Don’t Sacrifice For Savings
In today’s rough economic times average consumers are faced with the challenge of stretching their pennies as far as they will go. This does not mean you need to sacrifice. Using your money wisely will allow you to enjoy the same luxuries you are accustomed to at a lower price. The trick becomes seeing opportunities and taking advantage of them. Several products exist that will pay for themselves in a very short time and allow you to enjoy the simple things in life while spending less. If you need to stretch your budget but don’t want to sacrifice consider these alternatives.
A high efficiency shower heads will allow you to take the same length of shower and still use less water. Using less water will result in fewer charges and the shower head will quickly pay for itself. Another item to consider is your morning coffee, latte or espresso. Some consumers will not only stop at their local coffee shop on the way to work but also throughout the day. The bill for a coffee a day can easily end up in the thousands for an entire year. Consider purchasing a coffee pot and brewing your own coffee, if you prefer lattes or espresso find a machine that accommodates this; you will still end up paying less and saving money in the long run.
Throughout the day many users will consume bottles of water, either at home or on the go. Consider purchasing a refrigerated filtered water pitcher. Not only will it save you money on the expense of the bottled water you will be creating less garbage. Buying a reusable bottle will allow you to have clean filtered water on the go.
Energy and electricity is a major cost for most consumers. Generally in order to save energy sacrifices must be made, not with the purchase of these products. Programmable thermostats will allow you to keep the temperature at appropriate levels throughout the day without requiring any extra attention. Why heat or cool an empty house? Another useful tool is the home energy monitor. This tool allows you to see if anything is using electricity before you leave the house or go to bed. If something is using electricity without your knowledge it is also wasting your money, find it, stop it, and use the monitor to ensure it remains off. The average home has almost 40 always on devices stealing your hard earned money.
Real-Time Competitive Advantage
Many programs exist to help manage your energy bills. Some of these programs involve inputting your monthly utility bills into a program which tracks your expenses and any changes taking place. Other programs will gather the monthly data from your utility company and graph it on a monthly basis. More advanced energy management programs will normalize the data by weather, square footage and other factors. The question becomes, is this enough? By the time your bill is generated you have already been charged for the usage. While it may be nice to keep your files organized are you really getting enough information from a monthly bill to truly know what is going on inside your facility?
There are some things you can discern from a monthly bill, but the amount of information you can gather is limited and once you have received the bill it is already too late to stop the charges from happening. One building may be performing worse than another building, and if the information is normalized for an accurate comparison the next question instantly transforms into why? To answer this question it is increasingly necessary to view the real-time consumption of a facility. When you have the ability to view the usage in real-time you have the ability to see exactly when the consumption is higher on a minute by minute, hour, or daily basis. A lot can happen and change in a month affecting a bill, being able to look back and see exactly when the consumption increased, or alerted exactly when it changes, will help you narrow in on exactly the problem, and possibly stop it before you are charged for it.
Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) allows users to see their energy consumption in real-time. This allows the consumer to see exactly when something has increase the consumption in their facility. Not only will this help users narrow in on how the consumption has increased it can also help prevent the extra charges associated with increased consumption from reaching the bill altogether. If you have the ability to see something exactly when it happens and stop it immediately you can save a substantial amount of energy, money and time. To help you save energy further CEMO offers alerts and alarms to warn you when certain levels are reached or exceeded, and a team of highly qualified engineers monitors your facility constantly.
If you are relying on monthly statements you may notice a problem a month after the fact, and then you will have to wait another month to see if the changes were successful in fixing the problem. That is potentially 60-90 days worth of charges that you could have stopped in a single afternoon if you had real-time information. In the business world information is power, having detailed real-time information of exactly how your facility is performing and being able to prevent extra charges will give you a competitive advantage that you couldn’t receive from monthly statements alone.
Preventing Huge Holiday Electric Bills
It’s that time of year again. The holiday season is upon us. With Thanksgiving approaching at the end of this week many people either have already or will soon set up their Christmas decorations. Decorations are a great way to get into the season and spread cheer but they can also be a great way to increase your electric bills. As Christmas trees and decorative lighting get plugged in electric bills go up. The exact amount the bills will increase depends on the lighting you choose and how you plan to use the lighting. Being aware of this extra use can help prevent a budget busting bill in a season that is already known for breaking the budget. How do you plan to manage your electricity this Christmas season?
In an attempt to keep electric bills low many users will substitute a lamp or a light for a Christmas tree. While the lighting may not be as bright the mood is definitely more seasonal. The question then becomes how does my Christmas tree compare to a regular lamp? How much extra am I paying? The answer to that question varies on multiple items. Are the bulbs on your Christmas tree standard or LED? How many strands of lights does your tree have? Another item coming into play in terms of electricity bills are fireplaces. Acquiring firewood is not the only expense accompanied with a fireplace; an opened flue can equal the same amount of heat loss as an open window. Having a fire in the fireplace, with the Christmas tree lit up and Christmas music playing may create a great mood now, but what type of mood will it create when the bill arrives? It may leave you feeling more like Scrooge than Saint Nick.
