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How Have City Wide Electricity Grids Evolved

Electric companies have been supplying electricity to homes and businesses since the late 1800s. However, in those early days, there wasn’t much of an organized electrical grid as there is today. It was a non-centralized mess of wires overlapping each other. Upstart electrical companies came and went, leaving discarded wires in their wake. Plus, electricity wasn’t as readily accessible to the general public — electricity was typically for business owners and the wealthy. Two different types of energy systems, DC (direct current) and AC (alternating current) were competing to offer their electrical systems to cities.

The AC system, invented by Nikola Tesla, allowed high voltages to go across long distances. This system transformed high voltage to a lower voltage, making it a better choice for customers to use. This opened the door for utility companies to build electricity grids over larger areas.

An Interconnected Electricity Grid

Telegraphs and light bulbs lead to telephones, radios, televisions and so on. The demand for electricity started to grow steadily by the time the 1950s rolled around. Luckily, by this time, electricity providers were getting better organized. Electricity grids were interconnected, which allowed for greater access to electricity, and also made electricity service more affordable to the masses. It was also during this time that America’s centralized electrical grid improved. Over time, the electric grid has evolved to become the interconnected engineering marvel that it is today. The digital age has ushered in an instantly connected world, increasing the demand for electricity.

So what makes up the electricity grid? There are three main grids in the U.S. Two grids, the western and eastern interconnections, are connected to the Canadian grids. The third grid, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) serves most of Texas. The electricity grid includes four major components. First are the sources that generate electricity, which include fossil fuels like natural gas, coal and petroleum, as well as other sources like renewable energy. Fossil fuels make the most significant percentage. Fossil fuels are limited, and the steam and gas turbines that burn these fuels to generate electricity cause pollution. Cleaner electricity generators include hydroelectric dams, nuclear power, wind turbines and solar panels. Utility companies own the electricity generators, and they vary significantly in how they’re distributed and used on the power grid. Many customers in Texas can choose whether they want to receive electricity from fossil fuels or a renewable energy source.

The second major component of the electricity grid is transmission lines. These lines can be installed overhead or underground, and these highly interconnected lines carry high-voltage electricity. They connect electricity generators to customers over long distances. The voltages transmitted are much higher than what you’ll use in your home or business, so they’re converted back to a lower voltage for use across the three main grids in the U.S. The TDU (Transmission Distribution Utility) maintains the power lines and responds to outages.

The third component on the electrical system is the distribution network. At this point, the transmission lines have reached the transformer. Electricity is transmitted to a network of local electricity distribution lines and passed through transformers in a step-down process to lower the voltage. The subtransmission customer receives a higher voltage (26 kV and 69 kV) and lowers the voltage to the primary customers (regional distribution substations), which in turn lowers the voltage to120V and 240V for secondary customers (homes, businesses, schools, etc.)

Where the transmission grid ends is where the electricity reaches the consumer. This is the point where people use electricity in their daily lives.

Electric Grid Evolving Like Modern Cities

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. Today’s modern cities are transforming the way America’s electric grid works. Modern cities are embracing new technologies, including the way electricity is generated, stored and transferred.

Spurred on by the energy crisis of the 1970s, Congress opened the door for competition in electricity production, allowing renewable energy to enter the marketplace. It has taken decades, but the shift from coal to cleaner energy sources is on the rise. In fact, the future of coal in the electrical grid is bleak. This is good news for cities choking on pollution due to coal-burning energy plants. Wind and solar energy are clean. The cost to make electricity from wind and solar is declining rapidly. Consumers in cities and rural areas are embracing renewable energy too. You’ll find solar panels installed not just on the rooftops of homes, but also you’ll also see them used for commercial and industrial complexes.

Alternatives like renewable energy sources are evolving America’s electrical grid. The challenge many experts are facing is how to make the stream of renewable energy power steadier. After all, there isn’t always a stream of constant wind or solar power. And on days where there is a continuous stream, the electricity grid can’t store all the energy, creating a surge of power that creates outages. We are continually evolving, and the future of the modern electricity grid is a work in progress.

