caulk window gaps in winter.

All lighting is CFL or LED save for a couple lights and we keep the summer temp at 73 and winter temp at 68.

Household of 4 with my wife and I both working from home most days (probably adds to usage)

Here is what I think may be the big issue.  I have a zoned HVAC system. One system does the main house (that system was replaced in 1998 but isn't high efficiency).  The second HVAC system handles just an addition to the home but it is over 35 years old (it just won't die and my HVAC guy has barely had to touch it.  I think it may be over sized as it just handles the one room addition)

I think the old HVAC system could be the culprit but I have a hard time thinking it could cause that much extra usage but I'm having a hard time scrapping it since it works perfectly fine.


Any thoughts?  I'm at my wits end as I've done a lot of things to combat the usage but still am way high.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2015, 02:49:30 PM by GoCubsGo »

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2015, 02:56:05 PM »
Is your heating electrical? Can't really say from your post.

Is your dryer electrical?

Is your range electrical?

THese three are the large users of electricty.

Lighting usage, especially with LED and CFL, will almost seem trivial compared to the big three above.

GoCubsGo

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2015, 03:01:45 PM »
Heating is gas, drying is electrical, range is gas.

MountainGal

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2015, 03:10:22 PM »
Refrigerator age?  We saved $20/mo when we unplugged the extra circa 1970's upright fridge/freezer in our garage several years ago.

GoCubsGo

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2015, 03:14:16 PM »
Refrigerator is a 2011 model and we have a 2 year old cube freezer (about 4 ft tall x 2ft deep)

NathanP

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2015, 03:22:41 PM »
Compare the worst winter month and worst summer month to a relatively temperate month to approximate the heating and cooling cost for your home. For example, if January is $300, August is $250 and a nice weather month like April is $125; you have learned that heating can cost up to $175 while cooling can cost up to $125 per month.

Hopefully have a few months each year where your electric bill is relatively low. This means that your dryer, tv, computers, fridge etc.. are not significant factors contributing to your bill. However, if your bill is roughly the same each month regardless of the heating and cooling demands, then you need to begin looking at your appliances to find the culprit.

In my case, my kW usage triples or more during the peak winter and summer months. My base usage in temperate months is very low therefore I know that properly controlling my heating and cooling will deliver the best bang/buck.

Bob W

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2015, 03:24:02 PM »
There are a lot of variables not mentioned but -

As with most energy posts I highly,  highly,  highly suggest you have a home energy audit performed by a HERs certified evaluator.  Be sure the auditor uses a blow door tester and a thermal camera.   Use an auditor that is independent and not associated with an HVAC or insulation contractor.   Your utility should have a list of locals or you can poke around a bit on the net and find one. 

You can contact your local utility company regarding this.   Many utes subsidize or pay fully for this work.

http://energy.gov/public-services/homes/home-weatherization/home-energy-audits

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=new_homes_partners.locator

Here is a quote from the energy .gov site - "Before making any energy efficiency upgrades to your home, schedule a home energy audit to learn where your home is losing energy and what you can do to save money"

The cost of a professional one should be in the $250 to $400 range.  Sounds like a lot but our utility pays all but $50 of it.  If they are able to save you $200 per year by making a few adjustments it is well worth even the  $400 investment.  Hint -- They will save you money.

Here is an online audit tool that can help as well --
http://energysavings.togetherwesave.com/add-up-your-savings

Since I don't know if you heat or not with electric it is hard to advise.  If you heat with it your not that out of line and perhaps need some adjustments.  If that is just random power and AC then you are way high?

In general ---

Buy or rent or borrow (library) a Killawatt tester and put it to work.   
Turn you water heater down to low and wrap it with R13 Batt.  1 - 8 ft section is all you need at about 10 bucks.   Tape it up.  Electric water heaters typically use $40 per month.
If your fridge is old, it is probably inefficient.
Dryers suck the heck out of electric.  Cut usage (read tips on this site) to 1 load per person per week.
LEDs are great!
Read this site for tips on reducing AC usage, as in do you really ever need too?

But really,  really,  really have a professional audit done.   The blow door tester alone will identify over 3 sq ft of leaks that can be plugged and caulked.

The heat camera will tell you if insulation is a culprit.

They will also give you a cost analysis to determine if it is worthwhile to buy new units,  install heat pumps etc..   

