Your local utility company reads your electricity meter every month to determine how much electricity you used between the previous and current billing periods. The electricity your devices, appliances, and lights use is measured in watts, and your total energy consumption is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). One kWh is equivalent to running a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours, or using 1000 watts over the course of an hour. This energy consumption is totaled up between all of the electrical devices and appliances in your home and that total is represented by numbers or dials on your electric meter. If you want to get a sense of how much electricity your home consumes over a given day or week, you can read the meter to find out this information yourself. Digital meters display the number of kilowatt hours consumed and are easy to read, but analog meters with gears and dials may seem a bit confusing at first. Analog meters typically have between four and six dials that tell you how many kWh you’ve used. Some are designed like the odometer of a car and are simple to read but others have circular dials with a needle point to or in between numbers. These dials also alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise directions.
The first step to reading a meter is to make sure you are looking directly at the needle you wish to read. Looking at it from an angle may skew the reading. Reading the dials from left to right, you read each number that the needle has passed. The needle always travels along the numbers in ascending order, regardless of whether it’s clockwise or counterclockwise. If the needle looks like it’s directly over a number, check the next dial to the right. If the next dial has passed 0, read the number the needle is over. If it has not passed 0, read the number before the one it is over. Below is an example of a 5-dial analog meter. We will read this meter and give an example of a week’s worth of energy use.
Using the method discussed above, we clearly see the first dial is 2, the most recent passed number. The second dial is over the 6, but the third dial is just before the 9, so the second dial is 5. The third dial is 8, the fourth is 6, and the fifth is 6. As you can see, each dial rotates in the opposite direction of the previous dial.The electric meter above reads 25866 kWh. Let’s say this is your actual meter reading. On the same day the following week, the meter reads 26223. By taking 26223 and subtracting last week’s reading, 25866, from it, you get 375. That means your home has consumed 357 kilowatt hours worth of electricity since reading your meter the previous week. If you want to get an average weekly consumption over the course of a month, repeat the process for the next three weeks, add the differences together and divide them by 4, the number of weeks.
Your energy consumption is not going to be the same each week. Weeks that are hotter or colder will have higher differences because of the added use of climate control in your home. You can use the meter to track how much electricity various appliances consume in your home as well. Check the lowest value dial (which would be at the far right or possibly a thin rotating disc at the bottom) over the course of 15 seconds. Multiply that number by 4 to get the energy consumption per minute. Then, you can shut off a circuit to a part of your home like your living room, then check the meter again. The last dial or disc will be spinning more slowly and you can see how much electricity that part of your home is consuming. It may be easier to invest in an ammeter, however.
Looking to lower your electricity bill? You can start by swapping out old incandescent light bulbs and replacing them with more efficient CFLs or LEDs. CFLs and LEDs can be up to 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, meaning you could be paying 80 cents per dollar less for your electricity when it comes to lighting. Lets look at these efficient bulbs to understand how they are beneficial.
Electricity use is measured in watts. Your bill is tracked by kilowatt hours (kWh), which is 1000 watts used in an hour. Bulb brightness is measured in lumens. A typical indoor incandescent bulb is 60 watts and emits 800 lumens of light. That means every hour it uses 60 watts to produce that light. An LED bulb producing 800 lumens of light uses just 12 watts of electricity.
CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, are mini fluorescent tubes. They usually look like a curly tube shaped bulb. They are less expensive per bulb than LEDs, but they last about half as long. Incandescent bulbs, depending on how often they are used, can last for a couple of years. CFLs can last up to 9 years and LEDs can last about 20 years.
Another way to reduce energy usage in any kind of bulb is to use 3-way or dimmer switches. These types of switches allow you to only generate as much light as is needed. With a standard on-off switch, the light bulb is either using no electricity or the full amount it can use. With dimmer switches, you can use less electricity when less light is required. Furthermore, you can use occupancy switches to turn lights on when they detect movement and turn off when no movement is detected for a while. These kinds of lights prevent themselves from being left on when not in use.
The Electricity Facts Label, or EFL, is a central part of an energy plan. The EFL details what is included in your plan, from contract length, to rates, to renewable content and emissions. An EFL is available for all energy plans in Texas, regardless of the retail energy provider (REP).
The EFL details a few specific sections about your plan. The REP and plan name are listed on the document so you know who and what it is you’re looking at. This makes it easier to compare different plans from the same or even a different REP. You can also see what the service area is for the plan, such as CenterPoint. Next, you’ll be able to see pricing breakdowns. This section tells you the costs of generating and delivering the electricity to your home or business. It will also outline any applicable fees, such as early termination. The rate you’ll be paying is measured in cents per kilowatt hour (¢/kWh). This is the standard measurement across all companies in Texas for easy to understand pricing.
