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What is the difference between a Traditional Power Grid and Smart Grid

The traditional power grid is a system that consists of various elements, such as synchronous machines, power transformers, transmission lines, transmission substations, distribution lines, distribution substations, and loads. These are usually located far away from where the power is consumed and the power is transmitted through long transmission lines.

The smart grid is the internet era’s answer to the traditional power grid. It provides secured and dependable electrical service. Unlike the traditional grid infrastructure, it is a two-way communication between the utility and the electricity consumer.

The smart grid has the following elements:

  1. A modern electrical grid with information technology and communications integrated into it.
  2. The ability to communicate with, and provide new services for, all electricity customers through a two-way a communication link between a utility and its customer base.
  3. Compatibility with distributed generation resources, technologies that allow consumers to generate power for themselves.
  4. The ability to send price information and control devices, including the appliances in homes and buildings, through a two-way communication network between end users and power suppliers.
  5. Adequate levels of protection against all reasonable contingencies.
  6. Reliability and resiliency to withstand the impacts of a wide range of physical and cyber-attacks.
  7. Interoperability with the existing generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure (smart grids must be able to work alongside old infrastructure).
  8. The ability to integrate numerous types of advanced meters capable of two-way communication on the network.
  9. Reduced outage times and the ability to restore power after any incident in a very short period of time.
  10. Ability to support applications, such as demand response and advanced distribution grid management systems, capable of providing dynamic incentives and control to system operators.

The smart grid will reduce energy bills

With the smart grid businesses and home owners will be able to increase or decrease their energy usage in real-time based on the current demand for electricity in their area and the current price of electricity through a concept called demand response.  This can result in smaller electric bills.

Demand response is a program that allows customers of an electric utility to reduce their electricity usage during peak hours. The smart grid will allow for two-way communication between the customer and the electric utility, which will make this process easier. Customers will be able to receive price information and control devices, including the appliances in their homes and buildings. This will help to save electricity and reduce the load on the power grid.

Appliances, devices and cars will come programmed with the ability manage this dance of price and demand for you. Imagine a dishwasher that waits for electricity rates to drop before it comes on.

The smart grid will support more efficient use of solar power

The smart grid is necessary to support growth in solar energy. Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular, and the smart grid will be necessary to manage the influx of solar power. The smart grid will allow homeowners with rooftop solar panels to have a day-to-day impact on the amount of solar energy they wish to generate. It will also allow those with home solar panels to benefit from supplying electricity into the grid at certain times, and then drawing it back out during peak hours.

The smart grid will help electric utilities reduce power outages

The smart grid has the ability to reduce outage times and restore power after any incident in a very short period of time. This is due to its improved reliability and resilience. A smart grid integrated with smart devices and appliances can rebalance electricity demand and load in real-time. The smart grid is also able to withstand the impacts of a wide range of physical and cyber-attacks, which makes it more secure than the traditional grid.

How long will it be until Texas transitions to a smart grid

Texas is currently in the process of transitioning from a traditional electrical grid to a smart grid. It will transform how to buy electricity as well as how you use it, manage it, and maybe even produce it.  There will not be a single moment when the grid goes from traditional to smart.  The technology is already enabling innovative products such as prepaid electricity plans.

The grid will constantly be evolving until the transition is complete. The goal of the transition is to make sure that all Texans have access to electricity that is cheap and reliable It will take place in phases over several years.

The first step in transitioning to a smart grid was laying out what exactly should be included in a smart grid including the ability to support applications, such as demand response and advanced distribution grid management systems, capable of providing dynamic incentives and control to system operators.

What Household Appliances Use the Most Electricity?

Looking to reduce your electric bill? Curious to know who in your household is to blame for an absurd electricity expense? While it’s easy to point fingers at the husband who leaves the lights on or the kid who hogs the shower all morning, some household appliances actually deserve the guilty verdict. Here are the top five most common electricity users in the average American home:

appliance energy costs

Electric Furnace

Electric heating is arguably the most expensive method to heat a home, especially for populations in the Northern United States, where homeowners rely on heat for 6-8 months each year. Heating costs can quickly add up, accounting for upwards of 50% of the monthly electric bill. Even a more modern furnace running just two hours each day requires 36 kWh per day, costing homeowners over $100 per month. When used efficiently (and safely) in smaller rooms, space heaters can lead to savings; but even then, running a small heater for several hours each day can quickly add $30 each month to your electric bill.

Tip: Turn down thermostats at night (and invest in some wool socks).

