Interest in solar technology has skyrocketed during the 21st century. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), approximately 50% of the new electric capacity recently added to the U.S. power grid came from solar power. Moreover, a whopping 67% of non-solar households have expressed interest in installing solar panel technology. Solar panels offer an exciting way to explore renewable energy and decrease utility bills.
However, implementing solar panels can consist of a lengthy and complex process with many factors and variables to consider. Of course, there’s also a significant initial cost. What are the alternatives if you need to reduce your electricity bill now? A look at some of the best ways to lower your electric bill without solar panels can help you devise a budget-friendly plan to power your home.
Get an Energy Audit
The first step in lowering your electric bill is to identify possible sources of excessive usage and waste. Obtaining a professional energy audit can provide a blueprint for saving money and using your power more efficiently. During the assessment, a technician may conduct a room-by-room examination and help you review past utility statements. Some evaluations also include a blower-door test or thermography scan. In addition, your evaluator may bring special equipment to determine sources of energy loss. These tools can include furnace or boiler efficiency meters, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers. Most evaluations conclude with a report that offers recommendations on how to conserve home energy usage, thereby lowering your utility bill.
Typical recommendations could include any of these. Consider whole-home air sealing to reduce air conditioning loss, heating leakage, or excess drafts. Incorporate insulation into the home attic, walls, or foundation area to reduce heat loss. You might also seal or insulate air ducts in unconditioned areas and insulate the space behind electrical outlets and switches. In addition, installing a ceiling fan will increase circulation and reduce overworking of your air conditioner. Finally, have a professional repair or replace any defective HVAC parts to improve efficiency.
Specific recommendations will depend on the age of your home, the local climate, and your ultimate home energy goals. While it may feel tempting to perform a quick energy audit yourself, a professional assessor has the right equipment and expertise to ensure that no opportunity goes undiscovered.
Eliminate Phantom Energy Loads
Even if you take important steps to lower your electricity bill after an energy audit, it is possible to lose a great deal of power due to phantom energy loads. Also known as vampire energy, phantom energy refers to the electricity coursing through appliances that are plugged in but not currently in use. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Americans spend $19 billion per year on phantom energy.
In fact, an average of 20% of a home’s energy goes to waste in electronics that happen to be plugged in but that no one is actually using. This results in a huge loss of money and power plant resources. Some of the most common causes of phantom loads include the following:
- Cable boxes
- Video game consoles
- DVD players
- Kitchen appliances like coffee makers, toasters, and blenders
To reduce phantom energy loads, try to unplug electronics that are not in use. While appliances like refrigerators or fish aquariums must remain plugged in, you can unplug items like lamps or phone chargers to reduce excess waste. In addition, you may wish to replace your regular surge protectors with smart strips. These strips automatically turn off power to devices that are not in use. You can add multiple devices to the smart strip instead of having to remember to unplug each one.
Finally, you can research ENERGY STAR appliances that reduce phantom energy loads. ENERGY STAR is a voluntary labeling program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy. This program provides a standardized label that indicates when products are energy-efficient. To receive an ENERGY STAR label, appliances must adhere to strict power usage guidelines. Replace major appliances like refrigerators or furnaces with ENERGY STAR products to significantly reduce your annual energy consumption.
Control Household Lighting
Although your family may not wish to invest in solar panels at the moment, there are numerous smaller adaptations you can make to household lighting and indoor energy use. First, you can make the switch to LED lighting. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lights use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Replace frequently used bulbs in your home with LEDs to reduce energy costs.
Another way to conserve lighting is to install dimmer switches. Dimmers utilize a TRIAC switch that turns off circuits more rapidly, thereby reducing the excess power that flows to a lightbulb. This allows you to use less energy without eliminating light in your room altogether.
Monitor Your Hot Water Heater
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 20% of home energy use goes to water heating. Fortunately, there are several strategies to decrease this usage. First, consider lowering the hot water temperature setting to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Few activities require water above 110 degrees, and you can save money by preventing the device from heating excessively. In addition, you may wish to install an insulation jacket or insulate the first 6 feet of heater piping to sustain hot temperatures longer.
Another strategy is to upgrade your traditional water heater. Conventional water heaters use energy to keep the water tank hot throughout the day. These machines tend to use electricity regardless of whether you are running hot water at the moment. A solution is to install a water-heater timer that heats up water only when you need it.
In addition, you can also contact a home services company about installing a tankless water heater. Unlike conventional heaters that continuously use up energy, tankless water heaters are on-demand machines that only warm up water when you need it. By installing a tankless water heater, experts estimate that you can cut your hot water energy costs by half.
Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance
Boost the quality and efficiency of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system by scheduling its required maintenance each year. While there are areas of home upkeep that some homeowners attempt to postpone, HVAC maintenance should not be one of them. Having a professional inspect and clean your equipment ensures that the system works at an optimal level and does not pose any safety issues.
Maintenance can range from changing filters for better airflow to replacing outdated parts with the recommended upgrades. An HVAC professional can also help modernize your home with energy-efficient equipment. For example, an HVAC technician may suggest installing a programmable thermostat designed to use less energy.
Contact Us Today
While solar panels can represent an important milestone for creating an energy-efficient home, there are plenty of other ways to decrease energy usage and lower your electric bill. From energy assessments to scheduling HVAC maintenance, you have the power to reduce electricity costs significantly.
At AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical, we provide a host of home services to households in Farmington Hills and the surrounding areas. Our expertise includes HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services. You can reach out to us for heating and cooling repair, water heater installation, and all lighting needs. Contact our professionals at AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical today for more information on efficiently powering your home.