An old swimming-pool pump can be a significant source of electricity use. Energy Star-certified pumps use far less energy.
Photo by Vic Brincat
Q: To make my home more energy efficient, I’ve installed a new heat pump and efficient water heater and increased the insulation in my home. Still, my energy bills seem higher than they should be. What might I be overlooking?
A: You have made some solid investments by focusing on space and water heating, which are usually the major uses of energy in a home. Ask a qualified home energy auditor how your home’s energy use compares to similar homes in the area and, if it’s substantially higher, what could be causing the problem.
Information from your electric co-op may also help pinpoint a large energy user. For example, if you use more electricity on weekends, that would be a clue to discovering what’s driving up your energy costs.
Armed with whatever clues you can glean, you’ll be better able to search for an energy hog in your home, including energy users that may be out of sight, out of mind. Below are examples of unconventional energy users that could be adding to your energy bill.
Swimming pools and spas
Pools and spas are nice amenities, but they can significantly contribute to your energy bill.
Your pool pump, which keeps water circulating through a filtering system, could be the most energy-intensive part of your pool. Older pumps run continuously on a single, high-speed setting, but this circulation is more than a typical residential pool needs. An Energy Star-certified pool pump can be programmed to run at different speeds and can pay for itself in as little as two years.
If you heat your pool, try using an efficient heater. Pool heaters that run on natural gas or propane are the most common, but an electric heat-pump water heater or a solar water heater could be more cost effective. Cover the pool when it’s not in use to keep your heater from working as hard.
If you use your hot tub or spa only occasionally, turn it off when not in use. If you use it frequently, a cover with a high insulation value will keep the water warm and your electric bill low.
Water pumps that run on electricity can bump up a bill. An automatic-irrigation system that leaks, for instance, can greatly increase your pump’s electricity use.
If your home uses well water, your well pump helps bring water to your home. A malfunctioning pump may run continuously to try to maintain proper water pressure, causing an increase in your electricity bill.
Fountains make charming additions to your garden, but the pumps that run them use about as much energy as a small lamp. Install a timer so your fountains run only part of the day.
You may find energy hogs in your garage, outbuilding or basement.
If you use a second, but inefficient, refrigerator or freezer, you can eliminate that energy use by consolidating that appliance’s contents into your kitchen.
Space heaters or portable air conditioners used in an uninsulated part of your home can also lead to higher bills.
Some home businesses rely on large energy users. For example, welding equipment, ceramic kilns or power carpentry tools can contribute significantly to your electric bill, as can equipment that supports home farming operations.
Send questions to Energy Q&A, South Carolina Living, 808 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce, SC 29033, email email@example.com or fax (803) 739‑3041.