Vault Electricity makes it easy for consumers in Texas to choose their electricity provider. We work with trusted electricity providers, from traditional to green energy providers, and we display electricity rates in real time.

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

The Electrical Usage of Ceiling Fans

Whenever you leave a ceiling fan on for a full day, you might think that you have used a lot of electricity to operate it, however, ceiling fans are incredibly energy efficient. To maximize the energy savings, you can upgrade older ceiling fans with newer, energy star, models. Fans with a light bulb do have a higher energy consumption rate than just a fan itself, however, compared to an air conditioner, fans are still the cheapest cooling device you can use.

The Mathematics Behind the Cost of a Fan

The calculations to determine how much it costs to run a ceiling fan are not too complicated.

If you are able to determine how many watts your fan uses, be it on a label on the fan or searching for the model online, you can quickly find out how much your fan costs you to run, per hour.

First, take the number of watts that your fan operates at and multiply that by the cost of a kilowatt hour your electric company charges. This is typically shown on your most recent electric bill. Then, divide that number by 1,000, to convert the calculation from watts to kilowatt hours. This is what it costs to run your fan for one hour. If you leave your fan on for eight hours a day, multiply the kilowatt cost by 8 hours and you have the exact amount that it costs to run your ceiling fan daily.

Now, if you have a light bulb on your fan, you need to calculate the amount of electricity that the light itself uses, with the same formula, and add that to the kilowatt cost of the fan itself. If you only have the light on for two hours a day, you would only multiply the final figure by two, rather than eight, before adding the numbers together.

Fans generally use between 10 and 120 watts of electricity to operate. The larger the fan, the more it costs. If you have an industrial sized fan, it will use far more watts than a small table top fan. Total wattage depends on the size and energy efficiency.   

Light Bulbs typically use 40-100 watts, however, if you use LED light bulbs, the wattage may be only 16 watts, with the same brightness. Therefore, energy saving lights make a huge difference when you take into consideration the number of hours a day we keep the lights on.

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Fan Cooling Versus Air Conditioner Cooling

Fans are designed to circulate air. When the air moves, it helps to keep you drier, which helps you feel cooler. They don’t actually change the temperature of a room substantially, however.

Air conditioners do reduce the temperature of the air, helping to keep you and the room cool.

Depending on the temperature inside your home, the benefit of a fan verses and air conditioner is determined by the cost to run each device and your comfort level. As previously mentioned, fans run on up to 120 watts. Air conditioners, even small ones, typically use 750 watts. The larger residential units can use well over 3,500 watts. That’s a huge difference in electricity usage.

However, if you cannot tolerate high temperatures or you have a medical condition that makes breathing when its warm challenging, you may need to find the most energy efficient air conditioner and pay the extra money for a cooler living environment.

Fans use a very low amount of electricity. When comparing fans to air conditioners, a large fan is still a fraction of the cost to run as a small air conditioning unit. That’s why we love ceiling fans so much. Make sure you compare various models and get one with the low energy requirement you need.


10 Tips to Save Energy During Winter

For many, wintertime is magical. It’s also the coldest season, and you’re going to want to stay as cozy as you can in the comfort of your home. The good news is that you can keep your home snug and warm this winter season. The thing is, when it’s cold outside we like to turn on the heaters and do whatever we can to keep our home comfortable. Keeping the heaters on all day long and into the night is not exactly efficient energy use. However, by applying some simple techniques, you can be a master in how you promote efficient energy use. Below are cost-free and low-cost tips that can help you see energy savings on your electricity bill, even during the coldest winter evenings.

Let the sunlight shine inside.

The sun is the furnace of the world, and it can bring some warmth into a home. You can open the blinds and draw the curtains on south-facing windows and allow the sun to heat your home naturally. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing. You’ll want to remember to close your curtains and blinds at night to reduce the chill from cold windows.

