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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.

What is the best home temperature to maximize comfort and energy savings throughout the winter season?

Temperatures continue dropping. The first frost covers the jack-o-lanterns leftover from Halloween. Parents search for mittens and scarves buried deep within their closets to give to kids on their way to school. Heavier blankets line the bed. The thermostat becomes ever more enticing.

Everyone has a different preference for the ideal indoor temperature. Humans generally function best at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but very few people will risk the utility bill that comes along with maintaining such a balmy, indoor climate. However, setting the thermostat too low can negatively affect human health — especially those of infants and the elderly— not to mention putting indoor plumbing at risk.

Gender also matters. On average, men have a higher muscle mass than women. Muscle burns more energy, so men tend to have a higher metabolic rate and feel warmer. Women, on the other hand, tend to feel colder — not just a matter of comfort. Studies suggest that women demonstrate better cognitive functioning when performing in warmer temperatures. Men, consequentially, perform worse.

Unsurprisingly, the thermostat becomes a battleground. One study reports that 75% of couples in the United States argue about setting the thermostat, and 64% secretly change the temperature behind their partner’s backs. Most Americans even admit they feel angry when they discover that their partner had changed the temperature in the home without their knowledge.

So how can someone set the thermostat to reflect the different ages and genders within the household? And how can someone maximize energy savings within those parameters? With so many factors to consider, what represents the best home temperature? The answer: 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Science dictates little noticeable difference in comfort if one lowers the thermostat to 68 degrees. Furthermore, every one-degree temperature decrease can lead to a one percent increase in utility savings.

Turning the temperature down has more benefits than just cost savings. Are you worried about all the extra calories consumed during the holidays? Colder temperatures while sleeping —  positively impacts metabolic activity. One should, however, be mindful of sharing this point with their partner.

A relationship counselor might suggest a compromise. If one partner prefers the house at 64 degrees, and the other prefers it at 70 degrees, wisdom dictates the house remains at 67 degrees. Or, keep the house at 70 degrees throughout the day and 64 degrees throughout the night.

Good thermostat maintenance can yield potential savings. Turning the temperature down by a few degrees at night can lead to noticeable energy savings. Nonetheless, one might consider spending a little extra on his or her partner’s Christmas gift this year — a good, thick sweater can increase a human’s temperature by four degrees.

Once a couple agrees on their heating plan, a programmable thermostat can provide significant benefits. First, it can automatically adjust indoor temperatures at night — a habit someone might overlook after a few too many glasses of eggnog. It can also be programmed to turn on right before waking up in the morning or returning home from work — thus avoiding the chilly discomfort of waiting for a heating system to kick on. And finally, it mitigates the need to be sneaky with the thermostat, helping to avoid those heated holiday arguments.

 

 

 

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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.