If you do install a heat pump check with your state for tax credits,  the feds usually have these as well and your auditor should know all your current rules.   Our utility for example has tons of rebates etc. for fridges,  HVAC and bulbs.

Cutting your electric usage is a fun game!   Good luck.   If you follow my advice you should be able to cut your bill in half. 


MountainBeard

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2015, 04:06:03 PM »
Certainly steps you can take to look at the home efficiency, but it could still be a bad meter.  Yes, I know you said they checked it, but we just went through the same thing with my mother.  Bills were higher than they should have been, and she kept calling and raising a stink over about a 3 yr period - they finally installed a new meter and the bills immediately dropped by half.  Now she's fighting with the electric company to reimburse her ~$7k.

annegables

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2015, 09:59:20 PM »
Is your attic very well insulated?  Most utility companies will do this for free.  Are your walls well insulated?  Do you have higher ceilings than normal?  Hot air rises, and it can cost a decent chunk of change to heat an extra 3 ft of ceiling height.  Are you running any space heaters, no matter how small?  I learned that it cost us $50/month to heat a small bedroom with a space heater!!!  Is your house shaded in the winter while other homes in the neighborhood benefit from direct sunlight that helps heat up the home?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2015, 05:56:56 AM »
Are you sure that the addition is being heated with gas? Frequently additions I see are heated with electric even when the rest of the house has a fuel.

Does your utility show you daily usage, and have you been out of town for any weeks? I found that useful in seeing how much we used when we were away.

Have you calculated the payback on putting in a gas water heater? I have an electric one of indeterminate age, which is unsettling, and it's far away from the sump pump, which is also unsettling. I'm replacing it with a gas water heater because (a) it will be cheaper to run (b) water problems scare the crap out of me after a $56k insurance claim at my last house.

notmyhand

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2015, 06:20:17 AM »
Are you on a well by any chance?  That's what does it for us.  Took months of me ripping my hair out to realize that's what is making ours so high.

benjenn

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2015, 07:04:38 AM »
There are a lot of variables not mentioned but -

As with most energy posts I highly,  highly,  highly suggest you have a home energy audit performed by a HERs certified evaluator.  Be sure the auditor uses a blow door tester and a thermal camera.   Use an auditor that is independent and not associated with an HVAC or insulation contractor.   Your utility should have a list of locals or you can poke around a bit on the net and find one. 

You can contact your local utility company regarding this.   Many utes subsidize or pay fully for this work.

http://energy.gov/public-services/homes/home-weatherization/home-energy-audits

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=new_homes_partners.locator

Here is a quote from the energy .gov site - "Before making any energy efficiency upgrades to your home, schedule a home energy audit to learn where your home is losing energy and what you can do to save money"

The cost of a professional one should be in the $250 to $400 range.  Sounds like a lot but our utility pays all but $50 of it.  If they are able to save you $200 per year by making a few adjustments it is well worth even the  $400 investment.  Hint -- They will save you money.

Here is an online audit tool that can help as well --
http://energysavings.togetherwesave.com/add-up-your-savings

Since I don't know if you heat or not with electric it is hard to advise.  If you heat with it your not that out of line and perhaps need some adjustments.  If that is just random power and AC then you are way high?

In general ---

Buy or rent or borrow (library) a Killawatt tester and put it to work.   
Turn you water heater down to low and wrap it with R13 Batt.  1 - 8 ft section is all you need at about 10 bucks.   Tape it up.  Electric water heaters typically use $40 per month.
If your fridge is old, it is probably inefficient.
Dryers suck the heck out of electric.  Cut usage (read tips on this site) to 1 load per person per week.
LEDs are great!
Read this site for tips on reducing AC usage, as in do you really ever need too?

But really,  really,  really have a professional audit done.   The blow door tester alone will identify over 3 sq ft of leaks that can be plugged and caulked.

The heat camera will tell you if insulation is a culprit.

They will also give you a cost analysis to determine if it is worthwhile to buy new units,  install heat pumps etc..   

If you do install a heat pump check with your state for tax credits,  the feds usually have these as well and your auditor should know all your current rules.   Our utility for example has tons of rebates etc. for fridges,  HVAC and bulbs.

Cutting your electric usage is a fun game!   Good luck.   If you follow my advice you should be able to cut your bill in half.

