NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The coronavirus public health crisis has impacted almost every aspect of American life. From work and school to meals and entertainment, Tennesseans are spending more time at home than ever before. With this extra activity, many will see a surge home energy use – and in upcoming electric bills. There are, however, some simple money-saving steps you can take today to lower monthly electric bills without jeopardizing safety or comfort.

Recommended energy-saving tips include:

  • Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat one degree lower when heating or one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5 percent. 
  • Do full loads of laundry and wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, and using cold water will save even more.
  • Air dry dishes.  This step can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by up to 50 percent.
  • Substitute LEDs for conventional light bulbs. Lighting can amount to up to 12% of monthly energy use. LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by 75%.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Small appliances and electronics use energy even when not in use. When powered on, game consoles, televisions and similar electronics are responsible for up to 12 percent of energy use.

You can see them on fields of open land, on top of people’s homes and even on backpacks. Solar panels are becoming much cheaper and more prevalent in the United States and across the world. Because of this, more homeowners are considering installing solar panels on their own rooftops. Whether you’re interested in saving money or helping the environment, there are many benefits from installing rooftop solar panels. However, there are several things to think about before making the jump. Here are three key factors to consider before installing solar panels on your own home:

Location

Does the town or state you live in typically get a lot of sunlight? Is your location prone to natural disasters? The best areas for rooftop solar panels are those that generally receive a lot of sunlight throughout the year and are less likely to have natural disasters that could damage solar equipment. Even if you don’t live in the sunniest state, this doesn’t mean solar panels won’t work for you. While lesser-lit areas may not be as efficient, they will still receive a substantive amount of solar energy. Areas that are prone to natural disasters can also take advantage of unique ways to prevent damage, for example, different mounting procedures to protect against hurricanes.

Additionally, depending on your location, many states also have incentives and rebates for installing residential solar panel systems, on top of the federal solar tax credit of 26% in 2020, which is available to all states. Being aware of state-specific incentives can help you make your decision before installing a residential solar panel system.

Roof Condition

Two huge factors of solar panel efficiency are the direction your roof slant faces and the angle of the slant. South-facing roofs will receive the most sunlight throughout the day, and roof angles between 30 and 45 degrees work well in most cases. However, even if your home does not have a south-facing roof, you can still have an economically-viable solar panel system.

The material of your roof is also crucial since some roof types are better situated to have solar panels than others, such as composite roofing or tile roofs. Despite this, solar panels can be installed on practically any type of roof material, although more complicated roof materials, like tar and gravel roofs, may be more expensive and require additional expertise.

Lastly, ensuring the good condition of your roof plays a large part to help make sure that your panels are situated as safely as possible.

Financing Options

There are several different options when considering how to pay for rooftop solar panels. One of the simplest options is a solar loan, which allows you to buy and own your entire system. Generally, you should save enough money on your electric bills from the solar panels to pay off the cost of the monthly loan payment.

A solar lease is another financing option where a third-party owner (TPO) installs solar panels on your home and charges you an electricity rate below the market rate. The TPO owns and maintains the panels, and at the end of the lease will offer to sell you the panels or remove them. However, you will not be eligible for rebates or incentives, since the TPO owns the system.

Another option is a power purchase agreement (PPA) which is like a solar lease. The main difference is that you pay a pre-determined monthly amount based on the actual energy produced, instead of a flat monthly fee that a solar lease would require.

Before you decide on a financing option, we strongly encourage you to talk with your local electric cooperative first to determine if installation is right for you – and if there are other measures you can take to save energy (and money) at home.

These three considerations provide a great starting point for learning how to go solar, but it should be noted this list is not complete. There are additional important details to consider, such as solar panel type, potential battery installation and how long you plan to live at your current home.

Remember, your electric cooperative is a great resource to discuss the benefits and considerations of rooftop solar, especially before making any agreements with solar vendors. Choosing the right professionals and companies to install your solar panels is an important choice and working with your electric co-op can help you to make the best decision possible.

Maria Kanevsky is a program analyst for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Predictors of future auto and energy forecasts say that by the end of this new decade, some versions of electric vehicles (EVs) could account for half of auto sales in the world. The trends that could lead to those projections include better battery technology and a rising interest in energy efficiency for buses, rideshare vehicles and even electric scooters.

EV sales jumped an incredible 75% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, but by the end of 2018, EVs still only accounted for less than 2% of the overall vehicle market.

But auto companies see those small numbers as an opportunity for growth. Around the world, they are investing $225 billion over the next three years to develop more EVs. Industry groups report that manufacturers are now offering more than 40 different models of EVs, a number expected to grow to more than 200 over the next two years. An analysis by the J.P. Morgan investment firm sees traditional internal combustion engine vehicles falling from a 70% share of the market in 2025 to just 40% by 2030.

The efficiency of electricity

What’s powering those predictions is the worldwide interest in the related desires for less pollution, higher efficiency and greater economy. A study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) concludes that electricity produces less greenhouse gases than other forms of energy, especially with the increasing use of renewable power sources to generate electricity. The ACEEE study cites transportation as a sector of the economy that could produce the biggest gains in energy efficiency, mainly due to a shift toward EVs. The study says, “Electric vehicles are generally more efficient and have lower emissions than gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine vehicles. Thus, operating costs are typically lower for electric vehicles.”

