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Growing Electricity Demand — One Way Texas Is Keeping Up

With our population and electricity demand growing fast, one way Texas is keeping up is by lowering electricity demand with Energy-Saving and Demand Response Programs. The Electricity Reliability Council Of Texas (ERCOT) has worked to establish these programs to reduce stress on the power-grid and to minimize the time (multi-fuel) Power Generation Plants must dirtier fuel (such as coal) to generate electricity.

Energy-Saving Programs To Reduce The Amount Of Electricity Needed In Homes And Businesses.

 (This article discusses only energy-saving programs for homes).

Oncor provides incentives paid to Providers (approved contractors who make the energy-saving upgrades) who implement energy-saving projects in homes within Oncor’s Service Area.

Program Incentives

The incentives may cover the entire cost of some inexpensive measures, plus pay some of the cost for more expensive measures. Oncor pays the incentive directly to the Service Provider, who then determines what to do with the incentive payment. Charges vary by Service Provider and no incentives are paid directly to the electricity consumer.

Qualifying Upgrades

These are the most common measures eligible:

blown in insulation ductwork sealed with mastic caulking a home

  • Insulation – Installing additional insulation in your attic, walls and floors which reduces cooling and heating costs and also makes your home more comfortable.
  • Duct sealing – Properly sealing HVAC ductwork will reduce the amount of cooling and heating required, lowering cooling and heating costs. Service Providers must test for ductwork air leakage before and after performing the duct sealing measures.  The EPA states that sealing ductwork can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 35%.
  • Caulking and Weather-Stripping – Caulking around windows and other openings and weather-stripping doors in your home can significantly reduce air leakage into the home. Service Providers must test for air leakage before & after performing the air sealing measures.  The EPA states weatherizing your home can reduce heating & cooling costs by up to 14%

Additional Qualifying Measures

The following measures may also be offered by a Service Provider based on their capabilities.  All measures must be installed by a Oncor participating Service Provider to be eligible for incentives. Some restrictions and conditions may apply.

For a list of Service Providers, go to and enter your zip code in the green box in the upper-right corner.  Depending on the products or services you are seeking, you may have to click on several Service Providers to find one who offers what you are looking for.

american standard platinum gold silver series hvac  energy star window energy star washer refrigerator dishwasher

  • Replacement of air conditioning units; equipment must be a new matched indoor/outdoor system with a SEER-16 (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) or higher
  • Replacement of heat pumps; equipment must be a new matched indoor/outdoor system with an energy efficiency rating of 16 SEER or higher for cooling and a HSPF-8.2 (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) or higher for heating
  • Installation of; ENERGY STAR rated windows, refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers


Demand Response Programs photo of rolling blackout

One factor slowing the growth in electricity demand and the need to build more power plants are “Demand Response” programs that help participants use reduce their personal electricity demand when the power-grid is approaching its capacity.

In DFW, ONCOR, along with some Electricity Retailers, offers Demand-Response Programs (check with your Electricity Retailer to see if they offer one).  This link tells about Houston based StarTex Power’s Energy Management Pilot Programs: Star Tex Power’s Energy Mgt. Programs

Demand Response Programs help reduce the possibility of BrownOuts or Rolling-Blackouts.  Once a power-grid can no longer provide all the power required, electricity demand must be reduced.  This is quickly achieved with BrownOuts (where voltage is reduce) or Rolling-Blackouts Rolling Blackouts shut electricity off in selected areas, then later shut if off to another area as the first area has its power restored. This process, called load-shedding, is designed balance power demand and current power supply.  Balancing electricity supply and demand MUST occur, as a Power-Grid will fail if this balance is not achieved.

Texas Has Its Own Power-Grid

united states power gridsThere are three grids in the Lower 48 states: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection — and Texas.  The Texas grid is called ERCOT, and it is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT covers all of Texas except El Paso, the upper Panhandle, and a portion of East Texas.

In Summer 2011, when the brutal heat strained Texas’ electric grid and increased concerns about blackouts, the grid imported a modest amount of power from Mexico and elsewhere in the United States.  Those electricity imports amounted, on some August days, to nearly the equivalent of 1 nuclear reactor’s output, or enough to power more than 200,000 homes in the summer.

ERCOT Breaks Peak Record Again, Tops 71,000 MW for First Time

Austin, TX, Aug. 11, 2016 – For the third time this week, electricity demand in the ERCOT market has broken another record by exceeding 71,000 MW in system-wide hourly peak demand. ERCOT’s demand reached 71,043 MW between 3–4 p.m. today and then 71,197 MW between 4–5 p.m.

This is the sixth time this week ERCOT has reached record levels of energy demand. ERCOT exceeded 70,000 MW for two consecutive hours on Monday, Aug. 8 and on Wednesday, Aug. 10.  The Dallas-Fort Worth area is serviced by Oncor, the local electric utility company, and one of ERCOT’s Transmission & Distribution Utility Units.

Beginning Friday and into next week, the weather forecast anticipates less power consumption. As long as resources remain available when needed, ERCOT believes there will be sufficient generation. The grid operator will continue to monitor system conditions and will notify the public if there is a need for conservation.

NOTE: The new article above reported record electricity demand — it was not about the Power-Grid exceeding its capacity.  During these periods of record demand, however, if any power generating plant had stopped generation, the power-grid would not have had enough incoming electricity.  To solve part of the problem, Demand Response Programs would have been enacted for participating homes.  The Texas Power-Grid would also purchase electricity from other Grids.


