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How To Halt High Bill Culprits

How To Halt High Bill Culprits

In our quest to provide the best possible service to members, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative employees often need to wear many hats, so to speak. If a member’s bill spikes significantly and they call the co-op for guidance, our “investigator” hats go on to help find the culprit and solve the member’s high electricity-use woes. Here are some offenders frequently found in the process.

Space Heaters
Expensive to run anytime, space heaters in “emergency use” during the coldest times create even greater expense. Members sometimes run space heaters in greenhouses or well houses, or in garages to warm pets. Because these areas are uninsulated, heaters run constantly—and because they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind.

A much better choice for efficiency is to use a 200-watt heat lamp instead of a 1,500-watt space heater, knocking down costs of 16.5 cents per hour to about 2.2 cents an hour; that’s almost $4 a day versus about 53 cents a day.

Heat Pumps
Members with heat pumps sometimes select the wrong settings. A heat pump typically has settings for cool, off, heat and emergency heat. When cold weather arrives, members can mistakenly slide the selector all the way across to emergency heat, instead of the regular heat setting. This turns off the blower and turns on heat strips, using three times the regular amount of electricity.

Also, having strip heat without a heat pump can be costly. An air conditioner uses 48–50 cents an hour, but a heater uses $1–$1.50 an hour. Because many people believe it costs more to cool in summer than to heat in winter, they are shocked by the price difference.

Co-op inspectors also uncover outside HVAC unit problems, such as when the fan quits working or the unit gets stuck in the defrost cycle. When either happens, the heat strips run nonstop.

Co-op employees often discover a heat pump thermostat installed on a strip heat system. This causes the heating and air-conditioning units to run simultaneously, doubling or even tripling electric bills.

Other Miscellaneous Energy-Wasters

Dog/cat doors: These are simply big holes that let out expensive heated or cooled air.
Block heaters: Used for warming diesel truck engines, tractors and 18-wheeler engines, these units usually draw 1,000 watts and run constantly until unplugged.
Pool pumps: The factory setting on most pool pump thermostats is usually around 38 degrees, so the pump comes on more frequently in winter to keep from freezing. Many people leave these on all winter, driving bills up.
Hot-water leaks: Water heaters have a pop-off valve to reduce pressure. If the water line near that valve is hot, the water heater is continuously (and needlessly) releasing water then refilling and heating more.
Uninsulated water heater: Members often put their water heaters in an uninsulated area, like an attic or outside building. If the water heater tries to heat water to 120 degrees while the air around it is at 30 degrees, it must work constantly.

Temperature Difference Is the Key

To understand what creates high winter bills, remember that a major factor in home energy use is the difference between the outside temperature and the desired inside temperature. If it’s 98 degrees outside and you try to cool to 78, that’s a 20-degree difference. But if it’s 30 degrees outside and you want to heat to 68 degrees, that’s almost a 40-degree change. In the latter example, your unit works harder, using more energy.

All of us at Sam Houston EC want to help members detect the causes of high bills and provide the knowledge to prevent them. If you need help or have any questions about your electric bill, please call us at 800-458-0381.