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Electric Bill Too High? Practical Ideas To Save Utility Costs In The Summer

Both of our local electric companies have several rates plans you can choose from now. Some customers who have never chosen a plan got put on a "default" plan chosen by the electric company. Many plans now penalize customers for using excessive amounts of electricity during periods of peak demand and lots of people are shocked at the recent increases in their bill. The bills were already high enough and they just seem to keep going higher all the time! How can we lower the bill?

There are lots of ways to lower your utility costs. Here are some basic and practical recommendations:

  1. Consider switching to a different rate plan. APS and SRP each have different plans and different rates, and there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" best plan for everyone, so you really need to go on your power company website and research the various plans they offer to find the one that's best for you and your household. If you are willing to practice some conservation during certain time periods (particularly weekday afternoons) you can save a ton of money.
  2. Use the right A/C air filter and change it frequently. This is VERY IMPORTANT. Click here to see what we recommend for lowest utility cost.
  3. While you are at home, set the thermostat to the highest temperature possible, above 80℉ (preferably 82℉-84℉) is best if you can be comfortable at that temperature. Consider having a higher temperature during the day if you are at home and then offsetting down only at night for a couple of hours just before bedtime. Programmable thermostats are great for this purpose.
  4. Offset the temperature setting up to 90℉ when you leave home for extended periods during the day, such as when you go to work. Again, programmable thermostats are great for this purpose. They never forget to change the setting.
  5. Use one small fan to blow air directly on you. This accelerates the vaporization of moisture from your skin surface making you feel cooler, especially at night while you are sleeping. DO NOT leave fans running when you are not in the room anymore though. This does not produce any benefit. Using a small fan may allow you to set the thermostat 1, 2 or even 3 degrees higher than normal in the summer and you will still be comfortable. Be careful not to kill your energy savings though by using a giant fan that consumes lots of electricity!
  6. Minimize opening the exterior doors. Every time you open a door you either let a huge blast of hot air into the house or you send a nice blast of cold air conditioner outside the house. Either way this is bad. If you have to open exterior doors, do it deliberately, quickly and as few times as possible, especially in the afternoon.
  7. Be sure to close all the window shades. The more shaded, the better. Consider installing curtains that block the sun light, especially on southern and western facing walls. Almost half of the summertime heat gain in the average house comes through the windows.
  8. Train yourself and the other occupants of your home to always use the cold water side of the faucet for hand washing, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, wetting the wash cloth, etc. Only use the hot side of the faucet when it is necessary for showering, cleaning or sanitation purposes.
  9. Consider not using the oven at all in the summer or using it very minimally. Only use 1 burner on the stove for brief periods of time to reduce latent heat loading. With latent heat loads you have to pay money to generate the heat source and then you have to pay again to remove the heat from the house with the air conditioner. Use outdoor BBQ grills, microwave ovens, eat at a restaurant, prepare cold foods, get take-out food, etc. whenever possible. Keep the oven and stove OFF as much as possible!!
  10. Consider not using the air conditioner at all (or offsetting the temperature higher at least so that it won't come on) during peak weekday hours 1-8 PM (or 3-6 PM, or 4-7 PM depending on your plan) as the utility costs are very high at this time if you are on a Time-Of-Use plan. Metro Phoenix electric plans and rates have been changing dramatically at both APS and SRP beginning in the 2018 summer and many customers are shocked at their bills now. The utility companies want people to change their habits and stop using so much power during peak hours in the summer. They are incentivizing this by charging a lot more for power in peak hours and giving generous discounts for using power during non-peak hours. Many activities that require considerable electric consumption can be done on a discretionary basis, and instead of doing those things during peak hours they can instead be deferred to off-peak times when the electricity is much cheaper. This is true of laundry, pool pumps, cooking, water heating and even electric car charging. You may want to consider installing a timer on your electric water heater and pool pump to shut them off during peak hours. This is a cheap investment that will likely pay for itself in a short period of time.
  11. Minimize utility consumption during peak hours (absolutely do not use the stove, oven, washer and dryer, dishwasher, take showers, unnecessary lights, pool pump, etc) at this time as these all use considerable electricity and are also considerable sources of latent heat loading. Never, never never come home after work and simultaneously use the oven, stove, do laundry (or any activity that uses hot water besides a quick shower) during peak hours as this will drive the utility bill up sky high. Do these activities during off-peak hours only if possible. Try to use as few lights as possible and as few electronic devices as possible during this time. Try to minimize the number of times you open the refrigerator / freezer during this time as well. A little practical conservation can save you a ton of money!

By implementing some or all of these practices it is possible to reduce your electricity bill by as much as $50, $100, $250 or even more in some cases.

Additional Ideas To Save Even More

  1. Consider having your ducts tested and sealed to minimize leakage. Many older homes have duct leakage rates of 10% or even more. This is a considerable loss that is literally just throwing money away. Rebates may be available to help cover some of this cost.
  2. Consider having a professional energy audit performed. They can show you the specific things you should focus on that will give you the greatest return.
  3. Have your A/C system professionally checked. Making sure the coils are clear and the refrigerant charge is correct are the 2 very essential things. An ill-maintained air conditioner can waste tons of electricity.
  4. If your A/C system is over 10 years old, consider replacing it. A modern air conditioner, even the base model of 14 SEER, is extremely efficient and can save a considerable amount of electricity compared to many older units. Be careful not to get a complicated nightmare "high" efficiency unit though. Click here for more information.
  5. Do not use incandescent or florescent light bulbs. Replace with LED bulbs. An LED bulb uses only a fraction of the power that other bulbs use to produce the same amount of light. While 1 single bulb for just one day won't make a big difference, consider that there are anywhere between 15 and 50 bulbs in the average home. Over the period of a year this adds up to a considerable amount of electricity!
  6. Consider adding more insulation. A poorly insulated attic can add considerably to the cooling and heating load of a house. This means your A/C and heating system will run longer.
  7. Consider upgraded windows. Older homes with casement windows are the worst culprits. They literally seep air through them. Single pane windows are also big energy wasters.
  8. Have your refrigerator condensing coil checked by an appliance technician to make sure it isn't clogged with lint and pet hair. A restricted coil can cause the fridge to use considerably more current when it runs and can make it run much longer than it should have to.
  9. Old refrigerators and old freezers are energy hogs, even if they are working correctly. Replace them! Also beware of having freezers and refrigerators in the garage. In the summer the garage can be extremely hot and this causes the freezer and refrigerator to consume a huge amount of electricity.
  10. Sun screens and tinting on windows can provide some savings, especially on southern and western facing walls.
  11. Check weather-stripping around all exterior windows and doors for leakage. Repair or replace as necessary.
  12. Plant trees and shrubs in strategic locations around your home. They will grow and provide shade. Well shaded homes have a lower cooling load.
  13. If you live in a large, older home and your electric bill is rediculously high, consider having a load controller system installed to manage your power usuage. It may be uncomfortable and inconvenient sometimes but it will definitely lower your electric bill.
  14. Move to Payson or Prescott for the summer (just kidding).