We have been performing energy audits on APS homes since 2009 and have seen all kinds of reasons why your APS energy bill is higher than you expected. In this post we will go into the reasons why your APS bill is high and the fixes to help lower your APS bills but first we should talk about what the average APS bill should be.
What Is The Average APS Bill?
The average APS bill depends on several factors like the size of your home, insulation, HVAC system, window shading, how many people live in the home and how you use the home. That said, a good APS bill will be no more than $100 per 1,000 sq ft. That means your HIGHEST APS bill on a 2,000 sq ft home should be no more than $200. The higher your APS bill is than $100 per 1,000 sq ft, the more room for energy savings you have. Your home could be very inefficient with poor ductwork, old HVAC systems or low insulation, or you could be on the wrong APS rate plan.
Why Are Your APS Bills So High?
The reason why your APS bills are higher than expected can be from two reasons, one is the how much energy you use during APS’s peak hours, and the other is the condition of the house and its components such as the air conditioner, ductwork, insulation, windows, pool pump, water heater and doors. Let’s dive into each category more.
How Much Energy You Use During Peak Hours
The first reason why your APS bill is high has everything to do with the people living in the home. Well, not everything because you may not even realize your pool pump is operating during APS peak hours of 3-8 pm because your pool guy has it set then because that’s what’s best for a clean pool. Or you may not know how to program your thermostat to raise a degree or two during peak hours and have it set at the same temperature all day long... in fact, you may not want to change your thermostat settings at all and in this case at least you’ve been educated and know, but are willing to pay a premium for it. Well guess what? That’s fine too because we all use our homes differently. You see, during APS’s peak hours of 3-8 pm they are charging a very high rate for energy and any time your AC kicks on during those hours, you’re going to pay a premium for it. Here are the Top 5 APS Peak Hour Perpetrators to watch out for in your home to help reduce your energy bills.
Top 5 APS Peak Hour Perpetrators
1. Air Conditioner Run Times
Notice I did not put the age of your air conditioner in the title, yes newer units run more efficiently but it’s not as much compared to the savings realized when you shift your AC usage to 90% off peak and 10% on peak usage. If you can practice super cooling your home, it doesn’t cost anything and you’ll be amazed at how much your APS bill drops from this one practice.
If you have two air conditioners you have even more opportunity to save money by making sure each unit doesn’t come on at the same time during APS’s peak hours.
2. Pool Pumps
During our energy audits we’ve found pool pumps running during the middle of the afternoon and our customers have no idea because their pool guy sets the schedule. Remember the pool man has one goal in mind and that’s to keep your pool clean. To do that he’s going to run your pool pump at the highest setting, for a longer amount of time than is needed, and during the hottest part of the day to filter out algae growth. All those strategies are overkill and will cost you a high APS bill at the end of the month. There’s a reason we calibrate our variable speed pool pumps upon installation, your pool pump doesn’t need to turn over that much water to keep your pool crystal clean. Combine a calibration with setting run times to be during off peak hours and you’ve done all you can with the pool pump.
3. Recirculation Pumps
A recirculation pump is another hidden appliance feature that many homeowners forget they even have. These pumps are installed next to the water heater and push hot water to the furthest fixture on demand. The problem is that these pumps come with a timer feature that often gets overlooked and instead of having the pump come on a few hours a day they are set to always be on 24/7. Many people would be surprised how much energy these pumps actually use and drive up the APS energy bills. The cardinal rule is to shut these pumps off during peak hours and during the evening to save energy.
4. Duct Leakage and Ductwork Problems
Let’s say you are practicing supercooling but your APS energy bills still are not going down. I would look at your ductwork as Suspect #1. This is especially true for homes 20 years or older. The APS states that most homes lose about 20% of their conditioned air from ductwork leaks. In our experience common ductwork problems range from simple gaps and leaks, kinks and improper installation all the way to disconnections hidden behind the ductwork’s outer liner or the wrong size completely. The only way to know what issues are occurring with the ductwork and recommend solutions is to perform an energy audit to get baseline readings of the ductwork by measuring the leakage and pressures along with a host of other tests. A visual inspection of the ductwork can miss hidden defects with the ductwork and in our opinion is a sales call.
Low insulation or missing insulation could be a larger cause of APS bills being high than you think. Not only does low insulation make your AC system run more frequently and for longer duration, it can magnify hot rooms and temperature differences in your home. If your home was built in the 1990’s there’s a good chance that fiberglass batts were used and installed completely wrong. If you go in your attic and notice the batts tented up along the roof trusses they are installed wrong and should be inspected by an energy auditor.
