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Reduce Your Cooling Costs Without Changing Your HVAC System Or Lifestyle

As DFW begins to enter a new Cooling Season, cooling costs will enter our minds once again.  This article describes how to determine the best Electricity Retailer and Electricity Plan for your needs.  Also, we have a separate article that describes 55 Ways To Lower Cooling Costs (Without Replacing Your A/C).  You can read that article by clicking here: Al’s 55 Ways To Lower Cooling Costs .

 

There Is Another Way To Reduce Cooling Costs That Is Not Related To Your HVAC System Or Lifestyle

Select A Less Expensive Electricity Retailer or Electricity Plan

In DFW, the Electricity Company / Retailer who bills you does not provide your electrical service. In effect, your Electric Company / Retailer provides only a Billing and Payment-Collection Service. Lower cooling costs can be achieved by comparing and selecting a less expensive Electric Retailer and / or Electric Plan.  Regardless of the Electricity Retailer & Plan you choose, ONCOR will always be your DFW electricity supplier.

ONCOR is a regulated electric transmission and distribution service provider. Oncor’s 3,000+ employees work to safely maintain reliable electric delivery service within the largest distribution & transmission system in Texas.

FIVE Factors Dictate How Much You Will Pay To Cool Your Home

1. How Energy-Efficient Your Home Is

Newer homes are more energy-efficient than older ones.  There are two major things you can do in your attic to reduce cooling costs (many newer homes have one or both of these):

  • Add attic insulation to at least R-38.  Current Texas Building Code is R-38 for attic insulation.
  • Add a Foil Radiant-Heat Barrier.  The barrier prevents the sun’s radiant heat from getting deep into your attic (reaching the attic floor / ceilings in the rooms below).  The barrier will block the heat and channel it up to where the attic ventilation will exhaust it.  Typical attic ventilation is turbine (below left) and ridge-vent (below right) — it’s at the peak, under the raised singles.

blown fiberglass insulation being installed over batt insulation

foil radiant heat barrier being installed in an attic

attic turbine vent

attic ridge vent

 

 

 

 

 

Adding Insulation and a Foil Radiant Heat-Barrier will lower cooling costs.

2. The Efficiency Of Your Air Conditioner

1. The older your A/C System is, the more electricity it uses.  &  2. The better you maintain your HVAC System, the less electricity it uses.   We provided a guide to the SEER of existing air conditioners (based on their age) below.  A new A/C installed in DFW today must be a minimum SEER-14.

SEER Chart

trane xe9 a/c

 

 

 

 

 

This a/c is a SEER-9.  For this a/c, the model number “XE 900” indicates the SEER.

Electricity Savings Calculator — Based on SEER Ratings

You can determine your electricity savings (with a more efficient a/c) with this link: A/C Yearly Savings Based on SEER  NOTE: Use 0.11 (11 cents per kWh) for Electric Rate.  The Calculator (we provided a link to) determines the electricity savings between SEER-9 and SEER-14 = $339.00 lower cooling costs each year in DFW.   Note: This calculation assumes the existing A/C is being maintained properly and is not low on refrigerant.

Considerations For Continuing To Use An Older A/C, Versus A New, Higher Efficiency Unit:

  • During the new a/c’s lifetime (assuming a 10-12 year lifespan) the electricity savings with a SEER-14 A/C (over a SEER-9) = $3,400.00.
  • You are less likely to incur repair bills because the a/c unit is new, plus the manufacturer’s parts warranty.
  • The cost to recharge an older R-22 / Freon a/c has become very expensive. Freon is no longer being made, is now in short supply and expensive.

A few years ago, the government changed refrigerant standards for residential central air conditioners due to the damage to the Ozone Layer caused by R-22 refrigerant.  The government required that Refrigerant, R-22 / Freon be phased out and eliminated from use by the year 2020.  When you buy a new air conditioner today, it has environmentally-friendly R-410A / Puron refrigerant.

Note: R-410A refrigerant was required for a/c units manufactured after Jan 1, 2010.  If your a/c was installed after that date, it likely has R-410 refrigerant, but some still used R-22.  There is an information plate on the outside unit that tells you which refrigerant is used in your a/c.

