3 Ways to Become a Smarter Energy Consumer

There are many steps you can take today to lower your power bills, decarbonize your home and otherwise become a more informed, empowered energy consumer.

From getting a better grasp on the details of your bill to installing smart home devices, such as a smart thermostat or smart plugs, let’s look at some steps that you can take:

1. Understand what your power bill is telling you.

Regardless of the specifics of your personal energy goals, a good starting place for becoming an empowered consumer is understanding exactly what your monthly power bill is telling you about your electricity consumption and how you’re being charged for it.

First, check what rate you’re currently on. While many consumers pay the same dollar amount per kilowatt-hour (kWh) used, consumers with time-of-use rates, hourly pricing or critical peak pricing pay different amounts at different times of the day (afternoons and early evenings generally being the most expensive). By understanding how you’re being charged, you can adjust your routine to save money – or switch to a plan that better suits your needs.

Next, you should check your total electricity usage in kWh for the month and use any helpful graphs and charts to see how your usage compares month-to-month or to the same month last year (or, in some cases, you may see how your usage compares to the average for your area). Finally, while there’s generally little you can do regarding fees and other charges, it’s still a good idea to see what else is adding to your total amount due.

2. Get an energy audit and weatherize your home.

Whether you want solar panels on your roof or just want to caulk drafty areas of your home, conducting an energy audit is probably the way to go before you start making larger upgrades.

By doing this, you will be able to identify the inefficiencies in your home and will be much more informed on what improvements make sense for you. Some power companies will even provide free energy audits and may be able to connect you with vetted contractors to carry out the upgrades you choose. Check with your local power company and ask what may be offered.

But, if you’re a DIYer, there are likely many steps you can take yourself to seal your home against the elements (known as weatherization). Around doors, windows and other movable features of your home, your best bet is weather stripping, which can be found at any home improvement store. For small gaps around heating ducts, window frames and other fixed features, caulk will do the job. Other instances may require new insulation.

3. Explore how smart home devices can benefit you.

With a better understanding of your current usage and a home sealed against the elements, now you can start the journey of deciding what upgrades you want to make to your home.

A recommended starting place is selecting a few smart home devices that interest you, since many of these can be purchased for reasonable amounts and can have immediate impacts on your home’s energy consumption. For example, the trifecta of a smart thermostat, smart outlets and smart LED lighting should make a decent dent in your next bill, and you can likely install them yourself.

Like with the energy audit, check with your power company before you start buying these items on your own. Many power companies today have online marketplaces that offer serious discounts on smart home devices, including smart thermostats, lighting, power strips, energy monitors, electric vehicle chargers and more.

With mild fall weather here, now is an excellent time to become a better educated energy consumer and start making some sensible upgrades before the cold of winter rolls in. Start with the basics of understanding your bill, your current usage and the current state of your home, and you’ll have a solid foundation for reaching your energy goals.

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