Adjust your thermostat temperature.

You can achieve efficient energy use in the winter by adjusting the temperature on your thermostat. When you’re home, lower it to a comfortable temperature. When you’re asleep or away from home, go ahead and turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours and your energy savings can be about 10% a year.

Bundle up indoors.

Wear your winter wardrobe indoors and get all nice and cozy. Get this. The energy savings add up for every degree you lower your thermostat. So, slip on your fuzzy socks, wrap a scarf around your neck, and put on some ultra-soft PJs. Enjoy lower electricity rates and buy more clothes with the money you save!

Switch the blade rotation on your ceiling fans.

Hot air rises to the top. When you reverse your fan’s blades so that they run in a clockwise rotation, it can help push the warmth down.

Upgrade your windows.

Efficient energy use windows are an excellent investment for your home. Sure, it can be costly to install. However, tightly-sealed windows can reduce heat loss and bring substantial energy savings all year long. Plus, they can be considered an upgrade your home, possibly increasing the value of your home.

Replace your old light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs.

Are you still using incandescent light bulbs in your house? Winter is the perfect time to swap them out for LED or CFL bulbs. With shorter days, you’re going to want to keep the lights on longer. Making the switch to LEDs can lead to substantial energy savings. LED bulbs consume 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs, which can lead to lower electricity rates. If you’re one to put up holiday lights, you’ll want to upgrade to LED bulbs. Look for holiday lights that are ENERGY STAR® certified.

Inspect for drafts.

The cold winter air can seep into your home. It can make its way indoors under doors, around windows and through electrical outlets. When there’s a draft, It takes much longer to warm your home. With the installation of weather-stripping and insulation, you can keep that cold winter air outdoors, where it belongs.

Upgrade to a smarter thermostat.

It’s time to invest in a smarter thermostat. This low-cost upgrade can lead to energy savings. With a programmable thermostat, you can lower electricity rates by up to 12%. It’s also going to be a great benefit during the warm spring and summer months coming right up. Plus, you can adjust your home’s temperatures from a smartphone so that you can come home to a comfortable house.

Lay down a rug or mat.

We love hardwood floors. The thing is, during winter, they can feel downright cold. Purchase a beautiful floor rug, and it can help insulate your floors. Plus, a rug or floor mat can also reduce the noise level. Once the warm weather arrives, you can always remove the rug and put it away until next winter.

Turn off the lights!

This simple technique is one that you should practice all year long. There’s always that one person in the house that likes to leave the lights on. You’ll be amazed at the energy savings you can get by just turning off the lights when you don’t need them. You can always leave post-it notes around the home for the people in your household that have a hard time remembering.

 

Efficient energy use is a goal every household should strive for. The little things add up! Consider applying the tips mentioned above for energy savings throughout the year.

What Factors Make Up Your Electricity Price? | Infographic

The amount of power used by your household influences your electric bill. The time in which you use energy could also be a significant factor in your electricity price. For instance, the peak hours for electricity demand are highest in the afternoon and the early evening. During these peak hours, wholesale electricity prices are usually higher. Supply and demand affect the cost of how electric power gets to your home.  Some electricity plans charge different rates at different times of the day because of this.

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The Factors that Influence the Price of Electricity

Electricity supply costs vary minute by minute and are calculated per kilowatt hour (kWh).

Fuels: High demand for electricity can increase demand for fuels, including natural gas. Higher demand results in higher costs to generate electricity.

Power Plants: The cost of constructing, maintaining and operating power plants influences the price of electricity.

Transmission and Distribution: Maintenance is a factor in the price. Costs also include repairs from damage caused by accidents or extreme weather conditions.  The expense of generating electricity is only a small part of electricity expenses.  Much of the cost associated with supplying electricity to consumers is in the cost of transmitting the electricity from the power plant to the end user.  This includes maintenance and upkeep on powerlines and relay stations along the way.  These costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity rates.

