Why Are My Electric Bills So High in the Winter

If you rely on a heat Pump or electric to heat your home, you could be in for a surprise.

Utility costs can soar when the temperature dips, especially for homes whose primary heat source is electric. A typical home’s biggest energy consumer is the HVAC system then followed by the water heater. Compound that with a high cost for electric, heating a home and water can result in a shocking (pun intended) bill during the winter.

Heat pumps are not a bad way to heat a home since they also provide an excellent source of cooling during the summer. We are in a climate that is colder for most heat pumps to provide enough heating capacity in the dead of winter. This is one reason why an auxiliary or emergency electric heater is installed in a heat pump. This electric heater makes up for the heat that the system cannot produce for the home when it becomes too cold outside. This is also why heat pumps produce a dryer heat than fuel burning systems. When it’s very cold a heat pump will not pull ambient heat out of the air and the system will rely solely on the electric heater package.

Similarly, utilizing electric radiant heat, which can be found in some older homes’ ceilings, or electric baseboard often results in high electric bills to keep a home comfortable.

Even your water heater has to work harder with colder groundwater and our desire for longer, hotter showers. Compounded with the need for additional lighting because of shorter days and even more time spent at home – all result in higher electrical use.

So, what can be done to reduce high electric bills?

There are a lot of things that can be done. Homeowners should look at the whole-home to make adjustments to increase their homes’ comfort and reduce utility costs.

One of the most important steps is to add insulation and seal any gaps allowing cold air to enter. Weather-stripping around doors and windows and even insulating electrical plates on exterior walls can make an impact. Adding and repairing caulk around the exterior of the home along with spray foam in any unsealed penetrations will also prove to be beneficial. If the windows are older, utilizing curtains and blinds will help to keep the cold out when the sun is not shining.

We also know that the vast majority of homes in Central PA have under-insulated attics. There should be enough insulation that you do not see the bottom of the roof truces; the more the better. Insulating and sealing an attic will increase comfort and reduce energy expenses year-round. In some situations, the payback on an investment like this is just a few years and many homeowners even qualify for rebates from local utility providers.

When it comes to the mechanical systems in an all-electric home, there are a lot of ways to reduce electric usage. With the heat pump usually being the biggest system, some minor tweaks can help to increase efficiency but major upgrades could be the long-term solution. General maintenance like scheduled tune-ups and keeping air filters cleaned and replaced is a must. Accessories like a programmable thermostat and humidifier can make your home feel warmer in the winter. However, if the heat pump is beyond 12 years old, it might be time to consider replacement especially if significant repairs are imminent. Newer, high-efficient heat pumps have made substantial improvements providing heat during cold conditions – some can even provide full heating capacity all the way down to 5° F without needing to rely on the backup emergency heat.

Does your home rely on baseboard electric heat and have no ductwork?

We have seen a big increase in homeowners without ductwork opting for high-efficient ductless mini-split systems to provide heat. The added bonus is now those clunky window air conditioners can be recycled because ductless systems cover cooling as well. Ductless mini-split systems provide exceptional heating performance to keep winter electric bills in check.

Reducing winter utility costs is possible, however it will take some effort and a combination of tactics. But keeping up with general maintenance of your home and its mechanical systems will go a long way. Lastly, don’t forget to consider LED light bulbs, they have become much more affordable and you won’t have to nag your kids about turning off the lights as frequently – I guarantee it.

Contact us today at 717-697-3528 if you would like to learn more about winterizing your home and getting utility bills in check. We provide free estimates on attic insulation and new equipment installations, click here to schedule yours today.


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