How to See if Your House is Leaking Electricity
When there's a water leak in your basement, kitchen or bathroom, it's easy to see. You don't need anyone to tell you there is water where it isn't supposed to be.
It's not so with electricity. Your home may be leaking electricity (and you're paying for it) without you or anyone knowing. It's not too hard to find out if it is, but it isn't apparent to the naked eye.
If your electric bill is higher than you think it should be, or if it's changed at any one point and you suspect something is wrong, it may be time to check for leaking electricity.
The first thing to consider is any new appliances, TVs, computers and the like. Most electronic devices are on "standby" power even when they're turned off. This means that when you turn on the switch, the product comes on instantly with no waiting even for a moment for it to warm up.
In real terms, this means that you're paying continually, twenty four hours a day, for the 30 to 60 seconds it takes to warm up. Multiply that times however many computers, TVs, microwaves, receivers and anything else you have that uses a digital clock or a light of any kind when it's off and you will see just how much you're paying for that you never get to use - except for that second or two that it takes to get the appliance running when you turn it on. That's not a very efficient use of electricity. According to Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, "almost 10% of residential electricity use" is wasted on these appliances.
To get a good visual idea of how much electricity is leaking; first check your electric meter and notice how fast it's moving. Go back in the house and unplug everything. It won't hurt a refrigerator or freezer to be off for a few moments. Power down computers or put laptops on batteries. Unplug the microwave, the TV, the DVD player. Go on... it won't hurt.
When you've got everything unplugged, go back outside and look at the electric meter. It should be stopped. If it isn't something is still plugged in. Go back and find it. Don't forget the cable box, the answering machine, wired alarms, cordless phone, printer, and anything that's plugged into a charging unit, whether it's charging or not.
When you find it, unplug it and check to be sure the electric meter has stopped. When it stops, go back in and plug in only the refrigerator, the freezer and whatever else seems critical. (Note: TVs, stereos, radios, tuners, charging stations, cable boxes, etc... are not critical.)
Go back out and notice how fast the meter is moving. Take a mental picture of it. Quickly go back inside and plug in everything that was plugged in when you started. Don't take the time to reset clocks or anything, just plug them in and go back out to the meter. You should see a noticeable difference in how fast it's turning. That's how much electricity you are wasting.
Oh, yes, they're working on it. New appliances and electronics use less electricity on standby than older ones. But American households are buying more and more electric gadgets, from fax machines to garage door openers and each one comes with a price we don't see.
More Energy Leaks
There are even more energy leaks around the house. When your energy bill starts to climb, and you have checked the above possible culprits, it is time to look for other answers.
The main culprit is a leaky house. For example during the winter is leaky doors and windows, allowing the heat to escape, which causes your furnace to stay on longer, just to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. The same goes for the summer if you use air conditioning. Winter seems to be the largest energy drain and causes the biggest increase in our energy bills.
There are things you can do to plug those energy leaks, keeping the heat in and the cold out. Which of course saves money and keeps you warm and comfy all winter
Some utility companies will come to your home and do an energy audit, and that can be very helpful. This could include taking an infrared picture of your home showing just where those energy leaks are.
You can also do it yourself. Simply use an incense stick and move it near windows and doors and watch the smoke, with the furnace off, you can see the spots where the cold air is coming in, and of course, where the cold air comes in, means that is where the hot air is flowing out.
Simple fixes include products like foam weather stripping you can put around the door frames of all the doors in your home. I also like to use plastic coverings on the windows. Using these indoor window insulation plastic is an amazing way to keep the cold air out and hot air in, plus keep the frost and ice off the windows.
Many homes have very leaky windows, and this really causes energy costs to rise and creates and cold home. I have used these window insulations and once put over the windows, I could see the wind puffing out the plastic, which meant it was keeping the cold air out. These plastic window insulation coverings can raise the R rating of a window a great deal. My favorite window insulation product is from 3M.
The tape is also important, 3M tape or scotch also makes a good tape for these window plastic insulation products.
It is not a good idea to totally close up the house, air flow is still important, and you do not need to cover every window. Some windows you might want to be able to open during the winter, like the bathroom if there is no fan and a kitchen window.