Energy Efficiency Center
What is residential energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency is the effort to use energy in a less-wasteful way. You can do this usually without changing your behavior. For example, changing your light bulbs from ones that use more electricity to light bulbs that use less electricity is considered energy efficient. You still get the same amount of light for the same amount of time, but you are using less electricity to get it.
Another example is insulation. Your home will stay cooler or warmer when the walls and ceilings are well insulated. That means you will not need your air conditioner or heater running as much to keep the house at a comfortable temperature. And of course, when you use less electricity, your bills are lower.
Insulating your home and keeping doors and windows well sealed are all examples of home weatherization. You can find more information about how to weatherize your home by visiitng the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Saver website.
Energy Efficiency Programs by Texas Electric Utilities
In Texas, most electric utilities participate in energy efficiency programs. The utilities like to promote energy efficiency, because it helps keep the demand for electricity at a manageable and cost-efficient level.
When the population grows, more people need electricity. The need for electricity is also called "demand." The amount of electricity sent over the wires by the utilities is called "load." So, when the population and demand for electricity both increase, it is called "load growth."
If the utilities can continue sending the same amount of power over the wires instead of having to increase it as the population grows, that means that utilities and consumers are all being energy efficient.
The Legislature and the Public Utility Commission set the goals for the utilities to meet. The utilities meet their energy efficiency goals by providing incentive money to energy service providers such as home energy auditors, air conditioning companies, insulation companies, and even home builders to provide energy efficiency services to you. Some energy service companies may then pass that discount to you to match the incentive that the utility pays the company. Before having any energy efficiency measure installed in your home, you should ask the energy service company if there is a discount based on the utility’s incentive to the energy service company.
Some electric cooperatives and municipal utilities offer energy efficiency programs as well. Some examples are:
CPS Energy - http://www.cpsenergy.com/Residential/Rebates/
Austin Energy - http://www.austinenergy.com/energy%20efficiency/index.htm
Pedernales Electric Cooperative - http://www.pec.coop/home/savings_and_conservation.aspx
For a list of more utilities offering incentives on renewable energy and energy efficiency, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at:
Energy Efficiency Programs by Texas Gas Utilities
Although OPUC’s jurisdiction does not extend to advocating on behalf of gas utility customers, we want to provide as much useful information as possible to all types of utility customers. Below are some links to energy efficiency resources offered by Texas gas utilities.
Texas Gas Service Company, Austin
Atmos Mid-Tex, North Texas (for low income, elderly, disabled)
City of Corpus Christi
City Public Service (CPS), San Antonio
How do I participate in a utility's energy efficiency program?
Before having any energy efficiency measure installed in your home, you should check with 2 or more energy service providers to get the best price for the service. An energy service provider can be a home energy auditor, air conditioning company, insulation company, and even a home builder. You should ask the energy service provider if there is a discount based on what incentives your utility may be offering. You should also ask whether there is a fee to audit (check) the home to find the energy efficiency measures that will save you the most energy and money.
One example of a home energy audit is when a professional home energy auditor checks your home for air leakage. They do this by closing all the windows and doors and then pumping air throughout your home to check if air is leaking to the outside. If leaks are found, they can recommend that certain measures be taken to fix the leaks, such as caulking around windows and replacing weatherstripping around doors.
Prices for energy audits vary, depending on the type of audit requested. You could pay anywhere from $79 to $400 for a home energy audit. You should first ask your utility if they provide free or discounted energy audit programs before paying full price. It's also important to shop around. If you like to handle home repairs yourself, you may only need a basic inspection to get the information your need.
To find an energy service provider in your area that participates in your utility’s energy efficiency programs, click on the link below for your utility company.CenterPoint Energy
CenterPoint Energy partners with energy efficiency service providers and local agencies to support residents in saving energy and money. These residential programs are geared to assist residents in making energy efficient upgrades that reduce energy consumption, save money and benefit the environment.Oncor Electric Delivery
Oncor offers several energy efficiency incentive programs.These programs help residential consumers, business owners and government and educational facilities help jump-start their energy efficiency efforts.American Electric Power (AEP)
This includes AEP's Texas North Company, Texas Central Company, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO).
AEP has contracts with national and local firms who may contact you about performing work to help save energy and reduce your electric bill.Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP)
TNMP offers targeted energy efficiency programs for residential and commercial customers in its service territory. By offering a comprehensive set of programs, TNMP ensures that customers in all classes have access to energy efficiency services.
This includes Southwestern Public Service (SPS).
