While people don’t regularly compare their energy bills, you might have talked about energy savings with your friends or your neighbors and realized during the conversation that they pay a much smaller bill than you do. Maybe some of that comes from a difference in square footage, but you may have to admit there’s a problem if the numbers are way off from where they ought to be.
So how does this happen? How can energy bills be so different between households? You may be wasting energy in a number of different ways.
Insulation can be one of the biggest problems, and it’s particularly bad because it’s also one of the hardest to notice. As houses age, the weatherstripping around windows and doors can age, crack, and fall off, letting bugs in and hot or cold air out. The quickest way to see if heat is leaking out of your house is to rent a thermographic camera and see how bright your windows and doors are. If your home lights up the night in thermal vision, poor insulation may be the reason for your big bills.
You could be spending more money than you need to on lighting in two different ways. First, you should always remember to turn off a light when you leave a room and only use as much light as you need. Second, you could be using inefficient bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than the standard incandescent bulbs, but they get the same amount of light from a fraction of the energy and last several times as long. LED lights are more expensive, but they save even more energy and they have a good chance of outlasting you.
Do you really need to wear a T-shirt indoors in the winter or cover yourself with all your blankets in the summer? Maybe you could wear an extra layer or two when it gets cold and turn a fan on when it’s warm instead. Climate control is expensive, especially if your home has bad insulation, so try to use it sparingly. A programmable thermostat could also be a good way to save, since you can change the temperature when no one’s around or set it to stay just warm enough when the family goes on a week-long vacation.
Many household appliances and electronics don’t shut all the way off when you hit the switch. Instead, they go into a standby mode that lets them perform updates when they aren’t in use and boot right back up the moment you switch them back on. This setting is convenient, but it also uses power, and often enough your device is not doing anything for hours at a time. To fix this, you can plug your electronics into power strips and switch off the strips when you’re done using your devices.
Energy bills can vary a lot between two places, and it’s not always because of age or size. Your habits and your electronics play a big role, so give them both a good look before you start complaining.