The cost of electricity bills to cool some homes during heat waves

Cooling a 1,500 square foot bungalow during a heat wave is already expensive enough. But how big are the bills for the bigger ones mega-mansions crown our hills?

Granted, those who can afford a $50 million home probably aren’t sweating an inflated electric bill, or perhaps the carbon footprint, but experts say the cost of keeping a mansion cool can go well. over $10,000 per month.

Take “The One,” a 105,000 square foot home in Bel-Air that set a record this year when it sold to the highest bidder for $141 million, the highest price ever paid for a home at auction in America. It is the largest modern house in the country and looks more like a spaceship than a real place to live.

Last year, a court-appointed receiver tasked with finding a buyer for the property told The Times the monthly electricity bill was $27,000. At the time, the air conditioning only worked at one level.

Lawrence Castillo, president of A/C Brody Pennell, estimated that when the house is running at full capacity, the bill would be around $50,000.

The One, a 105,000 square foot mega-mansion, set a record when it sold for $141 million earlier this year.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Castillo, whose company serves more than 30,000 homes a year around the Westside and San Fernando Valley, said residential air conditioning systems are typically zoned so they can cool separate specific areas based on of the part of the house you occupy. a given time.

So while a typical home might have a single HVAC system that serves two areas — one upstairs, one downstairs — Castillo said a home like the One can have up to 50 HVAC systems and even more. of zones: one for the butler’s pantry, one for the bowling alley, one for the cinema, one for the confectionery, etc. A series of ducts snake out from each system providing air to each zone, and residents can control which zones have cool air from thermostats or their phones.

Mansions of such magnitude are often used for events or parties, during which the whole house would need to be cooled, but on a typical day, residents use a much more limited space. The estate has 21 rooms, but it is very unlikely that all 21 will be used every night. The living room, kitchen and dining room would be regularly cooled, but spaces such as the beauty salon and nightclub are probably not set to 70 degrees all the time.

Like California increasingly punitive summers are forcing residents to conserve, several celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kevin Hart have been accused of violating drought restrictions, using hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to keep their resorts from luxury lush and green. Electricity isn’t as controlled as water usage, but Castillo said the difference in usage between a standard home and a mega-mansion can be staggering.

“In theory, a 100,000 square foot house would have the same energy bill as 40 2,500 square foot houses,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of two city blocks to cool a property.”

But in reality, he said, mansion bills would be even bigger because more space brings more luxury. No more pools that require filters and pool pumps. More fountains and spas. After lifts and press rooms. More electric vehicle chargers. Bigger fridges and sub-zero freezers. Not to mention higher ceilings which increase the volume to be cooled.

“The rich have an obligation to watch the energy they use because their carbon footprint is so much bigger,” Castillo said.

Governor Gavin Newsom was recently criticized for his appearance in a video asking Californians to limit their use of air conditioning while wearing a zip-up fleece jacket, leading some to speculate he was speaking in an unnecessarily overcooled room. His spokesperson said the post was filmed in accordance with state retention guidelines.

But it was a bad look during the recent heat wave, when people without air conditioning relied on frozen sheets, cold showers and portable fans to get through the day. Some have rented hotel rooms. Others were displayed in grocery stores. Those with air conditioning were urged to control it, as Flex Alerts pleaded with Californians to reduce their energy use to avoid power outages.

In California, the state with the fourth highest average electric bills in the nation, homeowners had another reason to lay off air conditioning: their wallets.

In June, California homeowners paid the nation’s second-highest electricity rate behind Hawaii, according to energy broker Save On Energy. Golden State residents paid an average of 28.98 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), a 25.4% year-over-year increase that nearly doubles the national average of 15.42 cents per kWh.

View of an energy efficient air conditioner on the deck of a Dry Creek Villas unit.

View of an energy-efficient air conditioner on the deck of a unit in the Dry Creek Villas net-zero energy-efficient senior housing development.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Electricity bills vary wildly depending on the size of your home, but according to Energy Sage, the average electricity user in Los Angeles spends $269 per month on electricity, or $3,228 per year. In a record-breaking summer that has regularly seen temperatures soar into the triple digits, that monthly bill rises dramatically for those using air conditioning.

For homeowners trying to save money on their electric bills, Castillo sadly said central air conditioning is usually 70% of any electric bill during the summer, so the main way to save is to simply turn it off, have the unit repaired, or get a new system.

“People think leaving the appliances on or turning off the lights will make a big difference, but the biggest difference is the age and use of the AC unit,” he said.

Air conditioning systems are designed to be effective for around 10 years, so older homes with older systems will generally have much larger bills. If your lights go out for a while when your unit starts up, that means the system is consuming a significant amount of power, Castillo said.

As electricity rates rise and bills get more expensive, more luxury homes are offering alternatives such as solar power to help keep costs down.

In Bradbury, a $13.58 million listing for a 16,000 square foot mega-mansion makes sure to note that the complex comes with solar panels. In Topanga, a $9.9 million listing for an 8,000 square foot house on 17 acres rids its would-be owner of a guilty conscience by offering a 12 kW solar panel with 60 panels that covers all electrical needs, “providing unlimited hot water for truly guilt-free energy consumption.

Sure, Solar panels also have their environmental drawbacks. They are weather-dependent, take up space and only last around 25 years, while their manufacturing process requires intensive mineral extraction and uses toxic chemicals – and lots of electricity.

Other listings go out of their way to highlight A/C configurations. Marketing materials for a $12.5 million coastal villa in Malibu note the elevator, wraparound balcony, and infinity pool, and that “all air conditioning units in the main house are new.” In Manhattan Beach, an $8.9 million mid-century home boasts not only the movie theater, but also multi-zone cooling.

In Venice, two TV screenwriters offer a house with an ever better pitch: No need for air conditioning at all, they say. That’s because the architect designed the striking residence in such a way that the vertical floor plan acts as a chimney, drawing cold air through the floor and sending warm air up and down. outside through roof vents. Even on days when the temperature approaches 100, they say Natural (though presumably over 95 degrees) breezes cool the space, eliminating the need for artificial air.

The house's vertical design acts like a chimney, pushing warm air through roof vents.

The house’s vertical design acts like a chimney, pushing warm air through roof vents.

(Eric Staudenmaier)

J. Stewart Burns, who wrote and produces for “The Simpsons,” and Lillian Yu, whose credits include new FX show “Little Demon,” said the home’s design provides so much airflow that they don’t feel hot.

Listed for $5.8 million, the property consists of two steel-framed towers connected by a bridge at the top. It contains four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms on 2,522 square feet.

“I’m environmentally conscious, so it’s nice to have a home that has other ways to provide coolness without running the air conditioning,” Yu said.

The couple say they used the money they saved on electricity while living in the house to ease the cost of raising their three children. They’ve since moved to Santa Monica, where the air conditioning bill is a little more daunting.

“I use autopay for utility bills because I don’t even want to know the difference,” Burns said. “It is significant.”