Many everyday strategies can lead to serious energy bill savings — for residential and commercial buildings alike. Going beyond the classic bulb-swapping tips and tricks, we’re here to show you even more options to lower electric bills and regain control of your home’s and business’ utilities. Reduced energy costs mean less bill anxiety and greater financial freedom.
Why Are Electric Bills So High?
There are several variables at play in the cost of electricity. Let’s break down the four particularly big culprits: location, government regulations, seasonal climate, and utility company policies.
Energy bills vary widely based on where you live. Your proximity to electricity-producing generators, the fuel source powering those generators, ability to source those fuels and the infrastructure of your local gridlines all affect locational pricing.
Here in the mid-Atlantic, energy and electricity costs will differ across seemingly arbitrary state and county lines. For more on why that is, see “Government Deregulation” below.
- Pennsylvania electricity prices: Pennsylvania maintains slightly below national-average electricity prices. The most recent government data shows commercial electricity in Pennsylvania averages 8.97 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), industrial electricity 6.7 cents per kWh and residential electricity 13.93 cents per kWh.
- New Jersey electricity prices: Residents of the Garden State pay above-average energy costs, at 11.83 cents per kWh for commercial electricity, 9.27 cents per kWh for industrial electricity and 15.04 cents per kWh for residential electricity.
- Maryland electricity prices: Maryland averages 10.32 cents per kWh for commercial electricity, 8.04 cents per kWh for industrial electricity and 13.11 cents per kWh for residential electricity.
2. Government Deregulation
Nearly 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, have deregulated energy laws, meaning consumers can now source fuel and electricity from private, wholesale retailers rather than from the utility company. The push behind energy deregulation is to support competition among energy providers, leading to more cost-competitive options for homes and businesses.
3. Climate and Season
Electricity — like heat and other fuel sources — tends to be most expensive during summer and winter. Regions with variable temperatures and harsher seasonal climates tend to see above national-average electricity prices since weather extremes require more building temperature regulation.
4. Utility Company Policies
Utility companies themselves will also operate under different pricing models.
- Estimated or meter readings: Some electric providers calculate your energy bill based on actual on-site meters, while others will charge based on local estimates. If your bill is using estimated readings, make sure to verify them with your in-home or in-business meter.
- Flat or dual-time rates: Flat rates mean companies charge you the same price for electricity across all hours. Dual-time rates, however, fluctuate, with higher cents per kWh charged during peak hours and lower cents per kWh during off-hours.
How to Reduce Electricity Bills and Save Energy at Home
Spatial heating and cooling make up the most significant cost on all household utilities, followed by hot water consumption. With nationwide prices of electricity — measured in per cents per kilowatt-hour — steadily rising over the past decade, it’s no wonder so many look for ways to trim their electricity bills and therefore save on overall energy costs. Here’s how you can, too.
1. Research Alternative Household Water-Heating Systems
At a minimum, households can save hundreds on utilities by adjusting their water heater to stay at or below 120 degrees. At a maximum, smart homeowners can opt for contemporary HVAC and water-heating systems using alternative technologies to produce and store their home’s hot water.
- Tankless coil and indirect water heaters: Indirect water heaters are part of integrated building water and space heating systems. They combine the traditionally separate residential water heater with a home’s furnace or boiler, creating a single source of building heat.
- Tankless on-demand water heaters: As the name suggests, on-demand water heaters are heating units installed near any fixture or appliance that uses hot water. These heaters then produce hot water on the spot, rather than the traditional model of water heater that continually heats water and stores it in a large tank, therefore decreasing home energy-loss rates overall.
- Drain-water heat recovery: Drain-water recoverers catch and store the heat from hot water used in showers, dishwashers, laundry appliances and more for a second use. They can work with most household water-heating systems to improve energy efficiency.
- Solar water heaters: Solar water heaters use solar connectors to that catch and convert sunlight into hot water, stored until use in special tanks.
2. Install Low-Flow Fixtures
Low-flow fixtures are a simple and cost-effective way to reduce your home’s water load usage. Replacing showerheads and faucets with low-flow versions are the most common ways to add these fixtures to the household. You can further stretch your water-bill dollar by installing low-flow “smart” appliances, like dishwashers and smart showerheads, which moderate water usage, streams and temperatures simultaneously.