Central Air Conditioner

While folks up north sleep in fleece pajamas under trendy weighted blankets, southerners have their own electricity monster to fight — the air conditioner. During the hotter months, many homeowners rely on central air conditioners for up to eight hours each day; while the exact cost depends on the unit, it can add up to 29 kWh per day and $85 each month.

Tip: Make sure to change the air filter to maximize cooling efficiency.

Water Heater

For those who enjoy a long shower — maybe with a podcast playing from the waterproof speaker and a cold beer on the shower caddy — the water heater can quickly turn from best friend to worst enemy. For homes with older water heaters, expect the unit to run about three hours each day; this equates to roughly 13 kWh per month (and $36 on the electric bill).

Tip: Try turning down the thermostat on the actual water tank; many appliances are preset to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people won’t notice a difference if the temperate is set to 120 degrees instead.

Refrigerator

Even the most efficient, modern, spaceship-like refrigerator needs to run 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. As such, keeping the fridge functioning adds up quickly on the power bill. On average, a refrigerator uses 4kWh per day, costing roughly $13 per month.

Tip: Try to keep the door closed. Consider what to grab before perusing the fridge (talking to the late-night snackers).

Dryer

Dryers require a large amount of electricity to do their job, but luckily, they aren’t running all day long. The average American family does laundry about once a week. Newer dryer models require less time and electricity: a one-hour session needs 3kWh, which, if run every day, could easily cost over $100. At just one cycle per week, the dryer adds about $18 to the annual electric bill (or $1.50 each month).

Tip: Schedule laundry day when the weather is sunny; let bulky items like towels dry naturally outside instead of throwing them in the dryer.

Conclusion

This list is merely a snapshot of the electricity consumed every day. Electric ovens (21.3 kWh), blenders (.8 kWh), coffee makers (4.7 kWh), ceiling fans (12 kWh), microwaves (16.5 kWh), waffle irons (4.8 kWh), hairdryers (10 kWh) — these appliances are small by themselves, but when grouped together, quickly add up. The best savings tip is knowledge; take time to understand the monthly electric bill and local energy rates. Making small adjustments every day can lead to accumulated savings over time.

Photo credit PhotoMIX Company

Are Our Devices Wasting Too Much Electricity?

Vampire electricity — the energy wasted while devices are plugged in, yet not turned on — is a very real drain on the power bill. From televisions to internet routers to phone chargers, there are several devices constantly adding extra dollars onto the monthly electricity rate. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates nearly 50 electronics in the standard American household continue to use power even when switched off. The accumulated electricity wasted annually in the U.S. is more than some developing nations actually use. Data suggests that Americans waste billions of dollars annually on wasted electricity — that’s billions with a “B.” It’s not only a financial consequence either; electricity production is a major contributor to climate change, not to mention the millions of tons of e-waste created when consumers toss their old devices.

What About Smart Devices?

Investing in smarter devices improves efficiency in the home and often adds convenience. For example, many electric companies encourage consumers to install a smart thermostat, a wifi-enabled tool that leads to savings and a more comfortable living environment. But what about the Alexa in the corner, lurking for commands? Or the MacBook left charging near the desk, always in standby mode? While appliances and devices have undoubtedly grown more energy efficient, Americans also have way more of them. Smart devices are convenient and often use less power, but Americans are adding more and more devices to the home and using them constantly.

Electricity Use on the Rise

Energy companies have witnessed increased power use over the decades — the average individual kilowatt use per hour, or kWh usage, has more than doubled since the 1960s. The U.S has some of the most affordable energy rates among affluent countries and boy, do Americans enjoy it. In Texas, the market allows homeowners to look at different energy providers, compare electricity rates and seek cheap electricity, which has exacerbated overall consumption. While Texas has some of the cheapest electricity rates, residents pay some of the highest energy bills because they use a larger amount of power relative to other states.

Tips That Work To Reduce Energy Bills

Household devices are wasting too much energy, but with the vast majority of Americans owning a smartphone and a laptop, it’s not the simplest issue to fix. Garlic won’t help with these vampires. One of the easiest ways to prevent wasted energy and reduce your energy bill is to unplug devices when they’re not in use. However, this often disconnects smart devices from the internet connection, requires extra minutes to reboot, or restarts the clocks on appliances. Choose the battles to fight. A computer uses more electricity when left plugged in than a coffee pot, so unplug laptops whenever they’re fully charged. To be honest, leaving a phone charger plugged in all the time doesn’t drain too much energy, but a whole bunch of passively plugged-in devices could add up. Employ smart power strips as much as possible; it’s easier to turn off one switch at once. When feasible, replace older appliances with new, more energy-efficient ones.