Can't agree with Bob W. more.  An energy audit by a qualified professional is where you need to start.  If you happen to be an electric cooperative member, many of them can do that for you (blower door test, thermal camera and all).  If your bills are consistently higher than your neighbors in similar sized homes, there's a reason for it.

enigmaT120

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2015, 01:11:10 PM »
Are you on a well by any chance?  That's what does it for us.  Took months of me ripping my hair out to realize that's what is making ours so high.

Pumping water and heating it are over half of my electric bill.  But I heat the house with a wood stove, so it's only about 56 bucks a month.  Unless I get a leaky pipe that I don't hear or see! 
« Last Edit: January 13, 2015, 11:44:05 AM by enigmaT120 »

falcondisruptor

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2015, 01:21:16 PM »
Is your hot water tank electric too?  Look into lowering your temperature.

Is your furnace blower always on?  If it's an older type blower it can be a real energy hog and might be better on auto instead. 

Do you have a gaming system that's hot to the touch when you're not using it? 

Do you have an extra fridge/freezer?

Those were all big items for us when we cut our electricity usage.  We get billed $140 a month on equal billing, but we're only using about $50 a month worth now.  I see a big refund in our future...

Bob W

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2015, 01:28:17 PM »
Are you on a well by any chance?  That's what does it for us.  Took months of me ripping my hair out to realize that's what is making ours so high.

Curious what your well electric costs are? 

Is it just for water usage?   

My well pumps water 24/7 at 4 gallons per minute in the winter as we have a pump and dump geothermal that runs on well water.    We put a 1.5 horse variable pump in 2.5 years ago.  Our general electric runs about 80 (less 15 in bullshit charges) in non heat/cool months.   It ran $185 in December in the Midwest.   So I guestimate that $100 for heating and water pumping.      We use virtually no water in non heat/cool months.

I just assumed that my well was very cheap to run?  Perhaps I'm wrong?

We are pretty happy with our 16 new LED dimmable can lights.   I won't be able to tell how good they are until a nonheat month in April.   I'm really hoping that with the lights and some tweaks with the water heater (blanket, lower setting)  That we can hit at least 4 months per year of $60 electric.  (3 people, $15 in bullshit charges,  electric dryer, stove, water heater (about $30 of that))  That would mean we are at $15 for lights, fridge, dryer, toys.  Sweet.

BTW,  our water heater needs replacing and I have found a barely used gas one for very cheap from a friend.  So I may buy it and hook up a small (50 gallon) propane tank for hot water.    That would save us about $180 per year.    The wife wants a remote controlled propane fireplace installed anyway. 

snshijuptr

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2015, 01:53:24 PM »
All lighting is CFL or LED save for a couple lights and we keep the summer temp at 73 and winter temp at 68.

Really? I work from home and my temps are 80 in Summer and 60 in Winter. I use a fan and space heater pointed right at me.

Check out http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/ for great tips on measuring and reducing electricity use.

TerriM

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2015, 10:43:09 AM »
So I just got done with the utilities tally for last year and I'm confounded by why my electricity use is extremely high in comparison to others here as well as other homes in my neighborhood.  My utility provides a quarterly comparison and every time it says I use b/w 40%-%70 more electricity than my neighbors with similar sqft homes.  I had them check my meter this summer and it was working fine.  Here are the basics.  I think I know the answer but any thoughts would be appreciated:

I get the same letter, and I think they're lying.  Either that, or the neighbors are never home.

Seriously.  What better way to guilt everyone than to tell them all that they're underperforming.

[PS:  I've gotten these messages after being away for 10 days in December, heat off, single light on a timer.  How in the world could we be using more electricity if we're not even home???]
« Last Edit: January 09, 2015, 10:50:08 AM by TerriM »

MountainGal

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2015, 03:39:48 PM »
So I just got done with the utilities tally for last year and I'm confounded by why my electricity use is extremely high in comparison to others here as well as other homes in my neighborhood.  My utility provides a quarterly comparison and every time it says I use b/w 40%-%70 more electricity than my neighbors with similar sqft homes.  I had them check my meter this summer and it was working fine.  Here are the basics.  I think I know the answer but any thoughts would be appreciated:

I get the same letter, and I think they're lying.  Either that, or the neighbors are never home.

Seriously.  What better way to guilt everyone than to tell them all that they're underperforming.

