How to Control Your Electric Bill

How to Control Your Electric Bill
HOW TO
CONTROL
YOUR
ELECTRIC BILL
www.smeco.coop
1-888-440-3311
A Self-Help Guide
Why waste money?
U
nless you have money to burn, you
probably don't want to spend more
than you need to on your electric
bill. But if you use electric appliances
and never think about their efficiency or
operating cost, you may be seeing your
energy dollars go up in smoke.
The good news is, you don't have
to. After reading this guide, you can
gain control of your SMECO bill. If
you can identify and eliminate excess
electric use, you'll trim away wasted
energy dollars. In most cases, it simply
means being more aware of the electric
appliances in your home and operating
them more efficiently.
If there are no problems with the
equipment in your home, the size of your
electric bill will usually depend on how
many appliances you have and how you use
them. Most electric bills fluctuate in response to the
weather outside. Air conditioning and heating are major factors. Or, you
might add new appliances or have more people living in your home. Any
of these factors could cause a jump in your electric bill.
This booklet will help you determine why you may have an unusually
high bill. It will help you decide what changes may be needed to reduce
your consumption. Remember, if you need help pinpointing your electric
usage problem, you can always call SMECO for help.
1
Your Electric Energy Dollar
T
he graph above shows how
your electric energy dollar is
typically spent in the home.
Note: All figures and charts in this booklet are based on
14.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and all numbers have been rounded.
Eighth edition, revised March 2009
2
Table of Contents
1
2
3
4
5
Your electric meter
• Learn to read your own meter ..................................4
• Use your meter to check appliance usage .................5
Basic appliances
• The operating cost of household appliances ............. 6
• Figuring the cost of appliance use .......................... 10
• Standby power ...................................................... 11
• Operate refrigerators, freezers efficiently ................ 12
• Choose the best cooking method ........................... 13
• Save on water heating............................................ 14
• Handle laundry chores the smart way .................... 16
Heating and cooling
• Get the most from your heat pump ....................... 18
• Troubleshoot your heat pump ............................... 19
• Understand baseboard electric heat ...................... 22
• Know your electric furnace ................................... 23
• Use air conditioning wisely ................................... 23
Staying comfortable
• Maximize your comfort zone ................................ 25
• Regulate the air temperature................................. 26
• Be sure your duct work does its job ...................... 27
• Control the humidity factor ................................... 28
Getting help
• Plug into SMECO for assistance............................. 31
3
1
Your electric meter
• Learn to read your own meter
Y
our electric meter measures
the amount of electricity you use
in kilowatt-hours (kWh). One kWh
is equal to using 1,000 watts of
electricity for 1 hour. Ten 100watt bulbs burning for one hour
would consume one kilowatthour of electricity and cost 14.5
cents. Your monthly electric bill is
based on the amount of kWh you
use.
a
9
0
b
1
8
7
6
5
1
4
1
2
2
0
3
4
0
5
8
c
9
6
8
8
7
7
9
6
0
5
9
d
1
4
1
2
2
3
3
4
0
5
1
e
9
6
9
8
8
7
7
0
1
2
3
6
5
4
7
The example above shows the dials on a five-dial meter. (Most
SMECO meters have five dials; some have four.) To read the meter, begin
with the right-hand dial (e) and record numbers right to left (e-a).
The pointers of the dials move in the direction of the arrows. When
a pointer is between two numbers (as in dial b), write down the lower
number, the number the pointer has gone past. If the pointer is on a
number (as in dial a), look at the dial to the right of it (dial b). If the
pointer (on dial b) has not passed 0, record the smaller number (for dial
a). If the pointer on the dial to the right has passed 0 (as in dial d), record
the number the pointer appears to be on (for dial c). The example above
would be read as 18917.
4
• Use your meter to check appliance usage
I
f you want to know the exact amount of electricity used by a
certain appliance in your home, you can use the disc wheel on the
meter to find out.
• Turn off breakers or fuses to all electric appliances except for the
appliance to be measured.
• Go to the electric meter and count the revolutions of the disc on
the meter while timing with a stop watch. Record the time in seconds for
10 revolutions of the disc.
• Look at the Kh symbol on the meter, and the small number after
it. On most meters the number is 7.2. Every time the disc wheel goes
around, that's how many watt-hours are consumed.
• Use the formula shown below to calculate how much wattage
the appliance is drawing. Use 3.6 as indicated in the formula—it is a
constant. Then multiply the kW electric use by 1 hour and multiply this
by the energy cost of $0.145 per kWh.
For Example: A customer's meter has a Kh constant of 7.2.
(Remember to look at the meter nameplate for this number.) A 3-ton
air conditioner makes the meter disc go around 10 revolutions in 87
seconds. Assume an average electric cost of $0.145 per kWh. As you can
see in the calculations below, the air conditioner draws 2.98 kW and
costs $0.43 per hour to operate.
Formula for Estimating Kilowatts
Revolutions
Time in Seconds
x
3.6
x
Kh = kilowatts
Cost of Operating
a 3-ton Air Conditioner
Revolutions x 3.6 x 7.2 = 2.98 kW
10
87 Seconds
2.98 kW x 1.0 hour x $0.145 / kWh
=
$0.43
Tip: SMECO home energy monitoring kits are available for check-out
at your local library. The kits come with instructions to help you monitor
plug-in appliances.
5
2
Basic appliances
• The operating cost of household appliances
W
hen you pay your electric bill, you are paying for kilowatthours (kWh). The average monthly kWh consumption for many
common home appliances is listed in the following tables. (Electric use
tables for large appliances are listed separately in other sections of this
booklet.) Use these figures to estimate how much an individual appliance
contributes to your bill. You can then identify costly appliances and make
changes to control your electric bill.