Changing your Christmas lights to LED, making sure the flue is closed after each fire and only playing Christmas tunes when someone is around to listen, and not just as background music 24/7, may greatly reduce your electric bill. Another item to consider is Christmas light rationing. Some lights get left on 24/7, having them on a switch or in an area that can be turned off easily can make a huge difference. Becoming aware of how much energy your Christmas decorations are using can supply the extra incentive to make sure the lights are turned off, the music is not always playing and the flue gets shut.
The home energy monitor allows users to see exactly how much energy they are currently using in their homes. This helps prevent Scrooge from arriving when the electric bill comes in the mail. If your Christmas tree is using an excessive amount of electricity consider lessening the amount of bulbs, or if you haven’t already, switch to LED. If you plan to substitute the tree for a lamp you can use the home energy monitor to make sure this is a fair trade. It is possible that your tree is using more than the lamp and not even supplying close to the amount of light! Being able to see exactly how much money the lights are costing you will offer the incentives needed to cut back or turn off.
Higher Prices Arrive Spring 2011
As Deregulation grows closer in the PECO market some things may remain unclear when it comes to judging prices. The first question is how much am I currently paying? PECO offers a “price to compare” which gives customers a price to use for comparison between the current prices and an alternate supplier. In addition to offering their current price they also list the future price at the beginning of next year, when deregulation officially kicks in. As with most utility bill pricing there can be some confusion. The current rate is calculated from two charges, generation and transmission, and is 9.94 cents per kWh, the rate at the beginning of the year will be 9.92 cents per kWh for three combined charges. At first glance this appears to be a great price decrease! Don’t get excited just yet, things will change in the future.
To begin a new charge will be added to your PECO bill. This charge is being labeled as an Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) fee which will remain consistent at .12 cents per kWh. The three fees now combined to make your total charge are the AEPS, Generation and transmission fees. The other distribution related fees will remain consistent regardless of the supplier. The price to compare is the combined total of the three fees. The rates will change regularly, depending on the season. The estimated rates for April 1 - June 30 are 10.16 for below 500 kWh used and 11.40 for above 500 kWh used. For the same time period last year the rate was 6.92 for under 500 kWh consumed, that equals an estimated increase of 31.9%! This is even larger than the close to 30% increase PPL customers saw a year earlier.
What does this mean for the average consumer? It means that momentarily your electric rates may get slightly lower, even with the addition of a new fee, which at first seems great. But be weary of the impending summer. Electric rates will generally fluctuate as heating season ends and air conditioning begins, this year looks to be a real shocker.
Thanks to the new deregulated system you do not have to stand for the drastic increase. You have the ability to pick your electric supplier. One example for PECO customers is Viridian Energy. Viridian prides itself in saving consumers money over the course of the year. They currently boast $35.56 a month in savings for customers in the United Illuminating district. The ability of PECO customers to sign up for Viridian started November 22. The sign up is hassle free and only requires an account number from your current utility bill. There are no contracts or sign up fees. The only thing you stand to lose is your money in the form of higher electric bills.
Picking your Electricity Supplier
With the current state of the economy many individuals are looking for ways to reduce their bills. As money begins to grow tight a higher concentration of people are beginning to look in new areas of their budgets to find extra cash. Utility bills have a tendency of being written off as something necessary that cannot be changed, but that is no longer the case. Energy audits, home energy monitoring and other resources are available to reduce energy bills substantially. If you have already exhausted every opportunity to lower your energy bill there may be further hope in the form deregulation.
The deregulation of electricity allows for multiple suppliers to compete for the lowest price, creating a free market system. In select deregulated states users now have the ability to shop for their electricity provider. Many users have already shopped around for the best and cheapest rates on car insurance, cable, internet service providers, cell phone coverage and groceries; deregulation allows you to shop for your lowest electric provider as well. If you have already exhausted all other options in your budget it may be time to consider investigating deregulation, many states on the East coast and Texas are deregulated, and the numbers are growing.
As 2010 winds down and 2011 approaches many changes are being ushered in with the dawning of a new year. One of the changes may be your local utility becoming deregulated. One thing to watch out for is higher rates. Deregulation carries with it the removal of government caps on prices; some supplier raised their rates by up to 30% when they became deregulated. One company to consider is one that prides itself in offering lower rates and providing green energy. Viridian energy, available on the East Coast, offers 20-100 percent green energy and adjusts its rate to be lower than the competition. If your utility has deregulated or is about to become deregulated you do not have to accept and pay the higher rates, you can now switch to a new provider. The same principle applies for cell phones, cables, insurance and more, why not for your electricity as well?
