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Hidden energy hogs

My home energy bills still seem high, even with a new heat pump, efficient water heater, additional insulation, and a check for air leakage. What might I be overlooking?—Raymond

You’ve made some solid investments in space and water heating, usually the major users of energy in the home. To help in the hunt for other energy drains, first call on the experts. Your local electric co-op can be a valuable source of information, and an energy auditor may also be helpful.

Many co-ops have installed smart meters at their members’ homes, which can show detailed hourly energy use, sometimes pinpointing a large energy user. For example, you may be using more electricity on weekends, which would be an important clue to discovering what is driving up your energy costs. An energy auditor may be able to provide information comparing your home’s energy use with similar homes in the area.

Hidden in plain sight
You may have some energy hogs in your nonliving areas, like the garage, outbuildings, or basement. Do you have a recreational space in an uninsulated part of your home? Using space heaters or portable air conditioners in this kind of area can lead to higher bills. What about that working but inefficient second refrigerator or freezer?

If you use a block heater to help warm your vehicle on cold mornings, use a timer to start the heater just a few hours before you need your vehicle, rather than plugging the heater in overnight.

Do you run a business out of your home? That could be the source of a large energy user. For example, regularly using welding equipment, ceramic kilns, or power carpentry tools can contribute significantly to your costs, as can equipment that supports home farming operations.

Don’t overlook your own back yard
Take your detective work outside the house in searching for energy hogs. Water pumps often run on electricity, powering irrigation systems, wells that are water sources, and garden fountains.

Leaks in your irrigation system can increase your electric bill, as can a malfunctioning well pump that might run continuously to try to maintain proper water pressure. A garden fountain’s pump uses about as much energy as a small lamp. Look into installing a timer so it runs only part of the day.

Patrick Keegan and Amy Wheeless for the November 2016 issue

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