Appliance
Air cleaner: furnace mount
Air cleaner: portable
Aquarium: 20 gallon @75°
55 gallon @75°
Average
Monthly
kWh Use
Average
Cost Per
Month *
25
$3.63
24 hours / day
24 hours / day
24 hours / day
24 hours / day
14
72
198
252
$2.03
$10.44
$28.71
$36.54
30 24 hours / day
80 24 hours / day
22
60
$3.19
$8.70
Typical
Wattage
Average
Use
35 24 hours / day
20
100
275
350
*Based on 14.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
6
Average
Monthly
kWh Use
Average
Cost Per
Month *
180 8 hours / night
21
$3.05
Bug zapper:
Small
Large
20 24 hours / day
80 24 hours / day
14
58
$2.03
$8.41
Cable T.V. converter box
22 6 hours / day
4
$0.58
3 24 hours / day
2
$0.29
5,500 6 loads / week
5,500 6 loads / week
88
53
$12.76
$7.69
510 6 loads / week
9
$1.31
1,000 Once / day
9
$1.31
Compactor, trash
460 Once / day
1
$0.15
Computer
PC desktop
Laser printer
150 8 hours / day
70 2 hours / day
36
4
$5.22
$0.58
Dehumidifier
15 pint capacity
20 pint capacity
40 pint capacity
350 12 hours / day
480 12 hours / day
625 12 hours / day
126
173
225
$18.27
$25.08
$32.63
1,200 25 loads / month
15
$2.18
14 6 hours / day
3
$0.44
24 hours / day
24 hours / day
24 hours / day
24 hours / day
29
25
72
288
$4.21
$3.63
$10.44
$41.76
10 24 hours / day
7
$1.02
800 2 times / day
5
$0.73
250 5 times / week
500 5 times / week
1,000 5 times / week
1
2
4
$0.15
$0.29
$0.58
25 24 hours / day
18
$2.61
360
$52.20
Appliance
Blanket, electric
Clock
Clothes dryer
Thermostat control
Moisture sensor
Clothes washer (does not
include cost of hot water)
Coffee maker (drip)
Dishwasher (does not
include cost of hot water)
DVD player
Fans, medium speed
Ceiling, 4-foot diameter
Oscillating, 12-inch
Box, 20-inch
Whole house, 30-inch
Fence, electric
Garage door opener
Hair dryer
Low
Medium
High
Heat tape
Heater, engine block
Typical
Wattage
40
35
100
400
Average
Use
1,000 12 hours / night
7
Depending on its
horsepower and the
total hours of use,
a pool pump could
cost between $30
and $80 to operate
per month while your
pool is open.
Appliance
Heater, portable
Low
Medium
High
Heating pad
Typical
Wattage
Average
Use
500 12 hours / night
750 12 hours / night
1,500 12 hours / night
65 4 hours / day
Average
Monthly
kWh Use
Average
Cost Per
Month *
180
270
540
$26.10
$39.15
$78.30
8
$1.16
Humidifier (console model)
Evaporative
Mist
Ultrasonic
Steam vaporizer
30
350
50
500
6 hours / day
6 hours / day
6 hours / day
6 hours / day
5
63
9
90
$0.73
$9.14
$1.31
$13.05
Lighting (incandescent)
40-watt bulb
60-watt bulb
100-watt bulb
40 6 hours / day
60 6 hours / day
100 6 hours / day
7
11
18
$1.02
$1.60
$2.61
Microwave oven
Small
Large
500 20 minutes / day
1,500 20 minutes / day
5
15
$0.73
$2.18
Oxygen generator
350 24 hours / day
252
$36.54
216
310
385
540
$31.32
$44.95
$55.82
$78.30
7
$1.02
39
70
$5.66
$10.15
Pool pumps
½ horsepower
¾ horsepower
1 horsepower
1½ horsepower
Radio
Range, burners
6" burner, high setting
8" burner, high setting
8
600
860
1,070
1,500
12 hours / day
12 hours / day
12 hours / day
12 hours / day
75 3 hours / day
1,300
2,350
1 hour / day
1 hour / day
Average
Monthly
kWh Use
Average
Cost Per
Month *
3,300 1 hour / day
1,500 2 times / month
100
10
$14.50
$1.45
Roof ventilator (1/20 hp)
175 10 hours / day
53
$7.69
Sewage pump
600 20 minutes / day
6
$0.87
Appliance
Range, oven
Self-clean cycle
Typical
Wattage
Average
Use
Sewing machine
75 2 hours / day
5
$0.73
Shaver
15 2 times / day
1
$0.15
Toaster
1,100 2 times / day
3
$0.44
130 6 hours / day
23
$3.34
246 6 hours / day
442 6 hours / day
44
80
$6.38
$11.60
25 6 hours / day
5
$0.73
3
$0.44
160
130
120
$23.20
$18.85
$17.40
15
$2.18
7
$1.02
Television
Cathode-ray tube,
23- to 26-inch
LCD, 46-inch
Plasma, 58-inch
VCR
Vacuum
630 10 minutes / day
Waterbed, king-size (90°)
Unmade
Two blankets
Comforter
350 Every day
350 Every day
350 Every day
Well pump
1,000 15 hours / month
Whirlpool tub
1,800 1 hour / week
9
• Figuring the cost of appliance use
D
o you have an appliance that's not
listed on our charts? Well, you can
easily figure out the cost of
operating that appliance for
one day or for the whole
month if you know its rating
in watts, how much time you
operate the appliance, and the cost
of electricity. Use the following formula:
• Figure A: The rating in watts can
A
appliance rating
(converted from watts
to kilowatts)
B
x
use in
hours
C
x
cost
per kWh
D
=
cost of operating
the appliance over the
given period of use
usually be found labeled on the appliance. Remember, 1,000 watt-hours
equals one kWh, the unit of electrical energy you use and pay for each
month. You'll need to convert the watts rating to kilowatts by dividing the
watts by 1,000.
