• 10 Causes of High Summer Utility Bills
  • September 1, 2015 | Author: David S. Brown
  • Law Firm: Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., L.P.A. - Cleveland Office
  • If you’re like me, summer is your favorite time of the year. We’re able to get outside, get some sun and enjoy longer daylight hours. Unfortunately for many, summer also brings with it increased costs in the form of energy bills. Here are ten things to think about this summer, before it’s too late:
    1. Your air conditioner is not operating at its peak performance level for one reason or another. This could be because the air filter is dirty; the evaporator coils are clogged with dust; the thermostat is miscalibrated; air ducts are damaged or detached; the system is not getting enough air returned from the house; the air handler is pulling air from hot areas of the home like an attic; the air conditioning equipment is outdated and inefficient; the HVAC refrigerant charge is low; the air conditioner’s outdoor condenser sits baking in the sun, etc. If you’re concerned that your air conditioner is costing you more money than it should, contact an HVAC specialist to come inspect and tune up your unit.
    2. A change in use pattern. This is the most common reason for higher consumption, leading to higher bills. After all, during summer, school children are home from school, college students return home for summer jobs, relatives come to visit, etc. Try to come up with usage rules - such as limits on shower time - and stick with them. Otherwise, there’s not a lot you can do to avoid this phenomena.
    3. Your air conditioner is set on “FAN” instead of “AUTO”. To be sure, your cooling system should always be set to auto. When set to cool on fan, the blower pushes air through the ductwork continuously while the compressor cycles on and off. Moisture removed from the air while the compressor runs is reintroduced to the house when the fan alone runs between compressor cycles. When you set to cool on auto, humidity is kept down, costs are much lower and comfort is higher.
    4. You have a swimming pool with a pump that runs 24 hours a day. Most residential pool pumps are ¾ horsepower output. This equates to approximately $62.00/month if operated 24 hours a day throughout the summer. A timer for the pool pump is well worth the installation cost and usually pays for itself through energy cost savings within three months or less.
    5. Your home lacks adequate insulation. Improving ceiling insulation is one of the best investments you can make towards lowering your air conditioning costs during summer. Also, be sure that your doors have proper weather-stripping, and that windows and doors are properly caulked. These are jobs that you can do yourself at a relatively low cost.
    6. The old refrigerator in your garage is sucking energy. That’s right, the old reliable fridge that served your kitchen well for 20 years now lives in your uninsulated garage. It keeps your soda cool and your popsicles icy. The trouble is, it’s a lot less efficient than the new appliance that you’ve replaced it with, and it’s now being asked to cool your icy beverages in a hot garage where it may very well need to run continuously just to keep up. Estimates indicate that a new, 25 cubic foot high efficiency refrigerator in a kitchen costs about $5 or $6 a month to operate. An old, inefficient unit in a hot garage can cost $25 to $50 a month in the summer.
    7. You’re baking too many cookies. I know what you’re thinking... it’s impossible to bake too many cookies! While you’re spot on with your love of sweets, we cannot deny that using the oven during the summer increases your cooling costs. Try to keep cooking to a minimum by grilling outdoors, or using a microwave oven. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new passion for grilling, or at least a few new recipes.
    8. You’re watering your lawn too much, or during the wrong time of day. Watering early in the morning will ensure that your lawn dries completely before nightfall. A wet lawn at night, on a regular basis, can lead to fungus and disease problems. Also, it’s cooler and less windy in the morning, so you have less evaporation, which will save money on your water bill and take less time to get the water on your lawn. Finally, you should water deeply 2-3 times per week, rather than daily. Watering daily will give your grass a shallow root system. Shallow root systems dry out fast and weaken your turf. Watering deeply 3 times per week will give your grass a deep root system, making it stronger and more drought-resistant.
    9. Leaks and Clogs. The most common type of leak is in household plumbing, which can waste a surprising amount of water. For example, a leaking faucet can waste up to 350 gallons a month. A leaky toilet can waste an astonishing 15,000 gallons a month (enough to fill a typical home swimming pool), potentially costing you well over $80 a month. Make sure that all of your systems are fee of leaks. While you’re at it, make sure that your dryer vent is free of lint, and that your furnace and air conditioner filters are cleaned or changed regularly.
    10. Your windows lack inside shading devices. Shades, drapes, blinds, etc. do more than make your house look nice. They also block heat entry during summer days. Make sure that you have something functional in place to shade your windows - especially those facing south, and those in your most frequently used rooms.

    If you’re not sure where your deficiencies exist, contact your local utility company and see if they offer a free energy audit. After that, enjoy the rest of your summer with peace of mind and reduced energy costs!