Xcel Energy offers targeted energy efficiency programs for residential and commercial customers in its Texas distribution service territory. By offering a comprehensive set of programs, Xcel Energy ensures that customers in all classes have access to energy efficiency services.El Paso Electric
EPE offers incentives to energy services contractors for projects producing electricity demand and energy savings.
Entergy offers incentive programs and ensures that all customers have a choice of, and access to, energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy consumption.
Are there any energy efficiency programs for low-income customers?
If you meet certain income requirments, you may be able to have free energy efficiency measures done on your home. This is offered through the Public Utility Commission's Hard-to-Reach Standard Offer Program. Ask your utility or retail electric provider about the standard offer program available in your area.
CEAP and WAP
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Energy Assistance Section administers two federally funded programs through local subrecipient agencies. Application intake, income verification, and all client services are handled by the local agencies.
These programs are the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). CEAP provides heating and cooling home energy assistance. WAP provides weatherization services.
If you need help with utility bills, find the local CEAP service provider nearest you. You may also call toll free (877) 399-8939 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The toll free number will connect you with the CEAP service provider in your county. Please use a land-based phone when dialing the toll free number. If using a cell phone, please dial 2-1-1, and the operator will direct you to your local service provider.
If you need help weatherizing your home , find the local WAP service provider nearest you. You may also call toll free (888) 606-8889 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The toll-free number will connect you with the WAP service provider in your county. Please use a land-based phone when dialing the toll-free number. If using a cell phone, please dial 2-1-1, and the operator will direct you to your local service provider. For more information on CEAP and WAP logon to: www.tdhca.state.tx.us/ea/index.htm
To learn more about the programs offered to low-income customers, visit the Texas Department of Housing and Community affairs website at www.tdhca.state.tx.us/ea/index.htm.__________________________________________________________________________________
Quick Tips for Energy Efficiency in the Home
|Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). More|
|Caulk around the windows and doors to prevent air leakage. More|
|Weather strip around doors to prevent air leakage. More|
|Turn off lights when you leave a room. More|
|Turn off and unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use. Many devices, such as televisions and computers, still use power even when they are turned off. Unplugging these devices is the best way to make sure they are not using power. More|
|Use ceiling fans to cool your home instead of turning down the air conditioner. More|
|Clean or replace the filters for your air conditioner. Dirty filters can make the system work harder and use more power. More|
|Shade the area around the air conditioner unit outside your house. But make sure to keep the area free from high grass, branches, and debris. More|
|Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.|
|When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.|
|When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.|
|Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers, or other home appliances during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.|
|Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.|
|Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.|
|Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or evening instead of the afternoon.|
Outage Preparedness for Customers with Medical Conditions
When the lights go out, there are many things to think about. As an electric customer, you are always encouraged to report outages to your utility. In some cases, your utility may ask you to conserve energy to help prevent the need for rotating outages. If you have medical needs, you are are not expected to unplug your medical devices or turn off your air conditioner during conservation periods. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help conserve energy.
During periods when conservation is encouraged or requested, typically Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., everyone can help save energy by not running clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, stoves, and other electrical devices.
Beyond that, all customers should still be properly prepared for an outage. There are many factors involved in restoring electric service after outages. Restoration can take minutes, hours, days, or even weeks. All electric customers should have a basic plan to follow when an outage occurs, but customers with medical needs should take extra steps to make sure they are prepared.
If you have a medical condition, you may own special devices that run on electric power. These devices include life support equipment, such as respirators and ventilators. Other devices such as electric hospital beds, wheelchairs, oxygen regulators, and refrigerators for special medication may also be needed. Power restoration is based on the electrical grid, so when utilities begin restoring power to neighborhoods, they usually are not able to place priority on homes based on the age or medical condition of the residents; however, elderly customers and customers with medical needs should still let their utilities know about their condition. Most utilities keep a list of critical care and chronic condition customers. Being on this list does not guarantee your power will be restored immediately, but emergency services workers can access this list to see who may need immediate attention. Because many outage situations involve a large number of homes and people, it may take an extended amount of time for utility or emergency services workers to get to your area. For this reason, you should always have a backup plan.
