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Take control of your energy usage

When it comes to energy usage, you might be surprised to learn that you have more control than you think. By changing a few habits and monitoring your usage more closely, you might just find you’re able to lower your energy bill.

Let’s get started. If you don’t have a Black Hills Energy online account, that’s your first step. You can set up an account by clicking here. If you already have an account, you’re ready to start saving.

Where is it all going?

You can monitor your energy usage right in your online account portal. Once logged into your account, click on Usage. Here you will find a great snapshot of energy usage in your home.

You’ll notice that certain times of the day - or certain days - may have higher energy usage. The same goes for certain seasons. The good news is that by examining these energy trends, you can develop ideas for lowering your energy use. Let’s take a look at a few things to consider:

  • Notice higher usage days or times and ask yourself questions. What’s happening? What appliances are operating at that time. What’s the temperature outside during high-usage periods?  Did you have extra people in your home? 
  • Mornings and evenings will likely show spikes as people are generally home at that time, and probably running appliances like dishwashers, ovens and clothes washers. Do you see a spike on laundry night?
  • When people are in their homes, they’re more likely to increase heating and cooling, depending on the season. Can you see a trend there.

Appliance savings

During the past 30 years, home appliances have steadily become more energy efficient. A microwave oven uses 90 percent less energy to cook a meal than a conventional gas oven, and compact fluorescent light bulbs can offer light similar to incandescent bulbs but use 75 percent less electricity to do so. Refrigerators now use less than half as much electricity as those built in the 1970s. So when you decide to purchase new appliances, make sure they're high efficiency. The higher up-front price will save you money in the long run.

How much energy are your appliances using?

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Energy use troubleshooting

Old appliances/garage appliances Appliances become less efficient over the years, which can lead to them running excessively in order to maintain temperatures.
Electric water heaters (bottom element or pop-off valve issues) There can be hardwater build up that affects electric water heaters. Electric Water heaters use approximately 300-500 kWh per month.
Radiant heaters or baseboard heaters *ensure they are OFF Sometimes baseboard heaters are inadvertantly left on LOW instead of turned off. 6 ft. baseboard heater uses approximately 1.5 kWh per hour. 
In-floor heat Sometimes this can be inadvertantly left on, especially if there have been guests in the house.
Water softeners Water softeners can develop build up issues that cause them to run excessively.
Dryers in need of repairs  Taking multiple cycles to dry adds noticeably to usage.
Space heaters Space heaters create an increase in usage, they are only meant to heat small spaces.
Electric fireplaces Electric fireplaces create an increase in usage, they are only meant to heat small spaces.
Pumps (wells, sump)

Wells and sump pumps are checked infrequently; if there are issues with components, it can cause them to run excessively creating a spike in usage.

Compressors These are often found in garages/shops, and can run excessively if there is a leak or they are inadvertantly left on.
Bathroom exhaust fans Running bathroom exhaust fans for extended periods can cause the HVAC system to kick on more often, creating an increase in usage.
Hot tubs/pools During extreme weather, hot tubs/pools create additional usage in order to maintain set temperatures.
Block or tank heaters Diesel trucks that need to be plugged in can be a significant source of usage.
Window air conditioning units These units are meant to cool small spaces and are not as efficient as HVAC systems. Window AC units can use approximately 0.73-1.8 kWh per hour.
Portable air conditioners These units are meant to cool small spaces and are not as efficient as HVAC systems. Portable AC units can use approcimately 1.01 kWh per hour.