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Covid and Texas Energy Bills

How has the pandemic affected home-energy use?

Last March, Americans left their offices, gyms, and schools behind to enter a period of quarantine at home. While many regions have largely reopened, a significant number of Texans still work remotely or attend school online. This trend has increased waistlines and exacerbated online shopping habits — not to mention adding pressure on home utilities. As the United States approaches a full year of this pandemic, how has the new normal affected home-energy use?

Utility usage has decreased, but not for families.

Overall, energy use in Texas has decreased throughout COVID-19’s extended stay — largely due to closures in the commercial and industrial economies. But some of these traditional big business energy costs have shifted to individual workers and students. People power laptops, routers, and cell phone chargers now exclusively at home. Texas residential energy bills now absorb eight or more hours of electricity — formerly provided through employers and schools. Homeowners have also taken on the additional resource burden for new safety habits like washing hands and cleaning surfaces frequently.

With big industry off the grid, the decreased demand for electricity will hopefully keep utility costs stable. But, Americans have faced income challenges throughout the pandemic. Many have lost jobs or left jobs to care for others at home. Although commuting and dining-out costs have decreased, these savings get gobbled up by the additional at-home energy and water usage.

Extreme weather and high temperatures piled more stress on summer 2020. Southern states, especially, relied heavily on home air conditioning; heating and cooling costs contribute the most to high utility bills. Winter 2020, projected to bring mild temperatures, may bring some relief to Texas utility bills.

What can Texans do to save?

If people pay more than their normal share in energy costs, what can be done, especially with winter on the way? Many relief programs have been questioned with the ever-changing tide of politics. Individuals can research their local utilities for possible assistance or forgiveness, but no guarantee exists. Some companies provide prepay options that could mitigate financial unpredictability. Others incentivize energy-saving strategies like free LED lighting or home assessments, but plenty of at-home options exist that Americans can implement on their own.

Easy energy-saving tips to combat Covid-costs:

Effective strategies can limit electricity use without compromising at-home comforts. First, turn the thermostat down, especially at night. Turning the thermostat down by even one degree can contribute to a lower utility bill. Consider down comforters and flannel pajamas for holiday gift ideas. Second, turn down the water heater. More people at home means more hot water use, especially for showers and dishes. This can increase dramatically over the holiday season. Third, unplug appliances when not in use. Computers, televisions, and phone chargers use electricity even when not switched on. Implement a power strip and turn these off with the flick of a button.

Get some control back.

The year 2020 has been chaotic. Don’t let surprise utility bills contribute to stress and anxiety. Americans can create a better sense of control over their immediate home environment with some basic energy-saving tricks.

Energy Rates This Holiday Season Should Be Similar to Last Year’s

With winter comes higher energy bills. Several factors contribute to this trend. Typically, from November to March, Americans perform a delicate dance between saving money and keeping pipes from freezing. For most homeowners, the main culprits of energy use in winter constitute furnaces and water heaters, especially for regions that experience colder seasonal temperatures. But the line-up doesn’t end there — one cannot ignore refrigerators, freezers, and ovens. These appliances work overtime during the season, especially with family in town and large meals to prepare. Then, throw in the power required for Christmas lights and Rudolph’s nose. Hopefully, homeowners can avoid surprising utility bills this holiday season. While unpredictability has defined the year 2020, experts project that — energy bills at least — will remain like those of 2019.

Costs explained

Oil, electricity, and natural gas predominantly heat American homes. Most of the Northern states rely on natural gas, while residents in the South (including Texas) depend on electricity. Only a few New England states employ heating oil. Worldwide, fuel costs have remained roughly the same the past few years; heating oil has dropped over fifty cents per gallon since 2018. As supply increases, demand decreases — or so states a basic tenet of Economics 101. Natural gas production has increased steadily over the last fifteen years, and prices have declined accordingly. Electricity rates have increased a touch, nationwide displaying a small nine cents per kWh increase from 2019.  Electricity rates in Texas have declined over that time. Overall, prices should remain relatively stable for winter 2020. Weather can dramatically alter these projections, however, especially if temperatures drop lower than expected and demand for heating increases.

