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Real Estate / Houses

Smarter Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill

Using Tech and Priceless Info to Help You and the Planet

BY // 09.20.16

Everyone wants to save energy in theory. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the planet. It’s good for your pocketbook.

But what do you do? Turn up the air conditioning when you go out? Badger the kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room? Get really ambitious and invest in all new energy-efficient windows that may or not make a major difference? It all seems so nebulous, so uncertain. How do you even know what’s working and what’s not? Energy is invisible, but many energy companies somehow seem to make it even harder to see.

Open up most electric bills and you’re faced with a hodgepodge of vexing numbers. It’s all about as decipherable as Egyptian hieroglyphics are to a layman, weighted on-base percentage is to a non-baseball stathead, or Keeping Up With the Kardashians is to a well-adjusted person. It’s almost like the average power bill is designed to confuse. That’s why so many people just throw it into a drawer and pay it. You’re not any wiser about energy after reading one of those things, you’re usually just annoyed and more frustrated.

The real shame in this is that becoming aware of how you’re using energy is the single most effective way of starting down the path to saving it — and saving money.

If you don’t know that your dryer accounts for nearly eight percent of your total energy use, how are you ever going to make meaningful changes? Knowledge isn’t just power. It’s also sometimes means real money. Advanced online tools from Direct Energy give consumers that power by shining a light on where your energy dollars are actually going. It essentially brings advanced stats to energy and puts knowledge that Fortune 500 companies have long had into the hands of everyday people. Direct Energy customers get access to an online dashboard (dubbed Direct Your Energy) that breaks down their energy use by appliance and system. It also puts a percentage on just how energy efficient (or not) your home truly is.

Direct Energy takes the mystery out of energy use,
Direct Energy takes the mystery out of energy use,

Direct Your Energy also allows you to compare your energy use to how much energy similar-sized houses, apartments or condos in your area are using. It’s not scoreboard, as much as it’s an empowering guide. Suddenly, you’re the master of your own electric domain. Or at least, the woman who knows that her refrigerator seems to be using way more energy than it should.

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A color-coded heat map calendar even starkly illustrates which days of the month your energy usage skyrocketed — and which days it went down. Just like that, energy is not quite so mysterious anymore.

“Would you spend $100 on a bag of groceries, sight unseen, stapled shut?” Direct Energy President and CEO Badar Khan asked in his keynote speech at the Energy Thought Summit that first introduced the idea of empowering tech tools for energy customers in 2015. “Would you pay your bill at a restaurant without seeing an itemized receipt that tells you what you actually consumed?

“Why wouldn’t you expect the same thing from your energy bill?”

Khan is a big believer of giving people knowledge. If it lowers their energy bill all the better. Direct Energy’s CEO bets that any short-term loss in revenue for his company will be more than offset by long-term customer loyalty. It’s a different way of looking at things in a 2016 corporate/stockholder culture that often only seems to fixate on immediate returns, but truly saving energy will take something of a rebellion.

These are energy stats almost broken down to a baseball sabermetrics level.
These are energy stats almost broken down to a baseball sabermetrics level.

Going to LED light bulbs is great, but it will mean little if your air conditioner isn’t working properly and secretly sapping up way more power than it should. Monitoring plans — like those offered by Direct Energy — alert you to a potential problem before your energy use starts inexplicably skyrocketing. They also can prevent the nightmare scenario of your air conditioner suddenly conking out on the weekend the in-laws are visiting for example.

Direct Energy customers even receive weather alert emails, letting them know in advance that an extreme weather event is expected to increase their electricity bill. Tips on ways to help negate that impact are also offered, giving you advance knowledge you can act on to change things.

In many ways, it again comes down to being informed — and being enabled to make intelligent decisions on your own energy use. Maybe you’re fortunate enough financially to not have to worry about that monthly energy bill. Maybe, just paying the confusing thing and stuffing it away in a drawer hasn’t been cause for much sweat. But does that truly represent a healthy approach to Texas’ and the world’s energy issues?

The Direct Your Energy heat map clearly shows when your energy use changes.
The Direct Your Energy heat map clearly shows when your energy use changes.

Sometimes it’s not as much about saving money as it is about doing something worthwhile. Maybe you’re driven to do your part for the planet. Maybe you want to set a good example for your children. Or maybe, you want to affect others very directly. Sometimes, it’s about giving life-altering light.

After all, while you’re trying to save energy, more than 1.5 billion people in the developing world live without electricity at home. That makes everything from doing homework at night to cooking dinner a grueling challenge — and a potentially deadly danger.  Many families without electricity turn to kerosene lamps, but these give off toxic fumes and easily start fires. It’s often the ultimate Catch 22 — a choice between no light and light that could kill you. But how does one help people half a world away?

Direct Energy’s Give Brighter Plan allows you to send one Luci Light — easily transportable solar lights that lasts as long as 12 hours on one charge — to a home without electricity in the developing world (and one to your home) while locking in an electricity rate for 12 months.

Whether it’s understanding the tangible difference that a more efficient refrigerator makes, being able to control the temperature in your home from your smartphone, or sending light around the world, it all starts with information. It turns out that’s the real key to saving power — something that goes far beyond just unplugging a TV.

Direct Energy breaks down your energy use by day, providing insights that can mean savings.
Direct Energy breaks down your energy use by day, providing insights that can mean savings.

For more energy saving tips, click through the slideshow above this story. 

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