HOUSTON - If you're struggling to pay your electric bill, there is now help to prevent you from being disconnected. Plus there are ways to cut your monthly bill.
Since the stay-home order began, Texas energy provider Bulb says household electricity usage is up about 8% during the week. But one time of day is way down.
"Usage from 7 to 8 a.m., which typically has one of the highest usages of the day, is down 30%. This is month over month. This tells us folks are starting their day a little later, or not running those appliances they would typically run as they start their day," said Bulb Country Manager Vinnie Campo.
Cooking once a day, or even once for multiple days, can cut down your use of the stove and oven. Campo also recommends letting foods cool before putting them in the fridge.
"Your fridge doesn't have to work on overdrive to cool it down," said Campo.
Wash your clothes in cold water, he suggests.
"About 90% of the energy used when washing your clothes is on heating up the water, so we recommend people go ahead and wash their clothes on cold water," he said.
You can also let them air dry.
A family's biggest electricity usage is usually from air conditioning during warm weather. Close curtains and blinds to keep the sunlight from heating rooms up, and set your thermostat two degrees higher.
Said Campo, "If you have a smart thermostat, control some of the temperature that way. The other is when it's nice out or there's a breeze, turn your A/C off."
You can also shop around for a lower rate plan, using this tool from the Power Utility Commission: http://www.powertochoose.org/
"Wholesale energy prices have come down ten percent since the start of the year. So if people take a look at other plans out there, they may be able to save some money that way," said Campo.
If you cannot pay your bill, the Public Utilities Commission says retail electric customers who qualify for unemployment benefits can register for the COVID-19 Texas Electricity Relief Program. Then tell your electricity provider you're in the program. The PUC says it should halt any disconnections for late payers until July 17th.
You can register for the COVID-19 Texas Electricity Relief Program by calling 1-866-454-8387 or go to https://www.txcovid19erp.org/.
Electric co-ops do not fall under the Public Utility Commission. Co-ops say they urge customers who can't pay a bill to contact them.
CenterPoint Energy offers more energy-saving tips during the stay-home order:
When washing your hands, turn off the faucet to save hot water while you scrub your hands.
Cut your energy use in half by switching the temperature setting from hot to warm when washing your clothes.
Clean your dryer lint trap to save energy and keep your home safe.
Don’t open that oven door! If the oven door is opened while cooking, the temperature inside can drop 10 or more degrees.
Save energy and your precious baked goods by setting a timer and only checking after your timer goes off.
You'll find more cost-saving measures here: