A: You should call a qualified technician to inspect your system to make sure it’s operating properly. Maybe check refrigerant charge—check motors, compressors, and all main components to make sure that it’s operating as it should. It could be a refrigerant leak or something that’s making the system inefficient that will cause it to run longer hours and raise your electric bill.
You can forget that freak arctic weather Houston had earlier in the year—we’re at the other extreme now. Yes, summer is here yet again so you know what that means—be careful getting in hot cars with leather seats when you got shorts on!
All joking aside when Houston sees the temp hover in the mid-90s or higher like this, our phone lines blow up. We’re getting calls left and right from customers because their system gives up the ghost at the worst time. As an established Houston HVAC company, we’re used to those calls and can almost predict the day those calls start spiking. However, a lot of the calls we get also are because customers have noticed their energy bill spiked significantly.
Ironically, these calls regarding high electric bills may be signs of an impending outage, or a significant system issue. Now, granted, the hotter it is the more you’ll use your AC and other things can contribute. If you have poorly insulated windows for example, or rotted weather stripping and other energy leaks, that can cause spikes.
However, being that HVAC represents most of the electricity usage in most homes, it stands to reason that it’s usually the culprit. And it could be for several reasons—most of which, if handled early can avoid a more costly problem.
Noticed Your Energy Bill Has Spiked Suddenly?
If you’re like most Houstonians, you’re feeling the squeeze on your bank account due to the sharp rise in energy costs since late January. Gasoline is getting crazy expensive, propane for rural homes is going through the roof, and electricity is as well.
On average, Houston households consume about 1,300 kWh per month of energy. Depending on varying electric plans that comes to a monthly cost ranging from $155 – $165. Not bad considering Houston stays warm enough for AC about 80% of the time. Of course, that number will go up a bit between June and September, but it should not be dramatic.
Your Houston HVAC System Is Likely The Issue
The calls we get where a customer’s energy bill has spiked—we’re talking drastically, by at least $75 or more. That is indeed a telltale sign that something is wrong, and it usually is a result of the HVAC system. So, when something like that occurs you must identify the issue ASAP before it turns into a catastrophic failure.
When an energy bill has spiked it’s normally a result of these common Houston HVAC system issues.
Although mini-split systems are always an option for homes without ductwork, in Houston, most homes have central HVAC systems. These types of systems use ductwork that is routed through the attic of your home to vents in different rooms. The system sends air from the unit and blows it through this ductwork to cool your home.
When air ducts are in good working order, each space gets the cooled air it needs in a fast and efficient manner. Unfortunately, over time ductwork does develop leaks due to wear and tear or external forces such as rodents.
These leaks cause there to be a loss of cooled air to escape out from the ducts rather than all of it going to the room it’s meant for. Leaks may start small and can be undetectable but eventually, the leaks expand, and you notice the AC works harder and your energy bill has spiked.
The reason the usage goes up is that the room is not getting cool as fast and by the time it does cool, it warms up fast again. The full volume of air isn’t being channeled to that space and the thermostat keeps the AC running to compensate.
If you feel your ductwork might have some leaks, we can inspect your ductwork and give you a quote on replacing or repairing any issues with existing ductwork.
Dirty Air Filters
Any Houston HVAC unit you buy works the same way. Air is brought in from outside the home to help freshen the air and keep it clean. However, to keep it clean it has to be filtered of contaminants using high-quality air filters. These filters remove contaminants such as pollen, dirt, and allergens—but, where do all the contaminants go?
Easy—they remain trapped in the fibers of the filter media and over time those filters fill up with contaminants. When we say dirty air filters can be a problem for your HVAC we don’t mean just a bit of dirt—that’s expected. What we are talking about is an exorbitant accumulation of dirt and contaminants that the filter is not meant to operate with.
Filters should be replaced every so often so they remain clean enough to let fresh air pass through. The frequency at which they’re changed will vary depending on circumstances. For example, a home with no pets will likely change its filter far less frequently than a household with four dogs.
You should check your filters at least once every three months, as that’s usually when it’s time to change them. Alternatively, you could just opt for a planned maintenance program such as our MVP maintenance plan, and let us handle it.
If your energy bill has spiked and you see that your filters are dingy and full of dirt—try replacing them and see what your bill is in 30 days.
Your HVAC Needs A Tune-Up ASAP
Air conditioners are like cars, they need a tune-up regularly to maximize efficiency and service life. Getting the tune-ups allows you to detect minor issues and developments before they snowball into larger problems. During a maintenance appointment, the HVAC technician will check all system components for common wear issues. There is the lubrication that is performed on bearings, connections checked and coils cleaned as well. All of these things keep your unit running at optimal efficiency levels.
Failing to get your unit serviced regularly is a fast-track way to shorten its service life and cause it to run inefficiently. That in turn will cause your energy bill to continue to rise as a problematic AC unit tries to compensate.
When is the last time your HVAC system got a tune-up? If you can’t remember, then you should probably call Airteam to schedule maintenance, better yet—sign up for our MVP HVAC maintenance plan.
Your HVAC Is Outdated
HVAC technology again— just like cars, improves with every passing year. Your top-of-the-line system 14 years ago, is bested several times over by current year models. Efficiency is better, operation noise is better, cooling is cleaner and more. If your energy bill has spiked, it may just be due to an obsolete system.
If your system is nearing the 15-year mark, it might be time to consider investing in a new system soon. This is especially true if you never had it serviced regularly. You’ll find that in this scenario, your home will not only cool better than before but for cheaper as well.
Your Thermostat Is Bad
Now, although the HVAC is often a culprit when it comes to energy bill spikes, it’s not always the case. In fact, a lot of times it can be your thermostat that is the problem. Even if you have an older system that is still running great, let’s say seven years old. The thermostat may not be running so well. Some thermostats are just prone to issues, but there’s good news. You can simply replace the thermostat and even upgrade to a smart variety.
Today’s smart thermostats allow you to control your HVAC from anywhere with an internet connection. They can also learn your habits and cool based on needs and patterns it has learned.
A broken thermostat is like trying to drive a Ferrari with your eyes closed, it just doesn’t go well. With a properly functioning thermostat, you might see that your issue is resolved. Enjoy your system for another 7-10 years and enjoy a normal energy bill again.
If Your Energy Bill Has Spiked Call The Pros At Airteam
If you’re getting concerned with spikes in your energy bill, you need to diagnose the root cause before making rash decisions.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to have your unit inspected and we can give you answers quickly. You never know, it might be a small issue that you catch early and could save you thousands.