Last winter, National Grid announced a 37% rate increase for electricity for the winter season (Nov-Apr) over the previous year. N-Star, now Eversource made a similar rate increase as well. Luckily this year they are forecasting only 21% increase at National Grid (9% lower than last year) and even better rates from Eversource.
As much as we would LOVE to kill the messenger, National Grid and Eversource only deliver the electricity, they do not generate it.
Remember our HUGE heating bills due to the POLAR VORTEX in the winter of 2013/2014? It was super cold and whether you heat with oil or gas or even wood – it was not fun for the wallet. Well it turns out that drain on energy resources is going to affect ELECTRICITY PRICES in New England this winter according to the Boston Business Journal.
WHY you ask? Well one half to two thirds of our electric generating plants rely on natural gas. As more and more people convert to natural gas for heat, the pipeline cannot keep up with home heating AND making electricity. This shortage of natural gas for generating plants drives power prices to increase. Last year the power plants had to either pay a premium or ramp up the old coal and oil fired turbines. In addition the Salem Coal power plant and the Vermont Yankee Nuclear plant closed in 2014 – this will mean less supply which means higher prices.
9 Ways to Save on Electricity
Shop around for Energy suppliers
Some states (like Massachusetts) allow you to shop around for an electric supplier. Check out the qualified Energy Supplier List HERE. You need to stay with National Grid or N-Star or whoever your utility is for delivery, but you do not need to stay with them for the supply portion of the bill.
Before you shop around, KNOW what you have already been paying. Above you can see the MA National Grid rates over the last 2 years. Since many suppliers quote fixed rates for 1-2 years, you need to be sure that will save you money. It may be less in the winter but will you be paying more in the other seasons negating any savings you got? That of course depends on your usage.
Here is how to do a quick check:
- Pull out 12 months worth of bills and look for the Supply Services section ONLY (on page 2 for National Grid)
- Add up the total usage over the 12 months – the actual kWh
- Add up the supply COST over 12 months (not the rate, the actual $$ spent)
- Now calculate your average yearly rate using the following equation: 12 month total supply COST ÷ 12 month usage kWh
My average last year was 12.7¢ per kWh so I decided to switch to Ambit Energy and got a one year fixed rate of 9.25¢. You can check your Ambit rates and availability HERE (note: that is my referral link). Rates vary by region and by supplier. They also have programs to earn free energy for referrals or earn side income becoming a consultant. (See all the MA qualified Energy Supplier List HERE)
Remember with all FIXED programs with any supplier, after your contract period is up the price will revert to current rates no matter how high they are – just like your cable and cell phone services. Be sure to note when your contract period is up and repeat the cost analysis process again to find your best option.
Of course you can also look at SOLAR energy as well but that is a HUGE topic by itself.
After addressing price we must then look at reducing our consumption or usage. Many of these are well known and common sense but have you really tried them?
SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS
SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS when you are not using them! Seems obvious but we all need reminders.
Switch to CFL Bulbs that use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. CFL’s can take a while to heat up so you can see some rooms – bathrooms, closets – that you are in briefly may still need traditional bulbs. However consider installing smart switches or motion sensors for these.
Turn off and unplug stuff you rarely use or are easily accessible to plug in! It may sound like that is small money, but it adds up.
- Turn off computers or enable the ENERGY STAR power management settings on your computer and monitor, so they at least use less power when not in use.
- Unplug toaster and coffee makers and any kitchen counter small appliances.
- Unplug your chargers (cell phone chargers, tablet chargers, camera chargers, battery chargers), they are drawing energy even when not in use. You can also check out energy saving charging stations.
- Unplug TV’s, video games, cable boxes and more when not in use. Did you know that if you use WiFi on your Wii or other video consoles you can even save just by disabling the WiFi when not actively using it.
Stop screaming about the big stuff – the computer, TV and peripherals. YES I know how hard it was to get them all plugged in and they are not easy to unplug, so consider using a power strip as a central “turn off” point. There are so many different kinds to choose from and National Grid has discounts HERE. I also like the Belkin Conserve Socket with Energy Saving Outlet or the Belkin Conserve Switch Energy-Saving Surge Protector with Remote. A nice solution for the home office is the Smart 8-Outlet Home / Office Surge Protector With 4 USB Outputs for Smartphone & Tablet.
Energy Star appliances
It goes without saying in this day and age to look for ENERGY STAR appliances and devices when shopping. By being certified as ENERGY STAR qualified products, they are among the lowest power consuming in their category in standby mode.
Many electric companies also offer REBATES when you upgrade to Energy Star appliances. Check websites for details.
Optimize your Water Heater
The easiest way to save on heating water is to USE LESS. Take shorter showers and use a Showerstart which will drop your shower to a trickle once it reaches bathing temperature so you do not waste water running it to heat it up. Simply pull the string to start water flow once you are in there and ready.
Of course start with an energy efficient water heater or at least insulate the one you have. Most utility companies offer rebates on these as well.
TURN DOWN THE WATER HEATER to 120°F… this is tough for me cause I like it HOT! However the EPA estimates that heaters set 140°F + can waste $40-$60 annually to keep water at that temperature, and more than $400 to bring fresh water up to that high temperature. Every 10ºF reduction can yield 3-5% savings.
Consider using a TIMER to shut off the water heater at night or times you never use it.
Washers & Dryers
Again use Energy Star appliances which use “25% less energy” and “40% less water”. Here are some other tips:
- Wash clothes in COLD water. Most laundry detergents are now formulated to be effective in cold water.
- Wash & Dry FULL LOADS or adjust the water level to accommodate a smaller wash.
- Do not overfill dryer – make sure the air can circulate.
- Clean lint screen in the dryer to improve air circulation (and prevent fires). A dirty screen can use up to 30% more electricity (according to the Consumer Energy Center).
- Air dry clothes when possible
- Dry towels and heavier cottons (jeans) in separate load from other clothing and use a moisture sensor if your machine has it. Do not over dry clothes.
Fill your FRIDGE & FREEZER
Your fridge and freezer run more efficiently when they’re full. Plus you save money by eating out less when they are full – LOL! Get rid of spare non-Energy Star refrigerators & freezers that you do not need (some utility companies have small rebates for turning them in).
If you do require a second one, or there is slim pickins in the one you have, try putting water containers in the fridge and ice bags in your freezer to keep them filled up. Also keep the temperature between 35 and 38 degrees for the refrigerator and 0 and 5 degrees F for the freezer.
Avoid using AIR CONDITIONERS
This is not a tip in the winter (other than for those in the HOT states) but did you know you need 3 time the energy per degree to cool down a room versus heating a room? I am aware there are some regions – down south, in the west – that it just gets way too hot. But here in the Northeast there are other ways you can avoid cranking that AC on.
- Use fans instead of the air conditioner
- Open windows during the night or early morning to get some cool air in.
- CLOSE windows, shades, curtains and shutters during the day to keep the coolness in and prevent the sun from heating things up.
If you MUST have central air, be sure to use a programmable thermostat so you are not running them when you are not home. Have you checked out the NEST Learning Thermostat? Thermostats control about half your energy bill so you really ought to pay attention to them.
There are many, many more ways as well. Just remember to be smart and when it comes to energy usage we have control over a lot of it. Make good habits and you can save little by little.
HOW DO YOU SAVE ENERGY?