As the summer heat finally yields to the cooler temperatures of autumn, Texas electricity consumers welcome a period of lower energy bills. This brief gap between the air conditioning and heating seasons provides an opportunity to catch our breath and make sure that we are prepared to deal with our energy needs during the coming winter.
Home Energy Efficiency
November is a great time to make sure that your home is up to par on basic home energy efficiency. First on the list, is the home heating and cooling system. Replacing air filters helps to improve system efficiency and reduce allergens. Experts recommend that homeowners have a professional inspection of their heating and cooling system twice per year. The inspections should be just before summer and winter. November is a great time for the pre-winter inspection because it is usually cool enough to get the system to operate in heating mode. A little preventive maintenance now is better than having the system fail during a winter cold snap.
Ceiling fans are common in most Texas homes. They are energy efficient and help consumers lower their energy bills by enhancing the cooling effect of air conditioning. During the summer, fans should spin in a counter-clockwise direction (as you look up the fan). This forces room air down on the occupant. In the winter, the direction of the fan should be reversed so that it spins in a clockwise direction. Operating the ceiling fan in reverse at a low speed will gently draw the room air up and force the warm air down and out toward the walls. This is effective at getting the warm air down when the people can feel it without creating a draft.
One of the biggest home energy efficiency opportunities is the home thermal envelope. This includes sealing around windows and doors as well as making sure attic insulation is adequate. Fortunately, many of these projects are easy to complete even for the novice do-it-yourselfer. Texas electricity customers can take this effort up a notch by installing insulation padding in switch and outlet receptacles. A significant amount of cold air moves into the home through these receptacles. Home improvement stores typically stock foam inserts made especially for this purpose. For homeowners serious about improving their home thermal envelope, a professional infrared inspection on a cold day will identify additional opportunities for improvement. Be sure to hire a home inspector that is impartial and not looking to drum up business for home repairs.
Texas energy consumers should also take some time to review their current electricity plan. Customers on fixed price electricity plans should know when their rate expires. About thirty days before then end of the contract term, the customer should begin shopping for rates. The two most important things to know when shopping for great electricity rates are the home’s ESI ID and monthly usage history.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas requires that the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) include the average price for each electric plan at 500, 1000 and 2000 kWh usage levels. The electric plan that has the lowest average price at 500 kWh may not be the lowest at 2000 kWh. It is important for Texas electricity consumers to know their monthly usage to help them compare offers.
Customers on variable rate electricity plans enjoy the freedom of not being tied down to long term contracts. This flexibility comes with a price. Rates can vary from month to month in response to market price changes and other factors. Winter is not necessarily a safe time to be on a variable electricity rate. The Texas electricity market has seen significant price spikes during prolonged cold spells, especially in February. November is a good time to reconsider being on a variable rate electricity plan and at least shop for a short-term fixed price plan.
Texas electricity providers offer a number of fixed price plans that allow consumers to lock in their rate and avoid bill shock. Energy shoppers can also select plans that include renewable energy or support charitable causes. Time-of-use electric rates may also be a good fit for customers that can shift their energy usage to off-peak hours or weekends. Whether enhancing home energy efficiency or reviewing their electricity plan, autumn is a great time for Texans to tune-up their energy profile.