Causes of High Summer Utility Bills
- Teenagers can cause high bills in the summer. As most parents know, teens can use extraordinary amounts of water and electricity for showering and personal grooming. Small children, on the other hand, require less energy and are relatively comfortable in warmer environments.
- Humid outdoor air is leaking into the house. Air leaks through cracks around doors and windows, electrical outlets, ducts, vents, recessed lights in the ceiling, or fireplace dampers that don't seal tightly. In Florida homes, about 38 percent of the air conditioner's work (and operating cost) is drying out this moist air leaking in from the outdoors.
Leaks in the ducts that supply cooled air to rooms will make this situation much worse because the overall house air pressure becomes "negative" with respect to the outdoors whenever the air conditioner is running. In this condition the house sucks in warm, moist air - especially attic air - whenever the air conditioning system runs. The system runs longer to compensate. Even more warm air is drawn in, which needs to be cooled and so forth in a vicious cycle. Costs rise significantly.
- A resident requires the use of oxygen. Unfortunately, the energy cost to run these compressor systems is surprisingly high - about $35 / month for continual use of oxygen.
- The resident's City of Tallahassee Utilities energy loan payment on the utility bill makes the total bill in summer higher than it was the previous summer. It turns out to be higher than when they still had their old, inefficient equipment. New air conditioning equipment almost never pays for itself through energy savings in less than five years. Since the term on Energy Loans is five years, and 80 percent of the loans are for HVAC equipment, almost all loan program participants are saving less each month than the monthly loan payment amount. After the fifth year, bills are lower.
- Relatives come to visit in sunny Florida.
- Kids come home from college.
- Children are home from school all summer.
- While the family is away during weekdays, a housekeeper works at the house. He or she drops the thermostat to the low 70s.
- College students living away from home for the first time move into an off-campus house or apartment in August. Their second utility bill has a way of getting high (the first billing is often for a partial month). The high bill seems to relate to that whirlwind of initial activity that happens to coincide with brutally hot weather: Moving in, cleaning, parties, entertaining, door open, thermostat set too low, etc.
Someone else other than the resident pays the utility bill. Someone else pays, maybe a parent living elsewhere and this leads to high electric usage and high bills.
- A room, wing or extension was added to the house, or a garage or porch was enclosed. The overall cooling costs go up. Larger homes cost more to heat and cool.
- The residents left town for a summer vacation and were expecting the next utility bill to be low. The bill was high because they left the air conditioner set at 78F and the unit ran a lot. It is best to set the air conditioner's thermostat at 83F or 84F when away. The system runs occasionally, lowers humidity a little, and lowers costs significantly. Findings by the Florida Solar Energy Center offer a clever strategy utilizing a programmable thermostat: Set the AC system to cool to 71F for one hour a night, from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. In older leakier homes, cool for two hours, from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. The AC runs efficiently in the cool of the night, costs are low and humidity is kept low.