Take a minute to walk around the house and count how many little lights are on and active digital displays. It’s likely more than expected and the wasted power is adding up.

Work From Home? How to Reduce Your Electricity Bill

About 3.9 million people worked from home in 2017. During the 2020 Covid lockdowns that number shot up to just about everyone. Even as the lockdowns have ended, a large percentage of the US workforce will continue to work from home at least part time. And while working from home has some advantages, there are some challenges, too. Sure, you’re saving on fuel costs, but you may also be using more energy at home than you usually would. Daily work and living essentials contribute to a rise in energy use. Leaving the lights on, running a heater or AC and using tools of the trade, such as your office equipment, are all things you’ll turn on when you’re tackling your assignments from home. You can reduce your energy use when you’re working from home, and here’s how.

Work During Off-Peak Periods 

Working from home offers flexibility — you can usually work the hours that suit you best. If your electricity provider offers energy usage reports, it’s a good idea to ask for one. Electricity usage reports give you an idea of how much energy you consume throughout the day and night. You can also use these reports to help you manage how much energy you’re using during work hours. This is important because the time of day has a direct effect on electricity rates.

The good news is that with the right time management, you can reduce energy costs — many electricity providers sell electricity plans that offer lower rates during off-peak hours. These are called time-of-use plans. They are also sometimes called Free Nights or Free Weekends plans. And while off-peak hours vary from provider to provider, late afternoon electricity rates, from about 1 to 7 pm, are typically higher than morning and nighttime rates. So, if you can get your work done during off-peak hours, such as in the morning and nighttime, you can save money.

Another great option is finding an electricity provider offering free electricity plans on nights or weekends. You’ll find great plans designed to save you money on nights and weekends throughout the State of Texas, whether you work from home in Houston, Abilene, Corpus Christi, Tyler, Dallas/Ft. Worth or other areas.

So, if you can get your work done from Friday at 6 pm to Sunday at 11:59 pm, you can save money. There’s also a 100% renewable green energy plan from TXU Energy offering a 100% Discount on all energy charges and TDU delivery charges per kWh during the nights hours. Signing up for a renewable energy plan can help you reduce your carbon footprint, too.

These are just a couple of examples of what some electricity providers are offering in different regions of Texas. With a little research and comparison shopping, you’ll find the right plan suited to your needs, whether you’re motivated to work during “normal” business hours or weekends and nights.

Energy Saving Tips

Once you pick the right provider, you can do some other things to help keep your energy use down while you’re working from home.

  1. Use smart power strips
    Your home office setup has probably got all the other office necessities, too, like a printer, scanner, router, FAX machine and a cell phone charger. If you have your electronic devices plugged into a traditional power strip, they’re drawing power, even when they’re not in use. This standby power is known as phantom power or vampire power, and it’s sucking your energy dry and increasing your carbon output. You can slay these vampires upgrading to smart power strips. With a smart power strip, you still have the convenience of expanding your outlets, with the advantage of having an intelligent power strip that can detect devices in standby mode to cut off power. Smart power strips can detect voltage drops and make changes to reduce energy consumption.

  2. Take advantage of natural sunlight
    If you’re all about working during the day, you can still reduce energy use. Choose the brightest spot in your home to work. In the winter, open the curtains and blinds and let in the sunshine. Natural light is excellent for working. Turn off desk lamps and overhead lighting, and you’ll see savings. Letting in natural sunlight has another advantage — during the winter, it can naturally heat your home so you can limit how often the heater kicks on. So what about when the weather is warm? In the summer, you’ll want to close the blinds. Of course, this can dampen the amount of natural sunlight that enters your home. On the flipside, shutting the blinds can help cool your home.

  3. Turn off devices you don’t need
    Do you need to have the television on while you’re working? Besides draining energy, televisions are distracting and can keep you from concentrating on the task at hand. You can take it a step further by unplugging the TV and other electronic devices you don’t need.

  4. Use ENERGY STAR® equipment
    How old is your office equipment? You can save money with an upgrade. Buy ENERGY STAR® rated monitors, computers, printers and copiers. ENERGY STAR® office equipment uses less energy to perform daily tasks. Plus, when they’re not in use, they automatically go into a low-power mode.