• Figure B: You can estimate how many hours this appliance is kept
on during the course of a day.
• Figure C: The cost of electricity is 14.5 cents per kWh.
On the appliance charts in this booklet, the average cost per month
has been calculated so you can apply the information to your electric bill.
You can use the formula above to calculate the cost of operation during a
given period of use. To get the monthly cost, you must multiply Figure D
by the number of times this interval takes place during the month to get
your monthly figure.
You may run your dishwasher 25 times during a month, or activate your
garage door opener twice a day or 60 times during a month. You might only
operate your mixer once a week for periods of 15 minutes each.
10
Let's say your mixer is 120 watts or .12 kW (120/1000). If you use the
mixer about 15 minutes each week, then .12 x .25 (1/4 hour) x $.145
= $.0044 per usage. Multiply this weekly use times 4 to calculate the
monthly cost of $.017 or 1.7 cents.
There are other, more complicated methods of calculating electric
energy costs. These methods can involve special monitoring equipment or
the counting of meter disc revolutions.
When you're trying to control your electric bill, the simple formula
used here can help guide you to more economic appliance usage.
Contact SMECO if you need more specific information.
• Standby power
M
any household appliances draw energy not only when they are
in use, but also when the power is switched off. This phenomenon
is known as standby power, phantom power, or vampire power.
Any appliance with an external power supply or plug-in wall
transformer uses electricity constantly. The top 10 appliances contributing
to standby energy use, from the highest to the lowest, are shown in the
following table.
Typical
Wattage
Security alarm system
Digital satellite system
Cable box
Compact audio system
Copier
TV/VCR combination
Color TV
VCR
Garage door opener
Microwave oven
15
15
12
11
10
9
6
5
5
4
Average
Monthly
kWh Usage
11
11
9
8
7
6
5
4
4
3
Average Cost
Per Month
$1.60
$1.60
$1.31
$1.16
$1.02
$0.87
$0.73
$0.58
$0.58
$0.44
11
The average standby power in a home is between 50 to 115 watts, or
about 400 to 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year ($58 to $145 annually).
The simplest way to control standby power usage is to unplug
appliances when they are not in use. While this may not be practical for
programmed appliances, unplugging these appliances during vacations
can produce energy savings.
• Operate refrigerators and freezers efficiently
T
he energy efficiency of refrigerators
and freezers has improved
dramatically in the past 20 years. But
these appliances are still among the
largest energy consumers in the home.
The way you operate your
refrigerator or your freezer can influence
your operating cost. Remember to read
the owner's manual carefully and follow
these energy-saving tips:
• A freezer should be kept at 0°.
Lowering the temperature to -5° will
increase energy use by an average of 18
percent.
• On top-mount refrigerators, an
"energy-saver" switch operates a heater
to keep the moisture from forming
around the door frame or on the outside
of the cabinet. To conserve energy, use
the "reduces moisture" position only
when condensation is apparent. These heaters can use from 15 to 40
kWh a month.
• Do not place a refrigerator or freezer in a garage or in an outdoor
shed. During the summer months, electric use can double if the unit is
placed outdoors.
12
The following tables illustrate the average monthly operating cost
for refrigerators and freezers of various ages and types. You'll notice how
much energy efficiency has improved over the years and how much you
can save on your electric bill by investing in a newer model.
Refrigerators
1975
Two-door, frost-free
Side-by-side, frost-free
One door, manual defrost
1985
1995
2005 - Present
$16.85 $11.15
$7.40
$5.47
$9.26
21.60
15.70
11.40
5.85
4.50
3.45
Compact
$2.96
$2.68
Freezers
Chest, manual
1975
1985
1995
2005 - Present
$10.60
$7.40
$5.20
$4.07
Upright, manual
12.15
9.20
6.95
$5.86
Upright, frost-free
18.25
13.30
9.70
$7.92
Compact
$3.46
• Choose the best cooking method
S
everal different cooking
methods can be used
to prepare meals in your
kitchen. These methods can
affect the flavor and texture of the food,
as well as the time you spend to prepare it. You
should also consider at what temperature you wish to cook
the food, how much energy you want to use, and the cost for this
energy.
13
Here are some tips to consider when preparing meals.
• Instead of using your full-size oven for cooking small dishes,
consider using a crockpot, toaster oven, or microwave.
• For stove-top cooking, use the smallest pan you can to do the job.
Try to match the pan size to the burner size.
• Cook with lids on your pots or pans whenever your recipe allows.
Without lids, heat escapes, and you can use up to three times as much
energy.
• To reduce cooking time, defrost foods ahead of time in the
refrigerator. Avoid opening the refrigerator door as much as possible.
• Begin cooking on highest heat, then lower or turn power off to
finish cooking on retained heat.
• Preheat the oven no longer than necessary. It is not necessary to
preheat for long-baking, roasting, or broiling foods.
In the chart below, you can see the potential savings associated with
different cooking methods.
Energy Costs of Cooking a Casserole
Appliance
Temp.
Time
Energy
Cost
Electric oven
350°
1 hour
2.0 kWh
29 cents
Convection oven
325°
45 min.