3. Check Your Ducts
Many homeowners don’t realize their air ducts could be a culprit behind high energy bills. Dirty, worn-out, poorly insulated or exposed air ducts contribute to energy loss, or a home’s inefficient transport and usage of converted water and air. Reducing your home’s energy loss means reducing your energy bills, which you can do by adequately insulating duct pipes, sealing off air leaks and placing ducts within well-conditioned spaces in your home’s walls and ceilings.
4. Properly Position Thermostats
Like air ducts, improperly placed or exposed thermostats contribute to energy loss. Thermostats installed too close to high heat-emitting appliances such as lamps, stoves and computers will pick up on those devices’ heat and assume the entire house to be that temperature.
Programmable thermostats lend an extra hand in the battle to keep your electricity bill down. Set your digital thermostats to run only when you’re at home. In the winter, lower thermostat temperatures when you’re asleep or away from the house for a few hours.
5. Regularly Change Filters
Air conditioning and furnace air filters need regular swaps to function properly. If left alone, dirt, dust and air contaminants accumulate, affecting HVAC components like valves and fan motors. These factors, in turn, lead to HVAC unit inefficiencies which drive up the cost of your fuel and electricity bills year-round.
Pro tip: Save even more money by buying filters in bulk online or from wholesale retailers.
6. Moderate Exhaust Fan Usage
Run household exhaust fans for a maximum of 15 minutes after you’ve finished bathing or cooking. You can also opt for kitchen, bath and basement high-efficiency, low-noise exhaust systems to replace your house’s old one after it outlives its recommended lifespan, typically every 15 to 25 years.
7. Properly Insulate
Single-pane windows and doors are an easy escape for a home’s heat in the winter and cool AC in the summer. Inspect edges and panes in particular for insulation concerns, as well as around outside-connecting doors. If possible, replace single-pane glass windows altogether.
Aside from windows and doors, home areas at the most risk for insulation issues are attics and exterior walls. Caulk small cracks and holes to fix air leaks, and consider hiring an energy auditor for insights on contemporary layers of home insulation.
8. Pick Energy-Efficient Appliances and Systems — and Run Them at Night
The most recent government data shows about half of homes today have Energy Star-certified appliances. Over 88 percent of consumers are familiar with the Energy Star rating system, and 77 percent report the certification as necessary in their appliance-purchasing decisions.
To reduce energy bills even further, homeowners should consider running their energy-efficient machines at points in the day when electricity costs are lower. This option is available when utility companies offer dual-time rates, charging less during off-peak energy load times — typically early in the morning and after 6 p.m.
Answers to Common Questions on How to Save Energy at Home
Finding ways to lower your utility bills is easier when you have direct answers to your common energy questions.
- Why do my utility bills vary so much between the seasons? It costs the utility company more money to source fuel or produce electricity during peak periods. Summer and winter tend to be high-peak seasons in most parts of the country, given the increased need for building AC and heat, respectively. Therefore, summer and winter bills tend to be higher.
- Do old houses use more electricity? An electricity-powered HVAC system’s quality and age will largely determine its efficiency, alongside demands on usage. While older homes aren’t necessarily synonymous with old HVAC systems, they do tend to house older parts and components, leading to higher energy costs.
- How can I save on electricity with LED bulbs and fixtures? Switching just your home’s five most-used light fixtures over to LED bulbs can put $45 back in your pocket each year. What’s more, LED bulbs emit 90 percent less heat and last 15 to 25 times longer than incandescents.
- How do I keep my electric bill down with solar panels? While installing solar panels on your home will mean significant up-front costs, solar panels dramatically reduce the need for conventionally generated electricity. In many cases, the design of solar panels can turn homes energy-independent — in other words, without needing to purchase electricity from a utility company.
How to Lower Energy Costs for My Business
Commercial buildings face far higher utility bills than their residential counterparts. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to lower electric and fuel bills for your business, keeping operating costs low and profit margins maximized.
1. Use LED Lighting
Just like they do in homes, installing LED light fixtures in your business will cut electricity consumption by 75 percent. The bulbs themselves last 15 to 25 percent longer than incandescent lighting. Business owners can find LED lighting for outdoor and indoor signage, recessed downlights, lamps, task lighting, modular lighting and more.
