Undoubtedly, energy bills are an unavoidable part of modern life in Texas and all over the world. And before this pandemic, heating, cooling, electronic gadgets, cooking, lighting, and other mod cons cost American families an average of $115 per month. When people started working from home because of COVID-19, their energy bills increased accordingly. You might be wondering about saving money on energy bill increases in this ever-changing world?
This guide will begin by looking into climate change. It will then cover several common reasons that lead to the drastic increase in energy bills over time. What’s more, you should learn more about ratemaking, and different methods to protect against such energy bill hikes.
Well, let’s get started!
How Everything Was Before the Storm in Texas
In most households, this was easy since you only needed to click the switch and the lights came on. And every month you received a service bill and paid (or auto paid) it. Furthermore, there was no issue when it came to the power source for your lights, refrigerator, TV, computer, and other stuff in your home that utilized electricity.
On the last Valentine’s Day weekend, a winter storm (otherwise known as “Winter Storm Uri”) rocked Texas and resulted in temperatures drastically falling into the teens and single digits. Of course, that is not the norm! The results were terrible, burst water pipes, freezing temperatures, outages that lasted days, and much more.
Although the power has recently returned, now every homeowner is trying to cope with the new “normal” of substantially higher costs, more debate when it comes to energy options, as well as finger-pointing at certain invisible things. The top of this list includes politics (when both sides fail to volunteer for the blame), natural gas, and wind.
Will Climate Change Affect Your Bills?
Have you learned anything from the recent weather in Texas? You must have realized that energy grids are not infallible – despite if it’s in the land of 10-gallon hats. This is the third time in the last decade that Texas power plants have completely failed, and left millions of homeowners without power in the middle of a freezing winter storm when energy consumption is high for hot water from the water heater. Generally, wholesale electricity costs rose to an estimated 7,400%, and because of the lack of regulatory safeguards, some of these eye-watering prices were passed directly to consumers.
Sadly, previous 2011 and 2014 grid lines did not bring wholesale change in regards to the independent Texas power market. Gas-driven generators, wind turbines, and other energy sources were not winterized since providers were not legally expected to upgrade equipment.
According to most leading scientists, the latest Texas storm (and perhaps the two last storms), were partially caused by rapid warming in the Arctic circle. They claim that, in the future, polar vortex weather events might increase in popularity – and utility companies should be ready.
What About Climate Change & Carbon Tax?
Quite frankly, residential energy costs might increase as economies opt for fossil-based energy production rather than green energy production in the next few years. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) claims that carbon taxes specifically made to offset the climate change effects will probably trickle down to consumers, which will significantly push up household bills by 43% in 2030.
And although climate change is a vital concern, do you need to take on the financial strain? According to several experts, the solution comes in with carbon tax-funded compensation for consumers. In case you’d like to know more about legislative plans when it comes to climate change in your state, just check out existing state legislation online or reach out to the representative in your district.
Why Are Your Electricity Bills Increasing?
There are many reasons why your energy bills increase, and some of these reasons are easy to resolve. Have you been running through more kilowatt-hours recently? You should check your installation, vanquish energy vampires in your house, and change your light bulbs.
Here’s a look at some of the reasons why your bill can increase.
1. Insulation Failure
Almost all insulation fails over time and you experience heat loss from various sources including the walls and ceiling even. Loose-fill insulation tends to settle to a cavity’s bottom, fiberglass loft insulation often crumbles into dust and the foam disintegrates. Have your electricity charges been creeping up gradually? It is time to take a look at your installation and deal with replacing rolled battling and blown-in insulation to avoid cold air from coming in. Ensure you have good quality storm windows, and apply caulking and adding insulation to areas that need a refresh or touch-up to shore up any areas that might be causing an air leak.
2. Energy Vampires
Have you been leaving your TV plugged in all the time? Perhaps your cell phone charger as well? The surprising fact is that appliances use relatively low power when they are plugged in, and idle devices tend to consume approximately 10% of all residential energy. By practicing to unplug these “energy vampires”, you might save around $100 annually on your energy bill. A smart home that is well-designed will take into account many of these factors, and often you can qualify for a tax credit either from the State or Federally to save on energy costs and offset things like solar panel cost.
3. Old Light Bulbs
Typically, incandescent light bulbs tend to convert much energy to heat while compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) are not much better. On the contrary, ENERGY STAR-certified LED bulbs consume a lot less energy – about 50% less than a CFL bulb and 75% less than a conventional incandescent bulb. So, if you go for LED bulbs in your home instead of the traditional incandescent bulbs, you can make a substantial dent in your monthly electric bill.
Utility Companies & Charging Prices
Utility companies cannot charge any price they feel like. They’ll need to justify generation as well as distribution rates – and they usually do this through a process known as rate making. In the United States, all public energy providers need to go via ratemaking processes to guarantee that they have fair rates. In all 50 states, Public Utility Commissions deal with energy generation, as well as delivery rate regulation.
How to Save on Energy
Apart from being annoying, energy bill hikes can also be catastrophic. Some Texas consumers got $7,000 bills after the 2021 winter storm. Below are several tips you could fight with and keep the expenses low.
– Check Your Meter
The easiest way to check an electricity meter for failure is to switch it off and then unplug all the appliances in your house. In case the digits on the digital meter keep rising – or in case the dial on the standard meter keeps moving – you might have an issue. In such a scenario, get in touch with your utility company.
– Upgrade Old Appliances
Generally speaking, old appliances are extremely energy-hungry and in terms of the total amount of energy your home consumes, these contribute to electricity costs like no other. On the other hand, newer appliances tend to be much more efficient and are great for saving money over time. You could replace dryers, washing machines, and other clothes washers, air conditioners, light fixtures, freezers, and vintage ovens with newer ENERGY STAR-certified models to lower your energy usage.
– Scrutinize Your HVAC System
HVAC issues are generally a major power drain – particularly in summer and winter when cooling and heating systems are active. Electrical issues, loose air vents, and clogged air filters might make your HVAC unit to be much less effective and hike your rates. Provide your air conditioning and heating system with an in-depth inspection and deal with any glaring problems.
– Comparing Energy Rates
This will ultimately save you money, especially during the winter months or seasonally during high demand, and are part of any smart save on energy program. In case you have not compared energy rates for a year or more, then there is a high likelihood that you are incurring far more than you should on your annual energy bills. It doesn’t matter whether you were on a fixed cost deal, you might have been rolled on to the standard variable rate tariff of your supplier when it ended. At times, this tariff might change without notice and, in general, it is the most expensive on offer. In such a scenario, you need to compare electricity rates with us to find out how much you could save by switching, weighing the pros and cons of doing so – but often it’s all positive.
Although you cannot always protect yourself from Texas energy bill hikes, you can replace failed insulation and spray foam, deal with devices that poach electricity and drive up your monthly and annual cost, and tackle other common problems. You could also try to lower the amount of energy you consume and this goes beyond your home even into transportation needs like electric vehicles which help to protect the environment. When it comes to energy and money, we need to keep a vigilant watch on our entire electric system to realize consistent savings, especially in a state like Texas where we get hot summers and recent very cold periods.