Weather conditions: Rain and snow provide beneficial amounts of water for generating low-cost hydropower. Favorable wind speeds provide low-cost electricity generated by wind turbines. Extreme weather conditions can raise prices. The cost of electricity is usually highest in the summer when demand is high for cooling.

Regulations: Where you live has an influence on what you pay for electricity. Some states have fully regulated prices. Others have a combination of both. Many states have deregulated energy markets, including Texas, California and New York.

Pro Tips On How to Cut Down on Your Electricity Bill

If possible, try to do all your laundry, dishwashing and other power-intensive tasks during off-peak hours. Tip: Some electric companies charge more for power used during the day rather than at night.

Pick the Right Provider: Do some research and discover a provider that offers time-of-day pricing. This format encourages electricity conservation and can help reduce peak demand. You can also choose a provider that utilizes green energy.

Lower Your Thermostat: During the summer, adjust your thermostat to 80 degrees, and when you’re not at home, adjust to 62 degrees in the winter.

Turn off Ceiling Fans and Lights: When you circulate the air in your home, it can make you feel more comfortable. However, if you’re not home, turn them off. The same thing applies to lights. If you don’t need them on, turn them off.

Unplug: Unplug fixtures or switch off the power strips when they’re not in use. When you unplug unused devices, you can reduce what is called “vampire energy.”

Replace Old Appliances: Older appliances are less likely to employ energy efficiency technology. Upgrade to ENERGY STAR®-certified appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers. You can even upgrade to an ENERGY STAR®-certified television.

Visit www.VaultElectricity.com for more information on how to choose the right electrical service provider.

How Solar Power Technology Can Reduce Your Energy Costs And Carbon Footprint

Solar power technology is bringing light to America’s energy future. The DOE estimates that there is now enough solar power being generated every year to power 3.2 million average American homes. Energy from the sun is clean, sustainable and not harmful to our environment. Plus, you can save money by reducing costs on your energy bill. With electricity rates going up, it’s the right time to consider making the switch to solar energy.

Isn’t it great that today, solar power technology is available for a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications? The sun is a renewable energy source, and we can harness the energy to convert it into electricity. You can use the power of the sun for literal power and to heat your home. It’s a great source for lighting—you’ll find a wide range of solar-powered outdoor lights in use for residential and commercial purposes, from decorative landscape fixtures bringing beauty to yards to SMART LED street lights that keep people safe. You can use solar energy to heat a pool or hot tub and not worry about soaking up a steep energy bill. And, with the availability of car solar panels to power an electric car, there’s a bright road ahead. Also, with solar power technology becoming much more efficient and economical, it’s becoming easier than ever to reduce emissions and our carbon footprint by making the switch to solar.

In Texas, you can choose a green energy plan that is best suited for your needs. With the ability to compare the best programs and green energy providers, making the switch is a breeze. You can choose green energy providers that offer a variety of plans. Plus, some programs provide bill credits when your usage is at a specific kWh. There are month-to-month variable rate plans with no contract and no early termination fees available, or you can lock in a fixed rate and reap the benefits of enjoying clean, renewable energy at the same price month after month.

How solar impacts your bill

We can capture and harness solar energy through passive and active solar energy systems. According to the Department of Energy, heating consumes about half the energy of the average home, but you can cut this cost in half by using passive solar heating and cooling. This strategy uses a home’s location and materials to economize energy use. Where your home is positioned plays a big part in how it allows the sun to enter in the winter and block it in the summer. Water heating, your home’s second-biggest energy cost, can also be done more efficiently by using solar power. Start with an energy audit before pursuing any solar installations so that you can identify your most efficient potential improvements.

So, how does solar power technology impact your bill? If you have solar power systems installed in your home, it can drastically reduce your monthly electric bill over time. Utility rates may change at the drop of a hat. When you purchase solar power technology for your home, you are in control of your energy costs. Of course, you will need to buy a solar panel system, so there are initial upfront costs. The good news is that solar photovoltaic panels now cost half of what they did in 2011, a trend the DOE seeks to advance with a $53 million research initiative.

