23 May 2011
How Low Can Your Electric Bill Go?

Well, the answer, of course, is up to you.  Unfortunately, if you’re like most energy consumers, you’re flying blind.  In fact, you probably know more about your credit card purchases than the energy you buy.

Credit card statements are typically available online and provide almost hourly updates on purchases. By contrast, you have little more than a monthly utility bill to understand your energy use. You can look back at past energy consumption, but you certainly can’t see it in real time — when you could actually make choices that affect your energy use.

And that’s bad, because studies have consistently shown that consumers make smart choices that save them money once they’re aware of their energy use.

Here Comes the Smart Grid, Here Come the Savings

Thanks to funds from the federal stimulus program and renewed attention to the so-called “smart grid,” 2011 may just be the year that you begin using home energy in an entirely new way.

Here in Nevada, NV Energy is in the midst of a massive smart grid project. Under the NVEnergize program, everyone in the state will receive a new digital “smart meter” by December 2012.

The new meters will allow homeowners to access data about their hour-by-hour energy use via text message, phone or on NV Energy’s website. Customers will be able to monitor their daily energy use, get a projected bill for the month and compare their use with the average NV Energy customer.

NV Energy will also roll out a variety of new programs and rate plans (participation is entirely voluntary), as well as expanding programs like Cool Share to larger commercial and industrial customers.

What You Can Do Now

As a brave new world of home energy management is ushered in, the day may soon come when a smart meter tied into a countertop display allows you to control thermostats, intelligent light sockets and power strips — even from your office computer or cell phone. With your permission, high wattage devices such as air conditioning units, electric water heaters and pool pumps will cycle down during times of peak demand. And consumer electronics devices, which now consume over half the power in a typical home, will automatically shut down or hibernate when they are not being used.

But, until then, consider these energy-saving steps you can take with help from NV Energy:

Perform an energy audit. Using MyAccount function online, you can compare your energy use with similar homes, track your use over time, look at your billing history and discover specific ways to lower your electric bill.

Take advantage of incentives. Cash incentives ranging from $140 to $ 1,125 are available when you replace your old air conditioner with a more efficient system. Instant rebates are also being offered for energy-efficient residential pool pumps: $100 instant rebate for variable-speed pumps and $50 instant rebate for two-speed pumps.

Adjust your thermostat. By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save about 5-15 percent a year on your heating bill. That’s a savings of as much as 1 percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. Here, a programmable thermostat can help you avoid waking up in a cooler than normal house in the winter.

Try some simple measures. These simple steps don’t cost a thing, but can potentially save you 10-25 percent on your monthly energy bill. For example, use pool trippers to reduce the time your swimming pool pump runs — eight to 12 hours a day is plenty. Set your water heater to 120 degrees (any more is overkill). Keep lights and lighting fixtures clean, especially if you’re reducing the number of lights you use. Dirt absorbs light.

Save Energy, Save Money

In the end, smart grid innovations will give you the tools and technology to make more informed choices about your energy use. And that’s a good thing!

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