Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Stay Cool This Summer Without Breaking the Bank

It seems like winter just ended, but -- depending on where in the country you live -- you might already be thinking about cranking up your air conditioning. With that, however, comes the high electric company bills most homeowners dread. The average American household uses 903 kilowatt hours of electricity each month and pays $107 per bill; however, if you’re a heavy air conditioning user in a region with high energy costs, you already know your bill can get much, much higher than that.
And, of course, high energy use has broader implications as well. The U.S. used 13 times more electricity in 2013 than it did in 1950, and that’s a significant environmental concern. But with a few simple steps, you can moderate your energy usage this summer without sacrificing comfort, meaning you can stay cool without feeling guilty or anxious about the bills to come. Here are five do's and don’ts for maximizing your energy savings:
1.     DO: Use a Programmable Thermostat
This may seem obvious, but it makes such a difference in energy conservation that it’s worth mentioning again. It’s estimated that a programmable thermostat can offer you a full 10% energy savings annually.
2.    DON’T: Use Unnecessary Heating
You might think you’re not turning on the heat in the summer -- but are you baking, cooking on the stove or taking steamy showers? All that heat goes into your house, meaning your AC has to work overtime to keep the temperature down. Grilling is a great choice for more than one reason, but you could also use your microwave more or try to plan no-cook meals.
3.    DO: Look Into New Window Coverings
The sun plays a significant role in heating up your house in the summer. Invest in solar screens, special curtains or new shades to keep it at bay.
4.    DON’T: Forget to Switch Your Fans
One of the easiest summer energy solutions is giving your AC a hand with some simple household fans. But if your home does have ceiling fans, be sure to switch their direction. In the winter, fans should move clockwise to pull cool air up; in the summer, however, fans should move counterclockwise so that you feel a cool breeze blowing down. There's probably a switch on the side of your fan that you can flip to accomplish this.
5.    DO: Take Advantage of Cold Spots
One easy way to get an energy reduction in your climate control use is to give up on getting your whole house the same temperature. Instead, take advantage of natural cool spots, such as the basement or rooms at the back of the house, and hang out there.
How else might homeowners get some energy savings this summer while staying cool? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Information That Could Cause You to Have a Light Bulb Moment About Light Bulbs

The bad news is that the average American household currently uses 903 kilowatt hours of electricity each month, costing $107 each time a bill comes due. The good news, however, is that Americans are getting smarter both about how they use energy and how they get it. Electricity companies have now installed smart meters at 50 million homes across the U.S., allowing 43% of those households to track their weekly electricity use; people are figuring out that simple steps such as installing programmable thermostats can save them 10% on their climate-related energy costs; and residents in deregulated energy markets are seeing that switching to alternative electricity suppliers can save them quite a bit in the long run.
In fact, many energy solutions are incredibly simple from a homeowner’s point of view. If you’re looking for an easy way to cut down on your bills and do your part for energy conservation today, you need look no further than your light bulbs. There are three basic energy-efficient types to consider:

Halogen Incandescent Bulbs
These are a variation on the normal incandescents you’re probably used to, and they come in a wide range of colors to give whatever effect you’re going for. A halogen incandescent has an interior capsule that holds gas around the filament to make it more efficient, and indeed these used to be one of the more efficient options available. But now, while halogen bulbs still meet federal energy efficiency standards, you probably have better options to meet your needs. If you do choose halogen bulbs, keep in mind that you should never change them with bare hands; a small amount of oil on the bulb can cause it to burn too hot and explode.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
You’ve probably seen some of these twisted bulbs, even if you didn’t recognize the technology behind them. They’re versions of the long, straight tube lighting often used in industrial settings, but now come in more colors to mimic the soft light of incandescent bulbs. Here’s why you should care about them: They use only a quarter of the energy traditional bulbs do, and last 10 times as long. That means they normally pay for themselves in around nine months. When they finally do burn out, remember that they contain trace amounts of mercury, and need to be recycled rather than just being tossed in the trash.

Light-Emitting Diode Bulbs
These up-and-coming energy solutions use light-emitting diodes, or LEDs -- the same technology behind high-end televisions and other electronics. They work using semiconductors that convert electrical energy into light, but what you really need to know is that they use only between 20% and 25% of the energy traditional bulbs do and last 25 times as long. They’re currently a bit expensive, so they’ll take longer to pay for themselves, but prices should come down as the market for them grows.

What other simple energy solutions can lead to major energy savings? Share your ideas in the comments.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Test Your Electricity Deregulation Knowledge With This Quiz

Many households will soon be taking a closer look at their electric bills as we head into summer; air conditioning actually accounts for a full 19% of residential electricity use in the U.S., the biggest slice in the whole residential sector pie. If you live in one of those households, one of the things you may be considering to get more control over your electricity service is switching to an alternative electric supplier.

But how much do you know really about electricity deregulation and what it could mean for your household use? Test yourself with this short true/false quiz.

#1: You Can Switch Your Supplier Without Losing Service
Answer: True

Switching suppliers is really extremely easy.  Once you choose a retail supplier, you’ll probably have to wait a cycle or two before the switch occurs -- there will be no interruption in service, and once it occurs you will still receive your electric bill from your utility company; you will simply have your new electricity supplier listed on the bill under electricity supply detail.

#2: You Might Get Poor Service If You Switch
Answer: False

People are often concerned that by switching to an alternative supplier, they’ll get poor service from the utility company or be left (literally) in the dark should something go wrong. But utility companies are required to respond to outages and maintain service no matter what and with no discretion placed on whether you are with a supplier.

#3: Alternative Energy Suppliers Offer More Incentives
Answer: True

Because a deregulated market forces suppliers to compete for consumers -- the same way any other retail business does -- you’ll find you may be able to get some perks not offered by your utility company. For example,  some suppliers offer a rewards program that can potentially save you money and time on other interests, vacations, and everyday purchases..

#4: You Can Save Money With Alternative Electricity Suppliers
Answer: True

This is really the issue at the heart of electricity generation and the one most consumers have questions about. Will you see lower bills from the electric company once you switch? While your actual prices will depend on the alternative home energy supplier you end up choosing, there is the potential for you to save money by switching because energy prices can vary widely based on a number of factors. Two decades ago, in 1995, electricity generation accounted for a full two-thirds of electricity prices. Today, that figure is less than half, according to the Edison Electric Institute.  Data published in compares rate changes across electricity markets from 1997 to 2014,  and the data shows that states with restructured or deregulated electricity markets post lower rates of change.  For complete details of the study go to:

How’d you do? Share your score in the comments.