If you’re leasing or renting a place, you can still go green. The alternative is to select a 100% renewable energy plan from a green energy service provider in your area.

How solar affects the environment

It’s no secret that using fossil fuels is dirty and expensive. Extracting and using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas is harmful to our environment. It’s time to act quickly. The earth’s temperature is rising much faster than expected. By 2030, the earth could be getting warmer by 1.5C degrees, and while that may not seem like much, this slight temperature change is enough to destroy up to 90% of the coral reefs on our planet. Sea levels are rising, causing floods and significant damage worldwide.

There is still hope for our future. We can turn to our natural resources and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar power is clean and abundant. So, when you choose to install solar panels or switch to a green energy plan, you’re also doing your part to improve the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions—you’re getting your energy from non-polluting solar energy systems/power plants, which do not produce dangerous emissions.

We can make a positive change by switching to renewable energy. It’s not just people that are converting to solar and other renewable energy sources. Companies are, too. There’s still time to turn things around. We can give our planet a chance and keep our lifestyle intact by building a low carbon economy that can mitigate the effects of climate change.

 

How to Maximize Energy Efficiency in Your Home

Energy-efficient homes are designed to use less energy. Energy efficiency equates to saving money and reducing your carbon footprint. When you learn how to save energy at home, you can also have a better handle on rising electricity rates. After all, it seems like every year the price for electricity goes up. The trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The good news is that even if you don’t have an energy-efficient home yet, you can take some cost-effective measures to make it happen.

How to save energy at home

Scheduling an energy audit is a great way to start saving energy at home. Energy auditors can recommend the most cost-effective measures to make your home energy efficient and comfortable. Energy efficiency house plans will typically include upgrades in and around your house, including ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances and effectively insulated walls and attics.

You’ll also want to improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. Replace an older furnace with a high-efficiency condensing system, which can result in savings on your energy bill. You should maintain HVAC systems annually, and if it’s over 10 years old, consider replacing it with a sleek new model.

Good landscaping makes your house look more attractive and can also help you save energy. When shade trees are planted strategically around your house, they can cool down the warmer parts of your home. Consider planting deciduous trees. In the summer, the foliage can block the sun during those bright summer days, and when it drops its leaves in the winter, it allows the sunshine to enter your house.

Do you feel a draft coming in from your windows? Are the windows in your home old and leaky? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be a good time to replace those windows with energy-efficient models. Replacing single-glazed windows with double-glazed windows improves the look of your house and makes it more comfortable.

Energy-efficient appliances

Invest in energy-efficient appliances and enjoy the savings on your energy bill. While the savings of having just one ENERGY STAR® appliance may seem small at first, those savings add up over time.

Refrigerators.

When you enter energy-efficient homes, you’ll notice state-of-the-art ENERGY STAR® certified models that don’t just look good, but run efficiently and save energy.

Dishwashers.

You can lower your utility bills and still get your dishes sparkly clean with ENERGY STAR® certified dishwashers. Over the last decade, the technology has dramatically improved, with today’s newer models saving tons of water while still getting the dirtiest of dishes clean.

Clothes washers and dryers.

When you upgrade to ENERGY STAR® certified clothes washers and dryers, you and your clothes will feel good. You’ll love saving more than $300 over the lifetime of both. Energy-efficient clothes washers use approximately 25% less energy and about 33% less water than standard machines. An energy-efficient dryer uses about 20% less power.

Consider upgrading to energy-efficient dehumidifiers and air purifiers. You can leave them on all day and enjoy breathing much better indoor air quality.

Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances and knowing how to save energy at home can bring on the savings. You can keep even more money in your bank by switching energy providers, including those that offer green energy electricity plans. Vault Electricity can help you discover the lowest electricity rates in Texas. Compare, choose and save!