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

Photo showing coins and an electric clock to highlight a call to save energy and money

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

1024 683 Seth Terry

Introduction

As consumers, most of us aspire to save energy and money wherever possible. However, too often we put this ideal on hold when prioritizing daily choices. By summing the dollars at stake, this article seeks to show consumers the value and the path to achieve a bold goal of 50% energy savings. These savings can amount to hundreds of dollars in avoided costs!

The following pie chart gives a sense for the amount of savings potentially involved: from $300 to $1,500 per year for many of us.

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

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 examine energy usage at the time of monthly billing. 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 debate persists as to the actual scale, it appears that most consumers provided 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!

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

2. Smart Thermostats for Real Control

Prior to Nest’s novel offering in 2011, few of us considered the thermostat beyond its most basic function. As implied, the device historically served to maintain a steady, fixed (“static”) temperature in our homes. With time, programming became available — but was often cumbersome and error-prone. In contrast, Nest’s device could learn from manual adjustments and program itself! Perhaps 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. Use of 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.

An image of a timer on a cell phone, indicative of changing the timing of energy use to save energy and money
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.

How Can You Improve Your Timing?

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. Tariff Choice and Selection

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.

An image of a tailor measuring fabric, indicative of tailoring energy tariff choice to save energy and money

As we have seen, these 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.

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.

How Can You Determine the Right Tariff Plan for You?

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.

By way of background, the average US consumer spends $1,340 annually on electricity. Additionally, we also must heat our homes, commonly with either natural gas, electricity, or tanks of heating oil or propane. Average annual costs for these modes of heating are $558, $1,088, and $1,528 respectively. Adding heating fuel costs to the average electricity cost, we note a typical spend between $1,898 and $2,868 per year on energy. This equates to about 4% of the current 2018 median household income of $61,372.

Therefore, these numbers point to consumer savings on the order of 19% to 54% by following the above strategies. Not altogether by surprise, these percentages are consistent with Emporia’s bold energy challenge to save energy and money, achieving 50% cost reduction!

Summary table for six methods to save energy and money on the order of hundreds of dollars per year
Potential Savings from $300 to $1,500

Of further interest, this level of savings is also consistent with so-called deep energy retrofits envisioned by others.  Moreover, Emporia sees its target level as in line with other reach goals in the energy sector, such as RE100 and Go100%. Even if only few achieve the highest levels, these other bold energy goals ultimately drive us all towards a more sustainable future. 

Of course, spending by individual consumers varies greatly from these averages. Factors to consider include location, season, housing type and age, appliance mix, and of course consumer behavior. Nevertheless, the average range provides context for the significance of spending at play.

An Appreciation for the Bigger Picture

We started this article by acknowledging that energy savings are there for our taking. We just need to know how to attain them. These savings opportunities exist now and likely will become more important over time. To provide context, it helps to account for large-scale trends both in consumer behavior and grid technology. It also helps to appreciate that we are at the fore of a significant energy transition. So let’s conclude this article with a brief view of what takes place at larger scale. And how we should respond!

Opportunities From Changes on the Grid

When setting its bold energy challenge to save energy and money, Emporia considered changes on the electrical grid that are already taking place. For example, newer meters allow utilities to offer tariff choices that extend beyond fixed-pricing. As discussed above, these choices include time-of-use and demand management plans that encourage consumers to shift energy schedules.  When properly understood, this shift can save consumers money. The savings result from better coupling to real-time utility costs for energy. In turn, these costs link closely to the fuel mix used to meet supply obligations.  Moreover, decreasing costs for solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles put more households in position to generate, store, and secure their own energy. 

The Challenge

The challenge lies in managing a resource, energy, for which few consumers currently have insight. Specifically, they have no easy method to measure usage in real time. And without measurement, there can be no management. In other words, you can’t manage what you can’t measure! Therefore the first step for any consumer is to achieve that insight — with a home energy monitor.

Here’s How to Join the Bold Energy Challenge to Save Energy and Money

Regardless how lofty, no goal is achieved without preparation and follow-through. Consequently, Emporia encourages consumers to take three simple steps on the path to meeting the bold energy challenge to save energy and money.

Step 1: Compare Energy Monitors

Emporia has prepared a comparison matrix to help make the decision that serves you best. We of course have invested much effort around our own solution, the Vue, and feel it offers the best combination of features, function, and pricing. However, we feel that all units examined benefit consumers towards achieving insight on energy use. Therefore we encourage, and try to facilitate, the purchase of any of these devices.

Step 2: Install Your Monitor and Set Up Its App

Installed in and around your home’s main breaker box, energy monitors measure current flowing through mains and other circuits. Again, from an aesthetic standpoint, we like the Vue for its ability to fit keep all wire connections within the box. Only an antenna is visible — unless that is behind drywall! Though homeowners can often complete installation on their own, Emporia nonetheless recommends hiring a qualified electrician.

Following installation, homeowners must then download and provision an app in order to obtain real-time data. By way of example, please feel free to check out a demo version of Emporia’s app by clicking here.

Step 3: Reap the Rewards of Success

Simply put, Emporia seeks to put consumers in control of their energy data. By viewing this data in real time, consumers can expect to save between 3% and 13% through awareness and simple conservation. However, Emporia has established the bold goal of saving consumers up to 50% on energy spending over time. Emporia customers may achieve this level of savings through a combination of app-recommended strategies that will compound over time. Better yet, these opportunities for savings will only increase as utilities proceed further into the renewable-energy transition.

Stop Putting Off Your Savings … and Reap the Rewards of Success!

The rationale has been provided for setting a bold energy challenge to save energy and money at 50% cost reduction. Further, this article has provided the means for reaching this goal. It is now up to you to do so!

The Emporia Vue provides the tools and support to help you succeed at the bold energy challenge to save energy and money. For minimal investment, you will have the data necessary to realize significant energy savings. With such, you become positioned better to understand both the supply and demand sides of the energy equation. Further, you will receive recommendations for savings extending beyond mere conservation. Consequently, the Vue pays for itself rapidly — and may even free up money to reduce your carbon impact. Therefore, this purchase may prove one of the wisest accessories available for your home. And one of the best things you can do for the planet!


Seth Terry

Seth is Head of Customer Experience at Emporia Energy. A Colorado native, Seth has devoted his career to working in the water-food-energy nexus and remains deeply committed to meeting the challenge of climate change.

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