Energy Costs and Strategies to Efficiency

The recent heat wave along with news stories about possible power shortages and rising energy costs across the country factor into concerns Missouri consumers have about energy costs in the middle of this long, hot summer. However, awareness about energy costs and strategies to make the home more energy efficient can help displace these concerns.

While the typical U.S. family spends approximately $1,300 a year on home utility bills, of which 44% goes for heating and cooling, Missouri consumers can take solace. Across all sectors, Missourians pay some of the lowest prices for electricity per kilowatt-hour (kW-hr) in the country, thereby keeping energy costs down.

According to the Energy Information Administration, (for the average retail price of electricity) Missouri was the 7th lowest state across all sectors combined (residential, commercial, industrial and transportation). On average, Missourians paid 5.59 cents per kW-hr of electricity across all sectors.

Kentucky had the lowest average across all sectors in the nation, paying 4.47 cents per kW-hr, while Hawaii had the highest average, paying 16.04 cents per kW-hr. The U.S. average across all sectors was 7.52 cents per kW-hr.

For residences only, Missouri also ranked 7th lowest for the average retail price of electricity, paying 6.52 cents per kW-hr of electricity.


Strategies for an Energy Efficient Home
Comparatively, the news about electric costs for Missourians is good. However, there are ways to reduce energy costs further, which consumers can control. These strategies not only save consumers money, but also have a positive environmental impact.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggests a number of strategies to further reduce energy costs by 10-50% on their website.

We will focus on a few of these tips to a more energy efficient home.

Sources causing the most unwanted summer heat in homes are windows and walls (20 to 30 percent), internal gains from appliances and lights (15 to 25 percent), and through the roof (10 to 20 percent).

The first step to an energy efficient home is to check insulation in ceilings, walls, crawlspaces, attics and the basement; check holes and cracks around windows, doors, light fixtures, outlets and walls.

Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter can waste a substantial portion of your energy dollars. One of the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weather-strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. According to the DOE, you can save 10% or more on your energy bill by simply reducing the air leaks in your home. (See chart.) 

Once you've prevented unwanted heat from entering, and cool air from leaving it's time to pick the air conditioning unit that's right for you. While there are distinct differences among units, an average air-conditioned home consumes more than 2,000 kW-hr of electricity a year.

One thing to look for when buying an air conditioner is the SEER rating. Central air conditioners are rated according to their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less.

Before 1979, the SEER of central air conditioners ranged from 4.5 to 8.0. Replacing a 1970's-era central air conditioner with a SEER of 6 with a new unit having a SEER of 12 will cut your air conditioning costs in half.


Tips to Reduce Air Conditioner Unit Costs
The following tips provided by the DOE can help you reduce the amount of energy used by your central and window air conditioners:



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