Some extenuating circumstances should be considered. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans spend more time at home, especially for work and school. This suggests higher use of lighting, heating, and power — an unavoidable consequence of the times. Nonetheless, fuel costs have been stunted by low demand from major industries as companies have curtailed traveling and typical functioning within the traditional office environment. Many schools have closed. These big energy users do not currently rely on the grid. As mentioned above — less demand dictates more supply available — leading to cheap energy prices. All in all, Americans have struggled to pay rent and utility bills throughout 2020, and the stability in projected energy rates this winter provides some welcomed relief.

Tips for saving

Furthermore, individuals can implement some energy-saving habits and capitalize on static energy bills. For example, consider cooking larger meals or several meals at once. When the oven is turned off, leave the door open to maximize heating in the kitchen. Only run the dishwasher or laundry machine when fully loaded. Also, remember to unplug holiday lighting before going to sleep. Televisions, laptops, and entertainment systems continue using power even when turned off. Energy-conscious individuals may want to unplug these items when not in use. For those with extra means, purchasing new, more efficient appliances can make a major dent in energy spending long-term — especially for household amenities older than twenty years. A wise consumer should also consider insulation strategies for older homes to help mitigate heating costs.

Saving opportunities don’t have to be difficult or expensive. Individuals can reach out to local electricity companies and discuss strategies and programs they offer. Consumers can leverage services to help compare electricity rates in their region as well. While 2020 has not been easy, customers will gladly receive some good news in the form of energy costs.

Electric Companies Are Offering Free Smart Thermostats and Rebates

Updated May 2019

Now is a great time to pick up a new smart thermostat for your home. The savings on your monthly electricity bill will be immediately noticeable and appreciated.

Check below to see if there is an electricity provider in your area offering an incentive for you to take the plunge.

Smart Thermostat Offers

State Power Company Promotion
Arizona APS $30 bill credit
California LADWP $75 rebate
California SoCalGas $75 rebate
California Southern California Edison $150 rebate
Colorado Xcel Energy $50 rebate
Georgia Georgia Power $75 rebate
Idaho Avista Utilities $75 rebate
Idaho Rocky Mountain Power $100 rebate
Ilinois Ameren Illinois $100 rebate
Illinois ComEd $100 rebate
Illinois MidAmerican Energy $25 rebate
Illinois Peoples Gas $20 rebate
Indiana AEP Indiana Michigan Power $225 rebate
Indiana Vectren $75 rebate
Iowa Alliant Energy $100 rebate
Iowa MidAmerican Energy $75 rebate
Louisiana SWEPCO $100 rebate
Maryland Baltimore Gas & Electric $100 rebate
Maryland PEPCO $100 rebate
Massachusetts Berkshire Gas $100 rebate
Massachusetts National Grid Massachusetts $100 rebate
Michigan AEP Indiana Michigan Power $225 rebate
Michigan SEMCO Energy $70 rebate
Michigan DTE Energy $50 rebate
Minnesota ALP Utilities $25 rebate
Missouri Ameren Missouri $50 rebate
Nevada NV Energy $25 rebate
Nevada NV Energy free smart thermostat
New Hampshire Liberty Utilities $100 rebate
New York Consolidated Edison $135 rebate
New York National Grid Long Island $75 rebate
New York National Grid NYC $75 rebate
New York National Grid Upstate $75 rebate
North Carolina Duke Energy $50 rebate
Ohio AEP Ohio $75 rebate
Ohio Columbia Gas of Ohio $75 rebate
Oklahoma AEP Public Service Co of OK $150 rebate
Oregon Avista Utilities $75 rebate
Oregon Portland General Electric $75 rebate
Oregon Cascade Natural Gas $50 rebate
Oregon NW Natural Gas $50 rebate
Oregon Pacific Power $50 rebate
Oregon Energy Trust $50 rebate
Pennsylvania Champion Energy $50 rebate
Pennsylvania PPL $100 rebate
Pennsylvania UGI Electric $100 rebate
Pennsylvania UGI Gas $100 rebate
Rhode Island National Grid Rhode Island $75 rebate
South Carolina Duke Energy $50 rebate
South Dakota MidAmerican Energy $25 rebate
Texas Champion Energy $50 rebate
Texas CoServ $50 bill credit
Texas CPS Energy free Honeywell WiFi Thermostat
Texas Direct Energy free Echo Dot
Texas Gexa Energy free Ecobee3 lite
Texas Infinite Energy free Nest
Texas Reliant Energy free Nest
Texas SWEPCO $100 rebate
Texas TriEagle Energy free Honeywell WiFi Thermostat
Utah Dominion Energy $50 rebate
Utah Rocky Mountain Power $50 rebate
Vermont Burlington Electric $50 rebate
Vermont Vermont Gas $50 rebate
Virginia Colmbia Gas of Virginia $50 rebate
Washington Avista Utilities $75 rebate
Washington Pacific Power $50 rebate
Washington Puget Sound Energy $75 rebate
Wisconsin Alliant Energy $75 rebate
Wisconsin Wisconsin Utilities $75 rebate
Wyoming Rocky Mountain Power $100 rebate

