Sense Blog

Your Dream Home’s Hidden Energy Costs

These common energy hogs can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your next home.

It’s spring, and For Sale signs are sprouting up on lawns all across the country. If you’ve done your homework, you’ve already saved up a down payment and pre-qualified for a loan. When you find your dream home and your offer has been accepted, the next step is the home inspection, a deep dive into the hidden parts of your home to ferret out budget busters like leaky roofs, rusty water heaters, and cracked walls.

Some costs are hiding in plain sight, though. They are the energy hogs that seem innocuous but can cost you thousands of dollars on your utility bill. To identity the biggest energy drains, Sense analyzed Always On usage in 4,000 homes and surveyed the owners about their home appliances. We discovered that the following hidden-in-plain-sight energy hogs are among the most common — and the most expensive.

  1. Basement exhaust fans. Annual cost: $82156

If your dream home’s basement is damp, an exhaust fan will improve air quality, but any fan comes with an energy cost. In Sense’s research, we found that houses with basement exhaust fans had an annual utility bill that was $82–156 higher than the average home, depending on their utility’s rate. (Typical utility rates range from 11 to 22 cents per kWh.)

  1. Hot tubs. Annual cost: $600$,1200

After a long day at work, what could be more relaxing than a soak in a warm hot tub? Just be prepared for the cost of keeping it running, which varies depending on your climate, whether the tub runs continuously, and temperature settings. Sense’s data showed that homes with hot tubs used 633 additional watts compared to the average home, and paid bills that were $600–$1,200 higher annually. If you live in a colder part of the country, these costs could be even higher.

  1. Radon system fan. Annual cost: $50$400

Radon abatement systems are a necessity in homes with high radon levels, but the fans in those systems run continuously to draw air from beneath your basement, and their cost is compounded by a cooling effect as air is drawn out of the home. Costs vary depending on the type of system that’s been installed in the home.

  1. Incandescent bulbs. Annual cost: $210 for six 100W bulbs

When you inspect your new home, look up. If the big light bulbs in “can”-style ceiling fixtures are incandescents, they will drive up your electricity bill every day. Six 100W bulbs left on eight hours a day will cost the average US consumer $210 annually. It’s nearly always cost effective to replace incandescents with LED bulbs.

  1. Swimming pools. Annual cost: $310$620

Swimming pools will cool you off during long, hot summers, but their pumps and heaters use a lot of energy. Depending on the size of your new pool, the pump could range from 0.5 to 3HP, using 1.26 to 3.17kWh. Homes with pools  pay an additional $310 to $620 on their annual energy bills on average. Sense customers have reduced their pool’s operating costs substantially by replacing oversized pumps and scheduling the pump’s operation. One of our users has a great story along these lines. Read on!

Howard’s story

One of our online Community members shared his experiences with a new home. When he moved from New Jersey to Northern Florida, he bought a home with a pool where he could relax and enjoy Florida’s famously sunny, warm climate. He also brought along a determination to make his new home as energy efficient as possible.

He had been using the Sense Home Energy Monitor to keep his energy costs under control in his New Jersey home, which he’d equipped with solar panels. After moving to Florida, he decided to install it in the new home. In the Sense app, he could see there was high electricity usage in the home. The pool heat pump was using more than 5,000W, running in the winter needlessly and costing him a couple of dollars a day which, if left undetected, would add up to more than $700 over the course of the year.  

The pool had a powerful 3HP pump, also, which was running eight hours a day. Using Sense to measure its energy usage, he decided to replace it with a variable speed pump operating at a low speed 24 hours a day during the non-winter months, which delivered a savings of almost $500 a year on electricity — about a 2.5 year payback on the replacement pump. Between these two changes, he reduced his electricity bills substantially.

For more ideas about getting your home’s energy needs down to a minimum, check out this article on CNBC.com.

So how do you find the hidden energy hogs in your dream home?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Ask the current homeowner for a year’s worth of utility bills, which will tell you the typical energy usage. Notice if it’s high compared to neighbors. If the home has a smart meter with an app, ask to see several months of data.
  2. During your house inspection, look for energy hogs. You may be able to negotiate with the current owner to upgrade to more efficient appliances or you can look for ways to reduce their cost once you own the home.
  3. When your dream house is truly yours, install Sense to track down hidden energy hogs and know exactly what they are costing you. In most cases, you can reduce their energy demands with replacements that pay for themselves immediately or over time.

Happy house hunting!