1.4 kWh
20 cents
Toaster oven
425°
50 min.
.95 kWh
14 cents
Frying pan
420°
1 hour
0.9 kWh
13 cents
Crockpot
200°
7 hours
0.7 kWh
10 cents
Microwave
“high”
15 min.
.36 kWh
5 cents
• Save on water heating
N
ext to heating and cooling, water heating is typically the largest
energy user in the home. Water heating costs depend upon two
factors—the size of your family and the water heater temperature
(thermostat setting). The table on the following page shows that water
heating for four people can range from $48 to $79 a month.
14
Water Heating Costs
Number
of People
Gallons
per month
Water Temperature
120°
130°
140°
150°
160°
1
600
$13
$16
$19
$21
$23
2
1,080
$25
$29
$33
$38
$41
4
1,950
$48
$56
$64
$71
$79
6
3,000
$70
$81
$94
$105
$117
You can save on hot water costs in your home by following a few
simple suggestions:
1. Lower the water heater temperature. Water
heated to between 120° and 125° is hot enough for
most households. This is about midway between the
"low" and "medium" settings on most water heaters. If
you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, you
should probably keep the water temperature at 140°
(the medium setting).
2. Conserve water. Low-flow shower heads and
faucet aerators can cut hot water use in half. Limiting
shower time could also reduce hot water costs. Every
5 minutes of a daily shower costs $7 to $13 a month.
3. Insulate your water heater. An insulating
jacket may pay for itself through energy savings in
less than a year. The older the water heater, the
greater the potential savings. Always follow the
manufacturer's instructions given in your owner's
manual. (Water heater jackets are not recommended
for all models.)
4. Install a timer. A simple timer that shuts the water heater off 12
hours a day may pay for itself in three to four years. Savings are greater
for water heaters located in unheated garages and basements.
15
Examine the table below and select those water heater changes with
the greatest savings for you.
Energy Saving Actions Add Up
Action taken-Changes to water heater
Monthly savings per family size
1
2
4
6
Setback from 160° to 125°
$9
$15
$28
$41
Setback from 140° to 125°
$4
$7
$12
$18
Setback from 130° to 125°
—
$2
$4
$6
Low-flow shower head, 140°
$4
$9
$15
$22
Low-flow shower head, 125°
$4
$7
$10
$19
Tank insulation, 160°
$7
$7
$7
$7
Tank insulation, 125°
$4
$4
$4
$4
Clock/timer, 12 hours off
$4
$4
$4
$4
• Handle laundry chores the smart way
D
oing laundry in your electric
washing machine is a regular
energy user. You can control the kWh
you use and the money you spend
for electricity by adjusting the
wash/rinse temperature settings
on your washing machine.
Following are some energysaving tips about your laundry
usage.
• About 90 percent of
the energy used in operating
a washing machine is used
for heating the water. You can
determine for yourself whether or
not the lower temperature wash
settings give you the cleaning results you need. But remember, cold water
is just as effective for rinsing as warm water.
16
• Try to load your washing
machine to capacity. When you don't
have a full load, adjust the water level
to the size of the load.
• With low water temperatures,
a liquid detergent is recommended.
Powder detergents may not dissolve
completely.
• Pretreat heavily soiled or stained
clothes to avoid extra washes.
• Use the proper amount of
detergent suited for the load size. This
will help you avoid extra rinses.
Cost of Washing a Load of Laundry
120°
wash/rinse
settings
hot/hot
hot/warm
hot/cold
warm/warm
warm/cold
cold/cold
kWh
used
6.5
4.9
4.3
3.4
1.9
0.4
140°
avg. cost
per load
$0.94
$0.71
$0.62
$0.49
$0.28
$0.06
kWh
used
8.3
6.3
5.3
4.3
2.3
0.4
avg. cost
per load
$1.20
$0.91
$0.77
$0.62
$0.33
$0.06
It's easy to take electricity for granted when doing everyday tasks. But
when you want to control your electric bill, it's wise to be aware of the
impact various appliance use habits have on your bill.
A little common sense can take you and your family a long way when
regulating your basic household appliance usage. Feel free to contact a
SMECO energy analyst for assistance in estimating your energy usage.
17
3 Heating and cooling
H
eating costs are usually the biggest part of your energy bill.
For every dollar spent on air conditioning, three dollars will be
spent on electric heat. Although there are many factors affecting heating
energy use, you can keep winter bills as low as possible by following
manufacturer recommendations and identifying early signs of equipment
trouble.
• Get the most from your heat pump
T
he cost of heating your home with an air-source heat pump is 50
percent lower than the cost of heating your home with electric
baseboard heat or an electric furnace. A measure for comparing heat
pump heating efficiency
is the heating season
Air-Source Heat Pumps
performance factor
Annual Operating Cost
(HSPF). This is a ratio of
the estimated seasonal
Size
Heating Season Performance
in
Factor (HSPF)
heating output (BTUs)
Tons
to the seasonal power
6
7
8
9
consumption (watts). The
1.5
$647
$524
$396
$268
higher the HSPF, the lower
2.0
$842
$714
$586
$457
the heating costs. For every
2.5
$1,032
$903
$781
$653
increase of 1 in HSPF,
3.0
$1,227 $1,099
$970
$842
annual costs decrease by
3.5
$1,417
$1,288
$1,160
$1,032
about $100.
4.0
$1,606 $1,478 $1,355 $1,227
As the table at the right
5.0
$1,991 $1,863 $1,740 $1,612
shows, average winter
heating bills could range
from $268 to over $1,991,
depending on the size and efficiency of your heat pump.
