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As we spend more time at home, we use more energy

We have all been affected by the “shelter in place” orders.  Yes, we are maintaining our social distancing, wearing our masks, staying safe and staying home (for the most part).  We are working from home, the kids are there, out of school and most-likely doing some home-schooling.  We are spending more time on our computers, watching television, playing video games and many other things.  Because of sheltering in place, we are using more electricity.   Right now, it may not be as much as it will be later.  Summer is coming.

On May 1st, we are going to be able to start venturing out.   Every State has its own policies and here in the Borderland and just like most people, we will be able to go out with some restrictions.  Some restaurants and businesses can start opening on a limited basis and at partial capacity.  Gyms and salons will still be closed until at least the middle of the month.  Slowly, things will return to “almost” normal. We will still wear our now very fashionable masks that come in assorted colors and styles.  We will maintain our social distancing.   Hopefully, by the middle of the summer we will all be out and about and enjoying the season.   But what if restrictions are still such that staying home most of the time is a better option?   Not a bad a plan, I think.  Many of us have gotten used to using Zoom and working from home or we are working out in a living room, now turned into a gym.  We might even chose to BBQ with the immediate family or spend time in the pool, if we have one.  Some of us might work in the garden or the yard or even tackle that honey-do list we never seemed to find time to get to.   But, as it gets hotter, what then?  We turn on the air conditioner (our refrigerated air).

Our heating and cooling systems contribute to the bulk of our energy costs, especially during the summer.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, cooling costs represent as much as 16% of our annual energy consumption.  Here in the Borderland and the Southwest, we use our HVAC systems a lot during the summer.  Personally, I think that percentage is far higher than 16% here.  As you can see on the graph on the right of the image below, space cooling is the second highest household energy consumer.

 

Cooling costs are higher here

Between our cooling costs and tiered pricing from El Paso Electric, our bills will be higher.  And staying home, well, that definitely means higher electricity bills.  The image below represents a typical electric bill for the year.  As you can see, the summer usage is higher than the rest of the year.

EPE's Summer rates are higher

Between the months of May and October, we pay a little (no, a lot more!) for electricity and, that costs more.   That is understandable since the strain on the electric grid is greater.   We are all using more energy at roughly the same time of the day.  We use our air conditioners between 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm.  We cool our house down after we get home from work.  If we work from home, that same cooling system is working overtime!

As a result, El Paso Electric charges tiered (different levels of) pricing for our electricity.  The first 600 kWh (kilowatt hours) is at one rate (roughly 1 cent more per kWh than our winter rates).  Everything above that is at a higher rate.    Since most of us use far more than 600 kWh of electricity during the summer months, that amount can quickly get pretty high.  I have some customers that had summer electric bills near $600-1000 for their highest months.  But what if we we are now spending more time at home than we did before?  That bill, could easily be more.

So what can you do about your higher electric usage?

Yes, COVID-19 and all the inconveniences that came with dealing with this pandemic, are potentially exposing us to higher utility costs.  That does not mean we can’t do something about it.  In fact, all the down time it has given us has also given us time to adjust and plan for the future.  If another wave happens like the World Health Organization (WHO) has hinted at, or not,  “stuff” still happens.   Whether it be something small like a 2 hour power outage or as big as a pandemic or other catastrophe, we still are going to see increased electric bills.  Rates continue to go up because we grow as a community.  We can’t escape progress and the costs for keeping up with that demand will keep going up.

For now, we can do something with the time we are at home due to the pandemic.  We can lower our heating and cooling costs for starters.   Nothing does that better than using more energy efficient technologies such as variable heat pumps.  Traditional heating and cooling systems use a lot of electricity by design. Variable heat pumps can reduce demand by as much as 40%.  They are available for everything from units that cool & heat individual zones or rooms of our home to heating our household water and swimming pool.

We can even go one step farther by going solar.  With solar, we are producing our own energy from a very sustainable resource.  And, that is power we own.   Our costs go down over time–or stay flat.   We are also being more efficient.  That same power we use to heat and cool our home with our “brand spanking new” variable heat pump system, can be produced by the sun instead of buying it from the utility.

If you would like to learn more about variable heat pump technologies for your home, visit our HVAC page.  I am not saying you need to use us to install your system but we do have a pretty darn good and very experienced installation and engineering team.   They will definitely take care of you and do so with a smile on their face and passion in their heart.

Source:  U.S. Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook 2020

 

 

Alan is a solar and sustainable energy advocate. He has served the renewables industry for over 5 years for companies such as Solar City and Tesla and now acts as the Director of Business and Market Development for Solar Smart Living.

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