Managing Radiant Heating Systems
As winter begins to roll around again our thoughts begin to drift towards snow and ice. Many consumers, especially in the northern states, have found a solution for snow and ice in the form of radiant heating. Placing either electric heat coils or hot water filled hydronic pipes under a walkway, sidewalk or driveway ensures ice will not form and snow will not stick. These systems generally have sensors detecting both moisture levels and temperature. If the sensor thinks it is snowing or there is freezing rain it will activate the heat coils. These systems are being used for more than outdoors pursuits; residential users have installed radiant heating in their homes for not only the floors but also rooftops and even towel racks.
Unfortunately, every system that is used frequently will break down at some point. With an outdoor hydronic radiant heating system it may be almost impossible to tell if there are small leaks, since the pipes are concealed under cement or asphalt. In addition to leaks sensors can begin to function incorrectly which could easily result in a heated sidewalk in the middle of July. The very act of creating heat can be an expensive endeavor. You will either need to boil water and pump it through the system or heat the coils with electricity. With these two processes in mind it becomes extremely important to monitor your radiant systems. The biggest question becomes, how can you monitor something that is embedded under concrete or in floor boards?
Energy monitoring allows users to see exactly when their radiant system is kicking in. By monitoring the amount of electricity either used by the boilers or the coils themselves you will know exactly when the system is on. If you notice an increase in the amount of energy needed to heat your system there is either an efficiency issue or a leak in your system. Finding a leak as quickly as possible ensures that you are not wasting any energy and money. Once you know there is a leak call a professional. Many radiant systems will have warranties and because of this it helps to find the issue early before your warranty expires. More advanced monitoring systems, such as the Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) system, will allow you to monitor the flow of water itself. For cities with multiple walkways and sidewalks connected to hydronic radiant heating systems it makes sense to monitor and manage the amount of water and the amount of energy being used in order to eliminate waste. Whether you are at home, or a large corporation, monitoring your radiant heating system can save you a great deal of time, energy and money.
Combining Conservation and Efficiency
Saving energy comes in many shapes and forms. It presents itself in two ways, conservation and efficiency. Conservation is the act of turning off the lights when they aren’t in use or unplugging unused devices. Efficiency comes in many forms, and can include lighting, insulation, appliances and many other options. By itself each of these items has the potential to save some energy, but, used together efficiency and conservation can save an abundance of energy.
Efficiency and conservation alike have slogans that accompany them, pithy sayings such as, “Pull the plug on energy waste, saving is simple.” While it is true that you can save a considerable amount of energy and money by simply turning devices off or unplugging them completely you can save even more by combining this practice with energy efficiency. This offers a one two punch to your electricity. By utilizing the two you will begin using the least amount possible when the device is in use and none at all when it is not.
While it may be true that empty rooms love the dark they may also love CFLs or LEDs just as much. Buying products that have Energy Star labels ensures they are energy efficient, combining these products with the best conservation efforts ensures the most savings. Having an Energy Star rated TV may reduce your bill a little, but ensuring the TV is unplugged when not in use may save a lot. But what is the best way to tie energy efficiency and conservation together?
The home energy monitor allows users to observe their energy use habits. This allows them to pin-point exactly how to conserve more electricity or how to make the best energy efficiency purchase. Once you have discovered your habits you can begin to dial in on individual devices, this will help you find devices that can be more efficient. Discovering you leave the computer on and turning it off may be a great way to conserve, having the computer set itself to sleep mode is a great way to be efficient, having the computer go to sleep mode throughout the day and turning the computer completely off when it will not be used for eight hours is a great way to save a tremendous amount of energy and money. Combing conservation and efficiency is the best way to lower your energy use, and a home energy monitor can help you discover areas where you can conserve and become more efficient.
The Power of Knowledge
One of the best ways to lowering your energy consumption and costs is to eliminate waste and unnecessary use. Using a whole building energy monitoring system allows you to see two things very clearly, your base load and spikes. A base load is the electricity that is always on. There are some devices that may draw electricity 24/7; although these devices may be small their combined affect is significant. One user contributed 33% of his use to his base load. Another item to note is the spikes. Spikes occur when large items cycle or turn on. An example would be a furnace or HVAC unit, machinery, dryer, microwave or other large devices. If you are running a business a common spike will be when employees come into work and turn on their computers or other devices. Using the information from monitoring your energy you can reduce your usage and costs in two ways, attacking the base load and the spikes.
Monitoring will allow you to see your base load in real-time. This gives you the ability to make an informed decision and to see the effects instantly. The best way to manage a base load is to make sure it is as low as possible when a building is not occupied or at night. To do this you need to find the devices that draw energy 24/7. Even simple things like a porch light being left on all day can make a huge difference. Once your consumption base load has been reduced to its bare minimum you can use the energy monitor to assure yourself that it is at this minimum each night before you go to bed or before you leave the building. This especially becomes important for facilities over the weekend when the building is not in use.
