There is no quick overnight solution to cutting your electric bill. Most of us have quality of life expectations around comfort settings. Also, given these comfort settings each of our homes have different levels of inefficiencies as well as different sources of inefficiencies. Bottom line: There is no magic bullet.
That does not mean, however, that you are committed to a life of ‘trial and error’ with your money. There is a rising industry of professionals, See Building Performance Institute, that are up to date, in tune, and committed to building science. There have also been some pretty impressive leaps in technology that was not available even 5 years ago.
My goal is to provide a framework for you to reduce your power bill in a systemic and deliberate fashion. Think of your electric bill as a three legged stool. The three legs are 1) Your home’s efficiency 2) Your family’s behaviors and comfort levels 3) The efficiency and health of your appliances (read that as anything drawing power in your home).
Home’s Efficiency. Whether you built a home or bought an existing home there are certain levels of inefficiencies in each. It is a nice thought to think that a newly built home is efficient but the sad truth is that most building codes are not focused on efficiency. Knowing that reinforces the point that existing homes are even more likely to be inefficient. Let’s consider Air Conditioning in the summer as an example to illustrate some potential impacts.
Assume that two homes right next to each other are the same size, age, and have the same AC units set at 78 degrees. After three months, if we examined the actual cycle time, the first home’s AC unit may have cycled ON every 15 minutes staying on for 10 minutes. The second home’s AC unit may have cycled ON every 30 minutes staying on for only 7 minutes. Clearly, the power bill for the first home is going to be larger than the second home but why is this happening?
The example illustrates the potential inefficiencies of our homes. There are a few reasons this could happen. The ductwork might be leaking requiring the unit to cycle ‘ON’ an extra 3 minutes to achieve the desired setting. Or the home may be leaking causing the home to heat up faster because it is losing its conditioned air to the outside environment. If both homes achieved 78 degrees at the same time then the home that is leaking the most will heat up quicker which shortens the time between cycles. The barrier of your home that should not be leaking is called your Building Envelope.
There are other reasons that could cause this effect. While this was only a hypothetical I promise you the variables are that random and your home is not immune from the exact same challenges. See Energy Audits to understand your home’s specific sources of inefficiency.