You can minimize operating costs with the following tips:
• Check air filters once a month. If the filter is completely clogged,
the air flow will eventually bend it, allowing dirty air to bypass into the
indoor coil. A dirty indoor coil will affect operating costs every month
until the coil is chemically cleaned.
18
• Do not block or shut off more than 10 percent of the air supply
registers. Insufficient air flow can cause a heat pump to run longer and
harder.
•Try to keep the thermostat set at 68°. Higher settings will increase
costs, as you can see in the
The recommended setting for
box at left. Also, eliminate
winter is 68°. If you set your
large changes in the thermostat
thermostat higher, heating costs
will rise by the following amounts:
setting. On most thermostats,
when the temperature is
Move
See costs
increased by 1.5° to 2°,
setting to:
go up:
supplemental resistance heaters
72°
21%
will come on as well as the heat
74°
32%
pump. Large changes in the
76°
44%
thermostat settings can increase
electric bills.
78°
57%
• Troubleshoot your heat pump
Y
ou may not be aware that your heat pump is not performing
properly, resulting in large increases in your electric bill. But if you
observe any of the following problems and take action, you could reduce
your electric bill or save on the cost of a service call.
Problem:
Your heat pump fails to operate—the outdoor fan is not running.
Solution:
1. Wait 15 minutes. The heat pump may be in defrost. During
defrost, the outdoor fan is off to speed up the defrost process.
2. Check for a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker in the main
power box or service panel.
3. Check that the heat pump disconnect switches are on. These
switches are located next to the outdoor unit.
4. Turn off the heat pump at the thermostat, then check the pressure
switch on the outdoor unit. After resetting the pressure switch,
turn the unit back to "on." Frequent resetting of the pressure
switch is an indication of system problems.
NOTE: Pressure switches are not on all heat pumps.
19
Problem:
Your heat pump runs continuously, or is producing little heat.
Solution:
1. Check your heat pump's performance. Once the heat pump turns
on, wait five minutes and go to the outdoor unit. The outdoor
fan should be running. Find the "fat" refrigerant line covered with
black insulation and carefully touch the uninsulated portion.
This line should be very hot to the touch (use caution) if the heat
pump is working well. If the line feels warm or cold, the system
may need repair.
2. Check the thermostat settings and indicator lights. If the auxiliary
(aux) light stays on frequently or continuously when outdoor
temperatures are above 40°, then you should talk to a service
technician. Some heat pump thermostats have special lights. If
the service light continues to
blink after one hour of normal
operation, you should also
talk to a service technician to
determine if a service call is
needed.
3. Compare the temperature
on the thermostat with the
Outside
Temperature
temperature of the air coming
Temperature
Rise
out of the supply registers. The
50°
28°-30°
difference between these two
45°
26°-28°
temperatures should be between
40°
24°-26°
18° and 30°, depending on
35°
22°-24°
the outdoor temperature.
30°
20°-22°
This difference between the
thermostat setting and the
25°
18°-20°
register air temperature is
called the temperature rise. To
conduct this test, let the heat
pump run for 10 to 15 minutes without the auxiliary (aux) light on
the thermostat coming on. Then, take a thermometer and find the
air temperature at several supply registers. Subtract the thermostat
temperature from the supply air temperature to determine the
20
rise. Temperatures higher than 100° to 105° from the air supply
registers mean the electric heat is on. Compare the rise with the
values in the table on the previous page. Smaller temperature
rises may indicate a heat pump problem—like a low refrigerant
charge, a dirty air filter, or excessive duct leakage.
4. Check for duct leakage,
which can account for 10 to
30 percent of total heating
costs. On a day when outside
temperatures are below
40°, set the thermostat fan
switch from "auto" to the
"on" position. Measure the
air temperature at all supply and return registers. If there is more
than a 6° to 8° difference between the supplies and returns, you
may have duct leakage. Long, uninsulated duct runs in unheated
basements or attics can also produce large temperature differences
between supply and return registers. Because the heat pump runs
longer, these large temperature differences can mean higher winter
bills.
Problem:
The outdoor unit has a large build-up of frost.
Solution:
Check heat pump defrost cycles. Most heat pumps go into defrost
once every 60 to 90 minutes when the outdoor temperature is between
35° and 45°. During defrost, the heat pump switches to the cooling cycle,
which means that the air going to the rooms will be cold. Usually, one
stage of electric heat is turned on to temper the air during the defrost cycle.
Following are some symptoms of defrost problems:
a) Frost remains on the outdoor unit after the defrost cycle;
b) The large or "fat" refrigerant line develops frost;
c) The defrost cycle lasts longer than 15 minutes;
d) Frost build-up is only on the lower part of the outdoor coil.
21
• Understand baseboard electric heat
A
lthough baseboard electric resistance heaters are one of the most
inexpensive systems to install, they can be very costly to operate. As
the following table shows, one 10-foot baseboard heater could cost $368
a year to operate at 68°.
Heater
Length
(feet)
Oct.
Nov.
Dec.
Jan.
Feb.
March
April
Total
3
$7
$15
$22
$27
$22
$16
$9
$117
4
$8
$19
$30
$36
$30
$21
$11
$155
5
$9
$23
$37
$44
$37
$26
$13
$189
6
$10
$27
$44
$51
$44
$31
$17
$223
8
$16
$36
$57
$68
$57
$41
$21
$296
10
$19
$45
$71
$84
$71
$51
$27
$368
Here are some steps you can take to reduce high operating costs:
• Make sure that baseboard heaters are not blocked. Do not let
draperies cover the baseboard units. The heat becomes trapped behind
the draperies, and they could catch fire!