  • In the left photo below, the 7th line says “HCFC-22”  — this is an R-22 /  Freon refrigerant a/c.
  • In the right photo below, the 6th line says “HFC-410A” — this is an R-410A refrigerants a/c.

central a/c which uses R-22 refrigerant name plate

a/c which uses r-410a refrigerant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: If your existing a/c is working correctly, and does not need repairs or refrigerant-recharge, it’s perfectly ok to continue to use it (though it uses more electricity).  At the point that it needs a costly repair, or refrigerant recharge, it’s time to compare the cost of repairing it to the cost of replacing it.   This article, though, is about saving money with the best value Electricity Plan.  The information above is FYI.

3. How Well You Maintain Your A/C

Example:

  • A dirty Furnace Filter reduces a/c operating-efficiency by up to 15% (according the the U.S. DOE – Department of Energy)

dirty and clean furnace air filter

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • A dirty Condenser Coil (the outside unit) reduces operating-efficiency by up to 30% (U.S. DOE)

very dirty and clogged a/c condenser coil

 

 

 

This outside coil can be professionally cleaned, or you can carefully clean it with a garden hose (being sure not to bend the aluminum fins).

  • A dirty Evaporator Coil (inside the furnace and can’t be seen without removing a door) reduces operating-efficiency by up to 10% (U.S. DOE).

This coil can also freeze up due to too little air passing through it.  If it’s clogged or frozen, less air (or no air) can flow through it.  While the air-flow is restricted or stopped, the a/c becomes less and less able to cool, wasting electricity and stressing the HVAC System.  If a freeze up occurs for a notable period of time, damage to the outside unit is likely.

home central a/c evaporator coil iced upmolded home central a/c evaporator coil

 

 

 

< This very dirty evaporator coil also shows signs of black mold growth.  This coil is what removes humidity from the air, so it is wet most of the time during the entire air conditioning season.  Trapped dirt and moisture are all that’s needed for mold to grow.  If the coil is molded, the HVAC System blow mold spores everywhere when it’s running.

These coils can be professionally cleaned.  If dirty enough, they will be removed for cleaning.

Frozen evaporator coil (inside furnace)

If your HVAC System has a dirty: Furnace Filter + Condenser (outside unit) + Evaporator Coil (inside furnace) operating efficiency is reduced by up to 55%.  These 3 maintenance items can Double Cooling Costs!  It also makes your A/C run much longer, wearing it out much sooner.

4. Your Lifestyle and Cooling Desires.  

One person may keep their A/C at 72, while their neighbor keeps theirs at 78.

 

5. WHAT YOU ARE PAYING (Per KwH) FOR ELECTRICITY.

Selecting The Best Electric Plan For You:

By Far, the biggest item that determines which Electric Retailers and Electricity Plan is best for you is how much electricity you use per month during peak cooling months.  Also, if you heat with electricity, you must also know your average kWh of electricity use during peak heating months.

Some Electricity Retailers offer a Flat Monthly Fee for up to a specified number of kWh used.

If you go under the maximum, you pay the specified monthly charge.  If you go over, you pay for each additional kWh used (over the maximum for the monthly charge).  Different plans have different charges for going over the maximum kWh allowed by the plan, see example below.

EXAMPLE:

Plan A:

  • Tier 1 Charge — 1-1,000 kWh = $42.00 per month
  • Tier 2 Charge — Usage Over 1,000 = $99.00 per month PLUS 10.5 cents per kWh (above 1,000)

With Plan A:  If you used 1,001 kWh — your bill would be $99.10 (In effect, you paid $57.10 for that 1 additional kWh).

Plan B:

  • Tier 1 Charge —  1-1,000 kWh = $45.00
  • Tier 2 Charge:  +15 cents per kWh for each kWh over 1,000.

With Plan B: If you used 1,001 kWh — your bill would be: $45.15.

 

Most Electric Retailers Charge Per kWh (versus a flat fee).

Electric rates per kWh are shown as:

500 kWh           Up to 500 kWh in 1 month.

