It’s a nightmare scenario: You open your utility bill and the amount due has skyrocketed over last year at this time. Maybe even last month. You don’t understand – you’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. You haven’t dramatically increased your energy demands, but your bill says otherwise. Could your HVAC system be to blame?
Is it actually possible for an HVAC system to raise your electricity bill? Absolutely.
Even if you’ve recently installed a high efficiency HVAC system that was marketed to “save you money,” it could be doing the opposite and raising your utility bills.
Here’s the real deal that most HVAC companies won’t tell you: Buying the latest and greatest HVAC system won’t necessarily save you money—at least not by itself. Your HVAC is part of a system that includes your home’s ductwork and insulation. These three things must work together to create an air-tight and efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. A quality HVAC system cannot overcome leaky ductwork.
In this post, we’ll discuss the telltale signs that your HVAC is to blame for your increased utility bills and what you can do to fix it.
Telltale Signs that Your HVAC System is Raising Your Electricity Bill
How do you know if your HVAC system is causing havoc? Here are a few signs to look out for:
Your System is Old
If you can’t remember how long you’ve had your current HVAC system, then it’s probably time to replace it.
An HVAC system can last between 15 to 20 years on average, but that’s with proper use and upkeep. We recommend that our clients receive two inspections per year on their systems to ensure that everything is working well. We also recommend that our clients use our 24/7 remote monitoring service which alerts us of a problem before you feel it.
Your ductwork is a star player in your HVAC system. It’s responsible for distributing air throughout your home. However, if there’s a tear in your ductwork, your HVAC system will need to run longer to achieve your desired temperature. This increased demand will wear down your HVAC system and make it less efficient. And running your system for longer will also increase your energy usage.
Your Filters are Dirty
Replacing your filter is probably at the bottom of your monthly to-do list, but it should definitely move up in rank.
When your air filter is visibly dirty from dust and debris, it decreases the efficiency of your HVAC system. That’s because it restricts airflow. Your system will then need to work harder to move air and cool down your home. This results in longer run times and higher utility bills.
Fortunately, replacing an air filter is not only cheap but easy to do. And, in so doing, you could save yourself a considerable amount of moving in utility costs each month.
Upstairs Feels Like a Sauna
We all know heat rises. That’s physics 101. But your whole home system should account for that and ensure that you’re not paying more due to hidden inefficiencies. For example, is your attic insulated and ventilated? Are there any cracks or gaps in your windows? Is your HVAC system large enough to effectively handle the second floor?
If your upstairs feels unreasonably hot (more than 10 degrees hotter than your downstairs), then your HVAC system may not be working as efficiently as it can. And we can figure out why.
Downstairs Feels Like a Meat Locker
The same goes for your first floor or basement levels. Sure, it’s naturally cooler downstairs, but that doesn’t mean that it should be freezing, especially if you’ve set your thermostat.
A poorly insulated home will leak both warm and cold air. And if you don’t want to air condition the neighborhood, it’s time to get a handle on it.
Your Basement Has Moisture Problems
Here’s another reason why your basement may feel cooler: too much humidity down there. You’ll know when your basement is retaining moisture: The air will feel damp and heavy, and it may even smell musty. Humid air tends to feel cooler.
There are a lot of reasons for basement moisture, including standing water, poor grading around your home’s foundation, and of course condensation.
But the biggest reason for moisture problems may be a leaky ductwork. If your house is leaky, the hot, moist air will go straight to the attic and then back down to the basement, creating issues for your entire home.
Some homeowners opt to use a dehumidifier, but this won’t do much to lower your sky-high energy consumption. Instead, it’ll just act as a bandaid for the issue.
Your House is Exchanging Too Much Air
Over the course of a 24-hour day, your system should exchange air approximately eight (8) times. A sign of an inefficient HVAC is too many exchanges. Some systems exchange 16 to 32 times in one day. That’s two to four times the standard amount! This demand on your system can make it work much harder than it should. And instead of re-circulating the air efficiently, your system has to cool or heat the outside air over and over again, which requires more energy.
You Have Poor Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality doesn’t just affect your health, but it can also affect your wallet, too. A clogged air filter can decrease the efficiency of your HVAC system. Ditto for blocked ducts.
Your Rising Utility Bills
If you have a higher than normal utility bill, don’t ignore it or dismiss it. Schedule a home performance energy audit.
Here’s the (scary) bottom line: Your system can consume as much as twice the energy that it needs to heat and cool your home. This means that you could be routinely wasting up to 50% of the energy that you pay for each month.
With a properly working HVAC system (including sealed ductwork and insulation), you could pay half of what you’re paying now in utility costs. Over the course of a year, you could save thousands of dollars.
How Do You Solve These Problems and Reduce Your Utility Bills?
Fortunately, you’re not doomed to an ever-increasing utility bill every month for the rest of your life. You have several options, some better than others:
Repair your unit
Sometimes, a unit is broken and needs to be repaired. This is why we recommend our 24/7 Sensi remote monitoring service. We’ll get notified of a problem and solve it before it morphs into an energy consumption monster.
Replace the unit itself
Another option may be to replace the HVAC unit, but don’t immediately jump to this conclusion. This is the most expensive option and may not even be the right one. You may be able to lower your utility bills without upgrading your current system. Schedule a consultation with us now.
Schedule an energy audit
Before you make a move or spend money needlessly, let us perform an energy audit on your home.
We do whole home audits where we inspect your entire heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, not just your HVAC. We’ll look at everything, from your ductwork to your furnace, to pinpoint the cause of your increased utility bills. And we guarantee that our work is 100% right or it’s 100% free.
You shouldn’t pay if we can’t accurately diagnose the problem. And that’s how confident we are in our comprehensive home system inspection. We’ll ensure that your home is as energy efficient as possible, and if it isn’t, we’ll tell you exactly how to solve it.
Remember that having high efficiency HVAC equipment won’t lower your electricity bill. Check out our free savings calculator to find out what you can save every month by improving your ductwork and insulation.