It’s not uncommon for energy issues to arise at your home — and you may not even realize the problem exists until you receive a higher-than-expected bill. Two of the most common problems we see are issues with air source heat pumps and hot water leaks/water heater issues.
During the winter months, heat pumps may have a harder time extracting heat from the outside air and will use supplemental heat strips to reach the thermostat setting. Heat strips are wire elements that are heated by electricity and are costly when they are activated. Heat strips may also come on if you move the thermostat up more than two degrees at a time.
When HVAC equipment malfunctions, it can cause heat strips to activate and stay on without the homeowner's knowledge. This will be more noticeable during the summer months because it will hurt cooling efficiency. If the heat strips are “stuck on,” you will need to call a licensed HVAC professional to fix the issue. Low refrigerant in a system can also cause the heat strips to run more than they should during a normal heating cycle.
Hot water problems
Hot water leaks or water heater issues are the second most common problem we see. An electric water heater has 4,500 watt elements that activate to keep the water heated. When there is a leak, water is pumped into the tank to replace what has been lost. The water heater's elements run constantly to heat the influx of fresh water.
An undetected leak can be costly. Leaks can occur at the water heater, but sometimes they can be found where plumbing pipes and fixtures are located. Some repairs can be made by the homeowner while others require a plumber.
Electric water heater elements will come on periodically throughout the day to ensure there is hot water available in the tank. If you think it is running too much, you can listen to it to see if it is cutting off as it should. You can also do a visual inspection of your lines to see if you have any leaks.
To make sure your HVAC system is operating as it should, we recommend that you have your system serviced at least once a year by a licensed HVAC technician. Additionally, you should change your air filters every 30 days. Using thinner, less expensive air filters can help with proper air flow and return. When you first cut on your system, go outside to make sure the fan is running. If the fan is off, it could be a sign of an issue.
Online resources for homeowners
Our website is a great tool to help a homeowner spot potential issues and save energy. Start by visiting sremc.com to create an account. Here, you can look at your daily usage with an overlay of the daily temperature highs and lows. This is a great demonstration of the impact weather has on energy use. You can manipulate things in the home to see what kind of effect it has on your energy usage. You can also sign up for daily energy-use notifications via text or e-mail. The website also offers tips on ways to save energy and money.
South River EMC has a series of programs designed to reward members for reducing their energy use or for installing solar water heating. Check our array of energy-efficiency programs to see if you qualify for one or more of our rebates.