How to Lower a High Electric Bill
LESLIE: Whoo-whee, it must be hot in Texas because Denese is calling from Houston looking for some cooling advice.
Tell us about it.
DENESE: Actually, I had someone come over Monday evening and install two of these turbines.
LESLIE: Turbine fans.
DENESE: OK, on my roof. And I – because I have a very small house but yet I have a high energy bill.
TOM: OK. Hmm.
DENESE: And I also have shutters. I have wooden shutters up on all my windows in my house.
DENESE: And I still have a high energy bill and the only reason I can figure it’s that way is because of my roof.
LESLIE: Or you could have some sort of insulation leak in your windows, in your doorways. You could have something like that.
TOM: Or not enough insulation in the attic. How old is your house, Denese?
DENESE: It’s 25 years old.
TOM: OK. The turbine fans that you say that they put in, now are these just vents? They’re not – are they electric fans, attic fans? Is that what they are?
DENESE: They’re not electric.
TOM: Alright, they’re just passive vent fans. Alright. I think putting in additional ventilation is a good idea but I would not have recommended the type of vent you put in. Is your house a ranch, a two-story colonial? What is it?
DENESE: It’s a ranch.
TOM: OK. So a ranch is an easy house to vent and the kind of vent that I would recommend is a combination of ridge vents and soffit vents. The ridge vent goes down the peak of the roof and it lets all of the air out at the top area of the attic because that’s where the hot air collects. The ridge is a good place to exhaust air because as the wind blows over your roof, it sort of swoops up and the ridge gets depressurized so air wants to pull out of there.
The other side of that is soffit vents and as wind blows again the siding, the soffit vents become pressurized. So what happens is wind pushes air up in the soffits, goes under the roof sheathing and it exits out the ridge vent. And by doing so, it really pushes that hot air out of your house 24 hours a day and when it gets chilly in the wintry months, it takes the moist, damp air out which makes your insulation ineffective. So the idea of putting more vents in is good but I think a ridge-and-soffit vent system is the best to do.
DENESE: They don’t run by electricity or anything, do they?
TOM: No. They don’t use any electricity whatsoever. The other things to check are your insulation in your attic. Make sure that you have a good 8 to 10 inches of insulation in your attic. After that, make sure those soffits are not blocked by the insulation, by the way too, because sometimes, if there’s a lot of insulation, it can jam up against the roof sheathing and block the soffit vents. OK?
DENESE: Mm-hmm. Because I have nothing up there. I mean there’s – I don’t store anything up there at all.
TOM: Yeah. If you improve your ventilation and improve your insulation at the same time, I think you’re going to see a big difference.
DENESE: OK. OK. Because I had – about two years ago, I had all new doors put on my home.
TOM: How about your windows? Do you have newer windows?
DENESE: No I don’t. They’re the original windows.
LESLIE: It could be a culprit.
TOM: Yeah, it could be definitely responsible. But if you ever get around to replacing your windows, you want to ask for something called low-e glass. Low-e glass reflects all the UV light back outside and they’ll make it cooler in the house.
DENESE: OK. And something else I was going to do, too, because I just had a – I had someone come out and give me a bid on getting the screens; the solar screens.
TOM: Solar screens? I’m not quite …
LESLIE: Is that like a fabric that has blackout built into it so that the sun doesn’t come through?
DENESE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LESLIE: That’s a good idea as well.
TOM: You think that’s a good idea, Leslie? You’ve had some experience with that stuff.
LESLIE: Well, it can work and it comes in a variety of forms. It comes in like a solid fabric and it also comes in a mesh and they can be used for the same purpose, which really sort of keeps those solar rays from entering into the house, which will keep it cooler. You know, the more light you let in, the warmer it is. So it does help. But I think if you solve your ventilation problems, you might be able to fix that as well.
TOM: Yeah. Go to Air Vent. I think it’s AirVent.com. They’re a manufacturer of venting products. They’re one of the CertainTeed companies. And they sell a really good ridge vent and they have the matching soffit vent material. And I like their ridge vent because it has an extra little fin on it that helps to speed up the depressurization at that roof.
DENESE: Oh, OK. OK, now would I still keep what I just had installed on there?
TOM: I hate to tell you this but no.
TOM: If you put in the ridge and soffit vents, it’s a good idea to block all the other vents because you’re creating a flow with the air that that’s only going to confuse and interrupt.
DENESE: Mm-hmm. OK.
TOM: Alright, Denese. I hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.