2. Implement a Sustainable Energy Usage Strategy
Businesses with sustainable energy usage strategies commit to tracking — and then reducing — the amounts of energy they use across daily operations. By prioritizing waste reduction, load tracking, vendor management, and improved fuel sourcing, businesses end up with more control over the energy variables necessary to run their business. Greater cost controls mean lower operating expenses — which, in the end, puts money back in your pocket.
3. Create a Thermostat Policy and Schedule
Adjusting office or building thermostats by just a few degrees lowers money spent on heating and cooling by several percentage points. Set a minimum and maximum thermostat range during business hours to keep employees comfortable. Then, lower that temperature at night or at the close of business, reducing your energy bills even more.
4. Swap out Single Panes
Single-pane windows are incredibly energy-inefficient. Energy-efficient double- or triple-pane windows pay for themselves in a few years through reduced heating and electricity charges.
You can also use blinds or window shades to your advantage. Have blinds drawn or half-drawn during the hottest and coldest months to keep the cooled or warmed interior air from leaking out, and vice versa.
5. Install Motion-Sensitive Lighting
Motion-activated lights turn on only when someone enters their radius. They’re great for store displays and shelving — for example, as the lighting source in refrigerated food aisles. Alternatively, you can program time-sensitive light switches to turn on during certain business hours when extra lighting is most necessary, such as early mornings or late evenings, then program shutoff around midday, ultimately eliminating the likelihood of lights getting left on.
6. Regularly Change Filters
Mentioned earlier in ways to save on your home’s electricity bill, AC and furnace air filters are just as essential to monitor at your place of work, too. Swapping filters is especially crucial in manufacturing or industrial settings. Overly worn or clogged filters can lead to potentially incompliant work environments for your employees — a more significant concern than outrageous energy bills.
7. Source Smart Power Strips
It’s almost impossible to guarantee every employee in the office or store is unplugging idle devices. From lamps to laptops, most people maintain a “plug-and-done” mentality to gadgets and electronics, even when not in use.
Smart power strips offer a solution. These allow you to remotely switch off power strips from your smartphone for those occasions when unplugging devices slips your and your employees’ mind.
8. Opt for Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans use a fraction of the energy air conditioning does. What’s more, ceiling fans work to cool air and disperse heat evenly, making them electricity-savers both in summer and winter.
9. Participate in Load Control Programs
Load control participants allow their utility companies to reduce their electricity, heat, air conditioning or other utilities during peak-demand hours. In return for using less energy, participants earn credits or discounts on their utility bills.
Consider making the switch if your local utility company offers load control partnerships. They may also be able to send a representative to your workplace to walk you through the reduction process, outlining additional insight on how your office or building can reduce its energy load.
Answers for Common Questions Regarding Lower Energy Costs for Business
Have a question about general utility and energy bills for your business? We have answers.
- Does the age of my building affect my energy bills? Like homes, buildings with older or worn HVAC systems will not regulate temperatures as efficiently. As a result, energy bills will be higher — but because of the aging HVAC system, not the building itself.
- Are energy-saving appliances, windows, lights and more worth it? Homes and businesses outfitted with energy-saving fixtures, appliances and smart technology can save anywhere from $723 to over $1,100 on their utilities annually. A home or business energy audit alone can identify energy waste valued between $105 and $627 annually.
- How much do solar panels save on electricity bills? Solar panel systems tailored to your building’s exact energy loads not only reduce electricity bills — they can outright eliminate them.
- Are there tax write-offs to using solar panels for my business? Yes! The Solar Federal Tax Credit offers tax credits for those purchasing new solar panel systems until 2022. Many states support additional tax credits and incentives as well.
How to Lower Electric Bills in Winter
During winter, commercial and residential buildings alike benefit from energy-reducing strategies like the following:
1. Use Humidifiers
Moist air captures and holds heat better than dry air, a proverbial plague of buildings in winter. Humidifiers produce warm-retaining moisture that’ll make your rooms feel hotter, even with lower-set thermostats.
