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First off, I know what you’re thinking: HOW WAS YOUR ELECTRIC BILL OVER $500 TO START WITH?!?!
Trust me, I basically called my parents crying and screaming a variation of that question the first time I got an electric bill for over $500 in my new house back in 2014.
As a first time homeowner already dealing with the sticker shock of buying a home and moving, I was devastated and baffled. How could this be real? This had to be a clerical error. I contacted the former owner, who I’m on good terms with, and politely asked if this was the norm. He assured me that it was. I cried again.
Why am I blogging about this now, and how did I fix it?
Well, dear reader, I’m readying that same house to sell now. My contractor and I were reflecting on all the modifications and changes we’ve done to Moore Manor over the years, and I couldn’t stop remembering the horror of that very first electric bill. That was the first thing I tackled as a new homeowner 5 years ago!
That was a LOT of wasted energy (and money).
As a homeowner, I couldn’t afford an electric bill that was that high every month. As an environmentalist, I was flabbergasted. How was I possibly wasting that much power? I compulsively turn all the lights off! I shut the refrigerator doors! I use LEDS! I was wasting all that power, which means I was subsequently also wasting a ton of money. What was a broke, young photographer to do? Read on, friend.
How I Took $400 A Month Off My Electric Bill
If you’re dealing with an out-of-control electric bill, there’s a good chance your thermostat may not be working properly, especially if you’re dealing with an older system. I had an electrician come out to assess my power bill situation, and this was his first stop. My thermostat might have read 75, but it was actually cooling my house to about 71, which translated to a lot of dollar bills in the heat of the Charleston summer. Fortunately, this was a quick, cheap upgrade. There are a lot of energy efficient models out there, along with integrated systems, such as Nest.
Did you know your hot water heater may be heating water to a way hotter temperature than you’ll ever need or possibly want? Mine was! It was energy down the drain right along with the scalding water. A quick reprogramming of the maximum heat setting will help you shave some more money off that raging power bill.
Did I mention I live in the pizza oven known as Charleston? Anyone who has ever suffered through a Charleston summer - which starts in like, the last week of April - knows what I’m talking about. You could probably have fried an egg or heck, an entire chicken in my attic, which meant that my tired HVAC unit was working double time to fight against the massive inferno over my head, which was baking the house while it was cooling it. My trusty contractor installed a heat-triggered attic fan, which now blows the hot air out if and when the attic heats over a certain temperature.
This was not a cheap fix, nor was it executed because of the electric bill. However, that being said, I went with a white roof to reflect heat and had ridge vents built in to add even more escapes for the fiery attic air.
Guess what month my HVAC died. Just guess. A-U-G-U-S-T. IN CHARLESTON. It was 98 degrees inside the house, I was crying YET AGAIN, I was swearing to move to whatever’s left of the Arctic. But I caved and finally bought a brand new energy efficient unit that is appropriate to the square footage, and it is a Godsend.
While I was sobbing and covered in heat rash from the above incident (Y’all, it took them a full two weeks to be able to replace my HVAC… while it was nearly 100 degrees inside my home, even at night. Miserable, just miserable.), my sweet boyfriend rushed to Lowe’s and bought a cheap window unit for our bedroom. He also built me a fort in the bedroom, since it was literally the only habitable room in the house, which makes him the best boyfriend ever. I loved that window unit. I loved it so much, I still have it installed and it will be the last thing I change before I list the house. Every night, I turn my window unit on and cool the house SUBSTANTIALLY cooler than the rest of the house. It helps me sleep, allows me to not cool the entire house unnecessarily, and uses significantly less energy than the full HVAC.
Finally, you may want to consider blowing in additional insulation to your attic if you’re struggling to beat the heat and save some money in the long run. My house did have insulation, but it wasn’t nearly enough nor was it properly installed when I got that first wallop of a power bill.
I’m thrilled to report my electric bill is now generally in the $100 range: so totally normal. It does vary from month to month, but it’s no longer breaking the bank.
Looking for more ways to whittle even more money off your electric bill?
Turn off lights when you’re not in the room.
Switch to line drying your clothes.
Try solar garden lights.
Use energy efficient light bulbs.
Change your air filter regularly to prevent your HVAC from working too hard.
Check the seals around your windows and doors.
Invest in a space heater.
Do an energy audit (SCE&G offers them as a free service).