Remodeling Your Home for Better Energy Efficiency

Remodeling your home seems like an expense at first, yet this investment in your property can easily lower many costs over time. Remodeling your home can replace older and inefficient items, reducing your needs for repair and replacement, and lowering your overall energy bills. So how exactly does this work?

ENERGY STAR® Products

A quick reference guide to use when selecting your energy-efficient products for your home remodel is to choose certified ENERGY STAR® items (EC). These EC items are based on government efficiency standards created in 1992 when industrial, commercial, utilities, and governments all banded together to create savings for the American Consumer through a non-biased certification agency. Thousands of brands including Truwin have adopted these standards for many building products and the results are clear — 2017 alone, ENERGY STAR products helped Americans avoid $30 billion in energy costs. Additionally, you can often find local rebates for installing EC certified products in your home.

As an added benefit, less energy consumption has affected not only people’s pocketbooks but also the environment. Since the program’s launch, 4 trillion kilowatt-hours less has been used in electricity consumption and a reduction of over 3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas adds to these achievements.

Some of the best energy-saving solutions include the following.

Electronics and Appliances

A home remodel is the perfect time to update your old energy-guzzling appliances. Chances are no matter what the brand and the type of appliance — if it’s older it isn’t very efficient. While a new refrigerator may not require a remodel, it can be far more difficult to replace installed dishwashers, over-the-range microwaves, and other built-in appliances during regular home maintenance.  Take this opportunity to save up to 25% on your utility costs by selecting savings-based options. You can calculate your specific cost differences here through Energy.gov’s Estimator Tool.

And remember that even simple upgrades will make a difference during your remodel, including items like light bulbs. A household will spend up to 5% of its annual budget on lighting, and upgrading as few as five of your most frequently used light fixtures can offer an annual savings of around $45. And speaking of light, there are other ways to reduce your electric light bill.

Windows, Skylights, and Doors

Natural lighting is an obvious solution for high electricity costs from artificial light — and this is most easily achieved through great windows, doors, and skylights. In addition, your most efficient windows will have added features such as Low-E glass to help let in light but not unwanted heat, extra weather sealants to help stop drafts and leaks, and easy openings to allow a cooling breeze when it’s wanted. Windows, in addition to doors, can also help provide added insulation to your home. Using certified EC products, this savings averages out to about a 12% reduction in energy bills annually. 

Truwin works to help you discover which green energy changes can help make that remodel pay for itself and why.

Heating, Cooling, and Water

The first step in water reduction is to reduce your consumption as well as stop and repair any leaks. Any new pipes or plumbing items your produce should be leak-free when installed by a professional. In addition, EC certified products should reduce the amount of water and energy needed when in use. You can also get pressure-reducing or water-saving faucets and showerheads if that is needed in your area. Water heaters are yet another source of large energy and utility consumption in a home, the second-largest energy consumer actually. A tankless water heater is a welcome addition to most busy households, reducing the need to schedule shower and cleaning times. By choosing an EC certified option, you could save up to $1500 over the appliance lifetime in gas heating costs.