The contract section tells you how long your contract is for. If you change providers or plans, or cancel your service before the contract expires, you could be subject to the early termination fee as noted in the pricing section. If you are on a prepaid or variable plan, this plan is month-to-month, so you can switch any time. Finally, the sources of generation section tell you what sources the energy is pulled from. This could be coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, or wind power. Any renewable energy content (solar and wind) is noted as a percentage and is compared to the state average.
Reducing electricity use in your home can be pretty simple when you break it down by category. The main categories in your home are lights, electronics, water, and climate control.
It’s always a good practice to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but if your home has a tendency to leave them on, occupancy sensors can shut the lights off for you. If the sensor doesn’t detect any movement for a set period of time, from a few seconds to a few minutes, it will shut off the lights. Installing more efficient lighting like LED bulbs will also reduce your energy usage. LEDs and CFLS are about 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
The only way to stop electronics from consuming electricity is to unplug them entirely. So long as the power cord is connected, appliances and electronics are draining energy. You can use a power strip to shut off the electricity to several devices at once, like in entertainment centers. If you do need to leave them plugged in, powering down the device will definitely save more energy than a sleep mode.
Set your water heater to 120°F to save energy for heating the water. and insulate your hot water pipes. This reduces energy waste by getting warmer water to the faucets. Using aerators and low-flow shower heads, you can reduce the amount of water, and subsequently energy, being used in your home. When washing dishes or clothes, only run full loads and use colder water settings more often.
Programmable thermostats let you set periods of time throughout the day for your heating or cooling to run. This allows you to keep the thermostat off while you are at work or asleep, thus reducing the time you’re AC or heat runs. And since climate control is about half of your energy bill, you’re sure to notice a savings!
March is here, and that means that the Texas heat is not far behind. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is gearing up for this hot weather by preparing the electricity grid with 77,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity. The peak demand is expected to cap out around 69,000 MW, so this will ensure that everyone has reliable electricity as we head into cooling season.
Ken McIntyre, VP of Grid Planning and Operations at ERCOT, said that they will “continue to monitor a number of factors that could affect power plant availability and demand over the summer. . . .” ERCOT also expects, even in a worst-case scenario, to have at least 500 MW of electricity in reserve. This summer will also see the addition of 346 MW of peak wind capacity which is enough to power 69,200 homes during peak demand on a mild spring day, according to ERCOT’s data.
Summer always sees a huge increase in energy demands due to the increased need for air conditioning. You can help reduce the peak demands from your home by using programmable thermostats to only run the AC while you’re at home and awake, such as in the morning before work and in the evening before going to bed. At night, if it’s cool enough, shut off the AC and open up the windows. You can save energy and subsequently money on your energy bill as the temperatures heat up this summer.
Having a deregulated energy market means that you have a choice as to what provider and type of plan you want. You can choose from a prepaid plan, a variable rate plan, and a fixed rate plan. Any one of those could also be a green energy plan, where some or all of the energy comes from renewable resources like wind energy.
Prepaid plans let you pay for electricity up to a certain amount for use the following month. Once you reach that limit, the electricity is shut off unless you add more money to the prepaid account. They typically have a high rate per kilowatt hour (kWh)
Variable Rate Plan
Variable rate plans have no contract length, so you can switch from one at any time, but the rates will vary from month to month. These plans could be lower or higher than a fixed rate plan, depending on market conditions.
Fixed Rate Plan
Fixed rate plans lock in your energy rate for the duration of your contract length. Regardless of how the market fluctuates, you will continue paying the same rate. Starting a fixed rate plan when rates are typically lower will ensure you get a good rate for the year. However, if you sign up for a fixed rate plan and cancel before your contract expires, you could be faced with an early termination fee.
All plans available in Texas have an electricity facts label (EFL) that details exactly what your plan entails. It will specify contract length, amount of renewable energy, and various costs associated with the plan. The EFL is designed to give consumers full disclosure, so there are no surprises when you get your bill in the mail.
It’s just about tax season once again. Most people aren’t particularly thrilled about filing taxes especially with the potential to owe money. However, if you’ve made some green investments last year, you may be able to receive some breaks. The federal government offers different incentives for tax credits related to energy efficiency.
