Keeping a Lid on Higher Energy Bills This Summer

Our survey revealed surprising ways to stay cool and save more money.

With COVID-19 cases surging across the country, most Americans are planning to spend time at home this summer–and they’re looking for ways to keep costs under control.

New research conducted by Sense and SurveyMonkey shows that nearly all Americans (91 percent) expect to stay home more this summer due to work-at-home policies or camp and school closures. With so many people at home using appliances and running their air conditioning, about three-quarters (78 percent) say they are concerned that home energy costs will be higher than usual and 6 out of 10 are taking concrete steps to reduce their energy consumption. (And there’s cause for concern. Sense’s research showed that most home energy bills increased 22% in April as more Americans stayed home due to COVID-19.)

Since it’s such an easy step, you’d think that just about everyone would turn up their HVAC’s thermostat to keep costs under control. The survey showed that less than half (44 percent) of people surveyed plan to adjust their HVAC thermostat — one of the simplest ways to reduce summer energy bills.

Most people (90 percent) are losing an opportunity to save money by setting their thermostat lower than 78 degrees. The most popular setting range is 68 to 72 degrees. The US Department of Energy recommends setting your HVAC thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer to stay comfortable while minimizing your utility bill, and setting it higher when you are away from home.

Try moving your thermostat up to 78 degrees and see if you feel comfortable. Too warm? See how it feels if you turn on a ceiling or room fan to create a cooling breeze. Ceiling fans use 10% of the energy of central air conditioning.

What temperature do you like to keep your house during the day in the summer? If it’s below 78 degrees, you’re missing an opportunity to save money. Most people are overcooling their homes by choosing lower settings.

One of the biggest challenges for most residents is simply knowing how much it costs to operate their air conditioning. Only 1 out of 5 Americans can estimate very accurately how much air conditioning contributes to their total utility costs. Another fifth of respondents (22 percent) believed their estimates were not at all accurate and the remainder could only estimate somewhat accurately. Home energy monitoring can give you a more precise understanding of all your energy costs, including air conditioning.

If you are one of the 24% of Americans who have or plan to install a smart or programmable thermostat for the first time, you’re making a wise move. Smart thermostats can help you save on your cooling bills, and home energy monitors can provide significant energy savings by finding the energy hogs in your home.

Summer is a good time to analyze your home and make changes to increase efficiency. Many utilities offer incentives to residents that can help you lower bills. Nearly half (45 percent) of those surveyed didn’t know if their utility offers rebates or free home assessments for smart thermostats or air conditioning upgrades. Visit your utility’s web site to find out how they can help.

To save money on your utility bill this summer, check out our Ultimate Guide to Reducing AC Costs this Summer!

For even more energy saving ideas, download this infographic from the Department of Energy. You can download Sense’s complete survey report here.