And heating water isn’t the only large energy consumer, but heating and cooling a house are significant costs too. The first steps in efficient heating and cooling are insulation and weatherization. Consider strongly your home’s installed doors and windows, as well as your siding, roofing, and installation. This is the beginning of keeping your heat or air conditioning on the inside of your home. The next step is an energy-efficient heating and cooling system. Some homes may only need lightweight heaters, a ceiling fan, or a window air conditioner. Larger homes will need a house-wide system to stay comfortable like central air. In fact, experts estimate that if your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, you could save up to 30% on costs by replacing it with an EC certified model.

So take a moment to talk to the experts and add up the figures. Licensed sellers and installers can help you prioritize the remodel options that will earn you back money in utility savings. Identify the most cost-effective upgrades in lighting, appliances, doors, windows, heating, cooling, and water. Take charge of your budget with an energy efficient remodel.

 

Home Renovations for Better Energy Efficiency

Last year, Texas experienced several extreme meteorological and environmental events. There was flooding, widespread drought, algae blooms in Texas waterways and the notable Tropical Storm Imelda that, according to a report, left parts of Texas and Louisiana in a state of calamity with four casualties. All these phenomena are linked to the climate change crisis, which is now an issue we can no longer turn away from. And while it seems like this whole issue is ginormous compared to us, there is definitely something we can do.

As stated in a recent study, households are responsible for 72% of global greenhouse emissions. As homeowners, we can greatly contribute to fighting climate change by making our homes more sustainable and energy-efficient. By renovating your home to become more energy-efficient, you are not only doing the planet a favor, but also giving your wallet a much-needed break. For instance, an article about using energy-efficient appliances, discussed how an average household can save over $500 per year.

More and more homeowners are growing more aware of the environmental issues that our planet faces, and they all want to be of help by reducing their household’s carbon footprint and energy consumption. The problem is that they usually don’t have any idea where to start. This is especially problematic since home renovations can be notoriously expensive, and many homeowners may not be in a financial situation to be able to afford them. An article on home renovation costs showed that the average cost for a bathroom remodel was $18,546; window replacements cost upwards of $18,000 depending on the material; and a major kitchen renovation could cost over $62,000. Considering that many changes made in an effort to be energy efficient will require overhauls of existing structures and appliances, the project can seem costly upfront. However, these changes will save you money in the long run. Here are some tips on how to renovate your home for better energy-efficiency:

Paint your roof

When it comes to renovating your home to become more energy-efficient, one of the major considerations should be improving your home’s heating system. As highlighted in one of our previous articles, homeowners spend more than $2,000 just heating and cooling their homes every single year. Fortunately, you can easily cut down on your heating costs through simple and affordable renovations. For instance, painting your roof white can help cool your home by reducing air conditioning bills by 40%.

Replace your water heater

Water is fast becoming a resource that we are running out of, and when you waste water, you are also wasting both energy and money. Homeowners should pay close attention to how quickly their water heats. If it takes a few moments for the water from your faucet to become hot, then it’s time to consider installing a more efficient water heater. You can also take a look at your pipes and see whether they need some insulation.

Enlarge your windows

In renovating your home, altering your windows to be bigger can have a big impact on making your home more energy-efficient. Homes and commercial buildings use around 216 billion KiloWatt hours (kWh) of electricity for lighting. Enlarged windows let in daylight and reduce the need to switch on lights. Furthermore, windows also play a big part in making homes more comfortable without traditional heating or air conditioning.

The effects of climate change are already here, but there are still a lot of things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. Turning your house into an energy-efficient home through renovations is one. Home renovations can truly be expensive upfront, but the long term saving and benefits that they will bring can easily outweigh the costs.

By AvaRyan

 

 How Plausible is an All-Renewable Electric Grid in the US?

Is the key to tackling climate change really as simple as ‘electrifying everything’. According to Vox, and many others, it is. 

Electrifying everything in this sense means that all means of energy production should be replaced with an electrical alternative (if at all feasible). Sounds great, but we aren’t quite there yet and will still have to burn natural gas to generate the majority of our electricity need (about 35% according to 2018 numbers).

