Efficiency yields cost savings

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We recently enjoyed receiving our electric bill. Mild weather combined with efficiency yielded a $13.18 monthly bill, or about 45 cents a day. That’s low for us, but even when we figure in higher use during hot and cold seasons, our monthly average bill is $36. That is 32 percent of the average $114 residential bill. Our medium-size home has typical appliances and lights, yet we annually pay Alliant Energy about $936 less than other families.

We’ve done nothing magical, and nearly any homeowner following our strategy will reduce their bill without sacrificing comfort or convenience. Here are steps we took to save money.

First, we unleashed the power of our index fingers. If it’s not in use, we turn it off. The sun sends free light and heat yet never sends a bill. In winter, we open south-facing blinds to welcome in sunshine and close them at sunset to keep cold out. In summer, we open windows at night, close them in the morning and tilt blinds so incoming sun and heat are deflected.

Second, we embraced technology. Incandescent bulbs are bygone-era dinosaurs. Modern LED bulbs provide better light while consuming less electricity. Once costly, LEDs now are inexpensive. We didn’t gradually replace incandescents. We banished them and converted the whole house to efficient lights. Almost immediately, our electric bill shrunk enough to cover bulb costs.

Third, when buying a new appliance, we purchase the energy-efficient model, which generally wears the Energy Star logo. Old appliances are energy thieves so we gradually replaced them. Efficient replacements usually cost slightly more than less efficient models, but utility savings quickly erase the difference. With efficient bulbs and appliances in place, our bill shrank to $55 a month.

Our fourth step was contracting with Site Gen Solar in Cedar Rapids to install a solar electric, or photovoltaic, system. On the 2016 summer solstice, we began making electricity. Six months later, tax credits reimbursed us for nearly half the installation cost. Our photovoltaics convert sunlight into electricity. When we’re making more power than we’re using, electricity runs our meter backward, enters the grid, and helps power neighboring homes. The photovoltaic system dropped our average bill to $36, and we’re enjoying an 11 percent return on our investment. Efficiency and photovoltaics do more than reduce cost. They help avoid burning coal and gas used to generate electricity. We have taken positive steps toward moderating climate change. It feels good.

Nearly every family can protect itself from increased cost, save money, and help the environment by using energy efficiently. Some can add photovoltaics to cut cost. To receive a free energy assessment and rebates for efficient equipment, contact Alliant Energy. For anyone who is interested in adding photovoltaics, the city of Cedar Rapids and Linn County are teaming up for a Solar Group Buy to reduce installation costs. To learn more, access www.SolarizeLinnCounty.com

l Marion and Rich Patterson own Winding Pathways LLC. Visit www.windingpathways.com

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