2. Grow Plants
Similar to humidifiers, houseplants add moisture to the air in your home or office in a process known as transpiration. Water gets transferred from a plant’s root systems, up its stems and into its leaves. What leaf cells don’t soak up, the plant ends up evaporating back into the air.
You don’t have to turn your living room into a jungle to get these benefits, either. Adding just a handful of plants with humidifying properties can reap the same rewards as one compact humidifier.
3. Only Heat and Power Rooms You Use, When You Use Them
Visiting family over the holidays? Going on vacation? Great! Lower your thermostats — or turn them off altogether — then unplug all unnecessary idle devices. Draw your window blinds and curtains to retain desired air during your absence. When you return, plug devices in as needed. If possible, use space heaters or maintain heated rooms at minimum comfortable temperatures.
4. Mind the Chimney
Working fireplaces produce what’s called the stack effect, where heat gets continually sucked up and out, then gets replaced by downward-flowing cold air let in through the same chimney openings.
Homes and businesses can curb the stack effect by installing chimney balloons or similar products. Regularly clean the soot and dust that accumulates in your chimney. If left unaddressed, soot cuts chimney heat efficiency in half.
How to Save on Energy Bills in the Summer
Summertime means energy-efficiency tips and tricks to cool down those electricity bills — and interior building temperatures.
1. Naturally Ventilate and Shade
The more closely matched the temperatures inside and outside your home or office are, the lower your energy bills will be. Summer’s hot weather can make these temperatures highly uncomfortable. Instead of turning to the AC, use every natural ventilation system at your disposal, opening windows and drawing blinds at strategic times of day. Studies show even half-drawn window curtains can cut heat gain by 33 percent. For businesses, consider installing window awnings, which can decrease heat gain by up over 70 percent. And when you do turn the air on, try not to set it below 78 degrees.
3. Be Lawn Smart
Planting even moderately sized trees and bushes on the south and west sides of your building will make those plants operate like building awnings, retaining cool air and blocking out the sun. Plants also prevent windbreak, which saves building owners up to 25 percent on heating and cooling costs.
Can Solar Panels Eliminate Electric Bills?
Solar panels present one of today’s best ways to save money on energy bills and secure energy independence. Besides being an eco-friendly and highly sustainable means to produce electricity, solar panels offer other advantages to home and business owners:
1. Tax Incentives
The federal government supports a credit offering prorated tax incentives to individuals buying solar panels and other renewables. What’s more, many states across the country offer additional perks for using solar-panel energy, including those in KC Green Energy’s service area.
- Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania offers energy-efficiency incentives for solar paneling, including tax credits and loan assistance for some cases of panel installation.
- New Jersey: New Jersey charges no state sales tax on solar panel systems purchases. What’s more, the Garden State awards credit to those with surplus solar energy, meaning homes and businesses can use that energy on days they don’t generate what’s needed. Home and business owners can even sell excess power they produce back to the grid at retail prices.
- Maryland: Maryland offers residential and commercial clean energy grants and clean energy production tax credits, plus allows the sale of surplus solar energy back to the grid.
3. Raise the Value of Your Home or Business
Studies have shown today’s homebuyers consider solar panels a home upgrade, just like a master suite, deck or a fully finished basement. In some real estate markets, prospective homebuyers will offer on average up to $15,000 more for a home with solar paneling already installed and operational than one without.
3. Off-the-Grid Autonomy
Conventional electricity generation requires coal and natural gas, which are finite resources susceptible to market volatility. Avoid the inevitable price rollercoaster as well as today’s ever-changing fuel fads by sourcing electricity directly from solar panels, then storing what you don’t use in solar battery storage systems. After all, the sun never increases “rates” for its rays. With solar panels, you optimize and take control of your electricity usage.
Learn How to Save on — or Even Eliminate — Energy Bills Once and for All
Reduced energy bills are a dream for many home and businesses owners. Now more than ever, that dream can be an everyday reality.
Solar panel savings on electric bills unlock energy efficiency for homes and businesses. At KC Green Energy, we work to bring those savings to your pockets. We’re a division of a family-owned contracting business that sources and installs premium, American-made solar panel systems throughout the mid-Atlantic to all our clients, without subcontractors.
Reach out with questions on how solar panels can work for your home or business. We can’t wait to show you how to save money on utility bills by making the solar switch.