Bills, how much is too much?

Have you been wondering how much is too much for your utility bills? We will explore good, average and poor in this article as well as what makes up your utility bills. For a rough score estimation of your bills, you’ll need your annual total bills for gas and electric, and the square footage of your home.

Divide your total annual gas and electric bills by your square footage.electric-bill-clipart-1

Great = less than 0.40 $/ft²
Good = less than 0.80 $/ft²
Average = less than 1.20 $/ft²
Poor = less than 1.60 $/ft²
Awful = more than 1.60 $/ft²

Example:
Monthly power bill = $225
Monthly gas bill = $65
Home size = 3,850 ft²
$225+$65 = $290 Utility bills per month
$290 * 12 = $3,840 Utility bills per year
$3,480 / 3,850 ft² = 0.90 $/ft²

This example home would be considered average.

What do these numbers usually indicate?

Great has small energy savings still possible. Typically newer buildings with tight, well-insulated building shells. Energy-efficient mechanical systems and appliances, most likely all Energy Star rated. Careful occupants that understand how they consume energy and how best to conserve. These homes are a candidate to consider solar or other sophisticated energy saving or producing ideas. These homes typically have year round excellent temperature and humidity comfort.

Good homes will have notable air leakage, insulation or space conditioning efficiency problems. These will have average appliance and water heating usage and fairly careful occupants. The occupants are likely to have addressed basic usage costs like lighting or a programmable thermostat. Major mechanical equipment or appliances are well maintained. These homes typically are mostly comfortable year round and throughout the home with few uncomfortable spots or days.

Average homes have major problems with air leakage, insulation or space-conditioning efficiency problems. High hot water usage and inefficient appliances and/or high electricity use by occupants. Typically energy efficiency and cost has not been considered when buying appliances and mechanical equipment for home. The owners may turn off light switches, but little else to save energy. These homes often have poor comfort spots in the home and struggle to maintain proper humidity as the seasons change.

Poor and Awful scored homes will have little or no insulation, plentiful air leakage and inefficient space-conditioning systems. Often these homes will have Swimming pools or hot tubs with old style fixed speed high energy pumps. Occupants have little regard to their utility consumption. These homes have numerous hot or cold spots through the home and humidity tracks the seasons. The occupants typically complain of dryness during the Winter months and too humid in the Spring and Fall.

What makes up your bill?

In the Birmingham, Alabama area we are primarily served by Alabama Power for electricity and ALAGASCO for natural gas. Both utilities charge a monthly flat fee plus an energy fee that can fluctuate by season, quarter or year. The flat fees are currently $14.50 per month for Alabama Power and $8.00 per month for ALAGASCO. Alabama Power’s rate is roughly from 8.5¢ to 10¢ per kWh depending on your usage, and time of year. This is subject to change annually. This past year it increased nearly 10%. ALAGASCOs rate is per 100 cubic feet (CCF) of gas and will change every quarter based on market prices. We pay about 2 to 3 times the Natural Gas hub prices to cover transportation, expenses, profit, etc..

For the typically home served by both, your spending $22.50 just to be connected. These fixed fees are high compared to national averages. Most states are driving towards even lower or NO fixed fees as they want the customers to reduce usage. If too much of your bill is tied to fixed fees then you can’t lower that part of your bill by being more efficient.

Want to better understand your bills?

An Energy Auditor can review your bills and look at the actual usage, we review the electric kWh and natural gas CCF to determine your actual energy usage. In addition to determining the physical changes necessary to improve the home they will also discuss behavioral changes to reduce energy consumption.

A Home Rater, either HERS  or HES, will develop a model showing how much energy your home should consume considering its major components. This can show the difference between the occupants behavior and expected behavior. It often shows us that as major mechanical equipment and appliances age their efficiency can drop quickly if not properly maintained.

Calculation disclaimer; these are based on national averages. So first, in Birmingham we have relatively low overall energy rates. This means a Birmingham area home should score better than it actually is. And second, this calculation is based on a 2,500 ft² home. If your home is much larger than this you should once again score a little better. The relationship is not linear after ~ 3,500 ft², but I’m not going to make you do that math!