If you are an FPL customer, you may have received an email recently that answered the question, “what are the top 5 energy users in my home?” FPL’s energy expert accurately explained how five things are the major drivers of the average utility customer’s electric bill. Those five things are:
- Air Conditioning
- Pool Pump
- Water Heater
- Clothes Dryer
Well that’s all find and dandy, but it may not apply to your home, so I thought it would be fun to provide a different perspective about home energy use. While FPL’s answer may be accurate, you need to dig deeper to understand where energy goes in your home. Here are my thoughts on the top energy users in Florida homes:
The number one user of electricity in a home is YOU. That’s right — I’m calling you out. People use energy, not homes. Everything we power is a choice, and how much power we allow each appliance to use can be controlled. While some appliances are clearly more efficient than others, and some appliances just naturally require more energy to do a job, it is the occupants of a home that are the real number one users of electricity in homes.
There really isn’t any escaping the fact that air conditioning is a huge energy draw in Florida. Most of us want to be comfortable in our home, and use our air conditioning liberally. In addition to providing reasonable temperatures, air conditioning reduces humidity in the air, protecting the contents of your home. There are three main ways to reduce air conditioning costs.
- Purchase a more efficient air conditioning unit.
- Seal up leaks in duct work and openings.
- Install better insulation.
It’s unrealistic to expect people to reduce air conditioning to the extent that won’t remain the #1 energy user in virtually any home.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to you if you don’y have a pool, but the pool pump is a huge energy user in most pool homes. The good news is that there is a solution. Variable speed pumps can provide massive energy savings. In fact, when installed and programmed properly, variable speed pumps will easily pay for themselves in energy savings. People who make the choice to install an energy efficient pool pump alternative quickly knock the pool pump out of second place.
The water heater is a difficult one because you never really know when it’s on, and you can’t really control it effectively. Every time the electric element turns on, 4,500 watts of power start spinning your utility meter at dizzying speeds. The question is, how much hot water do you really use? If yours is a household of four or more with children, your water heater electricity use is undoubtedly high on the list of energy users in your home. With all of the laundry, dishes, showers, and baths, water heating can easily be the second or third culprit in your high electricity bill. If you are single, an older couple, a seasonal resident, send your laundry out for cleaning, or eat out frequently, you probably don’t use much hot water, and other things can easily replace water heaters as on of your top concerns. A solar water heater can be an effective solution for households that are truly heavy users of hot water.
Lighting in your home comes down to choice. This is really where the occupants make a huge difference. Remember what your mother told you — turn off the lights when you leave a room! More importantly, the choice to upgrade to more efficient lighting is the best way to reduce your electricity use. Focus on the lights that are on for the longest periods of time, and do not forget the outdoor lights, especially pool lights if you use them regularly.
I just bought an energy efficient dryer, but this appliance is what it is — an energy hog. Obviously the more you use it, the more it costs. If you have kids or a large household, your costs will be higher. If you take your clothes to the cleaners, your costs will be lower (for electricity at least). There isn’t much you can do about this except make sure you do laundry in full loads and keep drying time to a minimum. A more efficient dryer will provide a fractional improvement in energy use, but no matter how you look at it, the technology is inherently inefficient.
This appliance is often forgotten, and if you forget to turn it off when you are not using your pool in the winter you will be shocked at how high your electric bill will be. I can’t tell you how many homes I have gone to and found the electric heat pump to be on, set at 87 degrees, and nobody has been in the pool for weeks. A pool heater can approach the cost of an air conditioner if not used properly, putting it near the top of the list for energy users in the home. If you have a gas heater you are probably more responsible, especially if you have drained your fuel tank shockingly fast once or twice. The solution is clearly a solar pool heater for many people in Florida. This is an easy fix that pays for itself.