During the coronavirus pandemic, higher utility bills may be part of your new norm if you’re working from home and/or your children are remote learning. Regardless of the pandemic, the number one reason for higher energy bills during summer months is the air conditioner (A/C). Moreover, a shortage of bread flour in grocery stores nationwide indicates a lot more are baking, so ovens may also be contributing to higher utility bills. Luckily, you can take simple steps to improve energy efficiency, reduce water and energy use, and save money while still being productive at home during this unprecedented time – and any time.
What uses the most electricity in a house?
A typical household in the U.S. spends about $2,200 a year on energy bills. The three highest categories that account for energy consumption are heating and cooling (46%), water heating (14%), and appliances (13–20% depending on the source). Although washing hands frequently is part of our new norm, using cold water is as useful as hot water for removing potential germs if you do it for a minimum of 20 seconds. This is an easy way to reduce energy consumption and water waste while realizing energy savings.
What appliances use the most electricity in a house?
According to General Electric, a 5,000-watt central A/C unit can cost about $60 a month, depending on where you live, which could equate to $700 a year in electricity costs for central A/C alone in year-round hot climates. Of course, if you live in a cooler climate and use your A/C sparingly, your costs will be far less. Although it typically draws much lower wattage than a central A/C unit, an electric water heater can be the second most expensive house appliance. While a gas water heater may cost more upfront, it’s more economical to run.
A frequently asked question is, what are the most energy-consuming appliances in my home? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a typical clothes dryer can consume as much energy annually as a new energy-efficient refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher combined. Most freezer units have a higher wattage than refrigerators, consuming a little more energy per month. These are relative energy estimates for four major home appliances:
- Washer & Dryer: 13%
- Refrigerator: 4%
- Electric Oven: 3–4%
- Dishwasher: 2%
Tips for saving energy on appliances
When you buy new appliances and electronics, consider ENERGY STAR®-certified options because they use less energy than standard models and may qualify for rebates. Don’t cook, use the dishwasher, or run the clothes dryer during the hottest times of the day to avoid adding heat to your living space and increasing the load on your A/C.
Furnace heating tips
- Check furnace filters at least once a month and clean or replace them when they’re dirty.
- On sunny winter days, open draperies to allow the sun to shine through the windows and warm rooms.
- Keep your thermostat at or below 68° F – setting your thermostat three degrees lower in the winter can reduce your bill by about 10%.
A/C cooling tips
- Try using ceiling and/or standing fans instead of having the A/C on all day and night. If you need to use the A/C, set it at 78° F – each degree over 78° equates to about 3% savings on your summer electric bills.
- When purchasing either a room or central A/C unit, check its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), which indicates the unit’s relative energy efficiency. The higher the SEER, the better the efficiency. Buy a unit with a minimum SEER of 13 or a SEER greater than 18 for exceptional efficiency.
Clothes washer and dryer tips
- ENERGY STAR clothes washers use 40–50% less energy and about 55% less water than standard washers, equating to saving up to $50 a year on utility and water bills combined.
- Wash clothes with cold water and reserve hot water for filthy loads.
- Run full loads to limit water waste.
- ENERGY STAR clothes dryers use 20% less electricity than conventional models, saving you about $210 in electric bills over the lifetime of an energy-efficient dryer.
- Use a lower heat setting on the dryer to help cut energy costs.
- Keep dryer exhaust vents, and lint traps clean because if they’re clogged, this can lengthen drying time and increase energy consumption.
- ENERGY STAR refrigerators available today are nearly 10% more energy-efficient than models that meet the federal minimum energy standard.
- Remember what mom told you - don’t stare aimlessly into the refrigerator with the door wide open when you get the munchies!
- Set your refrigerator between 37 to 40° F and your freezer between 0 to 5°.
Range oven tips
- Leave at least two inches between pans in the oven to allow proper heat circulation.
- Thaw frozen foods before placing them in the oven to avoid one-third additional cooking time.
- Use the self-cleaning feature while the oven is still hot after removing a meal.
- Use glass or ceramic dishes to lower the oven setting by 25° F.
- Clean burners on the stovetop frequently to direct heat back to pots and pans more efficiently.
- According to ENERGY STAR, you can save 5,000 gallons of water each year and $40 in energy costs by using a dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand.
- ENERGY STAR dishwashers are 12% more efficient than an average noncertified model, saving you about $25 a year.
- Run the dishwasher only when it’s full, and instead of pre-rinsing dishes, scrape all traces of food off dishes first.
- Air-dry dishes instead of using the heating element in the dishwasher.