Be an Energy Watchdog

Do you live and work in a large household? Whether you have lots of kids running around or roommates, your presence enables you to take charge of the energy use in your home. Children are especially prone to leaving on the lights, tablets and other electronic devices. You have the power to become an energy watchdog. Turn off electric devices like televisions and computers when the kids are at school. You can use this time to set some household rules regarding energy use.

Monitor Electricity Rates

Now is a great time to switch electricity providers, whether you work from home or commute. Compare real-time rates at Vault Electricity and find a plan that works for your household.

The Age of Your Home Will Impact Your Electricity Bill

If you are looking to buy or rent a new home in Texas you may want to consider how the age of the home will impact your electricity bill.

The U.S. Green Building Council has stated that newer homes are more energy efficient than older homes by as much as 30%. The main reason for this is the installation of new technologies and materials in the construction of newer homes. Some of these technologies include better insulation, more efficient windows, and high-performance heating and cooling systems.

Building codes now require more energy efficient building practices

Local building codes are now written to require the incorporation of energy efficient practices into the design and construction of buildings. You may be surprised at how thorough some of these regulations are. They govern all aspects of the building process down to and including that a certain percentage of the light bulbs installed be of the high efficiency variety.

These codes are continually being updated resulting in more and more implementation of the most energy efficient designs for new builds. Older homes were built during a time when the codes where less stringent. The result is lower electricity usage in new builds compared to that of older homes.

Energy efficient windows lower electricity costs

Newer homes are typically built with modern energy efficient windows. Energy-efficient windows can help you save money on your electricity costs. By sealing off your home from the weather, they keep the warm air in during the winter and the cool air in during the summer. This means that you can lower your thermostat settings and still stay comfortable.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Energy-efficient windows can save you up to 30% on your annual energy bill.”

Some of the other benefits of energy-efficient windows include:

– Reducing your carbon footprint

– Increasing the value of your home

– Helping you save money on your energy bills

Newer homes are typically better insulated

The electricity usage in a typical home increases when the insulation is not adequate. This is because the insulation keeps the warm air inside during the winter, and the cool air inside during the summer. The improved insulation found in newer homes will save electricity and lower energy bills.

More energy efficient appliances are typically found in newer homes

Newer homes often use less electricity because they come with newer high-efficiency appliances. This includes light bulbs that are more energy efficient. It also includes using power strips to prevent electricity spikes when an appliance is turned on or off.

Newer homes usually have better heating and air systems

Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature will be your biggest energy need. A high-performance heating and cooling system is one of the best ways to save electricity in a home. These systems are designed to be very efficient in converting energy into heat or cold. They also use less electricity than a standard heating or cooling system.

Newer homes are also more likely to have mini-split systems, which are growing in popularity because they are so efficient. They consist of an outdoor compressor and one or more indoor air-handling units.

The best way to save on electricity is to shop around for a cheaper rate

Of course even in Texas where electricity bills can run high, most people are not going to make their home buying decision based on potential electricity costs. But it is a factor to consider when you calculate the cost of your next home. Regardless of how much electricity your home uses you can always lower your electricity bill by insuring that you’ve chosen the cheapest electricity rate available to you by shopping for the best deals.

Holiday Electricity Demand

Public Health Officials Encouraged Americans to Stay Home for Thanksgiving and Keep Things Small. How Did These Holiday Changes Affect Utility Rates?

On Nov. 26, 2020, Americans consumed roughly 46 million turkeys across the country. Most of these poor birds tip the scales at around 15 pounds, requiring at least three hours of cooking time, and nearly 8 kWh of electricity. Consider the additional sides and pies, and Thanksgiving electricity rates can shock consumers.

Holidays in 2020 looked a little different. Thanksgiving especially experienced significant changes this year, mainly due to fewer Americans traveling in response to spiking pandemic numbers across the country. Public health officials recommended smaller gatherings with immediate family members only; accordingly, the classic turkey dinner got adjusted, prompting many consumers to seek less hefty birds and cook smaller meals. Considering this, how did electricity rates pan out for Thanksgiving 2020?

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports on consumer patterns in energy usage. Surprisingly, the electricity demand for Thanksgiving this year presented similar to, if not lower than that of previous years. On a typical day, American electricity demand spikes twice. In the morning, coffee pots brew, water heaters kick on for showers, and hairdryers get plugged in for a perfect blowout. At night, Netflix streams, dinners simmer, and dishwashers run. On Thanksgiving, this pattern flips — most of the electricity demand occurs in the morning when the bulk of the cooking occurs. Conversely, demand diminishes in the evening, as folks settle in for a quiet night with the family.