The second way to reduce your consumption with energy monitoring is in the area of spikes. For facilities controlling peaks has a lot more application then at home. Commercial buildings are charged peak demand charges, because of this knowing exactly when your electricity peaks and managing those peaks can mean the difference of thousands of dollars. At home, and at a commercial building, it can also be an indication of how those large devices are working. An inefficient device will use far more electricity than an efficient device. If the peaks and spikes are higher than they should be consider repairing or replacing the device.
Real-time energy monitoring gives you the information needed to make informed decisions. It also gives you the peace of mind to know that everything is off and that you are saving the most money over the weekends or overnight. Having a device that allows you to view historic data will also help you narrow in on items that are turning on in the middle of the night or excessively cycling when not in use. There are many different benefits from having real-time information. The power of knowledge can never be under estimated.
The Best First Step Towards Improved Efficiency
Every energy consumer has various and different reasons for seeking energy efficiency improvements within their home or business. What motivates one person may not be of any interest to another. The five main concerns that bring awareness to the need to improve are saving money, comfort issues, a health concern, carbon footprint or an incentive program. Knowing what to do next becomes the biggest problem. There are many different programs available, all of which boast success. There are many ways of going about achieving savings and many ways to throw your money away on unneeded improvements if you are not careful. Regardless of the method you choose you should be able to track the success in the amount of savings you receive or through a reduction in your energy consumption.
The prospect of being taken for a trip by a fast talking salesman is always in the back of the average consumers mind. The average electric bill arrives 30-45 days after the fact; a lot can happen in that amount of time. If you are planning on undertaking any energy efficiency, home improvement, home or building performance or energy management project you need to make sure you have a way to measure and verify the results. A simple utility bill will not supply enough information to draw an accurate conclusion. The solution comes in the form of real-time information by utilizing energy monitoring.
An energy monitor has the ability to display real-time energy consumption and costs. Having real-time information allows you to measure and verify results instantly. Real-time energy information can also help you dial in on specific areas that need improvement. Once you have pin-pointed the needed improvements energy monitoring will let you know if it was successful at lowering your consumption instantly, not 30-45 days later.
Before you undertake any major efficiency or improvement project you should begin monitoring your energy consumption. Without real-time energy information trying to improve your energy consumption is similar to attempting to paint a portrait in the dark, you may get something, but it won’t be pretty. Lord Kelvin, who completed important mathematical calculations on electricity said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it.” The best first step in taking control of your energy costs is real-time measurement.
The Power of Real-time
Energy consumers are constantly making sacrifices to avoid large bills. A common sacrifice is lowering the temperature in the winter and raising the temperature in the summer. You may be a little cold or hot but your bills will be more manageable. Unfortunately most of these sacrifices are made blindly. The average utility bill will come 30-45 days after the fact. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to conserve energy and sacrificing comfort only to receive an energy bill that is higher than normal. Once you receive the bill there is no way to know what caused it; when you receive a larger bill it is very easy to quickly discredit your efforts as worthless.
Without a way to directly measure the results of your efforts it is easy to become discouraged. With the continued growth of the internet our society has become one where we expect instant results. At the snap of a finger, thanks to modern streaming technology, you don’t even need to leave the house to watch your favorite movie anymore. At the click of a button you can watch a movie directly from your cable provider or instantly from a subscription movie service. A common example of the speed we are used to today is the U.S postal service. The USPS has been called many things over the years, but a common nickname has become “snail mail”. The average letter reaches its destination in only a few days, yet this is considered snail mail. On average we wait 30-45 days to receive our utility readings. If a few days are considered the rate of a snail what animal could this be compared to?
If you are tired of receiving a monthly utility bill and cringing before you open it because you are wondering what the damage is, or if you want to be able to measure and verify the results of your energy efficiency or conservation efforts as they are happening, then you need something a little faster than the speed of the Guinness record holding slowest animal on earth, the three toed sloth, otherwise known as, your utility bill.
A home energy monitor is a device that reads energy consumption in real-time and displays it for users to see. Some of these monitors can be very complex and expensive, others are simple and easy to install and don’t even require electrical wiring. The difference depends on the application. For the common user something simple and easy to install works fine. The Envi, for example, not only shows real-time information in kWhs it also allows user to enter their exact rates and will calculate the current cost of their bill. The device records not only the kWh and rate it will also record the time of use and the current indoor temperature. This information is all very useful when it comes to seeing your conservation efforts. If you lower the temperature the Envi will record this, it will also record exactly how much it decreased your use and exactly how much it saved you. In a time when a few days is considered slow why wait 30-45 days? Receive the information now, in real-time, while you can still use it.