The following tips will help you prepare for a power outage:
Register with your utility or retail electric provider. Tell your utility or retail electric provider you would like to apply for critical care status or chronic condition status. If you are already on one of these lists, it is still important to check with your utility every six months to a year to make sure you are still on their list. Most utilities will send a renewal application to you.
|Create a contact list of family, friends, and neighbors you can call for help. This is especially important if you do not have a mode of transportation. You should also have an alternate location for shelter. If there is no one for you to stay with, try to arrange for transportation and shelter with a local church or community center.|
If you require medical grade oxygen, make sure you have an emergency supply available at all times. Also make sure you have a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries in a place you can easily find them. Corded landline and cellular phones are the only types of phone that will work during a power outage. Cordless phones will not work until power is restored to your home.
8 Tips For Light Bulb Shopping
You may have heard that light bulbs are changing in 2012. On January 1st, new
standards take effect which will give you new lighting choices that are 25-30 percent more
efficient than the decades-old, incandescent bulbs that your grandparents used. Contrary to
reports, incandescent lights are NOT being banned—they are simply becoming more
Not only will these new light bulbs cut your energy bills, they’ll improve the environment by
reducing emissions from power plants due to less energy consumption.
Here’s what you need to know the next time you are looking for a new light bulb:
- Know Your Choices. There are 3:
Halogen incandescents—These look like the older bulbs, but use 25-30 percent less energy
and can last up to three times longer. A new 72-watt, energy-saving, incandescent bulb,
which replaces the old 100-watt, bulb will cost about $1.50. But each one will save you about
$3.00 over its lifetime.
Compact fluorescent lamps—CFLs are your best value. They use about 75 percent less energy
than older bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. A $2.00 CFL will save you up to $50 over
the bulb’s lifetime.
Light-Emitting Diodes—LEDs will last up to 25 years (based upon usage of 3hr/day) and
save 75 percent, or more, in energy costs—but they will cost you more to buy than the other
choices. Even though LEDs today cost around $25 per bulb, they’ll still save you around
$150 over their 25-year lifetime. As they become more common, you can expect their
prices to go way down.
Use lumens, not watts, to get the right brightness: Watts are the amount of energy used, not how bright the light is. Lumens indicate brightness. The lumen-watt equivalents to the old incandescents are approximately:
- 40 watts = 450 lumens
- 60 watts = 800 lumens
- 75 watts = 1,100 lumens
- 100 watts = 1,600 lumens
In other words, if you are trying to replace your old, inefficient, 60-watt, incandescent bulb with a
bulb that gives off the same amount of light, look for one around 800 lumens.
Check the Light “Color”: Light color is measured on the Kelvin (K) temperature scale. Lower K numbers means more yellow light and higher K numbers mean whiter or bluer light. To match the color of older, traditional incandescents, often described as “warm white”, look for 2,700-3,000 K. For a whiter light, look for 3,500 to 4,100 K, and for a bluer light, look for 5,000-6,500 K.
- Read the package: A Lighting Facts label will be required on packages for most bulbs manufactured after January 1, 2012. As shown below, it will tell you the brightness in lumens, estimated yearly energy cost, expected bulb life, light appearance (“warm” or “cool”), wattage (energy used) and whether it meets Energy Star standards (See #8). The label will also tell you if the bulb contains mercury.
- The Mercury Question: CFLs contain a small amount of mercury (typically less than 3 mg.) to produce light. Three milligrams is an infinitesimal amount compared with old thermometers, which contained 500 mg of mercury. Even with the small amount of mercury, CFLs actually reduce mercury in the environment because they reduce the amount of mercury produced by power plants. Intact and in use, CFLs release no mercury. However, like nearly everything else in your house, they need to be properly recycled and cleaned up, if broken. Many retailers recycle CFLs for free.
Go to www.epa.gov/cfl for more information.
- Check Carefully for Dimming: Not every LED or CFL bulb is dimmable, so check then packaging.
Get the Right Bulb for Down Lights or Recessed Lighting: Do not use a pear shaped or spiral CFL bulb inside a recessed ceiling can--they won’t shine the light down where you want it. Instead, choose an LED, CFL, or halogen reflector or flood light.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR label: CFLs and LEDs with the Energy Star Label meet specific performance standards and are subjected to independent testing to help ensure a high level of efficiency and quality. Beware, not all lights qualify. Check out: www.energystar.gov for more info.
The Department of Energy’s ‘Energy Savers’ Website at: www.energysavers.gov/your_home/lighting_daylighting/index.cfm/mytopic=11975
- LUMEN : www.lumennow.org
The National Resources Defense Council’s Light Bulb Guide: www.nrdc.org/energy/lightbulbs/files/lightbulbguide.pdf
Energy Efficiency Links
For more information on energy efficiency programs, helpful tips, and energy-saving products, visit the links below.