Making Ends Meet: Saving you money on your electric bill

Feel cooler at home without having to adjust the Thermostat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This is the third report in our series focusing on helping you save money on your electric and water bill.

News4JAX teamed up with JEA while it conducted in-home assessments as part of its free program to help its customers identify water leaks and other problems that might cause their bill to spike.

JEA said a spike in an electric bill often involves a problem with your air conditioning unit.

Local homeowner Sherry Richey made an appointment after she was frustrated to be paying more.

“It just seemed to me like the bill had gone up,” she explained to Luke Byous, a senior meter specialist for JEA who was called to Richey’s home for an assessment.

He immediately started by discussing how often she uses each of the appliances in her house.

“How many loads of laundry do you do a month?” he asked her as he typed the information into his computer.

Byous can calculate how much energy Richey uses at home to pinpoint a spike.

Next, he looked at her thermostat, which was set at 74 degrees. JEA recommends customers set theirs at 78 degrees during the day to conserve.

He also inspected Richey’s outside A/C unit, the compressor, to make sure it is large enough to cool her house, which it was.

He checked to make sure her coolant line was not damaged.

“We also recommend this line is insulated because the colder the refrigerant that goes through this line, the colder your evaporation coils will be,” he said. “Without insulating the line, the sun can heat the refrigerant inside it, which causes your home to warm up inside.”

Inside Richey’s home, he used a point-and-shoot thermometer to check to make sure the vents are blowing the right amount of cool air.

“So right now, it’s showing we’re at room temperature at 75 degrees,” he said pointing the thermometer at one of her return vents.

He moves to a vent blowing cool air and measures the temperature at 57 degrees.

“So that’s 18 degrees,” Byous said, which he said was perfect. “You want that between 15-20 degrees.”

Another way to save is to be sure to clean the filters in your home, so your air handler unit does not have to work harder than it should to cool your home.

Byous said, in general, there are three primary reasons an A/C unit is not working correctly.

“We’ve found a lot where your heat stripes could be stuck on, so you’re running your A/C and your heater at the same time, which could make your consumption go up hundreds of dollars,” he said.

Another reason for a spike in your electrical usage is a refrigerant problem.

“Your unit could be too low or too high causing it to work a lot harder to cool or heat your home,” which costs money, said the senior meter specialist.

Byous also noticed two of Richey’s ceiling fans were turned on in rooms she was not using. He said many people do not realize they are not using their fans to their advantage.

“We tell people fans cool people, not rooms,” he said.

A fan will, “put a wind chill on you.” As a result, he suggested to Richey that she raise her thermostat to 77 degrees from 74 and turn on the fan in the room where she is sitting. The wind chill created by the fan will still make it feel like it’s really 74 degrees, he explained.

This trick can reduce the amount of time you run your A/C, which will save you money.

Fifty percent of your electric bill is generated by your A/C usage, explained Byous.

“If you raise that temperature in your home even a degree, you will save 5-7% off that heating and cooling portion of your bill, per degree,” Byous said, which saves you money every month.

Of course, it’s also important you turn off a fan when you leave the room since a continuously running fan can cost you $5 to $7 a month, per fan. This can really add up.

Richey said from now on she plans to use her ceiling fans to her advantage to save money. JEA found a leaky toilet, which may have been the reason her bill increased.

If you are a JEA customer and would like to schedule a free assessment with one of its meter specialists, call: 904-665-6000 or click here to learn more.

Complete Coverage: Making Ends Meet

  • Monday: We began our Making Ends Meet series focusing on reducing your utility bill. Click here to read about a local homeowner who called JEA when her water bill jumped $100 in a month. Learn about a free service JEA offers to help you identify leaks that could cause your bill to spike.
  • Tuesday: We revealed an easy trick you can use at home to determine if your toilet is running or leaking. Click here to see how we walked you through three rooms in your home that account for most of your water use and how to reduce that amount to save you money on your next water bill.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.