Why is My Electricity Bill So High? Tips to Save Energy In The Summer

Inspire Clean Energy

11 min read

category: Sustainable Living

What Causes A High Electric Bill?

No one likes receiving their energy bill – whether it comes in your email inbox or through your mailbox, you usually open it with one eye closed, already cringing. When you open it, you clutch your chest in horror.

If you find yourself wracked with anxiety every time that bill hits your mailbox, don’t worry – you absolutely can take control of it and get it to a place where you feel comfortable and can budget for it more easily each month.

To help you gain back control, let’s look at the reasons why you get a high electric bill and see what you can do to minimize your energy usage. And, if you’re ready to take control of your energy usage and take control of your energy usage and bills for good, we can help.

It’s our mission to help US households reduce the volatility and unpredictability in their energy bills and switch to renewable energy, so it’s not only a win for you, it’s a win for the planet.

Now, let’s jump into the tips that will help you save even more money.

What is the most used type of energy source used in the home?

Electricity and natural gas top the list of most used energy sources for the home. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2017, 44% of household energy was provided by electricity and almost the same amount, 43%, by natural gas, used mostly for space and water heating [1].

Petroleum derived sources – kerosene, fuel oil, propane – were next on the list of energy sources used by homeowners.

There are regional differences, with fuel oil being popular in the Northeast and propane in rural areas. Although the majority of households use more than one energy source, in the South often electricity is the only source used.

What uses the most electricity in the house?

In almost all cases, it’s our air conditioning units or electric heating, if we use it. This varies significantly depending on where in the country you live, as those in the South, Arizona, or Florida are likely to run their air conditioning all but a few months of the year, while those in the pacific northwest may be able to hold off for some time.

Next is your appliances, top of the list being your washer and dryer. American households do around 300 loads of washing every year, so something in the region of 13% of your electricity costs is to keep your clothes and linens clean. As it has to run 24/7, the refrigerator will always use a significant amount of electricity (learn how to save energy in the kitchen here) but, in general, newer models consume less electricity than older ones. (This goes for all your appliances – if you’re looking for an excuse to replace them, they may pay for themselves in savings on your bills over their lifetime.)

Next up is lighting, at 12%. This is one area where the cost is decreasing as lighting becomes more efficient and lower cost to use. Of course, the oven is also intensive, but we often only use them for short lengths of time, so it’s not a major concern. Again, if your oven or cooker is old, it may be inefficient to run. These days computers, TVs and other electronics are made to be energy efficient, so they only account for about 1% of your electricity bill.

With so many appliances running, and the need for constant connection growing every day, switching to a renewable energy plan is one of the easiest and quickest ways to positively impact the planet, and bring order and consistency to your energy bills.

Do we use more electricity in the summer?

As we touched on lightly above, seasonal variations in electricity consumption depend on where you live. Many of us live in states that get extremely hot in the summer. This has two effects:

  1. When it's sweltering outside, people often spend more time inside and therefore use computers, TVs and so on more than at other times. It is always important to conserve energy in a heatwave.
  2. Your HVAC system has to work a lot harder to maintain a comfortable temperature at all times of day and night.

On top of this, the kids are home from school for the summer break and constantly looking for entertainment, and in the 21st century, that often means electronic entertainment. A swimming pool is a great place to get cool and have fun, but a pump running 24 hours a day can add $80 to your electricity bill.

What makes your electric bill so high?

By far, the biggest consumer of electricity in the average home is cooling and heating, together accounting for about 46% of your energy use. The average HVAC unit runs for 10-15 minutes two to three times an hour and uses 3500 watts. The actual figures will vary depending on where you live in the country and how well insulated your home is. Add in the electricity used in heating water as well, and that’s 60% of your energy usage right there.

What is a normal electricity bill?

According to the EIA, the average monthly electric bill for a residential property in 2018 was $117.65, although there are regional variations.

Bills tend to be lower in the South and West, rising as you go northwards and towards the East Coast. Anywhere that has cold winters and/or hot summers is always going to use more power than somewhere more temperate.

It also varies state by state. Utah was the lowest at $77.25, and Hawaii the highest with more than double that at $168.13. These figures reflect the average price per kWh rather than any difference in usage. In terms of usage, not surprisingly, the southern states consistently use more electricity than more northerly regions (due to the heat and humidity).

So what is considered a high electric bill depends very much on where you live, your home size, and your family size. Understandably, a one-bedroom apartment in Utah with a single resident isn’t going to use as much as a 5-person family in a large house in upstate New York.

What is a normal electricity bill in summer?