1000 kWh          501-1000 kWh in 1 month

2000 kWh      1001 or more kWh in 1 month

 

You Can See Electricity Costs For Each Electricity Retailer At This Website

Click on this link for Electricity Plans and rates based on your location and monthly electricity consumption.  Power To Choose – Electric Rates Comparison. This guide will help you identify the Electric Plans best suited for you.

The number of Retail Electricity Plans the website will show can be reduced considerably by telling their website how much electricity you use per month (in summer) — so it’s important to know your typical monthly electricity consumption in order to determine which plan(s) are best for you.

Note:

  • The price per kWh shown (when the website first opens) may be only the Electric Retailer’s charge.  In addition, you must add ONCOR’s charge. 
  • To see the total charge per kWh, Click on the Fact Sheet.
  • Check to see if the Fact Sheet charge includes ONCOR’s charge.  If not, the Fact Sheet will tell you that amount, which must be added to the Electricity Retailer’s charge.

 

EXAMPLE:  Infinite Energy Shows these charges (when you first open the website).  This represents Infinite Energy’s charge, not the total cost (you must add ONCOR’s charge):

4.3 / 500 kWh              4.3 cents Average price per kWh

5.2 / 1,000 kWh           5.9 cents

10.3 — 2,000 kwh       10.3 cents

Prices shown above Do Not Include ONCOR’S charges.

 

On the Fact Sheet (including ONCOR’S Charge):

9.0 / 500 kWh              9 cents per kWh for up to 500 kWh

15.00 / 1,000 kWh     15 cents per kWh for 501-1000 kWh

12.93 — 2,000 kwh     12.93 cents per kWh for 1001 or more kWh

Prices shown just above include ONCOR’S charges.

To Understand The Total Price Per kWh, Always Use The Fact Sheet.

As You Review Electric Plans On The Power To Choose Website, Here Are Things To Look For:

1. Does the listing say “New Customers”?

This means the rate shown is likely an “Introductory Rate” which will increase after the promotional period.  You must further research this plan to discover what you will be paying as your standard rate.  Click on the “Fact Sheet” to see full details on charges per kWh.

2. Look at the price per kWh for 500, 1,000 and 2,000 on the Fact Sheet

A. Check to see if the rate includes ONCOR’S charges.  If notyou must ONCOR’s charges.      B. Then compare rates to your average monthly usage.   You will have to compute:

  • The cost for the first 500 kWh (it shows as the 500 kWh amount)
  • The cost for the next 500 kWh (it shows as the 1000 kWh amount)
  • The cost for the number of kWh above 1,000 (it shows as the 2000 kWh amount) based on your average monthly usage.  The larger your electricity consumption, the more important the 2000 kWh charge is.

EXAMPLE:

Plan A:  TXU  Energy Real Value Plan

  • Up to 500 kWh = 9.4 cents per kWh
  • 501-1000 kWh = 7.7 cents per kWh
  • 1000+ kWh      = 10.1 cents per kWh

Prices shown include ONCOR’S charges.

As compared to Plan B (below) TXU is less expensive up to 1,000 kWh.  For 1,001 or more kWh, TXU becomes more expensive.  If you typically use only up to 1,000 kWh, TXU is a better value.

Plan B:  Star Tex Power

  • Up to 500 kWh = 9.6 cents per kWh
  • 501-1000 kWh = 9.0 cents per kWh
  • 1000+ kWh      = 8.8 cents per kWh

Prices shown include ONCOR’S charges.

EXAMPLE:

If you use 2,500 kWh per month during peak cooling months:

TXU:           (500 kWh @ 9.4 cents)  +  (500 kWh @ 7.7 cents) + (1,500 kWh @ 10.1 cents):  $47.00 +  $38.50 +  $151.50 = $237.00

Star Tex:    (500 kWh @ 9.6 cents)  +  (500 kWh @ 9 cents)    + (1500 kWh @ 8.8 cents):     $48.00 + $45.00 + $132.00 = $225.00

Star Tex is -$12.00 cheaper.  While this difference isn’t large at 2500 kWh — the difference becomes larger with higher monthly electricity consumption.

air conditioning two zones

air conditioning four zones

 

 

 

 

The Bigger Your Home, The More Money You Save With The Right Electric Plan.

