Summer has traditionally been a time for peak electric power use. How about this summer, which starts Saturday, June 20? How will you fare electrically this summer? How can you manage the “dog days of summer”? That’s this week’s energy consumer weekend.
Patterns for summer heat and power use may not be like the past, though. A ramped-down economy usually means less energy use. It is likely the case even with hotter temperatures.
Except Texas, with its own grid management system. “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator for roughly 90% of Texas’s electric load, expects to set another record for peak electricity demand this summer season: 75.2 gigawatts. That is even as overall U.S. summer electricity demand is expected to fall to the lowest level since 2009, according to projections published Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration.” (Source)
“EIA [Energy Information Agency] forecasts 5.7% less electricity consumption in the United States in 2020, compared with 2019. … EIA forecasts residential sector retail sales will decrease by 1.5% in 2020.”
ECC has to wonder about that residential number since more people are at home for more time than last year. One reason for a decrease might be milder temperatures, if that happens. Otherwise, watch for more residential use, we think.
The challenge is out there for consumers and for utilities. Power companies have to manage the system as it runs, some have said it is like working on a airplane at 30,000 feet. ECC feels that companies that routinely exercise their good strategy and planning skills can fare best.
New York City’s electric utility thinks otherwise on residential use, though. They have history for that.
Consolidated Edison is preparing for a hot time and new strains on the grid. Reason: More people who used to commute are now at home. The company bought a dozen mobile generators and made targeted upgrades in Brooklyn where the power went out last summer. Utilities are trying to figure out a quickly changing environment.
“Residential customers are already using more electricity … A Columbia University study of energy consumption in 400 city apartments during the second full week after New York’s stay-home order took effect March 22 found weekday usage increased by 7%, and usage in the middle of the day was 23% higher than the preceding weeks.” (Source)
The Southeast is not NYC, but there may be lessons to learn as people change habits.
Weather is the big issue on AC bills for consumers. An AC term to know is SEER. It’s a measure of efficiency – the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. SEER measures the air conditioning output that the AC can do for the power it uses. North Carolina-based climate control company TRANE has a definition.
About AC, says Florida Power and Light:
- “One way to take control of your energy use is to manage your thermostat settings. When traveling away from home in summer or during warmer temperatures, cool your home at 82 degrees or higher for additional savings. In winter or during cooler temperatures, set your thermostat to 65 degrees or lower when you’re away.
- During summer or warmer weather, every degree you raise your thermostat can save 5% on your monthly cooling costs. It works the same in winter or cooler weather: you can save 5% on monthly heating costs for each degree you lower your thermostat.”
What can you do to save power? No real new news here, just the basics that you have heard. Good to remind everyone, though.
A Canadian utility, BC Hydro, ran 21 tips: no-cost ways to save electricity. Here are their top three (Canadian dollars noted).
- Manage your thermostat. If you have electric heat, lower your thermostat by two degrees to save 5% on your heating bill. Lowering it five degrees could save 10%.
- Unplug that second fridge and save up to $55 a year. Freeze plastic jugs of water and use them in a cooler when you need them.
- Hang dry your laundry. If you do eight loads of laundry a week and use your clothesline for 50% of those clothes, you could save $65 a year.
NBC News ran a story (left), How to lower and save on your electric bill in the summer and the best temperature for air conditioning. Interesting story.
One concern for power bills – phantom power. That is the power used by appliances even when they are not on. “Phantom load, also known as standby power or vampire power, is the electricity consumed by an electronic device while it is turned off or in standby mode. … A joint study between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other environmental agencies around the globe put that price at a full 10% of your monthly energy bill.” (Source)
Here’s a list of a few common phantoms from the report:
- TVs, DVD players and DVRs
- Cell phone chargers (and any other battery chargers)
- Clock radios
- Computers and printers
- Any device with a remote control
- Any device that is programmable
- Any device with a power light or standby indicator light
One solution is to smarten up a home.
Your electric bill will skyrocket this summer. Smart home tech can help. A smart home may be the next big move on energy savings. An energy monitor is a tool to show how much power is being used, and where. The Yahoo column wrote about one system, called Sense. ECC has not tried the system and cannot comment with any experience. The article is interesting as background.
The report says, “Sense will detect and identify new devices. …Over time, Sense will detect other devices such as the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, furnace, and more. That ‘Other’ bubble will shrink, while others pop up as Sense becomes familiar with how my house works. Once it has everything figured out, Sense is able to distinguish devices by identifying their unique electrical signals.”
A benefit of an energy monitor could be that it “can give you a leg up in power consumption strategies,” says the article. That is the idea – understand energy usage so a homeowner can affect usage.
Smart homes look like a big trend. Not just for energy but managing all kinds of electric devices through the internet says PC Mag. “Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, doorbells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It’s not science fiction; it’s the Internet of Things, and it’s a key component of home automation and smart homes.”
Beyond homes, there are now smart neighborhoods. Check this Alabama Power story (left). “Alabama Power‘s Smart Neighborhood has been awarded the 2020 Smart Grid award. Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood … integrates a microgrid into a community filled with high-performance homes containing energy-efficient systems and connected appliances. The innovative initiative, which includes solar panels, battery storage and a natural gas-fired backup generator, connects 62 homes with a future-focused system.”
ECC notes how some things change, some stay the same. The electric industry has been attuned to each customer, but it has to pay attention to the really big picture, too.
Bottom line: There are ways around higher summer power bills but you have to take action to beat the dog days of summer.