This summer has been hot hot hot, which is great news for those heading to the beach or the pool. But for those trying to stay cool-without breaking records on their power bill-the high temps can make it a real challenge.
Almost two-thirds of the electric bill between June and September goes toward staying cool and comfortable, according to Edison Electric Institute, the national association of electric utility companies. Fortunately, consumers have many simple, no-and low-cost steps they can take to stay cool and save money all summer long, including:
- Keep the thermostat at 78 degrees when the house is occupied, and at 85 degrees when vacant(save 1-2% on cooling costs)
- If you have ceiling fans, be sure to turn them on-a fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees and still feel cool.
- Close the curtains or shades on any south or west facing windows during afternoon hours(it saves 2-4% on cooling costs).
- Consumers also have an ally in their electricity provider. By contacting their electric utility, consumers may qualify for assistance that can include:
- Bill discounts for lowering demand during peak periods.
- Cash rebates on energy-efficient appliances.
- Free, online home energy audits.
More and more electric utilities also now are using a high-tech tool to help them and their customers get more value from their electricity bill-the “smart” electric meter. Almost one-in-three homes now have a digital meter, according to the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE). That’s up from one-in-four last September. By mid-decade, IEE projects that more than half of all homes will have a smart meter.
The new smart meters are already benefitting consumers. For example, if a home equipped with a smart meter should lose power, the utility is instantly alerted-the consumer doesn’t have to call to report a power outage-a big benefit if the household is away on vacation. And smart meters are now beginning to return energy-saving benefits to consumers. In parts of California and in Texas, for example, homeowners can go online to see how much electricity their home used the day before; and just by becoming aware of how much electricity their home is using, consumers tend to take steps to conserve. Some utilities, like NV Energy in Nevada, also are giving consumers easy-to-use toolds, powered by smart meter data, to help them set usage or dollar amount thresholds and be notified when their account exceeds the threshold.
The white house’s Green Button Initiative helps consumers use their smart meter data to save energy as well. Twenty-one electric utilities and electricity suppliers have now committed to giving their customers east-to-understand information about their home’s energy use through a ‘green button’ on their websites. Today, about 10 million homes and businesses have access to the Green Button format. By the end of the year, we expect 30 million will.