How to Practice Super Cooling
Super Cooling is an effective and FREE Strategy where you turn your thermostat down to 70° during off-peak hours of 8 PM, all night until 3 PM the next day. Then during APS’s peak hours of 3-8 PM you raise your thermostat to as warm as you can take it or 82 to 84°. Your goal is the shift 90% of your energy usage off-peak and 10% of your APS energy usage to on-peak (yes it is possible). Studies have shown that homeowners can save 60% off their current energy bills by simply practicing super cooling, and it doesn’t cost anything!
APS’s Rate Plans and Peak Hours
Let me back up and go over exactly what APS’s rate plans and their peak hours are because these strategies depend on shifting your energy to avoid these hours during the summer.
APS Lite Choice
Peak hours None
Highlights- This plan is ideal for single or retired occupants with low monthly energy use of 600 kWh or less. There are no peak hours or demand charges in the Lite Choice Plan. $0.12 per kWh
APS Premier Choice
Peak hours None
Highlights- This plan is for larger homes with 2 AC systems or more or have 4 people living in your home. Use this plan if you cannot raise the thermostat during peak hours, and if you are in this category I can sympathize with you in this example. I had a constant battle over the thermostat with my teenage daughter and wife. During the summer when she was off school, I would program the thermostat to rise a couple degrees during peak hours and then I would arrive at home to find the AC system blasting because my daughter was too hot... I couldn’t win and eventually changed my rate plan from a peak-hour charge to a basic plan and ended up saving more money. $0.12 per kWh
APS Saver Choice
Peak hours 3-8 pm
Highlights-. There is no demand charge with Saver Choice. If you are going to practice super cooling we suggest changing to Saver Choice Max plan. $0.24 per kWh on-peak times, $0.11 per kWh off-peak.
APS Saver Choice Plus
Peak hours 3-8 pm
Highlights- this plan has even cheaper off peak hours but more expensive peak hours. This plan is the best plan to squeeze all the savings you can and idea if you can religiously practice super cooling during the week. $0.13 per kWh on-peak times + $8.40 per kW, $0.05 per kWh off-peak.
APS Saver Choice Max
Peak hours 3-8 pm
Highlights- this plan has even cheaper off-peak hours but more expensive peak-hours. Saver Choice Max is the plan to squeeze all the savings you can and ideal if you can practice super cooling during the week. The Saver Choice Tech rate plan has slightly lower off-peak and slightly higher peak-hours and demand charges. In our opinion it’s not worth the additional savings to go with Saver Choice Tech plan. $0.09 per kWh on-peak times + $17.44 per kW for the first 3 kW, $0.05 per kWh off-peak.
APS Saver Choice Tech
Peak hours 3-8 pm
Highlights- this plan has even cheaper off peak hours but more expensive peak hours. This plan is the best plan to squeeze all the savings you can and idea if you can religiously practice super cooling during the week. $0.06 per kWh on-peak times + $20.25 per kW for on-peak demand, $6.50 per kWh off-peak demand.
Many APS customers believe their bills are high because their ducts are leaky, they are getting wrongly billed by APS, they are not really using that much energy or they don’t understand how peak hours work.
Ductwork Leakage Misconception
Although we are in the business of performing upgrades like ductwork sealing, I don’t like performing a ductwork sealing on homes that don’t need one. Generally, homes built after 2014 don’t need a full ductwork sealing. Homes older than 20 years would benefit from a duct seal. We can always test the leakage of the ductwork by performing an energy audit and we do find AC contractors still cutting corners causing leakage around the ducts, but it is rare.
Getting Wrongly Billed By APS
I’ve heard many times that homeowners will speak with their neighbors who have the same model home but their bills are significantly higher and they keep the temperature the same in the house. One thought is that their APS meter isn’t getting read right and they’re getting wrongly charged by APS. It used to be we would anyone could call APS and they would come out to inspect the meter or perform a free energy audit but those days have passed. Of all the audits we’ve done I’ve never found APS to be at fault wrong with charging homeowners.
One simple way to tell why your APS bill is so high is using APS’s detailed energy tracker on their website. You can easily see when your energy is spiking with each hour of the day. To isolate the spikes in your energy, start turning off, unplugging or flipping your breaker panel off for each load. For example, try turning the breaker panel to your water heater off for a day and seeing what effect turning the water heater off completely has on your energy bills. Look for patterns in your energy usage, for example if you notice a spike in your energy usage between 3-8 pm everyday, raise your thermostat up a couple degrees or shut your AC system off completely during 3-8 pm to see if your AC system is the culprit of high energy bills. By isolating your appliances you can learn which ones are the highest energy users however this will not tell you how efficiently the appliances are working.
Using some simple tools given here you have some methods of tracking down your biggest energy users and with the help of our energy auditors you can be confident that the improvements are targeted to your biggest energy users to make your home the most efficient it can be.
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