Turn Down the AC: Chilling Signs You Are Overpaying for Utilities — And How To Stop

In many parts of the U.S., summer is the perfect time to take advantage of hot temperatures and enjoy the outdoors.

But with the heat comes more sustained air conditioning usage and higher energy bills for many households. While this isn’t exactly unusual, it can still put a damper on your summer plans and lead to financial strain.

If you’re worried that you’re spending more on air conditioning than you should be, here are some signs that you’re right — and some ways to fix the problem for next year.

Your Bill Is Higher Than Last Year

Take a look at your most recent electricity bills, and then compare them with the ones from 12 months ago. Provided you still live in the same house or apartment, the past and present amounts should be pretty on par with one another. If this year’s bill is higher than last year’s, you’re probably overpaying.

“If you want to cut down on your power bill, consider switching energy suppliers,” said Andrew Meyer, CEO at Arbor.

“Many times, consumers can save a considerable amount of money if they switch suppliers. It can be a confusing process though, which is why it’s wise to use a digital energy advisor to walk you through the home electrification marketplace.”

You’re Spending Much More Than Your Neighbors

Many factors can affect your energy bill, such as your home’s square footage, how frequently you run the air conditioner, and the current condition of your heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system. But if you want to know if you’re spending more than you should, compare your bill with your neighbors.

“Some bills will compare your usage to your neighbors,” added Meyer. “That’s always a good indicator if you’re spending too much money.”

One way to stop overpaying is to look for alternatives, or to simply cut down on usage.

“Some of the appliances that are the most surprising in their energy needs (besides ACs) are electric ovens (3500 kWh), electric hot water heaters (4500 kWh), and clothes dryers (5400 kWh),” said Mats Claes, founder of Generator Decision. “By searching for alternatives or just making sure you don’t use [these] appliances needlessly, you can really cut down on your power bill.”

There’s a Sudden Hike in Your Energy Bills

You might expect to spend a little more on your energy bill in the summer. After all, you’re likely running the air conditioner more frequently. But it shouldn’t be a huge or sudden increase.

“If you notice a sudden and significant increase in your energy bills, this could signal that your energy optimization settings need adjustment,” said Lucas Haldeman, CEO of Smartrent, an enterprise smart home automation company.

“Frequently adjusting thermostat temperatures or leaving lights and appliances on can undermine your energy-saving interests.”

To cut down on spending, Haldeman suggested installing smart home solutions to make your home more energy efficient and cut down on costs. Some devices can also give you a better idea of whether you’re currently overspending.

“Smart home solutions provide tremendous value and energy savings because they can be tailored to optimize energy use in any home or climate. Technologies like smart thermostats, lighting, and outlets combine to limit energy consumption and minimize energy waste,” said Haldeman.

Your Air Conditioning System Is Outdated

Like anything else, air conditioners start to degrade and become less efficient over time. Not only that, but an older system won’t have the latest technology, meaning you could very easily be overpaying on your utility bill.

Tony Abate, vice president and chief technology officer at AtmosAir Solutions, suggested getting a professional to add bipolar ionization tubes to your HVAC system. This could cut energy costs by up to 25%, thereby helping you avoid overpaying on the bill.

“One of the biggest consumers of energy in a home is its HVAC system. BPI tubes reduce energy emissions and usage while lowering costs,” said Abate. “How? BPI reduces energy consumption by using less unconditioned outside air. Not having to condition outside air means the home can re-circulate purified and conditioned air which will use significantly less power and energy and make your HVAC system more efficient.”

You Have an Older Home

Older homes aren’t always as well insulated as they should be, something that could lead to increased air conditioning or heating costs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to combat this.

Cisco DeVries, energy expert and CEO of OhmConnect, suggested making some home improvements to reduce costs.

“Attic insulation, air sealing, and floor and crawl space insulation will keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” DeVries said. “Typically, insulation costs roughly $1.59 per square foot; however, installation can vary between $400 and $1,200 for a complete installation.”

But don’t stop with the installation. Check your windows as well. Depending on what you’ve currently got, it might be time to upgrade them to high-impact windows.

“High-impact windows filter out UV rays and prevent temperature increases when the sun shines through. They also provide a tight seal, keeping cool temperatures from entering your home,” said DeVries. “On average, impact windows will cost somewhere between $40 and $55 per square foot of glass and will last for approximately 25 years.”

You’re Running Various Systems During Peak Hours

“Many people might not realize that the price of electricity can fluctuate throughout the day,” said Benjamin Dierker, executive director at Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure.

“After basic things like turning off lights when you leave a room and avoiding unnecessary energy usage, the next best thing to do is avoid using appliances at peak demand hours when the price of electricity is highest. That might mean waiting until nighttime to run the dishwasher or a load of laundry, as well as turning off lights and other things that aren’t essential during daylight hours.”

By making some small changes, such as by limiting your AC usage or other systems during peak hours, you could reduce your overall energy bill each month.

“Energy use from 6 to 9 p.m. is … the most expensive,” DeVries said. “If you’re on a time-of-use plan, this will result in higher energy bills at the end of the month.”