Why is my electricity bill so high in the summer?

Direct Energy, May 23, 2018

6 minute read

Why is my electricity bill so high in the summer?

Direct Energy, May 23, 2018

6 minute read

Why are your electricity bills so high in the summer? Several factors that can cause an unusually high electricity bill: your bill could be inaccurate, the price of electricity could have increased or your electricity usage could be higher.

Electric bill and calculator on table
Electric bill and calculator on table
Electric bill and calculator on table

Verify your bill

Look at your electricity bills from this time last year. Is your kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage similar to your current usage? If you did not live in your current home last year, find out the average summer electric bill for homes in your area. Keep in mind electricity usage of individual dwellings will vary based on the size of the home, the energy efficiency of the home and what kind of weather the home normally sees during this time of the year.

If your usage seems abnormally high compared to last year, try verifying that your bill matches your meter reading. Find the current meter read on your bill and check your meter for your kWh usage. Your meter should read a little higher than the current meter read on your bill. If your meter is reading lower, your bill could be inaccurate. You can call your electricity provider to have them reevaluate your usage.

Increasing electricity prices

In many areas, summer signals higher energy demand, causing the market price to increase. If you are on a variable-rate plan, you may see your energy rate increase this season. Even on a fixed-rate plan, you may see increased electricity rates if you’ve switched or renewed electricity plans in the last year.

Increased energy usage

We tend to use more electricity in the summer. The hotter it is outside, the more we stay inside using electronics and appliances, and the harder our ACs have to work to keep our homes at our preferred temperatures. These are a few reasons you could be using more energy this summer:

  • The kids are home from school. School’s out for summer, and the kids are constantly looking for entertainment with TV, computers and other electronics. During the day, the whole family is likely to be home seeking refuge from the high temperatures – using lights, electronics, and most of all, air conditioning.
  • High temperatures. On average, the hottest months are July and August. The larger the gap between the outside temperatures and inside temperatures, the harder your AC will work to keep your home comfortably cool.
  • Your pool is in constant use. Pools provide a great way to cool off and have fun in the summer, but your electric pool pump can use a lot of energy. On average, your pool pump can add about $80-$90 to your monthly energy bill if you keep it running 24 hours a day for the entire month.
Woman setting thermostat at home
Woman setting thermostat at home
Woman setting thermostat at home

How can I make my home more energy efficient in the summer?

Those who have experienced extreme heat might be familiar with summer’s effects on our energy bills. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to lower your electricity bill this summer.

1. Raise your thermostat. You could save up to 10% a year on your heating and cooling bill by setting your temperature back 7-10° for 8 hours a day. In the summer, we recommend setting your thermostat to around 78°F when you’re home and as high as tolerable when you’re away or asleep. Try an experiment with your family and see how much you can comfortably raise the temperature in your home.

2. Check your filters. Clean or change your air filters regularly to maintain proper airflow and keep your HVAC system working efficiently. 

3. Clear space around your air vents. Make sure your vents aren’t blocked by furniture or other obstructions. Clearing the space around vents will help better circulate cool air.

4. Get an AC tune-up. Call a professional to make sure your cooling system is in good health and working as efficiently as possible to make the most of your cooling dollar.

5. Use energy-saving features on window units. Many window units are ENERGY STAR-rated and have special modes that conserve energy, but few people use them and instead keep the fan running all the time, even when the air conditioning component is off. All this does is create a constant energy drain. Try using the energy saver mode or turning the fan to auto to shave a few cents off the electricity bill.

6. Light your home efficiently. Make the upgrade to LED bulbs. They use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Plus, they emit less heat, which means less work for your AC. Also, don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

7. Make your attic energy efficient. Attics can reach well over 100°F, making it difficult for a central air unit to cool a home, leading to higher electricity bills. Upgrade your attic insulation if needed and install an attic fan to give the central air a break.

8. Seal your windows and doors. Don’t let the cool air escape and hot air enter through drafts in your doors or windows. Test your seals with this trick: put a dollar between the door or window and the seal and close it. If you can easily pull the dollar out, it’s time to replace the seal. Install weather stripping or re-caulk the drafty areas.

9. Save energy doing laundry. To keep costs down in your laundry room, wash and dry full loads and wash in cold water. If you can, hang your laundry to dry. This will save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes.

10. Adjust your water heater temperature. The recommended temperature for most water heaters is 120°F. Using this recommended setting will save energy and prevent safety hazards.

Electrical cords plugged into surge protector
Electrical cords plugged into surge protector
Electrical cords plugged into surge protector

11. Unplug unused electronics. Devices left in standby mode account for an average household energy cost of $100 a year. Use surge protectors to easily switch these electronics off and prevent them from using standby power.

12. Check your refrigerator efficiency. If your fridge is too cold, it could be costing you more money than you think. Check with the manufacturer to find the recommended temperature settings. Make sure your refrigerator is not letting out any cold air with the aforementioned dollar test.

13. Keep your refrigerator full. Solids and liquids are easier to cool than air. Make sure not to overfill it so that you leave enough room for air circulation.

14. Wear breathable clothing. Wear comfortable clothing fit for warm temperatures to lessen the need for AC.

15. Close your drapes. Close drapes on west- and south-facing windows to prevent extra heat from entering your home. Dark, thick drapes provide more insulation and defense from the sun’s heat.

16. Plant trees and shrubs for shade. These take a while to grow, so this is something of a long-term strategy, but carefully placed shade trees and shrubs can assist your drapes in keeping warm sunlight from fighting your air conditioner. Plant trees on the east, west and northwest sides of the house for maximum shade protection, making sure not to plant them too close to your home. 

17. Use ceiling fans. Create airflow with ceiling fans to make yourself feel cooler. Remember to turn them off when you leave the room.

18. Maintain your pool. Consider upgrading your pool pump to a more energy-efficient model to help you save on summer fun. Keep your pool filters clean so they can run efficiently.

19. Use your oven sparingly. Your oven can produce a lot of heat and make your whole house hotter, causing your AC to work harder. Instead of using the oven, try recipes that use a slow cooker, microwave, toaster oven, electric pressure cooker or no appliances at all. Cool meals like pasta salads will help to keep you cool. 

20. Reduce your home’s humidity. Hot temperatures are not the only thing causing you discomfort in the summer, but high humidity as well. Reduce the humidity in your home by using a dehumidifier, turning on your ventilation fans while cooking and showering and maintaining your outdoor water drainage.

Even in the height of summer, you can find simple ways to lower your energy bill. Check out more energy efficiency tips in our "Reduce Energy Costs" category page!

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