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Whoa! My utility bills are too high!

Washington Energy | 11/26/2013 | Posted in Heating, Cooling

It’s that time of year when we get that first utility bill of the winter season, and for some that’s a moment of “ouch!”. How to turn that “ouch” into an “ahh”? Here are top reasons for high bills and some options for lowering them.

 

My electric bill is too high

Do you have electric heat? Every year rates do go up and keeping the same temperature you can have higher bills. Consider:

  • Switch from electric heat to natural gas if available on your street. There are great utility rebates from PSE, plus your ongoing heating cost will be about 25% lower.

  • Switch from baseboard heating to ductless or air source heat pump, to lower heating costs by up to 50% and get air conditioning as a bonus. Prices are coming down on ductless systems and there are excellent utility rebates up to $1500.

  • Add a programmable thermostat to lower the heat while you are not home. These used to be difficult to figure out but technology has improved, making it easy to lower heating costs by about 10%.

  • Maybe it’s not your heating system but an increase in cold air leaking into your house. Besides caulking windows and weather stripping doors, professionally air sealing and insulating your home can reduce drafts, and allow you to utilize less heating to achieve the same level of comfort.

  • And there’s always that one you don’t want to imagine… but it happens. Is your neighbor plugging something into an outlet on the exterior of your house?

My gas bill is too high  

Do you have gas heat? Besides annual rate increases or a broken meter, there are several factors that could be causing an increase. Consider:

  • How healthy is your gas furnace? A furnace that is older and/or not maintained is using extra natural gas to keep up with your demand for warmth. Gas furnaces lose energy efficiency as they age and parts wear. The less efficiently it operates, the harder it works to keep a constant temp for you. The same goes for natural gas water heaters. If your heating system is more than 15 years old, your 90% efficient appliance might only be 80% at best.

  • Check for leaky ducts. A significant portion of your heat can be wasted by escaping through leaky ducts. Combine that with some plumbing or electrical penetrations that are not sealed in the attic, and your heat can just be pouring out of the house. This is something that most homeowners are not able to ascertain on their own. A certified Home Energy Auditor will use specialized equipment to measure the heat loss, air leaking and air flow of the home and show you how areas of concern.

  • Has the insulation lost its fluff? The EnergyStar folks at the US Department of Energy start their discussion of energy saving with insulation for a reason – it’s really the number one way to make a significant difference in the amount of heating you will need for your home. Right now there are great rebate incentives to add insulation and it can benefit homeowners with reduced heating and cooling costs.

  • Check your heat pump settings. If you have an air source heat pump attached to your gas furnace but still see your furnace turning on more than expected or using more gas than expected, you may have the heat pump set to switch over to backup heat at too high of a temperature. Heat pumps can get below 40% without having to switch over. Consult a professional heating contractor if you have a question about this.

  • Change your air filter (furnace filter) as scheduled. Clogged filters make your equipment work harder.
  • Check for a gas leak. A large leak would be something you can smell and you should call your utility immediately. Small leaks can happen in and around older gas appliances and in an open space like a basement or garage you might never smell them. This is also something that a home energy audit would test for.

If you have a propane heater or oil heat, you are in a different category of bills altogether. These fuels are up to four times the cost of gas or electric heat pump heating. Even if you want to keep your propane or oil fueled heating system, the same options are available to you to lower your bills. Just follow the items we have outlined under the Gas bill section, and you can see lower energy costs too.

We’ve heard it all, and we’ve helped customers with all of these situations, bringing their energy costs down and increasing home comfort. For your free estimate or for a service appointment contact Washington Energy at 800-398-4663 or click to send your request via email.

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