Dear Pat: I’m trying to make my home as energy efficient as possible. I recently installed a new heat pump and efficient water heater, and increased the amount of insulation in my home. I also enlisted the help of a home energy auditor, and he didn’t find much in the way of air leakage. However, my energy bills still seem higher than they should be. Can you point out other areas of the home that I might be overlooking?
Dear Raymond: It sounds like you have made some solid investments with your focus on space and water heating, which are usually the major uses of energy in the home. Your energy auditor may be able to provide information about how your home’s energy use compares to similar homes in the area—and if it is substantially higher, what could be causing the problem.
Your electric co-op could also be a valuable source of information. Many co-ops have installed smart meters at their members’ homes, which can show detailed hourly energy use. This information can sometimes help pinpoint a large energy user. For example, you may be using more electricity on weekends, which would be an important clue to discovering what is driving up your energy costs.
Armed with whatever clues you can glean from your energy auditor or your co-op, you are better able to search for an energy hog in your home. Are there uses of energy outside your typical living space that are “out of sight, out of mind?” Below are some possible unconventional energy uses that could be adding to your energy bill:
Hot tubs A spa is a nice amenity to have in your home, but it can significantly contribute to your energy bill. If you have a hot tub or spa that you occasionally use, consider turning it off when it is not in use. If you use your spa frequently, use a cover with a high insulation value to keep the water warm and your electric bill low.
Pump systems Water pumps often run on electricity and can be found
in many areas of your property.
- Irrigation: If you have a larger property, you may have an irrigation system. Leaks in your irrigation system can greatly increase your pump’s electricity use.
- Wells: If your home uses well water, you have a well pump that helps bring the water from the well to your home. A malfunctioning well pump may run continuously to try and maintain proper water pressure—this can cause a significant increase in your electricity bill.
- Garden fountains: Fountains make a charming addition to your garden, but the pumps that run them use about as much energy as a small lamp. If you have multiple fountains in your garden, look into installing a timer so that the fountains only run part of the day.
Non-living spaces You may have some energy hogs in your garage, outbuilding, or basement. For example:
- Do you have a second working, but inefficient, refrigerator or freezer plugged in? Is it in use, or can you consolidate its contents into your kitchen?
- Do you have a recreational space in an uninsulated part of your home, like the garage or basement? Using space heaters or portable air conditioners in uninsulated spaces can definitely lead to higher bills.
- Do you have a block heater to help warm your vehicle on cold mornings? Plugging in your heater overnight will use far more electricity than needed—use a timer to start the block heater just a few hours before you need your vehicle.
Look for energy hogs around your home, and try to limit their use if possible. Find more ways to be energy efficient by contacting your local electric co-op.
information on energy hogs, please visit: www.collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.