Electricity has become the lifeblood of modern society, but it certainly doesn't come free. For many people, the monthly utility bill is one of the biggest routine expenses. The bill obviously covers all aspects of a home's electrical services, but what are you really paying for when you send out your check every month? Having a grasp of where your electricity is going is an essential part of a smart energy management plan. Although it can vary significantly, the following is a breakdown of utility costs for an average home.
46%: Heating and Cooling
Though some climates are friendlier to humans than others, chances are you'll need both heating and cooling to stay comfortable no matter where you live. Heating and cooling a home to maintain a comfortable temperature requires a significant amount of energy, so it makes sense that they're the single biggest contributor to an average utility bill.
14%: Water Heating
As with home heating and cooling, it also takes a lot of energy to heat water for washing dishes, bathing, doing laundry and other uses. Fortunately, there are several ways to cut costs for water heating. Using an energy-efficient tankless water heater will waste less energy by only heating water on demand, and installing hot water shut-off valves can reduce the amount of energy consumed during a bath or shower.
13%: Home Appliances
Home appliances may include things like a refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, microwave and electric range. Though their energy usage pales in comparison to typical heating and cooling costs, electric appliances can still add considerable cost to your utility bill. One simple energy-saving tip is to run a dishwasher only when there is a full load. If you only have a few dirty dishes and utensils, consider washing them by hand instead. Additionally, look for the Energy Star certification for appliances that use less electricity.
The humble light bulb is a surprising culprit when it comes to energy consumption, often accounting for more than ten percent of total energy costs. This is especially true for incandescent and halogen bulbs, both of which produce light by heating a tungsten filament inside the bulb. Instead, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) should be used wherever possible. CFL bulbs use fluorescent gas to produce light, which consumes between 67 and 80 percent less energy than a comparable incandescent bulb.
11%: Standby Voltage
Though it may come as a surprise to some, many electronic devices actually continue to consume electricity even after they're turned off. This standby voltage, also called a phantom load or vampire power, is a hidden drain that can add up to several hundred dollars in unnecessary utility costs over the course of a year. Phantom loads often come in the form of devices that use a remote, have a rechargeable battery, or feature a digital display or indicator light. Unplugging any device that you aren't currently using is a great way to combat electronic vampires around your home.
4%: Electronic Devices
With the trend toward more energy-efficient devices, the biggest electronic offenders aren't the ones you might expect. Though televisions, computers, video game systems and other electronics are a common fixture in most homes, they generally account for relatively little power consumption. They do often draw vampire power, however, and they should be unplugged when not in use.