• Do not operate baseboard units without the snap-on front cover.
The heater needs the cover not only for protection, but also to deliver
heat efficiently into the room.
• Replace old high-voltage wall thermostats. Typical bi-metal electric
heat thermostats allow room temperatures to drift 5° or more from the
temperature set point before they respond. The wide temperature swings
make rooms uncomfortable and increase operating costs. New electronic
thermostats have only a 1° temperature swing.
• Set your thermostat back overnight, or when no one is home for 8
hours or more. Lowering the thermostat from 68° to 60° for 8 hours can
reduce electric use by 10 to 12 percent.
• Do not heat rooms above 70° for long periods. Your bills will be 30
percent higher if you try to keep the temperature at 76°. Although the
thermostat may be set at 70°, the actual room temperature may be higher
and should be checked with a thermometer.
22
• Know your electric furnace
A
n electric furnace is the most expensive heating system to operate.
Because of the duct system, an electric furnace could potentially cost
20 to 30 percent more to run than baseboard electric heat.
There are two major ways to reduce electric bills: thermostat setback
and repair of duct leaks.
As suggested in the section on baseboard electric heat, you can cut
your electric usage by setting your thermostat back overnight, or when no
one is home for 8 hours or more.
You can also save on electric furnace heating costs by checking duct
work and repairing any duct leakage. See Pages 27 and 28 for more
information on duct leakage.
Remember to check your filter once a month and replace or clean it
as needed.
• Use air conditioning wisely
Y
our summer cooling bills depend a great deal on your central air
conditioner's size (in tons) and its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating
(SEER).
The higher the SEER, the greater the energy efficiency of the unit.
Many air conditioners that are 20 or more years old have a SEER of
only 6. The average central air conditioner sold in 1988 has a SEER of
about 9. Units built after January 2005 have a minimum SEER of 13. As
the table on the next page shows, your average summer cooling bill could
range from $112 to $786, depending on the size and efficiency
of your air conditioner.
There are several steps you can take to reduce cooling costs:
• Do not set the thermostat lower than the desired temperature when
you first turn it on. If you try this it will not cool faster. It will only cool to a
lower temperature than necessary and waste energy in the process.
• Try to raise the thermostat to between 83° and 85° when no one is
home during the day. You may reduce cooling costs by 15 percent.
• Try to keep the thermostat set at 78°. Lower settings will
dramatically increase your costs, as you can see in the table on the next
page. (Amounts shown represent costs per season.)
23
Operating Costs for Central Air Conditioning
Size in
Tons
Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER)
10
11
12
13
14
1.5
$329
6
$301
7
$273
8
$245
9
$218
$190
$162
$134
$112
2.0
$390
$363
$340
$312
$284
$257
$229
$201
$173
2.5
$457
$429
$402
$379
$351
$323
$296
$268
$240
3.0
$524
$496
$468
$446
$413
$385
$357
$335
$307
3.5
$591
$563
$535
$508
$480
$452
$424
$396
$368
4.0
$658
$625
$602
$574
$547
$519
$491
$463
$435
5.0
$786
$758
$731
$703
$675
$647
$625
$597
$569
• Use a fan in conjunction with an air conditioner. This will allow
you to economize by setting the air conditioner higher (warmer) while
providing the same comfort. During a hot day, even a small breeze from
a floor, table, or ceiling fan can make you feel between 4° and 8° cooler,
as well as reduce the stuffy feeling from a closed-up house. Even at high
speed, a large table or ceiling fan uses only as much energy as a large light
bulb—far less than any air conditioner.
• Make sure that the secondary refrigerator or freezer is located
in a cool place in your home. You may be able to put the refrigerator
or freezer in the basement to reduce some of the extra heat. These
appliances can produce substantial amounts
of waste heat doing their jobs—about as
much as a 200-watt light bulb operating
continuously.
• Do not position heat-producing
appliances, such as televisions or lamps,
near the thermostat. The heat they produce
can "fool" the thermostat, causing the unit to
run longer than needed.
• Make sure furniture does not obstruct
the air conditioning vents.
• Do not enclose the outdoor unit! A top discharge unit (one which
blows air out the top) needs two feet of clearance above the top. Do not
place the outdoor unit under a deck unless there is a minimum clearance
of three to five feet at the top. Blocking discharge air causes warm air to
24
be recirculated back into the outdoor unit, increasing operating costs.
• Compare the temperature on
The recommended setting for
the thermostat with the temperature
summer is 78°. If you set your
of the air coming out of the supply
thermostat lower, cooling costs
registers. The difference between
will rise by the following amounts:
these two temperatures should
Move
See costs
be between 16° and 22°. Smaller
setting
to:
go up:
temperature differences may
indicate a problem with the air
76°
13%
conditioner, like a low refrigerant
74°
24%
charge, a dirty air filter, or excessive
72°
35%
duct leakage.
70°
48%
4
Staying comfortable
• Maximize your comfort zone
C
omfort is one of the driving forces of your electric energy bill.
If you're shivering in your living room on a winter afternoon, your
impulse is to turn up the heat. If you're sweating on a summer evening,
you'll probably want to turn down the air conditioning. But there are
many steps you can take to maximize your comfort zone. Not all of them
involve reaching for the thermostat.
Most people don't think about
comfort as much as they do
discomfort. Comfort is something
you take for granted. The subject
comes up only when you feel
uncomfortable. To establish
your comfort zone, you must
control the factors that can cause
discomfort. These factors include
air temperature, air distribution,
and humidity.