Social distancing and smaller meals did not affect this overall holiday pattern. Americans still woke early to cook their turkeys and settled down to digest and watch football later in the day. It seems as if COVID could not topple tradition — even if celebrations remained smaller than usual.

But, consider more. Heating and cooling systems represent the most energy-expensive utility in the household. With children home for the holidays and cold winter temperatures, many Americans splurge for extra comfort during Thanksgiving. The EIA reports that the period from Nov. 23 through Nov. 29, 2020, remained much warmer than usual; in fact, heating degree days stayed 13% lower than in 2019. Due to this unusual weather, Thanksgiving 2020 in New York City recorded the least electricity demand in five years. Milder than usual temperatures across the country spurred lower utility bills for most regions.

Floridians didn’t fare so well. During the week of Thanksgiving 2020 — Orlando, Florida, experienced temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Southern states rely on electric cooking (compared to higher natural gas use in the North). Due to these factors, electricity rates for Thanksgiving Day 2020 in Florida shot up to their highest in five years.

Weather patterns aside, Thanksgiving remained somewhat normal in 2020. Americans refuse to go cold turkey on their holidays, finding new and creative ways to celebrate even amidst the pandemic.

What Are the Biggest Users of Electricity in the Home?

Anyone who owns a house cat understands good energy-saving practice — power down when not in use — conserve energy until called to action. Americans in 2020 spent more time at home, mostly with a laptop plugged in and television streaming Netflix. Consequently, energy companies have witnessed an increase in residential power use.

Although expected, what can be done? Energy-savvy homeowners recognize that heat and cooling systems represent the biggest burdens on their utility bills, but what comes in second? Or third? Knowledge reflects power after all, and knowing the predominant users of home energy consumption can lead to energy savings.

Turning Up the Heat

Residential HVAC systems take the number one spot. Temperature control requires the most electricity use compared to anything else in the home. In fact, nearly 50% of energy consumption can be attributed to heating and cooling. Anyone who has lived in the Houston Texas during the summer can understand how crucial air conditioning can be, and Americans up North rely on heating to survive the blustery winter. While today’s heating and cooling systems work more efficiently than ever before, these complicated systems require significant electricity consumption. Consumers can take proactive steps to improve HVAC effectiveness, including changing air filters, keeping doors and windows closed, and practicing good thermostat use.

Water Heater Woes

Rinse and repeat might not be the best instruction any longer. The average American spends about eight minutes in the shower — though plenty linger beyond twenty minutes. Tack on the dishwasher and the washing machine, and Americans can attribute almost 15% of their home energy consumption on the water heater. Don’t turn to cold showers just yet though. Customers can use some tricks to curb hot water use. More efficient showerheads, shorter showers, and fewer loads of laundry can all reduce the electricity required by home water heaters. For example, a homeowner can turn down the thermostat on the hot water tank — most preset at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but a setting of 120 degrees is hot enough for appliances and people. While down in the basement, consider adding insulation to exposed water pipes and even the hot water heater itself.

Laundry Day

Laundry Day represents more than a tragedy for outfit choices; washing machines and dryers place a close third in the race for at-home energy users, claiming 13% of the utility bill. And while old-fashioned washboards and laundry lines evoke a certain nostalgia, it’s an unrealistic practice for most busy Americans. Investing in more energy-efficient models can help, but new washers and dryers incur a substantial cost. Smart laundry practices include only running laundry with a full load and always cleaning out the lint trap in the dryer.

Lights Out

While obvious, home lighting places in the top five for electricity consumption — about 12%, though this can vary dramatically based on the type of bulb installed. LED bulbs use 75% less electricity than traditional incandescent light sources. Remember to turn off lights when not in use, or install a power cord and unplug multiple electronics with one switch.

Kitchen Culprits

The top five list can be rounded out with common kitchen appliances, specifically electric ovens and refrigerators. Separately, each of these consumes about 4% of the total home electricity usage. They comprise a part of everyday life —  no matter the season — so thankfully, they do not create too dramatic of an energy impact. Try not to linger over options with the refrigerator door open, especially in the summer.

Reducing Electricity Bills

Regardless of how much energy you use, you can reduce your electricity bill by ensuring you get your power from the cheapest electric companies available.  If you live in Texas, its a simple as comparing electricity rates from all the major providers right here and choosing the plan that works best for you.