It’s easy to assume that you can govern your energy and water expenditures purely by using household appliances and fixtures sparingly. But there are a great many other factors that come into play as well, some of which occur well out of range of your watchful eye. Here are four household components that may be undermining your efforts to control your utility bills.
1. Plumbing Weaknesses
As long as your showers and sinks seem to run normally, you probably give little thought to the mass of plumbing pipes running invisibly through your walls and under your front lawn to the street. But these pipes can fail slowly, one tiny leak at a time — not enough to create a noticeable drop in water volume, but enough to waste significant amounts of the stuff over time, raising your water bill in the process.
- Have your plumber inspect your underground sewer line every year, especially early in the year when new tree roots threaten to damage the pipes. A fiber optic cable threaded inside the pipe can send video images of any hairline cracks or breaks.
- If you live in a house with relatively old plumbing, ask your plumber to inspect the pipes behind the walls, replacing any lengths or joints that display leaks.
2. Electronics on Standby
No matter how vigilant you are about switching off electronic gear when no one is using it, you may be burning all kinds of extra wattage in this items 24 hours a day. That’s because most electronic components, such as DVD players, game consoles, TVs, receivers, and computers, never stop drawing power as long as they’re plugged into a functioning outlet.
The amount of “invisible” power these components waste while in standby mode can vary wildly — from a single watt all the way up to 50 watts for some items.
To minimize the trickle of excess electricity, unplug any electronic item you rarely use or won’t be needing for a while. Be aware, however, that you may have to re-set the clocks on these devices when you plug them back in.
3. Inadequate Insulation
What kind of insulation does your home have, and how thoroughly was it distributed when the home was built? Many homeowners never bother to glance at their attic insulation or wonder what they have lining their walls.
A variety of insulation materials are commonly used in home construction, including mineral wool, fiberglass, cellulose, natural fibers and polystyrene — each of which has its own R-value (a measure of insulating power). Ask a contractor whether the type of insulation in your home is sufficient for your needs.
If you need different or additional insulation, you can have new material placed right on top of the existing insulation. Insulation typically comes in rolls, batts, solid boards, or loose-fill materials that are blown or pumped through a machine onto the roof or wall surfaces.
4. Hidden HVAC Problems
Your central air conditioning may keep your home reasonably cool, but how hard is it working to achieve that effect?
- If the HVAC has a dirty air filter, it may be expending more electricity than it normally would to draw air through it via the fan. This not only boosts your energy bill, but over time it will also wear out the HVAC motor.
- If your HVAC system is low on refrigerant, the fan may blow constantly in a futile effort to get the temperature down to the desired thermostat setting. Have your service technician check the refrigerant level and top it off if necessary.
Don’t let this assortment of invisible enemies create all-too-evident problems for your budget. Check each of them out — you may find some major opportunities to cut your long-term utility costs!