25
• Regulate the air temperature
O
ne of the biggest factors affecting comfort is air temperature.
Most people feel comfortable between 68° and 78°. These "ideal"
temperatures vary with the level of activity, clothing, and personal
preference.
Your body is designed to function in a healthy manner at an inner
body temperature of about 98.6°. In order to maintain that temperature,
any excess heat must be rejected. In a conditioned space, the body
always generates more heat than needed. So your body is constantly
transferring heat to the air around you.
Radiant temperature is the temperature of the walls, ceiling, floors,
and furnishings. Radiant heat can affect comfort when the heat leaves
your body and flows to colder surfaces surrounding you in conditioned
spaces. For example, if you were seated at a desk situated near an outside
wall, your body heat could flow from you to the colder wall nearby. The
colder the wall is, the more rapidly the heat would leave your body. Even
when the air temperature surrounding you is acceptable, the temperature
of the surfaces surrounding you can cause discomfort if the nearby
surfaces are very cold or hot.
A few simple tips will help you to feel more comfortable with the
temperatures around you.
• Install insulated drapes or curtains on large windows and doors
with lots of glass. Make sure that drapes don't block baseboards or supply
registers.
• Close window coverings in the summer and keep them open in
winter. Radiant heat from the sun can add heat to the home in winter and
increase comfort. In the summer, it's best to block out the sun's heat to
keep your home cool.
• Dress appropriately
for the season and the
thermostat setting you
select. Layers of clothes will
help you retain body heat
during cold weather. When
it's warm, light clothing will
make it easier to release
unwanted heat.
26
• During extra hot or extra cold
weather, avoid excessive opening of doors
and windows. You're working against
your climate control system if you let the
outdoor air mix directly with the climate
you're trying to maintain inside.
• Be sure your duct work
does its job
A
large factor in comfort is your home's
duct system. A typical system loses
20 to 30 percent of its heating or cooling
capacity.
One way the system loses efficiency
is through conduction of heat through the duct walls. In the heating
mode, the hot air inside the ducts warms the duct walls. They, in turn,
warm the cold air surrounding them. When this warmed air escapes to
the outdoors, the heat will never reach the rooms of the house.
Poor duct layout can also have a negative impact on comfort. Many
homes have a supply duct for each room, but only a single return duct in
a central location within the house. When interior doors are closed, it is
difficult for the air in these rooms to circulate back to the return duct. The
pressure in the closed-off rooms increases, while the pressure decreases
in rooms open to the return duct. This can cause pressure differences
within the home. The uneven pressure will increase air leakage. Rooms
without returns and those with closed doors could feel colder in the
winter and hotter in the summer.
The way the supply air diffusers and return air grilles are selected
and laid out in the conditioned space is called room air distribution. This
system uses forced air convection currents to assure comfort. If air moves
too slowly, temperatures within the space will be uneven and you may
feel stuffy. If the air moves too rapidly, you might be bothered by the
draftiness and cold.
Here are some things you can do to ensure proper air flow:
• Have a heating and cooling contractor check to be sure duct
work is free of air leaks and is functioning properly. Your contractor may
recommend installing additional return ducts, transfer ducts, or other
design modifications.
27
• Be sure that all interior doors are undercut at least one inch to
allow air to flow from the various rooms to the return duct. Make certain
that carpeting does not block the undercut area.
• Insulate duct work in unconditioned spaces such as an unheated
basement, crawlspace, or attic. Uninsulated duct work can cause
substantial heat loss going from the heat pump to the supply registers.
• Keep furniture away from supply registers. Blocking registers
prevents the heated or cooled air from being distributed evenly.
• Control the humidity factor
T
here's an old saying that goes, "It's not the heat that gets me during
the summer in Southern Maryland, it's the humidity!" As you know,
humidity can make hot temperatures seem absolutely steamy. Low
humidity can also make the air temperature seem colder.
Relative humidity (Rh) is a measure of how much moisture is in the
air. It is a ratio that indicates the ability of the air to absorb more moisture.
This ratio is expressed as a percentage. The lower the percentage, the less
moisture is found in the air, and the greater potential for the air to absorb
additional moisture. When the air reaches 100 percent relative humidity,
it is completely saturated.
The amount of water vapor in the air determines the rate at which
your body dissipates heat. The more humidity the air has the more heat it
can hold.
The Rh in a home can be
affected by many factors, including
the amount of air leaks, the
amount of moisture generated
within the home's shell, and
the temperature and humidity
outdoors. In the summer, Rh
of less than 60 percent helps
promote comfort in the home. In
the winter, Rh of 40 percent or
less is recommended to promote
comfort. Humidity higher than 40
percent can cause condensation of
cold windows and surfaces in the
home.
28
The chart below illustrates how humidity can make the air
temperature "feel" much warmer than it actually is. For example, if the
air temperature is 70° and the relative humidity is 30 percent, then the
air will feel like 67°. A relative humidity of 80 percent will make an air
temperature of 70° feel like 71°.
Comfort Index
Air temperature
70
Relative
Humidity
75
80
85
90
95
100
105
110
115
Apparent temperature
Degrees Fahrenheit
0%
64
69
73
78
83
87
91
95
99
103
10%
65
70
75
80
85
90
95
100
105
111
20%
66
72
77
82
87
93
99
105
112
120
30%
67
73
78
84
90
96
104
113
123
135
40%
68
74
79
86
93
101
110
123
137
151
50%
69
75
81
88
96
107
120
135
150
60%
70
76
82
90
100
114
132
149
70%
70
77
85
93
106
124
144
80%
71
78
86
97
113
136
90%
71
79
88
102
122
100%
72
80
91
108
Note: Apparent temperature goes down as the humidity is lowered.