[PS:  I've gotten these messages after being away for 10 days in December, heat off, single light on a timer.  How in the world could we be using more electricity if we're not even home???]

+1.  Our neighbors' comparison is included in our monthly gas/elect bill.  I found this to be intrusive and unnecessary and I sent an email to the company accordingly.  They responded with a long winded diatribe which I ignored.

dragoncar

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2015, 04:37:50 PM »
So I just got done with the utilities tally for last year and I'm confounded by why my electricity use is extremely high in comparison to others here as well as other homes in my neighborhood.  My utility provides a quarterly comparison and every time it says I use b/w 40%-%70 more electricity than my neighbors with similar sqft homes.  I had them check my meter this summer and it was working fine.  Here are the basics.  I think I know the answer but any thoughts would be appreciated:

I get the same letter, and I think they're lying.  Either that, or the neighbors are never home.

Seriously.  What better way to guilt everyone than to tell them all that they're underperforming.

[PS:  I've gotten these messages after being away for 10 days in December, heat off, single light on a timer.  How in the world could we be using more electricity if we're not even home???]

+1.  Our neighbors' comparison is included in our monthly gas/elect bill.  I found this to be intrusive and unnecessary and I sent an email to the company accordingly.  They responded with a long winded diatribe which I ignored.

Eh, I've always been under the neighbor comparison.  I don't see how it could possibly be intrusive -- it's not your next-door neighbor, it's the block or greater. 

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is just that you and your wife work from home.  That's 1.5x the hours spent at home, and 2x the waking hours.  Just makes sense energy would be higher -- presumably you have two computers running?

Greg

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2015, 06:53:06 PM »
That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is just that you and your wife work from home.  That's 1.5x the hours spent at home, and 2x the waking hours.  Just makes sense energy would be higher -- presumably you have two computers running?

+1
If you're home all day, especially sitting at a desk or computer, you will use a ton more energy compared to folks who are gone all day.

GoCubsGo

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #20 on: January 17, 2015, 12:13:19 PM »
Definitely both computers running all day.  Gas fired furnace, hot water heater, no well equipment, etc.  We do run 4 air purifiers 24 hours which doesn't help.  I was thinking it was the two furnaces two A/C units (dual zoned with one being 30 years old) was the problem, but the more I've looked into it, it probably is us being home all day using computers, printers, etc.  We do have an electric dryer that is 40 years old that my wife does a load a day on (kids sports and daily gym visits) that I hadn't thought of until mentioned above. I'll look into what the dryer costs to run.

In general I don't worry much about the neighbor comparison but more about comparing to others on this site and we are way high for a 2000 sq ft house.  Thanks for the feedback!

Greg

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #21 on: January 17, 2015, 01:21:25 PM »
4 air purifiers all day is probably also a large load.  How bad is the air there?

The electric dryer is a possible hog, the motor is likely less efficient than newer ones but the heating elements haven't changed much in time.

For furnace use, consider choking down your heat use by concentrating work-at-home activities to one room, and close off the rest like you are gone all day.  My home office is ~120 sq. ft., and the only warm place when I work from home.  Task lighting can be more efficient than room lighting.

skyrefuge

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #22 on: January 17, 2015, 07:24:58 PM »
We do run 4 air purifiers 24 hours which doesn't help.

Ha, yeah, your neighbors aren't doing that. Stop doing that.

We do have an electric dryer that is 40 years old that my wife does a load a day on (kids sports and daily gym visits)

Holy shit, your neighbors aren't doing that either. The "40 years old" probably isn't terribly relevant, but "a load a day" sure is! Google tells me 4000-5000 watts is common for an electric dryer. Why the heck do kids sports and gym visits require daily dryer use? Stop doing that.

caliq

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Re: Massive electricity bills...reasons?
« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2015, 07:38:51 PM »
We do run 4 air purifiers 24 hours which doesn't help.

Ha, yeah, your neighbors aren't doing that. Stop doing that.

We do have an electric dryer that is 40 years old that my wife does a load a day on (kids sports and daily gym visits)

Holy shit, your neighbors aren't doing that either. The "40 years old" probably isn't terribly relevant, but "a load a day" sure is! Google tells me 4000-5000 watts is common for an electric dryer. Why the heck do kids sports and gym visits require daily dryer use? Stop doing that.

Yeah, at that rate it would probably save you money to head to a thrift store and grab some more gym/sports clothes...