What To Do During A BrownOut or Rolling Blackout


If the Power-Grid does not have enough electricity supply, the first thing to happen is a “brown out”.  A brownout is a drop in electrical-voltage in a Power Grid. Intentional brownouts are used for load reduction in an emergency.   If a brown out occurs, lighting will start flickering or dimming and will do this during the brownout.

During a brownout reduce your power consumption as much and as quickly as possible.  Since electronics are the most sensitive to reduced electrical voltage, shut them off immediately to stop the risk of damage.  The best way to reduce your home’s electricity demand is turning off air conditioners, heat pumps, and electric-resistance heating, as these are the biggest users of electricity in your home.  During a brown out, your HVAC system and appliances are subject to damage.   To stop the risk, turn it off at the thermostat or the circuit-breaker.   If it’s too hot to shut the a/c off, turn it up to 78 degrees to minimize how much it must run on insufficient electrical voltage.

This article goes into more detail about brown outs: Brown outs and the damage they can cause.  Al’s does not endorse the product discussed in the article only because we have no direct knowledge of, nor direct experience with it.   Here’s a YouTube video discussing HVAC damage due to a brown out: A/C damage due to a brownout

Why? Because brownouts are caused by a lack of electricity, if everyone temporarily reduces the amount of power they’re using, the brownout will be over sooner. Demand Response Programs do this automatically and do not rely on consumer intervention.

Black Out

If a Black Out occurs (for any reason) there are things you should do to protect your home’s HVAC System, Appliances and electrical wiring.  Following a blackout power is restored.  When this happens a Power Surge occurs.  A Power Surge is electricity coming into your home with overly high Electrical-Voltage.

Power Surge:  An oversupply of voltage from the power company that can last up to 50 microseconds. Although surges are very short in duration, they can reach 6,000 volts and 3,000 amps when they arrive at the HVAC System, appliances and other electrical devices

Most new homes are built with 200 Amp Electrical Service — A Power Surge can be 15 Times That Amperage!   Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps, Electric Heat, Ovens & Cooktops, ranges and electric dryers are rated at 220 Volts, a Power Surge can supply 27 times that much voltage!

How To Protect Your Home’s Electrical Devices From a Power Surge After A Blackout

First, shut off all electronics.

Then, If you have Main Circuit Breaker, the easiest (and most protection) comes from turning off the home’s Main Circuit Breaker.  A Main Circuit Breaker will be at top of the panel.  It will be much larger than all other circuit breakers.electrical circuit breaker box

Electric Service Panel with a Main Circuit Breaker

Many homes have Electrical Service Panels / circuit breaker boxs which do not have a Main Circuit Breaker.  On these panels, locate and turn off the individual breakers for A/C, Heat, Kitchen and Laundry Room (or you can turn them all off).

electric service panel

Electrical Service Panel without a Main Circuit Breaker

Once electricity is restored, wait 5 minutes, then turn all Circuit Breakers back on.  By doing these steps, you avoid a power surge from getting to the home’s systems and appliances.

Damage From Power Surges

Power Surges come in all sizes.  Most of us are aware of “lighting damage” which is a large power surge caused by a lightening strike.  The Power Surge created by Electric Service Restoration is much smaller, but amply large enough to cause damage, especially to electronics.

While most people don’t think of it, most newer appliances have electronics boards.  This is especially true of dishwashers, refrigerators, washers & dryers.  If there is any digital display, there are electronics within.  Years ago, dishwashers and washing machines had a electric timer knob which advanced during the cycle.  Newer appliances may have a knob (or only buttons) to select the cycle + a button to push to start the cycle. The knob does not turn, as the appliance is controlled with electronics.

electronics circuit board damaged by power surge

Even a small Power Surge can damage electronics

power meter damaged by power surge

A Power Meter Destroyed by a large Power Surge

Small Power Surges happen in your home every day.  A common way they are caused is when A/C ir other large users of electricity shut off.  These small surges are very unlikely to damage anything.  But, the larger the surge, the higher the risk of damage.

We have discussed turning circuit breakers off when a black out occurs, this is also wise when heavy lightening is occurring.  To know how far lightening is away, a rule of thumb is to count the seconds between the lightening flash and the thunder.  Generally 1 second = 1 mile away.  The further the lightening is away, generally there is less risk, but lightening-strike risk can occur from lightening miles away if lightening strikes the electrical lines or equipment which provide power into your home.

Here is a YouTube Video showing lightening striking and damaging an electrical transformer:  Lightening Strike Damages Transformer

SUMMARY:  This article describes:

  • Some Ways Texas electricity providers  is reducing strain on our Power Grid by reducing individual consumer household demand with Energy Conservation
  • Demand-Response Programs that help balance supply and demand by raising the thermostat temperature, or turning your air conditioning off for small periods of time.
  • How electricity providers must balance electrical supply and demand using Brown Outs or Black Outs.  Power Grids will fail if electricity demand and supply are not balanced.
  • What can happen to your home during a Brown Out or following a Black Out, and how to reduce the risk of damage to your home.

While 4 topics are discuss, they are all inter-related with regard to Power Grid Operators’ responsibility to ensure power supply and demand are balanced.  This is monitored constantly, with adjustments immediately being made to increase or decrease demand & supply plus quick adjustments electricity generation

Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C provides maintenance, repairs, and replacements of HVAC Systems and all residential Plumbing Components.  Call Al’s today to discuss any issues you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We can arrange an appointment to identify the problem and advise what must be done to fix it.  We also offer 24/7 Emergency Service.