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Wow. We just got a whopper of an electric bill for August. For background, we live in a 3, 000 square foot, entirely electric house in the relatively deep South. We’ve also been experiencing a scorching summer with numerous record-setting days, especially during the month of August. So how bad was it? $376, 73. This is despite our best efforts to reduce our electrical usage by doing things such as switching over to compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout our house, insulating our garage door, and a variety of other energy saving tricks. We also have a relatively shady, somewhat wooded lot.
In terms of historical usage (see graph below, keeping in mind that we’ve only been in our house for a little over a year), we actually used more electricity last February when we went through a cold spell and wound up burning 4, 317 kWh. At the time, however, our bill was “only” $329.06, or $0.076/kWh. This past month, we used 25% less electricity than during February (3, 223 kWh) yet our bill was roughly 15% higher ($376.73). This disparity was driven by a per unit increase of more than 50%, resulting in us paying $0.117/kWh in August. Ouch.
When we moved into this house, one of my goals was to reduce our electrical usage relative to that of the previous owners. Unfortunately, I didn’t have their actual usage data. Rather, I knew what their average bill was over the previous 12 months. As I reported earlier this summer, we actually managed to hold even relative to the prior owners in terms of our electric bills, even in the face of rising energy prices. While this almost certainly translates into lower overall electrical usage, I’m always looking for ways to do better.
One of our major limitations when it comes to reducing our electrical usage is the size of our family. We have four young boys, which translates into lots of laundry, lots of dishes, and lots of bathing. All of these things use hot water, which comes straight out of our electric water heater. Moreover, my wife is a stay-at-home mom. Thus, we can’t really back off on our heating or A/C during the day without creating an uncomfortable environment. Finally, we’re planning on a housing addition. While it’s not going to be a huge addition (roughly 300 square feet), it certainly won’t help when it comes to reduce our heating and cooling costs.
On the upside, we’re planning on replacing our current washer and dryer with high efficiency front-loaders when our new laundry room is done. We’re also working on teaching the boys to be more efficient when it comes to bathing — as it stands, they often get lost in their thoughts in the shower and we have to prompt them to finish up and get out. Hopefully our plan for instituting shower timers will work out. I’m also planning on replacing their shower head with a low-flow version. These changes will actually be doubly-beneficial, as they’ll not only reduce the amount of work that our hot water heater has to do, but they’ll also reduce our overall water usage.
In the long run, we’ll probably end up changing out our heating and air for a more efficient system, as that’s our largest energy drain. That, however, is a relatively large expense, so we’ll need to make sure that it makes sense before we take the plunge.