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Here are three uncomfortable truths about the 2022 summer in Texas:
- This summer is expected to be hotter than normal at 2-4F above the historical average.
- Texas electricity rates have caused energy bills to increase by 30% on average since January.
- As summer continues to get hotter, you can't expect those energy costs to go down. (More A/C use means more energy demand, which means a higher electricity bill).
So what's a sensible Texan to do if you want to stay comfortable this summer without spending a fortune on your monthly energy bill?
We've rounded up four strategies below to help you beat the heat and save on your summer electricity costs.
1. Start with these simple home-efficiency tips
Your home’s efficiency or lack thereof can easily tip your electricity bill into the triple digits. These simple, effective measures can have a big impact on how cool your home naturally stays as well as how efficiently your A/C operates.
For starters, make sure your house is keeping the hot outside air outside where it belongs. If hot summer air is sneaking indoorsor worse, if you’re leaving forgotten windows openyour A/C is going to have to work much harder, running up your energy bill.
Check your exterior doors and windows for gaps where hot air may be coming inside and seal them off properly. This will also help keep your home warmer in winter when temperatures become really cold.
You should also check your A/C's air filter once per month during the summer and clean or replace it accordingly. The cleaner your A/C's air filter, the more efficiently it's going to run. If you'd prefer to have a professional take a look at how well your entire A/C system is running, many HVAC companies will send their techs out to give you an efficiency assessment free of charge.
One last easy strategy for keeping your home cool is investing in thermal drapes or blackout curtains. These products help trap hot air near your windows, making your home's interior much more comfortable.
2. Be smart with your thermostat
Energy Star, the federal program that promotes energy efficiency, recommends setting your thermostat no lower than 78F during the worst of summer's heat. And, at night, when the sun takes a break and temperatures naturally drop, they also suggest programming your thermostat 4-7F higher and using ceiling fans, which use less energy and can make you feel 4-6 cooler.
If no one's going to be home for an extended period of time, another smart thermostat strategy is to follow the 4-by-4 rule. If the house is going to be empty for four hours or more, turn the thermostat up four degrees. This lets your A/C use less energy for a while but also doesn't let your home get so warm while you're away that it has to work overly hard to reach your target temperature once you return.
Investing in a smart thermostat can make all this programming simpler, as many of the models available can be controlled remotely via a user-friendly app on your smartphone, which can come in handy if you forget to turn the A/C down before going on an extended vacation!
3. Switch to a fixed-rate energy plan
Texas residents know they have the Power to Choose their energy supplier. If you're already on a fixed-rate contract with your electricity provider, feel free to jump to the next section.
If you're wondering yourself, "What's a fixed-rate plan?", keep reading.
Nearly all residential energy consumers in Texas fall into one of two categories: those who pay according to an agreed-upon fixed rate and those who pay according to variable rates.
The advantage of being on a fixed-rate plan is two-fold: 1) you know what your rate will be for the duration of your electricity contract, which is typically between 12 months and 36 months, though they can be shorter or longer; and 2) your rate is often lower than the variable rate, which can change daily, hourly or even every 15 minutes based on current levels of demand.
Especially during summer, when energy demand in Texas is highest, that variable plan can end up costing you – big time.
However, it may not be the wisest move to jump right into any old fixed-rate plan. Energy prices for fixed-rate contracts are often lowest in spring and fall when electricity use across the state is lower, so finding a short-term contract (three to six months) may be the smartest option to tide you over until lower rates become available.
For more help considering fixed-rate contracts, visit our resource page to Compare Texas Electricity Rates.
4. See if you qualify for any savings or incentive programs
Finally, before you do any of the above, see if your energy provider will reward you for doing so.
There are a number of savings and incentives programs out there that will give you discounts for making energy improvements to your home.
For example, Oncor's Take a Load Off, Texas Program offers its customers discounts for efficiency upgrades like weatherizing your home, say, with better insulation or installing solar panels.
Or, if you get your electricity from CenterPoint, you may be able to get a free A/C tune-up, free home energy-efficiency analysis, rebates on an entirely new HVAC system, or discounts on products like smart thermostats or LED lighting.
These savings programs vary by energy provider, region and sometimes your income level, so you'll need to check with your specific energy company to see what programs exist and if you qualify.
Don't Get Scorched by Your Texas Electricity Bill This Summer
To recap, if you're balancing staying comfortable this Texas summer with keeping your energy bill at a reasonable price, then you've got a practical list of to-dos to take care of. Make sure your home is properly weatherized and that your A/C unit is running as efficiently as possible.
Use your thermostat wisely to aim for that sweet spot of coolness and energy efficiency, remembering to lower energy usage while away from home and investing in a smart thermostat to manage your home’s temperature easier.
Check whether you can switch to a more budget-predictable fixed-rate plan and avoid paying any fluctuating rates that may come with a variable-rate plan. Or, if your fixed-rate plan is about to expire, see if there are any great introductory rates available to you through a new energy provider.
Finally, take advantage of any savings or incentives programs that may be available to you through your current energy provider.