We have been inundated with phone calls, texts, and e-mails from customers expressing their shock when they opened their utility bill this month.
Many things can cause high electric bills. This includes a poorly insulated home, old and inefficient appliances, and regular old fashion energy wasting, like leaving old incandescent lights on all over the house. Ruling these things out, however, usually leaves just one culprit – the heating system, especially if it is an older heat pump.
Your electric bill will naturally be higher in the coldest months of the year. This is because your older heat pump needs help keeping your home as warm as you would like it to be. It usually accomplishes this with supplemental heat (electric resistance heat, also known as the Auxiliary/Emergency Heat). Even a noticeable increase is fine, but if your electric bill is suddenly significantly higher than normal, it is almost always a sign of a problem with the heat pump, or that you should research replacing your system with a new heat pump.
The advances in technology have been incredible. We now have systems that can heat down to below 10 degrees before needing any supplemental heat. If your system is not that old, huge utility bills can be the result of minor problems like a tripped breaker for the outdoor unit, or a very dirty air filter. It could also indicate moderate problems like an iced-up outdoor unit, or refrigerant leak, or even severe problems like a damaged compressor.
Some of these problems may require a service call:
- Outdoor unit not running, using back-up heat
- Low refrigerant charge
- Refrigerant flow-related problem – restriction/bad metering device
- Poor efficiency- needs cleaning and servicing
- Bad reversing valve
- Bad compressor valves
- Compressor not running
- Running in A/C mode
- Outdoor unit iced-up because of a malfunction
- Undersized equipment and/or ductwork
- Poorly insulated house, air leaks
- Return duct leakage – pulling in cold, unconditioned air
Some you may be able to handle:
- Outdoor unit iced-up – weather related, keep an eye on it
- Snowdrift against outdoor unit – brush away carefully
- Outdoor unit not running – check the breaker
- Extremely dirty air filter – change it
In any case, if you are shocked by your utility bill, and cannot identify the culprit, please let us know. We may be able to help. As I always say, Frederick Air & Bryant will do whatever it takes to keep you comfortable this year, and I mean it.