The EIA has the metrics for this, and the forecast for 2019 was an average monthly bill of $137 in the summer [2]. Again this varies regionally with the Pacific states looking at $119 per month and the East South Center area expecting bills of more like $157.

COVID-19 is obviously having an effect on our usage in 2020, since we’ll likely all spend more time at home than we normally would, but the EIA expects the increase in consumption caused by more people being at home will be offset by the milder weather we’re having and expecting.

How do you find out what’s using so much electricity during the summer?

There’s not really any way to find out what specifically is costing you on your electricity bill in the summer. If you’re one of the few using a smart meter (or can get your hands on one), they often use a traffic light system to show you when there’s a lot of energy being used. If you have one, and it only turns red when you’re using the dryer or when your aircon kicks in, you can be pretty confident that either of those is driving up your cost.

You can also do this by investing in smart plugs with energy monitoring. These days you can often use an app to check your electricity usage from these devices and for $20 or $30 you will know exactly what appliance is sucking up the most electricity.

Another option is to get a monitor attached to your electrical panel, which can analyze your power usage and identify what you are using and when and how much electricity it is using too – all relayed to your phone in real-time. This costs about $200, give or take depending on the device and the cost of the electrician to fit it, but is the best way to keep an eye on your costs.

Keeping your HVAC system in good shape should be your number one priority if you want to keep your electricity costs down during the summer.

What time of year is electricity the cheapest?

Energy prices are a product of supply and demand, so electricity is cheapest when consumer demand is low. Summer and winter are when we need to cool and heat our homes the most and those HVAC systems pull a lot of power so that’s when electricity is most expensive. Similarly, in spring and fall we are less dependent on air conditioning and furnaces, so there is less demand and electricity prices drop.

If you get an abnormally high electric bill it would be reassuring to know exactly why – or be able to argue against it if you believe it is wrong – so that $200 plus fitting would be money well spent.

Of course, if you’d prefer to pay a standard rate for your electricity each month, take a look at our personalized renewable energy subscription plans.

What time of day is cheapest to use electricity during the summer?

Like time of year, electricity prices vary during the day depending upon demand – high demand, higher price, low demand, lower price. Usually on a standard plan your rate is fixed, but it is becoming common for some energy suppliers to offer time-of-use plans where you will pay less for electricity at lower demand, off-peak times of the day.

During summer, the peak period (and the precise timing may vary with supplier) is roughly from 2.30pm-9.30pm. If you are on a TOU plan, then it makes sense to avoid using your washer or dryer, charging an electric vehicle or other high energy usage appliances during that peak period and instead make the effort to do those things late at night or first thing in the morning.

How do I reduce my electric bill during the summer?

  1. Switch your supplier or tariff. When was the last time you checked you were getting the best deal? Have you thought about changing the way you pay for electricity for good? One of the best ways to run your home with renewable energy and stop the surprises each month in your bill is to invest in the benefits and impacts of renewable energy and searching for new innovative companies that are working to bring clean energy with consistent billing to homes, like Inspire.
  2. Raise your thermostat. In the same way that reducing your heat requirements in winter lowers your energy usage, so being prepared to live a little warmer in the summer will keep your electricity costs down. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that you set your thermostat to 78℉ (26℃) only when you are at home and allowing your home to heat up while you are away. As they point out: “The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.”
  3. Keep your HVAC system running optimally. Get it serviced by a qualified technician, clean or replace the filters regularly, make certain the vents are not obstructed in any way. If your system has energy saving modes then it is wise to use them whenever possible.
  4. Change to LED lighting. Not only do LED bulbs use 75% less energy than old fashioned incandescent light bulbs and last far longer they also put out less heat. Less heat from your light fittings means there is less for your cooling system to do. And don’t forget to turn off lights when you leave a room.
  5. Check the insulation in your attic. In summer, an attic can get seriously hot and it behooves you to prevent that heat from making your HVAC system work overtime.
  6. Hang out your washing. If you can, use the sun and breeze of a summer’s day to dry and air your washing rather than an expensive to run dryer.
  7. Think about replacing your old appliances. Modern washers and dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators are much more energy-efficient than those made even ten years ago. The current generation of TVs are better than old ones and in standby mode use almost no electricity at all.

Energy costs often rise year on year, but if you do your best to conserve energy and be vigilant about what you’re paying for, you can drive those bills down.
We are unlike traditional suppliers – we don’t bill you for your energy used or that we suspect you used, we offer our customers subscription-based green energy to their home. This means they know exactly what they’re paying each month, with no nasty surprises. If you’d like to join them, you can switch to clean energy today.

Sources: [1] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/use-of-energy/homes.php [2] https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/special/summer/2019_summer_fuels.pdf

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