29
There are some steps you can take to remedy a moisture problem.
Too much moisture
If you have problems with excessive
moisture in your home, the first thing to
do is to identify the source of the moisture
and then work to eliminate it. Following are
some tips:
• Make sure all downspouts are
connected. Consider installing long
extension spouts to channel water away
from your home.
• Inspect and repair flashing details
around your home.
• Get into the habit of running the exhaust fans in your bathrooms
when taking baths or showers.
• Don't let liquids and food simmer uncovered on your stove for
unnecessary lengths of time.
• Dry and store firewood outside of your home.
• Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outside.
Not enough moisture
It is common for homes to have low
humidity during the winter. To combat this
problem, you can:
• Seal all large holes in the home
which lead to the outside.
• Consider installing a humidifier.
Make sure a contractor sizes the humidifier
correctly to provide the proper level of
moisture needed. Take care not to add
too much moisture to your home. You'll
know that you're adding too much if you see window condensation after
operating your humidifier.
30
5 Getting help
• Plug into SMECO for assistance
A
s your electric cooperative, SMECO
is dedicated to helping you use energy
wisely. If you have concerns about your home
energy usage, comfort, or home appliances,
we can help. We will work closely with you
to identify and correct problems that cause
high energy consumption. SMECO provides
these services to its members FREE OF
CHARGE. It’s all part of our commitment to
our customers.
Our services cover home comfort, energy
usage, and heating and cooling equipment.
See the descriptions below, then give us a
call.
Home Comfort Consultations
There is no reason why you should be uncomfortable in your home.
However, many people suffer through comfort problems that are easily
corrected. Examples include:
•
•
•
•
Indoor temperatures that are too warm or too cool
Excessive or insufficient moisture
Obtrusive noise
Odor problems
If the tips in Chapter 4 cannot solve your comfort problem, we can do
more. First, call one of SMECO’s energy analysts. Many times they can help
you identify problem areas and offer solutions right over the phone.
If your comfort problem persists, we may need to visit your home or
31
recommend a contractor to investigate further. Our analysts are trained
to test and monitor equipment in your home to find the source of the
problem. They can evaluate:
•
•
•
•
•
Equipment operation
Equipment size
Thermostat condition
Air distribution and circulation
Moisture, noise, and odor conditions
After their evaluation, our energy analysts will give you a report
outlining their recommendations. And it’s all free to our members.
Energy Use Consultations
While this booklet can help you
control your electric bill, some energy
use problems may be too difficult for
the average homeowner to tackle. Let
SMECO help solve them. Call us if you
suspect your electricity usage is too high,
and we will try to pinpoint the problem.
An energy analyst will ask about your
home equipment (size, age, maintenance,
etc.) and how you operate it. Often one
call is all you need to begin reducing
energy consumption.
If your high electric use cannot be
analyzed over the phone, we may need
to visit your home for a more thorough check of your energy use. Our
energy analysts can check or monitor major appliances to find problems.
They can perform several tests, including:
•
•
•
•
•
Checking the thermostat for proper location and operation
Evaluating heat pump performance with a temperature test
Checking air filters for proper maintenance
Testing the hot water temperature
Monitoring large appliances such as pool pumps, hot tubs, and
water heaters.
We also have monitoring equipment to place throughout the house
32
that will help determine the actual energy consumption and operation
time of appliances.
Heating and Cooling Equipment Sizing
Residential heating and
cooling equipment must
be designed and sized
correctly for your home.
Temperature, humidity,
air movement, and energy
efficiency all rely on a
properly designed system.
This should be a primary
consideration if you are
having new heating and
cooling equipment installed.
The basis for an efficient
heating and cooling system
is a load calculation. A load
calculation helps match the
design of your home with
the equipment needed
to keep it comfortable.
Your heating and cooling
contractor should provide
a load calculation because
they are responsible for
properly installing your system. Under special circumstances, SMECO’s
energy analysts may perform a load calculation for you.
A load calculation is based on the following 12 factors:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Measurements of the structure
Walls
Windows
Doors
Attic
Floors
Roof color
33
•
•
•
•
•
Compass orientation of the house
Insulation levels in the walls, attic, and crawlspace
Structure material used for the building
Ductwork location
Number of people living in the home
When should you have a load calculation done? If you are building
a new home, a load calculation should be completed using the house
plans. If you have put an addition on your home, have added insulation
to your attic or crawl space, or made other efficiency improvements to
the structure of the home, a load calculation is also recommended.
If you are simply replacing existing equipment and have never
experienced major comfort problems, a load calculation may not be
necessary.
Heating and Cooling Equipment Maintenance
Sometimes comfort concerns can be traced to a problem with your
heating and cooling equipment. SMECO can help you find a contractor
to service your equipment. Our SelectHVAC program can recommend a
contractor who has met SMECO’s requirements for bonding, insurance,
and technical
capabilities. We have
a list of participating
contractors from
throughout the Southern
Maryland area. Call us
for a copy, or view it on
the web at www.smeco.
coop.
34
Contact Us
Call us toll-free at
1-888-440-3311
to reach SMECO’s
energy analysts
about your home
energy concerns.
For details about other
SMECO products and
services, visit our web site
at www.smeco.coop.
35
Eighth edition, revised March 2009
36
HOW TO
CONTROL
YOUR
ELECTRIC BILL
www.smeco.coop
1-888-440-3311
A Self-Help Guide
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