You just got your power bill for this past month and it looks like your power bill doubled or even tripled! What is going on?
The most likely culprit is your heating and air system! In the average household, your heating and air system accounts for about 48% of the energy consumption in your home. In SC, this past month was unusually cold. Typically, we get a few days or a couple of cold snaps of temperatures in the teens and, sometimes, even in the single digits. However, this January, we had consistent days of cold weather below 32°. These low temperature points are incredibly important for most residents in the Midlands because the heat pump in your heating and air system (if your heating and air system uses an air source heat pump) loses a considerable amount of efficiency.
How air source heat pumps work in cold weather
Air source heat pumps operate in heating season by absorbing heat from outdoor air and transferring it inside your building or residence. Because air source heat pumps use outside air, when that air temperature dips below a certain point, it relies on a secondary heat source to make up for the loss. In most cases, this secondary heat source is from electric heat strips. Electric heat strips operate at 100% efficiency, which means that every 1kw hour of electricity converts into 1 kw hour of heat to your home. This sounds great, until you realize that heat pumps operate at about 300% efficiency and the average electric strip is 7.5kw. So, if temperatures dip too low, your heating and air system will rely more on the heat strips to heat your home causing your power bill to increase dramatically!
What you can do to help your system perform more efficiently?
There are many different contributing factors to rising costs in heating your home. Is your thermostat set to a reasonable temperature? Has your heating and air system been serviced recently? How old is your system? Some of these things, like the age of your system, cannot be helped short of replacement, but there are some things that you can do to promote better efficiency from your heating and air system. Here are some things that you can do:
- Keep shrubs, bushes and other debris away from the outside unit to promote air flow.
- Change the filters in your home
- Keep your thermostat at a reasonable temperature. If it’s 32° outside and you have your thermostat set to 76°, your power bill WILL reflect that choice
- Invest in a programmable thermostat that keeps your home at a cooler temperature while you’re not home
- Have your heating and air system serviced by a professional