Soak Up All the Savings
Dig In and Roll On in Residential Efficiency
At a time before many within the electric utility sector recognized how important an asset consumer engagement could be in helping maximize power cost efficiencies, United launched an Energy Innovation Program with the sole intent to educate members about ways to better manage their energy use.
Since then, beyond arming members with regular information that was predicated on credible energy efficiency research, the program’s breadth has included a variety of services such as FREE home energy audits. In addition, it also made financial resources available to members through energy efficiency grants and rebates—all of which have been primarily funded through recovery of escheat funds that would have otherwise gone to the state’s general fund, as well as through funding established in cooperation with Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, United’s wholesale power supplier.
While there is something that can appeal to every member under the umbrella of United’s Energy Innovation outreach, the cooperative’s annual rebate program always has been one of the most widely utilized assets in the energy efficiency tool bin. And as it has evolved and kept pace with advancing technologies, the comprehensive program has grown to the extent that nearly 22,000 rebates have been awarded since 2010. To date, more than $2 million in rebates has been reinvested with members who have been willing to make improvements in their energy usage behaviors—strides that have helped waste less energy and that have reduced costs not only for themselves, but for the cooperative membership collectively.
The following incentives are some of the ways United is helping members better manage their residential energy usage in 2019:
HVAC Tune Up
By far, the most widely accessed rebate offer that United annually extends is the HVAC tune-up rebate. Experts estimate heating and cooling accounts for more than 50 percent of energy consumption in a standard residence. Due to this fact, HVAC maintenance is a vital aspect of managing energy consumption. If an HVAC system is not operating up to par, the first place an operational inefficiency is likely to be noticed is on the electric bill. United recommends continuing maintenance of an HVAC system, and offers $100 per unit, per year for having regular tune-ups performed by authorized HVAC technicians. This helps to ensure systems are running at peak performance.
Air/Ground Source Heat Pump
If members have determined their current central heating and air conditioning system has reached or surpassed its recommended service life, replacing the system may be necessary. United offers a rebate to members who are contemplating installation of a heat pump system. To qualify for an air source heat pump system rebate, the unit must be rated as a 16 SEER or higher. The higher the SEER rating, the more the rebate amount increases. The air source heat pump rebate eligibility ratings and amounts are as follows:
• 16 SEER - $200
• 17 SEER - $300
• 18 SEER - $400
• 19 SEER and above - $500
Ground source heat pumps, or geothermal systems, are very efficient heating and cooling systems, too. These units can extract heat or cold from the ground rather than using air, allowing it to run more efficiently and predictably. The reason this is such an efficient process is that the earth’s core temperature stays constant, where the air temperature can be erratic, causing an air source heat pump to work overtime in extreme temperatures. To receive a rebate for a ground source heat pump, the unit must have a minimum EER rating of 11. The United incentive provides $200 per ton, up to $1,200 for ground source heat pumps.
Attic Insulation Retrofit
United’s attic insulation rebate not only has efficiency benefits, but also offers yearlong household comfort. If a home does not have a proper insulation level, it can leave the home’s energy envelope more vulnerable to ambient temperatures. This can leave the home feeling cold and drafty in the winter or hot and stuffy in the summer. As a result of inadequate insulation, HVAC systems typically have to run more to offset the tug-of-war between comfort settings inside the home and external temperature extremes. This ultimately increases energy consumption. To receive a rebate for attic insulation, a FREE home energy audit is required before an install. When a United energy expert determines a member has 8 inches of insulation or less, then the member qualifies for the retrofit attic insulation rebate, paid only up to a maximum depth of 12 inches. United gives 2 cents per inch installed, per square foot. For example, if a member had 5 inches of insulation, and the home was 2000 square feet, the rebate calculation would be as follows:
12 inches, less existing inches = 7 inches
7 X .02 X 2000 = $280.00
By far one of the easiest ways to manage your energy consumption is through your thermostat settings. United recommends thermostat settings of 68 degrees or lower in the winter, and 78 degrees or higher in the summer. Each degree above 68 or below 78 can increase your usage anywhere from 5 to 10 percent. United offers a $25 rebate for homeowners who upgrade their thermostat to a WiFi-connected thermostat. WiFi-connected thermostats allow you to control your thermostat settings through an app on your mobile device, anywhere there is internet connection.
If members want to take it one-step further in their energy efficiency goals, then purchasing a Nest thermostat might be the right option for you. Nest Learning Thermostats have proven to save consumers about 15 percent on their annual cooling bills and about 10 to 12 percent on their annual heating bills. Nest thermostats learn the lifestyle and behavior in the home using activity sensors and adjust the thermostat automatically to save the homeowner energy. For members who make the additional energy savings step in purchasing a Nest, United will offer a $50 rebate.
Generally speaking, it is much easier to monitor and control emissions at the power plant level rather than at the point of use for residences, so for members who wish to be more environmentally conscious, or who are concerned about having gas in their home, United offers a $100 rebate