If you have constructed or renovated a building to use half the amount of energy a building built to the standard model codes, you could be getting some money back from Uncle Sam. Other incentives include purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle and on-site renewable energy systems like geothermal heat pumps and solar panels.
Even if you aren’t able to renovate a whole building, other measures to increase energy efficiency can provide you with tax credits. Installing insulation, replacing windows, skylights, and doors, green roofs, and sealing a building’s shell all count toward energy efficiency and tax credits. In order to qualify for the credit, any renovations you make must conform to the 2009 IECC specifications. You may then fill out IRS form 5695 to get credits ranging from $200 to $500. If you would like more information on how to meet the IECC specifications, the Tax Incentives Assistance Project can help you get started.
Valentines is all about showing your sweetheart how much they mean to you, and that is often conveyed through gifts. Show your sweetie how much you care for them AND the environment by giving these energy efficient gifts!
• Tablet — Tablet computers are becoming increasingly popular because they can do so much in such a small device. What makes them even more awesome is that they can do most of the things we use our desktops and laptops for while not consuming nearly as much electricity.
• Solar Charger — We spend a lot of time on our phones and tablets, and sometimes we end up charging them up frequently. With a solar powered charger, you can harness the power of the sun to generate some green energy for your wireless devices! Even better, by using this charger instead of the wall plug, you can save energy from being lost just by leaving the wall plug plugged into the wall.
• Learning Thermostat — A learning thermostat, like the Nest can save you a lot of money over the course of a year by reducing energy usage for heating and cooling your home. This device learns your preferred climate control patterns so you never have to worry about when to turn on the thermostat or forget to turn it off! Fleece Blanket — Usually, Valentine’s can be in the midst of cold temperatures, so bundle your honey up with a nice warm blanket! Snuggling is highly encouraged.
If you are renting an apartment, condo, or loft; energy efficiency can seem out of your hands. Just because you cannot make fixtures the place you are renting does not mean you limit you from being energy efficient in it.
Here are some ways renters can save on their energy costs:
- Using CFL bulbs or LED bulbs save about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. You can get yourself from the local hardware store and replace the bulbs in your home.
- Make sure that the maintenance department of the place you are renting replaces the air filter in your air cooling system, or central air system. If you live in an apartment, a simple maintenance request can check your air filter, or if you are renting a home ask your landlord about how the air filter can get checked. A dirty air filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder. A clean air filter can save you up to $180 per year on energy costs.
- If your water heater is at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit it can save huge on energy costs, and your water bill of course.
- Adjust the refrigerator to about 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit so your fridge is not overworking itself – this will save towards your electric bill each month.
- Caulk window corners that have leaks with weather stripping caulking glue from your local hardware store. The cool air and warm air will not leak through during the summer and winter.
- Close curtains and shades at night.
- Add window shades during the warmer months to keep cool air in. Ask your local hardware store about shades for your windows. An alternative is to add aluminum foil to your windows during the summer. This budget friendly method will also reflect heat away from your windows.
- Unplug any appliances and electronics when not in use, or use a power strip to power them all off at once.
- Make sure the exhaust fans in the bathroom, kitchen stove, are off within 20 minutes after cooking or showering.
- Ask your landlord or apartment complex if your thermostat is programmable. Programmable thermostats will auto turn off while you are away from your apartment/home.
The best way to make these energy saving tips go the extra mile for those who are renting, is a low electricity rate. If you have control over who is your electricity company, then take advantage of that. Switch electric providers is the most energy efficient method and will put extra savings in your pocket. You can sign up for a month to month plan, or however for a plan for the length of your lease. Stop overpaying on your electricity costs today!
Green living starts at home. There are plenty of things that one can do to save energy and lower the electricity bills. One of the natural ways to get electricity is solar panels. These panels can still generate electricity under light snow fall, but when snow blocks sunshine completely, it becomes a problem for the panels to generate electricity. Generally if the snow melts quickly then there is no worry, but if there is lot of snow it can cause problem. There are ways to combat the said issue.
To avoid the snow to remain in the panel, the panels should be arranged in slanting or steep position, which would let the snow fall down or melt more easily and they can deal with harsh climate easily. Snow can be swept off the panels using a garden rake. Snow on the ground reflects and can create more electricity. Solar panels allow snow to melt faster because of the reflection caused. If there is light dusting of the snow, the solar panels lets it melt faster and generates electricity in the normal way.
Snow and solar panel can go along together without any problems or issues, if proper care and regular cleaning of the solar panels is done during the winter season.