In the past few weeks, stay-at-home orders have greatly altered life for many in the Guadalupe Valley. Instead of leaving for work and school in the mornings and returning home sometime in the early-to-late afternoons, most local families aren’t going anywhere. With so many families hunkering down, it stands to reason that usage patterns along the electric grid might be affected.
Usage Along the Grid in These Unusual Times
Some of you may be wondering if the Cooperative has experienced an increase in demand during the current wave of stay-at-home orders. In the past few weeks, overall usage levels at the state and local levels have remained steady. One notable difference we’re seeing, though, is a change in the times of day when peak usage occurs. Typical peak times during this part of the year run between 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. On any average day, these are the times when most people are starting and ending their days.
In the last few weeks, however, morning peaks have been lower and evening peaks stronger. These changes aren’t terribly surprising. Families are adjusting and adapting schedules to balance the demands of work and at-home schooling. This is leading to slight changes in the ways people use electricity in their homes.
Factors of Home Electricity Use
The factors driving home energy usage remain the same no matter what’s going on in the world around us. They include:
- Outside temperatures
- Lifestyle choices
- Appliance age and efficiency
- Type and levels of home insulation
- The number of people spending prolonged periods in the home
- Many others
Remember: Every home is different and will react differently based on that home’s specific variables. However, in general, your AC/heating contributes as much as 50% to your electric bill, followed by water heating at 20%, then other appliances and electronics.
The Unchanging Rules of Efficiency
When it comes to home electricity use, every little bit counts. Whether the times we live in are “normal” and steady, or uncertain and extraordinary, the rules of efficiency don’t change. The following simple suggestions can help you save on home energy usage.
AC/Heating Rules of Efficiency
- At GVEC, we recommend setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during AC season and 68 degrees during cooler months. If these temperatures are hotter or colder than you find tolerable, get as close as possible, and if practical, experiment a little with indoor comfort levels. It’s worth the effort: Every degree you turn your thermostat up when cooling or down when heating can cut your electric bill between 4-6%.
- Check HVAC system filters monthly. Change them at least every three months or more frequently if they’re dirty. Dirty filters are one of the most frequent, avoidable mistakes homeowners make in regard to AC/heating system maintenance. A dirty filter can restrict system airflow, causing it to work harder than needed and use more energy to cool or heat your home.
- Ceiling fans make you feel cooler by evaporating moisture on the skin, creating a kind of indoor wind-chill effect. This can make you feel up to eight degrees cooler than the actual temperature. But remember: Ceiling fans don’t actually lower room temperature. Running them in an empty space increases electric usage, so it’s important to turn them off upon leaving!
- Maintain your central AC/heating unit. Preventative maintenance can save you money and give you peace of mind, because it can catch issues early, before extreme temperatures are happening. Maintenance can also extend the life of your system by keeping it in optimal condition and keep it running efficiently, which means you keep dollars in your pocket. For this reason, GVEC Home offers the Comfort Check Maintenance Plan.
Water Heating Rules of Efficiency
- Set your water heater to a maximum of 120 degrees. Doing so will help slow mineral buildup and corrosion and save electricity.
- Use cold water settings for laundry whenever possible, helping decrease electricity use from the water heater.
- Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Partial loads waste significant amounts of water and electricity.
- Use less hot water by taking shorter, cooler showers.
Small Appliance and Electronics Rules of Efficiency
- Turn off small appliances and electronics when not in use.
- Unplug phone chargers, game consoles and devices on standby power. Anything plugged in uses a small, steady flow of electricity, even when not in use. At GVEC, we recommend plugging several of these devices into a single power strip and clicking it off when none of the devices is in use—before going to bed for the evening, for example.
Other Simple Steps for Greater Efficiency:
- Turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Grill on the BBQ pit instead of using the oven.
- Don’t hold the door open to the fridge (yes, we know that’s a challenge these days!).
- Dry loads of laundry one after the other, leaving the dryer warm between loads instead of needing to reheat with every new load.
- Use CFL or LED light bulbs instead of incandescent. According to energy.gov, CFL and LED bulbs typically use about 25-80% less energy and can last 3-25 times longer.
- Line-dry clothes on a clothesline outside or a drying rack inside when/if you can.
- To help keep indoor temperatures down on warm days, draw the shades or curtains.
GVEC Is Here to Help During These Uncertain Times
We know life has changed in many ways for families across the Guadalupe Valley. Incomes for many may not be what they were before the emergence of COVID-19. There’s plenty of anxiety and uncertainty, and we want Cooperative members to know we’re here to help:
- We have suspended all disconnects and late fees due to non-payment on both electric and internet accounts through April 30. On that date, we will reassess this policy and decide on possible next steps.
- We’re willing to work with members to meet specific needs on a case-by-case basis. If necessary, we’ll help you with payment arrangements, and we’ll provide resources where possible. If you have questions, please call us at 800.223.4832.
- Members can download the free SmartHub app on Google Play or iTunes and log in to monitor daily usage, along with weather patterns and projected costs.
More Consumer Information on Efficiency
- For additional tips on efficiency to help save on electric bills, visit gvec.org and/or any of our social media sites, including Facebook (@GVECsocial), Twitter (@GVEC_Tweets) and Instagram (@GVEC_insta).
- You can also visit the Department of Energy at energy.gov for more on efficiency and tips on weatherization.