The drama started when I discovered that our electric bill was twice as high as a neighbor with a similar lifestyle and apartment. So we arranged for a free audit from FPL, our local energy company.
The free energy audit pointed to several budget-busting culprits:
- The older central AC/heat unit represented about 47 percent of our monthly bill. The unit was inefficient due to damaged coils and other defects. We're hoping that the replacement unit will yield greater savings and a lower energy bill. Already we've noticed that the new AC unit works less to cool the air. Since the new system operates in smaller blocks of time --relative to the older model -- our bill should reflect the reduced consumption.
- Our little stove was also an energy hog, representing about 3 percent of the bill. Due to a defective switch, the unit often failed to fully shut down. As such, our older stove was a constant energy drain. The new stove looks great; we're hoping that the shiny exterior will yield attractive savings.
- an inefficient water heater = 31 percent of our monthly bill. We have a smaller-than-needed water heater and therefore, the temperature is set at a high level in order to quickly heat hot water for showers, baths, etc. But the audit showed that we could save $10 to $20 a year, by lowering the temperature on the water heater to a level of 120 to 130 degrees. (That's a safer level, with less danger of burns.) And we can save $2 a month, or $24 a year, by turning off the water heater during the day or using a timer. This will be our next project.
- lighting = 7 percent of monthly bill
- appliances= 6 percent
One by one, we are tackling the assorted energy-related problems in our home. Living in a rental apartment is a mixed blessing. On the downside, we have less control over the products purchased or the timing of replacement units. But on the upside, we did not have to pay for the new AC unit or stove. Our building manager reviewed the energy audit report and took action. We're grateful.
If your local utility offers free on-site energy audits, I highly recommend the service. Ask the energy management team for a written report. This document showed our landlord that we weren't just making hot-air complaints. The problems and proposed solutions were clearly outlined in objective language from a third-party, namely the utility company. What's more, I frequently review the comments and suggestions that are mentioned in the report.
The audit is wonderful for homeowners. The report outlined different rebate programs offered by the utility company. Basically, the program rewards homeowners who install energy efficient appliances and systems.
Many utility companies offer on-line/Internet-based audits and tests. Hmmm. Those interactive, multiple choice exercises are fine. But we received the greatest benefits from a personalized visit to our home. Request an on-site audit, with a written report. Nothing beats real time/face time.