Knowing your average kWh usage during peak cooling months will determine your savings.   If your average kWh per month is over 1,000 kWh, you can make comparing electrical rates easier by looking at only the 2000 kWh charge.

Bill Comparison (For A Large Electricity Consumer) With The Lowest & Highest 2,000 kWh Charge On Website

EXAMPLE:  The 2000 kWh rate (from Power To Choose website):

Gexa Energy             5.9 cents 2000 kWh rate (lowest 2000 kWh rate on Power To Choose website at the time of this article)

Discount Power     12.1 cents 2000 kWh rate (highest 2000 kWh rate on Power To Choose website at the time of this article)

Discount Power’s 2000 kWh rate just over double (205%) of Gexa Energy’s rate:

 

At 5,000 kwh monthly usage:

Gexa Energy:        (500 kWh @ 9.0 cents) + (500 kWh @ 6.5 cents) + (4000 kWh @ 5.9 cents) =  $45.00 + $32.50 + $236.00 = $313.50

Discount Power:  (500 kWh @ 5.1 cents) + (500 kWh @ 9.6 cents) + (4000 kWh @ 12.1 cents) =  $25.50 + $48.00 + $484.00 = $557.50

Discount Power’s 500 kWh rate is a little over half the price (56%) of Gexa Energy.

 

Discount Power is not a bad company, simply their Electric Plan is designed for customers with low electricity usage.  For a consumer who uses no more than 500 kWH per month, Discount Power is a great deal.

 

SUMMARY:  This article assists you in understanding how to determine which electric plans are best suited to you.  This is nearly entirely based upon your average electricity usage during peak cooling months (and with electric heat in peak heating months.   With some research, you can determine which plan is the best for you, based on your electricity usage.

Armed with the knowledge of your typical peak cooling electricity usage, the Power To Choose website can eliminate the plans which don’t make sense for you.  At the beginning, the website asks you for your energy consumption, then it displays the best plans based on that.  After that, you must compute a plan’s cost based on your usage.

TIPS:  

  • If you are a higher usage customer (over 1000 kWh per month) you can make this process easier by focusing on the 2,000 kWh rate, since the bulk of your usage will be billed at that rate.
  • Use the rates shown on the Fact Sheet, versus the numbers shown when you first open the website.
  • Check to ensure the rate shown includes ONCOR’s charges (if not, you must add them).

The website provides what you need to know regarding all the following:

  • There are many plans to choose from, and most plans won’t differ much in monthly cost below 1,000 kWh.
  • Discounts are sometimes offered for such items as “auto-charge” to your credit card, or auto-withdraw from checking.
  • There are Fixed and Variable-Rate plans and different contract lengths. 
  • Some company’s offer “Time Of Use” plans which reward you for waiting to use large appliances (such as electric dryer or washer with electric water heater) later in the day when total electricity demand is lower.  These plans will advise how they work and the times of day which provide the most savings.
  • Click on “Special Terms” to see what you must do if you choose that electric plan — many require credit card auto-charge.
  • You can review the “Terms of Service” for each plan.

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Al’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning has been serving southern Denton & Collin Counties, northern Dallas County (to I-30) and northeastern Tarrant County since 1989.  Al’s provides every Plumbing Repair or Replacement you will ever need.  Al’s also maintains, repairs and replaces Central Air Conditioning, Heat Pumps, and gas & electric Furnaces.

We can inspect your current HVAC System and make any necessary corrections, so you know it’s running at its peak ability and efficiency and ensuring the lowest cooling costs it can deliver.  If it’s time to upgrade to a more efficient HVAC System, Al’s can assist you in selecting the System that’s right for you.  We offer Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps with SEER-14 to SEER-21 and gas Furnaces with 80% to 95% efficiency.  Al’s offers 24 / 7 Emergency Service for urgent issues.  Al’s charges by the job, not the hour, and we will tell you what you will pay before work ever starts.

Contact Al’s today at 972-225-5257 to discuss your concerns and make an appointment at your convenience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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