easy ways to save energy this summer

image: iclipart.com

It’s summertime. Time for swimsuits, popsicles and rolling blackouts. Wait. What? Here in Colorado, Xcel is the king of energy supply. And that means that the king gets to make the rules when it comes to who gets energy and when. The king also sets the rate prices and there is nothing you can do about it. Heck, they can even change the rules in the middle of the game. It’s good to be king. It’s not so good to be the “people”.

This summer Xcel has implemented a “Tiered Rate System” for pricing. We pay the “normal” rate (4.6 cents per kilowatt) for the first 500 kilowatts we use, then we pay the Tiered Rate of 9 cents for everything after 500 kWh. For example, we used 750 kWh in May so our bill was approximately $99.

I am not complaining (too much) about our energy cost because I know California pays triple our costs. I should feel lucky. However, I do take issue with the cut off at 500 kWh that Xcel has set, when according to their own website, the average home uses 630 kWh a month. Did they pick 500 kWh out of thin air ( or somewhere else) as the cut off line? They made the cut off BELOW the average kilowatt usage so they can get their money from everyone. That’s what I am thinking anyway, because the only way anyone can use just 500 kWh is if they live in a hut and shower in the rain.

What about those who have to run medical equipment 24/7? Their rate will skyrocket. And then there are those pesky rolling blackouts. When Xcel transformers are in danger of blowing because of the overload of energy usage, Xcel just shuts off everyone’s power. (Transformers seem to blow often around here when it gets in the upper 90s.) Heaven forbid if you need, say, a ventilator and your power is cut!  You better have a backup generator.

A few weeks ago it was 99 degrees and Xcel shut off our A/C. (But, when we installed out central air a few years ago it came with this “Saver Switch” that allows Xcel to turn off our A/C. We got a huge discount on the A/C for doing so. I guess I asked for it.) I am betting the guy flipping the switch at Xcel is not shutting off his own A/C. Now, I sound like I am complaining…

This month we used 1100 kWh. That’s $141.00. So, the million-dollar question is: how does anyone get below the 500 kWh mark and how can I conserve energy and save money this summer? Energy saving tips after the jump.

Xcel has some good tips on their website and some not-so-good tips. I have listed the ones I feel are reasonable.

  • Keep windows and shade closed during morning hours.
  • Open windows for cross ventilation.
  • Plant trees to provide shade (yeah, in about 10 years, you’ll have shade).
  • Use fans at night instead of A/C (window fans work great).
  • Set A/C for 78 degrees or higher.
  • Shade A/C unit with plants and trees (unless the hot air from the A/C unit kills your lilac bush then you’re out of luck).
  • Set refrigerator to 38-40 degrees.
  • Unplug appliances on counter when not in use: blender, cellphone chargers, toaster, coffee maker. Even the plug draws energy and you could save $60-80 a year* by unplugging.
  • Switch to energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Use the lowest watt possible light bulbs.
  • Turn lights off when you leave the room (except if you have kids…this is impossible!)
  • Wash and rinse clothes in cold water (could save up to $70 a year*).
  • Air dry dishes in dishwasher instead of heat dry.
  • Buy a clothesline and hang out large items like sheets and blankets instead of using the dryer. (I got a retractable clothesline at Lowe’s for about $12.)
  • In winter, set thermostat at 68 degrees.
  • Install high-efficiency shower heads (could save $10-20 per year/per person*).
  • Set water heater at 120 degrees F.
  • Fix leaky faucets to save water.

Anyhoo, there are a lot of energy conservation ideas out there. Just Google it and you’ll see. I doubt any of these ideas will get us to the 500 kWh mark but hopefully we can save some money in the long run.

*All estimated savings are from Xcel Energy’s website.

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