With summer heat right around the corner, Texas electric bills will soon be increasing, and folks will be looking for any way they can to save on their power bills.  One of the easiest things to do is to shop around for a cheaper electric rate, especially now as energy prices are the lowest they have been in some two years.  SaveOnEnergy.com makes the process of finding the lowest electric rate simple and easy, and it can be done anytime day or night.

 

But aside from just paying a lower electricity rate, many Texans may consider trying to reduce their monthly usage in order to trim their monthly bills.  Although Texans might not know where to start, the good news is that there are programs in place to help them use less power.  Additionally, with various federal stimulus packages, now is probably the best time ever to look into installing energy efficient technologies or even "distributed" power -- things like home solar panels.

 

The starting place for Texans looking to be more efficient should be with their local distribution utility -- companies like Oncor, CenterPoint and AEP.  As part of the process to bring electric choice to Texas customers, the distribution utilities were required to meet energy efficiency targets for their service areas.  In fact, the state has set a goal of meeting 20% of each utility's annual growth in demand through energy efficiency by December 31, 2009.

 

To meet these goals, the utilities have developed various incentive programs to encourage customers to reduce their electric usage, ranging from rebates for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and new energy efficient appliances, to helping financing new, more efficient air conditioning systems or retrofitting a home's ductwork.

 

The utilities manage the incentive programs, and the installations are provided by local energy service or maintenance contractors, which compete for customers' business.  The Dallas Morning News recently publicized some of the programs, noting the utility programs may help pay some of the costs, up to $1,500, or assist customers in finding third-party financing.  Other programs, including federal tax credits of up to $1,500, can cut costs too.

 

Each of the Texas utilities provides information on the incentive programs on its website:

Oncor Efficiency Programs

CenterPoint Efficiency Programs

AEP Texas Central / Texas North Efficiency Programs

Texas-New Mexico Power Efficiency Programs

 

Common programs include:

·          Discounts on CFL bulbs

·          Payments for Recycled Refrigerators

·          Incentives for High Efficiency Air Conditioning Installations

·          Incentives for Home Energy Audits

·          Discounts for Solar Water Heating Systems

·          Incentive payments for Solar PhotoVoltaic Installations

·          Low-Income Home Weatherization Assistance

 

Aside from these big changes, The Dallas Morning News provides many smaller steps to cut back on energy usage and save money, such as:

·          Set your thermostat at 78 or higher this summer.  Every degree below 78 raises your bill 5 percent to 7 percent.

·          Only do full loads of laundry and dishes. Turn off lights and fans when you leave a room. Fans only make you feel cooler. They do nothing to lower the temperature.

·          While you're in the attic replacing the AC filter, measure the insulation. Many houses have 4 to 6 inches. You need about 12 inches. Big-box stores have blowers you can use to spray insulation if you buy from them.

·          Check air conditioning ducts. If you feel leaks between sections, or where the ducts connect with the air handler, seal them with metal tape and a coating of mastic.

·          Fill any exterior gaps, especially around windows, with spray-in expandable foam.

·          Plant trees on the south and west sides of your home. The savings might take 10 years, but shade makes your air conditioner much more efficient.