Vox goes a step beyond this in another article and says that it’s economically plausible to run the U.S. entirely on renewable energy by 2050, citing this projection, among others. The authors of that Energy & Environmental Science report believe that Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) energy will prevail and be robust enough to generate zero-carbon energy. And although there are criticisms about just how reliable most of that renewable energy would be, those same experts actually agree that the grid will be more secure with renewable grid modeling.

But there’s so many complexities at play that span all political, logistical, and technological corners of the country. Additionally, over-generation and duck curves are a commonly-posed problem with renewable energy. 

Let’s explore some solutions for facilitating this all-renewable vision for the U.S. energy system as a whole.

Some Solutions: Larger Scales, Increased Storage Facilities, and Microgrids

 

Let’s ignore the incredibly dense and mind-boggling policy considerations and Congressional cooperation that would need to take place to enact this global green initiative for energy. Instead, let’s explore some smaller scale solutions.

This article by David Timmons, which was featured on TechXplore, offers some insights on the importance of how cost has an inverse relationship to how large the scale of the project is. As an example, this is what he says about scalability, “in the United States, large-scale solar farms can be more than 1,000 times larger than residential rooftop systems and about half the cost.”

Switching gears, microgrids can also inch the U.S. much closer to a renewable grid. Through smaller, more flexible grids, power outages are less a threat because there are always back-up systems in place. In addition, more energy is saved because about 5% of all electricity is lost through longer transmission lengths, according to the EIA. So microgrids can be a game-changer if they are utilized strategically with key points of high renewable energy generation. 

Lastly, better battery capacity means less wasted energy. And because there is an over-generation problem with renewable energy, storing excess electricity is key for efficiency and can mean a more robust electrical grid. Using the ‘duck curve’ as an example, solar energy hits points of peak production and then obviously falls off during the night time. Better batteries can minimize the wasted electricity. 

A Guide To Monitoring Electricity in Your Home

Considering the amount of technology and mobile devices that are located in our homes, home energy management is crucial in learning about how much electricity we’re currently using. In doing so, you can understand how much energy you’re using and then find ways of how to reduce it if it’s too high. The trouble is, it can sometimes prove difficult to monitor your electricity usage. You probably won’t know where to start in monitoring one appliance for its electricity usage let alone your whole home. Luckily, there are continuous efforts in the green sector to help combat such issues through the development of eco-friendly solutions. Here’s an example of some options currently available to help you monitor your energy usage.

 

Smart Meters

In many areas, it is now required by regulation that a smart meter is offered to all customers by energy suppliers as they look to help their customers control their energy usage. These are essentially wireless utility meters that shows data on how much electricity is being used in the house and how this is reflecting the cost. This helps both energy companies and homeowners get a better understanding of how much energy is being used in your home.

 

Home Energy Monitoring Systems

An alternative to a smart meter is setting up a home monitoring system in your home. Just take note that these will take significantly longer to set up and can be rather complex. The main benefit of these is that it offers a more customized look to energy consumption in your home and will be far more detailed with information. If you feel as though you’re a bit of a DIY person, with some experience in wiring, you’ll be able to set one up in your home. There are a range of home energy monitoring systems that you can choose from.

 

Smart Outlets

An innovative solution to energy monitoring and control are smart outlets/plugs that you can use in your home. Not all of these necessarily offer energy tracking, however, with the majority designed to offer scheduling and device control. It’s a really clever and efficient device as all you simply need to do is plug it into the wall with your appliance and it provides the data you need on the devices electricity output. It’s scheduling feature also means you can have the device turn on and off when needed without extra energy use. It’s an ideal solution for people who rent or have particular devices they wish to monitor.

 

Energy Apps

Smart apps are another way that you can monitor electricity usage in your home. There are many pros and cons of using an energy monitoring app. On the pro side, they’re extremely cost effective compared to the other options available but on the other hand, they’re quite unreliable and tend to struggle to record accurate data. Mobile apps work differently to other methods in gathering data. Some apps will need you to record data to provide a reading, whilst others only record data from particular appliances you wish to monitor. Nevertheless, this is still an option for you if you wish to go down this route where a range of smart energy apps available.

Here are the 4 main ways you can look to monitor the energy use in your home. Not only will this help to reduce your energy use in the home and contribute towards the earth being a cleaner place, but it’ll also save you much more money in the long run.