I want to estimate our heating/cooling needs to figure out what the potential value of increasing insulation would be.

Our insulation in the attic floor is the fluffy stuff (not fiberglass) and IIRC< it's about 2' thick.

We heat and cool with a heat pump, so it's all electricity costs. We do a small amount of heating during the morning and evening with a gas fireplace.

We don't use the heat pump a lot. It has 2 programmable thermostats (upstairs and down) which we keep at 72 or lower in the winter and 77 or 78 in the summer. And we only condition the temp upstairs at night and downstairs during the day.

3600 Sq Foot home (3 stories) with decent insulation. Here's what I've done so far:

Got my usage for the year, by month. Found the lowest month $143 (month of May). assume that was no heating and minimal A/C. We are in the mountains of SW Virginia and the summers are fairly mild (certainly in May).

I then assume any additional electricity was heating and cooling. So our avg was $232, so $1092 per year for heating and cooling.

Any I missing anything?


  • If you actually have 24" of cellulose (or blown fiberglass), adding more probably won't net you anything in under 20 years where you are. Before you spend time on this determine what your existing R value is.
    – isherwood
    Oct 16, 2017 at 17:29
  • 1
    Given the kind of money you're talking about, you could/should be looking at one of those whole-house energy monitors, the kind that slap 2 clamps inside your service panel on the hot mains, and have a module there literally listening to the power line. They distinguish one load from another by the unique electrical noise it makes. They get very accurate on what each load draws. Oct 17, 2017 at 2:30

1 Answer 1


Your method works to a first approximation. One big assumption is that you had no (or little) costs to heat and cool during that smallest-bill month of May. The other big assumption is that all of your other loads during that month of May are representative of the loads the rest of the year. If both of those are true, then your method should be quite accurate.

One fairly obvious difference is in your water heater. As the temperature warms up, the temperature of your incoming water supply warms, too, meaning you need less energy to heat the water to the desired temperature. And, as the temperature drops, you need more energy to heat the water. It's kind of the opposite of your AC.

One other thing to consider is not cost, but actual energy usage. $143 in May be more energy usage than $143 in August, depending on your utility rates. It might even be that your rate differs during the day, or with usage. To be sure, check how much energy you actually used, in kWh, and compare those values from May to the rest of the year.

There are various estimates out there for what uses the most electricity, but HVAC always tops the list at 30-50%. Water heater is usually next, followed by laundry (dryers mostly). Unless you've done something specifically to reduce your usage, yours probably follows a similar profile and would be a good cross check of your estimate.

If you want a more accurate assessment, your local utility may be able to provide an energy audit. You can also look into installing a whole-home energy monitor, such as Sense (not a recommendation, just an example), though I'm not sure how accurate those are. If you have a smart electric meter, you may be able to glean higher-resolution usage data for your whole home (mine reports usage every 15 minutes), rather than the monthly usage reported on your bill. This might be easier to correlate with days you know the HVAC was not running. You could also install smart thermostats, some of which can report minute-by-minute usage.

  • Also if you are on a well, I know we use quite a bit more water in the summer than winter this ussage raises the power bill.
    – Ed Beal
    Oct 16, 2017 at 19:31
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    OP calculates 38% spent on hvac, right inline with estimates.
    – dandavis
    Oct 17, 2017 at 5:25

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