Thursday, August 20, 2015

10 Easy Ways You Can Conserve Energy Today

Feeling the heat of summer electricity costs every time you open a bill from the electric company? You’re not alone. Between the costs of electricity generation and growing environmental awareness, people all around the world are looking for ways to cut down on their usage and see some energy savings. Fortunately, energy conservation doesn’t have to mean giving up modern comforts. Here are 10 easy ways you can start reducing your energy usage today:

1. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Air conditioning actually accounts for the largest portion of U.S. residential electricity use at 19%. But you can use about 10% less energy for cooling (and heating) by controlling temperatures with a programmable thermostat.

2. Replace All Your HVAC Filters

Inefficient HVAC systems have to work harder to keep your home comfortable. Replacing filters is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to give your system a boost. You should also ask your electric company if it offers any incentives for putting in high-efficiency systems.

3. Don’t Let the Sunshine In

You might want to soak up the sun this summer, but the same doesn’t go for your house. Insulated drapes and blinds can keep the sun from heating up the interior of your home. Long term, you might consider painting your house a light color and planting shade trees in order to reduce energy spent on summer cooling.

4. Install Low-Flow Shower Heads

Water heating is another major energy expense in most homes, accounting for 14 to 18% of utility bills. Use less hot water by installing a low-flow showerhead -- it will take literally minutes to do.

5. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

For the same reason, you can save quite a bit of energy by washing your clothes in cold or warm, rather than hot, water. Even if you do only two loads of laundry per week, you can also save around 500 pounds of CO2 from being released each year by doing so (that’s if you have an electric water heater; the figure is about 150 pounds for a gas water heater).

6. Embrace Line-Dried Laundry

Especially in the summer, many light fabrics don’t need to go in the dryer. You can get a folding drying rack for clothes if you don’t have space for an outside line.

7. Fill the Dishwasher All the Way

Don’t run the dishwasher until it’s full -- it will use the same amount of resources whether it’s washing five plates or 50. You can also turn off the drying cycle and allow dishes to air dry, which can shave around 20% off your dishwasher’s electricity usage.

8. Seal Around Your Windows

Caulking costs less than $1 per window, and can make a big difference when it comes to energy losses.

9. Unplug Battery and Device Chargers

Many chargers continue to draw power even when not in use, so it’s best to only plug them in when you’re actually charging something.

10. Cook Dinner on the Grill

Instead of cooking inside during the summer -- which will produce extra heat that your air conditioning will need to tackle -- grill outside. It’s more fun anyway.

Want to do even more concerning electricity conservation? Ask your electric company about smart meters that can help you accurately track your usage.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

20-Year Study Shows Benefits of Energy Deregulation

Given that U.S. electricity use had, by 2013, gone up by 13 times since 1950, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the average American household now uses 903 kilowatt hours of electricity each month -- and pays $107 to the electric company for each bill. And while there are some measures you can take to lower your bills (installing a programmable thermostat, for example, can help you save about 10% on heating and cooling costs), it may seem like the larger market that sets prices on electricity is out of your control. But that’s not precisely true: You can help yourself and other consumers in the long run by supporting deregulated energy markets.

New analysis of nearly 20 years’ worth of data has shown that consumers see benefits in price, investment and reliability when markets are deregulated, meaning that the method of power generation are separated from the companies that distribute that energy. Those benefits of energy deregulation are detailed in a study sponsored by the COMPETE Coalition and released in July.

“In a compelling example of what Justice Louis Brandeis termed states serving as laboratories of democracy, for nearly two decades, two retail electricity models, choice and monopoly, have operated in parallel allowing reliable comparison of the two models on key indicators,” COMPETE Counsel William Massey explained in a news release. “The data demonstrate that customer choice jurisdictions that steadily adapted and expanded retail choice out-perform, or at least compare favorably with, the states that have so far rejected broad-based customer market access.”

Here are some of the key points of the study, broken down:

- Between 1997 and 2014, prices in markets where consumers could choose their energy suppliers rose by 4.5% less than inflation; prices in monopoly states, on the other hand, rose by 8.4% more than inflation.

- In states with utility monopolies, electricity accounted for a bigger portion of consumer cost of living in 2014 than it did in 1997; the opposite was true for states where energy deregulation was implemented.

- Power generation in states offering customers energy choices produced energy more efficiently and at higher capacities than power generation monopoly states.

“It has been nearly two decades with workably competitive electricity markets in 13 states and the District of Columbia, and we can no longer ignore the facts,” commented Robert Powelson, commissioner and former chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “Customer choice works for electricity consumers and businesses, helping to drive down prices and attract billions of dollars of investment in new, more efficient generation.”

The full study, “Evolution of the Revolution: The Sustained Success of Retail Electricity Competition,” is available for download by the public online. Did you know about the potential energy savings associated with energy deregulation? Share your reaction to the new study in the comments.