My High Utility Bill is My Utility Company's Fault!

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 by Joy Padgett

I’ve seen a lot of chatter of Facebook recently…people complaining about high utility bills around here. Almost every one of the posts I’ve seen puts the blame on the utility companies in our area for high rates. Now, I’m not going to speak to whether the rates are high or not BUT I am going to say that the largest cause of high utility bills is YOUR HOUSE!!

Let me give you a minute to come to terms with what I just said…..and to get over the shock….maybe you need some cute pictures to help you get through this….

Star and baby SpurCute little puppy dog

OK…now…let’s get right down to it. You’ve been placing 100% of the blame on your utility company for something YOUR HOUSE is responsible for. You’re paying a mortgage for something that is NOTperforming as it should. So, why am I blaming your house? Well….that’s easy, but there are a few main reasons.

The Absence of Air Sealing

Air can enter and exit your home through the smallest of gaps and cracks. These gaps can be around windows and doors, electrical outlets and receptacles, breaker boxes, washing machine boxes, attic hatches, and baseboards to name a few that you could probably find on your own inspection because these drafts are typically able to be felt with the bare hand. If these areas were not sealed during the construction of your home, (and I’m sure they weren’t) and could be gathered together into 1 big gap, it would probably equate to having a normal sized window open an average of 8 inches all the time! Yep! Rain or shine! Hot or Cold! 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!

With our special training and equipment, we can find gaps in your home that are larger than the typical small gaps around windows and doors, but aren’t necessarily easily located. We have found coat closets and water heater closets without ceilings. This is a huge hole that allows a ton of air to come into and exit your home! We find top plates that haven’t been sealed and are encouraging a constant flow of air up and down inside the walls of the home.

What this means, is that cold air is coming into your home at a much higher rate than it should be. Because of this, your furnace is having to work harder and for longer periods of time in an attempt to maintain your desired in-home temperature. It’s easy to see how this contributes to high utility bills.

This pipe has a gap around it allowing air to escape from the attic into the living space.

Inadequate and Improperly Installed Insulation

If that isn’t a mouthful, I don’t know what is! I’d venture to say that 95% of the homes we evaluate have one or both of these problems. Since insulation settles over time, the r-value decreases over time. This doesn’t mean your house didn’t have the appropriate levels of insulation when it was built, but if it has been 5 or more years since the insulation was installed, you should check it….or have a professional check it. There are regional recommendations for attic insulation levels. In Kentucky, our levels vary from an R-38 to an R-60. This translates to between 13 and 18 inches of insulation in the attic.

Old packing peanuts used as insulation

Probably 50% of the homes we evaluate have improperly installed insulation in the attic. This is especially true with the presence of batt insulation. Batt insulation has a paper backing that has to be facing the proper way for the area it is installed in….and since we’re talking about attics, the paper backing should be installed face down on the attic floor (which is the ceiling of the living space below). It should also be installed between the floor joists of the attic and not across them….which we see far too often.

Finally, with batt insulation, it cannot be bunched up, squeezed, or smashed into the area between the floor joists. This causes the insulation value to decrease greatly and, in turn, prevents your home from maintaining your desired temperature, which means your furnace is going to have to try to make up for this deficiency….and you are being prevented from reaching your desired comfort level as well. If your insulation isn’t insulating, then it’s allowing cold air into your living space. And this means your furnace, again, is having to make up for the deficiency by running longer and more often. So, once again we can easily see how inadequate and/or improperly installed insulation can contribute to higher utility bills.

Disconnected, Damaged and Deficient Duct Work

If your duct work is damaged, disconnected or deficient, the fact that your furnace is functioning properly doesn’t make a hill of beans difference in keeping your utility bills down or in maintaining the comfort level of your home. The duct system is responsible for providing the pathway for the air your furnace has heated to get to the various rooms in your house. So, it’s easy to see that properly installed, maintained, and sealed ducts are very important!

Duct encapsulation solves many duct issues

Ducts can become detached because your house has settled, someone has bumped it, or maybe a critter has been using your duct system like a balance beam. Regardless of the cause, disconnected ducts mean you’re heating your attic (or crawlspace). Furthermore, damaged duct work is also contributing to lower comfort levels and higher utility bills in your home. A damaged duct could be pinched off or twisted, or it could have holes, gaps or cracks where the junctions are located. Insufficient air flow through the duct makes one room colder than the next. Deficient duct work equals leaky duct work. The air you are paying to heat is actually heating your attic (or crawl space) which is causing your furnace to run for longer periods of time and more frequently because it is trying to heat an area it wasn’t meant to heat! Can you see how this makes your utility bills higher?

So, the next time you get a high utility bill, you might want to think twice about placing 100% of the blame on your utility company and start wondering if your house is to blame. If you need help in making that determination, just let Weatherization Plus know and they will send out a professional technician to conduct a thorough inspection of your house.

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