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Is your home energy efficient? Here’s how to save money on your electricity bill

"The overall efficiency of a home is important for a few reasons."
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 2:59 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The cost of electricity has jumped more than 11% over the past year, according to the Consumer Price Index. Across the Valley, the increase is prompting homeowners and renters to reevaluate their energy use.

Matt and Shana Holmquist purchased a new home in Phoenix a few months ago. The first-time homebuyers are still getting settled. “We weren’t really sure what to expect coming up on an Arizona summer,” Shana said. To prepare, the couple signed up for a home energy assessment through APS. “I was worried about drafts through our doors and windows, and I just wanted to make sure everything was working properly,” Matt explained.

A technician scoured the whole house and provided the couple with a written report. “They found a lot of things, which was great because we wouldn’t have known. We need new insulation, and our ductwork does have some leaks in it,” Shana said. “I had no idea that ducts could leak. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but we saw holes where it was open, so a lot of the air conditioning was escaping.”

“I had no idea that ducts could leak," Shana said.
“I had no idea that ducts could leak," Shana said.(Arizona's Family)

Kerri Carnes, the manager of customer technology for APS, says an in-home inspection to assess energy efficiency costs about $100. “The overall efficiency of a home is important for a few reasons,” Carnes said. “First of all, there’s some energy savings opportunities for customers, which can translate into savings on their bill every month, but there’s also improvements to comfort. And then there’s also some air-quality improvements that can happen.”

APS also has a free virtual energy checkup. “The customer will connect with a specialist through an app on their phone and can walk through the house with them and identify some energy-saving options,” Carnes said, noting homeowners can do several simple things immediately to save energy. Start with weather stripping. “If you can see light, that means air is getting out or air is getting in, so you want to close up those gaps,” she said.

Consumers can also stagger appliance use and consider adding window treatments to keep out at least some of the hot summer sun. “You can certainly get some of the higher-end window treatments. But you can also go to Amazon and find some blackout curtains, for instance, for as low as $20,” Carnes suggested.

Free smart thermostats and bill credits are available to APS and SRP customers who opt into energy conservation programs and allow the utilities to boost their thermostats by a couple of degrees on the hottest days of the year.

How to get a free smart thermostat and credit on your bill

There's a trade-off. On especially hot days, your utility company will turn your thermostat up a few degrees.

“On event days, all of the changes are from your set point,” Carnes explained. “So, if you set your house at 78 degrees and we call an event, we’ll go up typically 2 to 3 degrees, but no more than that, and for only a couple of hours to get through some of the most difficult energy demand days during the hottest parts of the summer. Customers retain all control. So, if you’re having a party or there’s a reason why you don’t want your thermostat turned up a couple of degrees during a demand response event, you can always opt out.” APS customers who join the Cool Rewards program receive a $35 bill credit for each thermostat connected to the program. During SRP’s conservation events, the utility says it will raise participants’ connected thermostats by 4 degrees with an annual bill credit of $25.

For the Holmquists, some of the suggestions they received to make their home more efficient are costlier than others, including the replacement of aging air-conditioning units. “We may have to spread it out a little,” Shana said. But the couple agrees they are ready for their first summer in the desert. “We feel much more comfortable knowing what to prepare for,” Matt added.

One of the suggestions for the Holmquists was to replace their aging A/C units.
One of the suggestions for the Holmquists was to replace their aging A/C units.(Arizona's Family)

SRP offers similar home energy audits for its customers.