Turning energy saving steps into cash saving

The heat is on and ERCOT is asking everyone to conserve energy.  While it may seem too hot to skimp on air conditioning, here are some ways to feel cool while spending less.

Here's the first tip:  use curtains with thermal lining.  It cuts down the sunlight heating your home and can cut your need for air conditioning by one-third.  

Sure, the Texas legislature passed bills to reorganize ERCOT and set new rules for the electricity supply chain to prevent power shortages.  But those changes won't take effect for a few years.

"The reality of it is it still didn't account for the fact that there are more people moving here. Temperatures are getting hotter, the demand on the grid is even greater," said energy expert Joe Brettell with Strategic Engagement.

Meantime, ERCOT wants you to set your thermostat to 78.  That seems too high to a lot of folks in this heat.  So we asked Reliant Energy for another way to approach it.


"As we look at the thermostat and think about what degree we want to keep it at, then every degree of cooling below 78 degrees increases your energy use by 6% to 8%," said Wayne Morrison, Principal of Emerging Technologies at Reliant.  

So think about shaving at least six percent off your bill for every degree you can turn it up.  Four degrees can cut your bill 24%.  

Then there's the 4X4 principle.  

"You set your thermostat four degrees higher when you're away for more than 4 hours," said Morrison.

But don't raise it higher than 4 degrees more, because your air conditioner has to work too hard to cool it off when you come home.

"If you're only going up 4 degrees, that's easier on your air conditioning system than much hotter temperatures than some people think," explained Morrison.  

And let's go back to that 78 degrees.  If it feels too hot, running a ceiling fan counterclockwise can make a room feel 4 degrees cooler.  


Now let's compare monthly bills.  Running the average central AC unit costs $0.35 an hour, or $129 a month.  The average window AC unit costs about $50 a month.  And a ceiling fan about $1.20 a month.  

So if you turn your thermostat up four degrees, that could cut your central AC monthly bill by 24%. That's a savings of $31.  Running four ceiling fans in four rooms in a home will cost you about $5 a month.  So an average bill could go from $129 minus $31, plus $5.  That's a total of $103 dollars, saving you $26 a month.

Here are more energy-saving tips from Reliant:

Change your air filters.  The Department of Energy says changing from a dirty filter to a clean one will cut your energy consumption up to 15%.  

Switch out your old light bulbs for new LED bulbs. ENERGY STAR qualified LED bulbs to use 70% to 90% less electricity and last 10 to 25 times longer.

Wash full loads of laundry with cold water, and only in the early morning or at night when it's cooler.

Use the microwave or toaster oven, or fire up the grill outside, rather than the electric oven to cook.

Unplug appliances you're not using. They draw energy even when they're not in use.

If you have a pool, don't run the pool pump 24/7.  Install an automatic timer to run it overnight.

The Public Utilities Commission offers more energy-saving tips.