When temperatures drop, your electric bill is bound to be higher. You can try bundling up in extra layers, swaddling yourself in blankets, and building a fire, but if you want to be cozy and warm, cranking up the thermostat is sometimes the easiest option.
But imagine opening up your winter or early spring electric bill when temperatures haven't been freezing and finding that you owe much more than you were anticipating. What gives?! Chances are, one of the following causes below can explain your sky-high electric bill.
1. LEAKY DUCTWORK
Did you know you can lose about 20% to 30% of the air that moves through your duct system if there are gaps or holes? If your heating bill is notably higher, leaky ductwork could be to blame.
Finding lots of dust in your home or having to replace the air filter more often are signs that your ducts aren't properly sealed.
2. UNCALIBRATED THERMOSTAT
As your thermostat gets older, dust can clog the temperature sensor on it. If the thermostat is poorly calibrated, your bills may be higher. Also, the insulation behind the thermostat could be blocking the sensor or interfering with the temperature, according to Lee Downing, owner of Aire Serv in Memphis, TN.
3. MORE PEOPLE (OR PETS) IN THE HOUSE
Ever notice how your heating bill hits its peak during the holidays? That's because the more people you have in your house, the more the doors are opened and closed—which lets the cold air in and the heat out. Plus, you may be using more hot water for laundry, dishwashing, and showers, all contributing to the higher heating bill.
Also, if you recently added a dog to your home, you’ll probably be leaving the house several times a day to walk your pet. Although it may not seem like much, each time you open the door some heat escapes.
4. USING APPLIANCES DURING PEAK HOURS
Some energy companies charge more if you use electricity during peak hours—usually on weekdays from noon to 6 p.m. If your electricity company bills higher during peak hours, rates during weekends and holidays will be much lower.
If you're not sure you're being billed in this way, check with your company; if you are, wait to use the appliances in the early morning or late evening to avoid these higher charges.
5. EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTION
If your electric heat pump isn’t working properly, your bills may skyrocket. Mike Donley, president of Donley Heating and Air Condition in Phoenix, says a Freon or refrigerant leak could be to blame.
Telltale signs: Your system is not holding its temperature, is not heating as well, or keeps running and doesn't shut off.
6. LOOSE SEALS
If the seals around your windows or doors are loose or old, heat may be escaping from your home. If you put your hand around the window and door and you feel cool air, Donley suggests resealing your home to keep the heat in.
7. POOR INSULATION
If your insulation isn’t working properly, your home won’t stay warm and it can cost more to heat. Some signs of poor insulation include sweating windows and cold spots in the home. If you’re in the attic, pay careful attention to how thick the insulation is.
“You should have 16 to 18 inches of insulation in your attic,” says Downing.