If you’ve ever received a high energy bill, your first thought was most likely: "Why are my charges so high this month?" Many factors contribute to high electricity bills — in particular, the hot weather. That's why summer is often the time Texas electricity customers see a spike in their bills.
Summer is conservation season
When the summer heat rolls in, it can be tempting to crank up the AC throughout the day, but many energy-saving alternatives can prevent racking up your energy bill. Plus, when you conserve energy, especially during peak-demand daytime hours, it can help preserve the integrity of the Texas electricity grid.
1U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/spring-and-summer-energy-saving-tips
2U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/articles/tipsenergy-how-save-energy-summer
3Customers must have already opted in to receive alerts via text from the Contact Preferences page on the Account Management dashboard. Available only to customers with a smart meter. Message and data rates may apply. For Terms and Conditions, go to reliant.com/etrm.
4HVAC service provided by Reliant Energy Retail Services LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. © 2018 NRG Energy, Inc. All rights reserved. TACLB23923E | Regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation, P.O. Box 12157, Austin, TX 78711, 1.800.803.9202.
Reliant is not affiliated with Nest or the products and services it markets. Nest® and Nest Learning ThermostatTM are trademarks or service marks of Nest Labs, Inc.
Running an AC unit all summer is too expensive. What are alternatives?The alternative that will work for you depends on the equipment you already have in your home and what you are willing to purchase. Many people have ceiling fans in their home which help circulate air and keep a room cool at a low cost. If you don’t have ceiling fans, you could install one in each room or use portable fans. Ceiling fans and portable fans cost less to use than air conditioning, giving you a cooler feeling without having to cool your entire home. Be sure ceiling fans are set to rotate counter-clockwise. And close window shades and blinds wherever possible to limit the amount of hot sun that enters the home.
How much can I expect my bill to increase in the summer?The amount your bill increases in the summer is tied to your particular household’s usage. Although the AC is a big factor in how high your bill is, other factors, such as the appliances you use, also contribute to your total usage and costs. Fortunately, you can sign up for Reliant AccountAlerts, a text message alert service that can notify you if your home has a 25% jump in electricity usage. You can also sign up for our Weekly Summary Email, which will detail your usage for the week and compare it to the previous week and month. These tools can alert you to high usage early in your billing cycle so you can reduce your usage for the rest of the month to keep your bill low.
I feel my electric bill is higher than it should be, but I do not use the AC very much. Is everything working properly?
Check how much energy you used in past months by comparing the kWh on your bills, rather than the costs. Perhaps your bill hasn’t actually increased, but you feel like your overall usage is high. If that’s the case, you can check out our home energy savings tips for more information on how to cut back on energy consumption throughout the year.
Make sure the meter is correct by checking to see if your meter matches your bill. If everything matches and you weren’t overcharged, you may have a high energy bill because you live in a multi-family dwelling or a duplex where someone else's electricity is wired into your meter. Or your meter may be broken and running even when appliances are not being used. You should to call your utility provider (TDSP as listed on your electricity bill) to have them check the meter.
What is the cost savings between central AC and window AC units?A window AC unit typically costs 14 cents an hour while central AC costs about 36 cents an hour. Ceiling fans are another great option and are very cost-effective as they only cost approximately 1 cent per three hours.
Will upgrading my thermostat to a smart thermostat help me save on my electricity bill?
A smart thermostat (like a Nest Learning ThermostatTM) can potentially help you save on your electricity bill, but whether or not you save largely depends on how you program and use the thermostat. Most smart thermostats on the market can be programed according to a schedule you initially set. Some include motion sensors that detect when you are actually home, and many will save your programmed preferences and then make slight tweaks as they learn your habits. Smart thermostats often make almost imperceptible changes to the temperatures you've set to help you ultimately use less electricity. These features could all result in you using less electricity and thereby saving on your electricity bill, but many factors contribute to how much you pay for electricity each month.
If you were already diligent about turning up your thermostat while away and conserving your AC use with a traditional thermostat, you might not see much difference when you switch to a smart thermostat. Also, if you override the smart thermostat settings regularly, you may not get the energy and cost savings you hope to see. Some thermostats work better than others depending on location within your home or personal preference, so you have to make sure you buy the right one for your home and mount it properly. The weather, the condition of your HVAC unit, your home's insulation, and how well your home is sealed can affect how much energy is required to cool and heat your home as well.
In other words, a smart thermostat can be an excellent tool to save energy and money, but many other factors could influence your energy costs.
*Reliant is not affiliated with Nest or the products and services it markets. Nest®, Nest Learning Thermostat™, Nest Leaf™, Airwave™, Auto-Away™ and the Nest logo are trademarks or servicemarks of Nest Labs, Inc.
On which wall should I place my thermostat?
Ideally, a thermostat should be mounted on an interior wall, away from temperature extremes.1 Try to choose a central room you use frequently so the thermostat will work according to the needs of that room and not some unused area of the house.
When installing your thermostat, avoid:
- Direct sunlight
- Outside doors and windows
- Hallways or other areas with poor air circulation
- Air vents
- Areas near the kitchen2
If you have a smart thermostat, you'll need to make sure you're within range of your Wi-Fi router and that no doors, corners, shelves or other items are obstructing the view of its motion or image sensor.3
Will cooking outdoors keep my electricity costs lower?
You can save electricity by cooking food outside instead of on the stove or in the oven. Using an oven doesn't cost much and can actually be cheaper than using a grill, but the heat in the kitchen can cause the air conditioner to work harder. You can save the cost of running the AC if you grill outside instead.
If I keep my air conditioning at the same level, will I save money on my electricity bill?
Probably not. Some people believe that setting the AC or even just the fan to run constantly will help them save on electricity. This is not true. If you can run your AC less often, you are more likely to save money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can potentially save 10% on your electricity bill if you diligently set your thermostat 7-10 degrees away from your ideal temperature for 8 hours a day.4 That means, if it's summertime and you prefer your home at 72°F, you should turn the thermostat up to 80°F while you're away at work.
4U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats
How frequently should I change out my HVAC air filters?
When you purchase your air filters, check the packaging for a manufacturer-recommended replacement schedule. Most filters should be replaced every one or two months, but this can vary depending on how much the HVAC system is being used, how much dust enters the system and how many furry pets you have.5 Get air filters delivered to your home periodically, with Reliant Filters Made Easy®.
5U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner
How frequently should I schedule regular maintenance for my HVAC system?
We recommend tuning up your heater and air conditioner twice per year—once before summer hits and other time just before winter. Our licensed AC Tune-Up technicians will check refrigerant levels and all major working components of your system, recommending any repairs if needed.
I cannot afford my bill right now. What are my options from here?
For assistance regarding your current bill, you can call 1-866-RELIANT to get information about payment plans and other options available for you. We can help you.
For help with bills in the future, you may want to try one of these options:
- Call 1-888-EEXPERT to speak with a Reliant energy expert on how to reduce your overall energy usage.
- Consider our average billing option, which smooths out the highs and lows of your electricity bills based on an average of the last 12 months of usage at your address. Signing up for average billing means you will receive an energy bill each month that should be more consistent throughout the year.
- Dial 211 on your phone for more information on assistance available in your community.