Save Energy and Money: A Bold Path to Cut Costs by 50%

Posted by Jim Fouch on

Most all of us want to save energy and money wherever possible. However, too often we don't think of the energy consequences of our daily actions. By summing the dollars at stake, this article seeks to show you the value and the path to achieve a bold goal of 50% energy savings. These savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per year!

Here's a breakdown of potential savings from a few easy choices we can make every day: from $300 to $1500 per year for many of us.

A pie chart representing ways to save energy and money on the order of 50%

This is How We Do It!

Let's jump right into more detail for our six strategies to save energy and money.

1. Energy Monitors for Insight in Real Time

Most of us probably only see our energy use when we get our monthly bill. But what happens when we receive access to data in real time -- say through a mobile app? Research suggests that savings can be significant! Although the totals can vary, many consumers looking at real-time electrical data save between 3% and 13%. Mostly achieved through conservation, these savings can fall between $40 and $174 per year for the average US household. However, these savings may spike as high as $236 per year for the average new home. With breakthrough pricing on the Emporia Vue, you get your money back in the first year!

Click here to learn more about choosing the right energy monitor for your home.

Click here to shop for Home Energy Monitors under $100

2. Smart Thermostats

Before the Nest smart thermostat came along 2011, few of us considered the thermostat beyond its most basic function. It mostly just served to maintain a steady, comfortable temperature in our homes. With time, programming became available -- but was often cumbersome and error-prone.But now, Nest's device could learn from manual adjustments and program itself! Even more important, it could sense occupancy and enable remote operation through a mobile phone.

The greater connectivity and learning capabilities of smart thermostats allows for significant energy savings.  Even without the full features of a smart thermostat, the US Department of Energy estimates we can save about 10% with manual setbacks or programmed temperature control.  However, smart thermostats can save an additional 10% to 12% based upon research conducted by Nest

Although the spread may appear large, Emporia believes that consumers can save between 8% and 22% on their total energy spend. As we have seen, the total savings will depend on the fuel source used for heating. Nevertheless, savings should fall somewhere between $152 and $633 per year for the average US consumer.

Click here to learn more about smart thermostats from Nest and others.

3. Light Bulb Replacement

Most of us avoid touching hot light bulbs. This heat of course represents wasted energy in the production of light.  And though we accept a certain amount of inefficiency, it seems odd to use tech unchanged since the late 1800s!

Until recently, LED bulbs were relatively expensive.  However, today these bulbs often cost the same as older-style bulbs. And they can last 10 to 20 times as long.  Because of their greater efficiency, LEDs produce about four times more light output per Watt.  Better yet, they generate less unwanted heat in the process. 

Still, many US homeowners have yet to make the switch to LEDs.  Studies suggest that replacing heavily used bulbs or fixtures can save $75 per year, or about 5% for the average consumer. And the benefits of greater efficiency extend beyond just lighting! Simply put, avoided heat saves money on climate control as well.  As a result, many homes could see savings up to 20% for air conditioning. 

With the above information in mind, Emporia calculates savings for LED replacement between 5% and 10% of electrical consumption. Therefore, the average US homeowner could save $67 to $135.  As with other categories, the potential to save money likely increases with larger homes (above the national average of about 1,800 square feet). Further, these estimated savings do not take into account either air conditioning or avoided costs of purchasing fewer bulbs over time.    

Click here to learn more about LED replacement bulbs. Not sure which bulbs in your home to replace? The post also includes a handy calculator!

4. Smart Plugs and Power Strips

Nearly every device we plug into a wall outlet has the ability to draw "Vampire Load." Maybe an appliance buzzes or chirps.  Or perhaps it feels warm.  It doesn't matter: we are paying to keep these devices in standby mode. 

We might be surprised to learn just how much energy these devices consume. In fact, a 2015 report cites idle load accounting for 23% of annual household electricity consumption. At an average cost of $0.129 per kWh, these costs add up over time.

In calculating savings, Emporia considers that with diligence a large number of vampire loads in a home can be avoided.  For example, devices such as chargers can be unplugged when not in use.

For greater convenience, we can employ smart power strips or outlets. But since not all standby loads may be isolated in this manner, Emporia estimates savings falling in the range of 5% to 10%. Therefore, the average US consumer could see $67 to $135 in annual savings.

Let Emporia Plug You Into the Right Outlet

Click here to learn more about choosing the right smart smart strips for your home. 

5. Thoughtful Timing of Energy Use

As discussed beforehand, except in the case of renewables, fuels make up a significant part of costs for delivering electricity. These costs are variable in nature and include the expense of turning on that extra power plant to match peak load.  Briefly, due to the “chunky” nature and the mix of fuel sources on the grid, true costs of energy vary throughout the day. For reasons related to supply and demand, prices can vary by factors of 10 or more on a given day. The figure below provides an example of this variability.

Graph showing highly variable hourly and daily pricing for electricity in the PJM Interconnection, showing how timing of usage affects the ability to save energy and money

To spread energy consumption more evenly throughout the day, utilities may send price signals.  They do this by means of plans with names such as “time-of-use” and “peak demand.”  In extreme cases, consumers may even purchase energy at prices that follow real-time costs on the grid.

Once on an appropriate plan, consumers must manage electrical use to minimize spending. The Emporia Vue provides the insight to consumers to help them avoid making decisions that could lead to unnecessary costs.  Given the variability in real-time pricing and other considerations, Emporia sees savings of up to 25% possible for load-shifting strategies.  This could result in $337 annual savings for the most aggressive users. However, actual savings of course will reflect how well individuals succeed at shifting their loads.

Purchasing and installing an energy monitor is your first step towards understanding when and how much energy you use. Click here to learn more about choosing the best energy monitor.

6. Utility Rate Plan

The section above notes the work undertaken by utilities to guard against large swings in variable costs. But naturally, utility companies also seek to protect themselves from fixed-cost capital expenditures. These costs include assets such as the towers and lines delivering energy to our homes. Utilities pay for this infrastructure in part through tariff structure.

We have seen that tariffs can help prescribe consumer behavior. And this behavior in turn may feed back to influence investment decisions and future tariff offerings by the utility. As a result, options around tariffs exist, though we consumers often we fail to keep current on our choices.  Additionally, 28 states and the District of Columbia offer third-party, non-utility options for obtaining energy. Lots of choices, depending on the market in which your home is located.

How Can You Determine the Right Tariff Plan for You?

As a consequence, consumers in most markets could benefit from thoughtful tariff selection to match their usage patterns. Given the high variability between regions and utilities, projecting "average" savings proves difficult. Nevertheless, research suggests that consumers could realize up to 10% savings through better choices. For this reason, Emporia sets the savings range between 3% and 10% for this strategy. This range suggests that the average US consumer could save between $40 and $135 annually.

Knowledge is power! Understanding your energy needs positions you to make savvy choices. Purchasing and installing an energy monitor is your first step towards this understanding. Click here to learn more about choosing the best energy monitor.

Combined Savings and The Bold Energy Challenge to Save Energy and Money

Each of the six strategies above provides its own dollar potential for savings. Summing all potentials together suggests that total savings fall somewhere between $366 and $1,549 per year.

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