While efficiency and environmental concerns provide reasons for EV growth, it also helps that they’re getting cheaper. A lot cheaper. One of the biggest costs of an EV is the battery, and fierce competition is driving down prices. The incentives for researchers and manufacturers to lower costs have reduced battery prices about 15% a year for the past 20 years. As a result, the cost of the battery has dropped from more than half the cost of an EV four years ago, to one-third today, and is expected to be down to about one-fifth the cost by 2025, according to the research firm BloombergNEF.

Electric buses, scooters and ridesharing

As battery prices drop, they get better. In the case of a battery, better means they last longer, which addresses one of the biggest roadblocks to more people buying EVs. There’s a term for the concern that an EV battery will run out before you’re done driving for the day—range anxiety.

But batteries can now provide a range of 200 miles before needing a recharge, well above the 40 miles a day that most people drive, even in rural areas.

Which brings up another roadblock to EVs—how you charge them. One easy place to charge an EV would be in your garage overnight, and your local electric co-op can help you with advice on how to do that. There are different ways to charge your car, from a standard outlet, which takes longer, to higher-voltage techniques that might require an upgrade your co-op can help with.

Electric co-ops around the country are also helping to install charging stations around the country—another factor people will want available before buying an EV. That number is growing as well. The Department of Energy reports that in the past two years, the number of EV charging stations in the U.S. has increased from 16,000 to 22,000.

Experts expect some of the strongest growth of electric transportation to come in specialized uses that could expand to wider acceptance. Bloomberg expects that by 2040, 81% of municipal bus sales will be electric. Ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber are another expected market. More than a billion people around the world use ridesharing services and the stop-and-go nature of rideshare driving could make the greater efficiency of EVs attractive to those drivers. New technology also brings unexpected uses. One industry writer says a new electric scooter with a range of 75 miles and a top speed of 15 miles per hour could change what we think of as a vehicle.

As the Bloomberg study concludes, “Electrification will still take time because the global fleet changes over slowly, but once it gets rolling in the 2020s, it starts to spread to many other areas of road transport. We see a real possibility that global sales of conventional passenger cars have already passed their peak.”

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National RuralElectric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

A New Year brings new opportunities to save energy––and money. You may think energy efficiency upgrades require a great deal of time and expense, but that’s not always the case.

If you’re interested in making your home more efficient but don’t want to break the bank, there are several DIY projects you can tackle to increase energy savings. Let’s take a look at three inexpensive efficiency upgrades that can help you save energy throughout the year.  

Trim Dryer Vent

Level of difficulty: easy. Supplies needed: tin snips, gloves, measuring tape and masking tape. Estimated Cost: about $25 depending on the supplies you already have.

If your dryer vent hose is too long, your dryer is working harder than it has to, using more energy than necessary. The vent hose should be long enough for you to pull the dryer out a couple feet from the wall, but the shape of the hose should form a line––it should not have a lot of slack, with twists and curves. A shorter, unobstructed vent hose increases the efficiency of your dryer, dries clothing faster and reduces lint buildup, which can create potential fire hazards.

Simply measure, mark and trim the hose to the desired length, then reattach the hose to your dryer and exterior vent. If you’re unsure about the hose length, check out YouTube.com for a quick video tutorial.

Seal Air Leaks

Level of difficulty: moderate. Supplies needed: caulk and caulk gun, weather stripping, gloves, putty knife, paper towels. Estimated Cost: $25 to $50 depending on the materials you purchase.

Sealing air leaks in your home can help you save 10% to 20% on heating and cooling bills. Apply caulk around windows, doors, electrical wiring and plumbing to seal in conditioned air. You should also weather strip exterior doors, which can keep out drafts and help you control energy costs. Types of caulking and weather stripping materials vary, but ask your local hardware or home store for assistance if you’re unsure about the supplies you need. For more information, the Department of Energy provides step-by-step instructions for caulking and weather stripping: https://bit.ly/2Kesu6W

Insulate Attic Stairs Opening

Level of difficulty: moderate. Supplies needed (if you build the box yourself): rigid foam board, faced blanket insulation, tape for foam board, measuring tape, utility knife, caulk and caulk gun, plywood. Estimated Cost: $50 to $100.

A properly insulated attic is one of the best ways to optimize energy savings and comfort in your home, but many homeowners don’t consider insulating the attic stairs, or the opening to your attic space. Even a well-insulated attic can leak air through the stair opening, but luckily, there’s an easy fix.

An insulated cover box can seal and insulate the attic stairs opening. You can build your own insulated cover box or purchase a pre-built box or kit from a local home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $60. If you decide to build your own, check out these step-by-step instructions from the Department of Energy: https://bit.ly/36YNCYQ. It should also be noted, if your attic opening is located in a garage that you do not heat and cool, this upgrade will not be as effective.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be hard. With a little time and effort, you can maximize energy savings and increase the comfort of your home. To learn about additional ways to save, contact your local electric co-op.

This holiday season, give the gift of tech! If you’re searching for the latest gadgets and electronics to gift but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of ideas for your tech-savvy friends and family members, and with a range of prices and interests, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Gifts for those on the go: We all have that one friend who never stays in one place, so they’ll appreciate gifts that keep them charged and entertained while on the go.

A portable charger (or power bank) can keep their smart phones and tablets juiced, and the good news is this gift won’t drain your wallet. You can purchase portable chargers online or at local retailers for as low as $20. Typically, these compact devices can fully charge an iPhone three times before running out of steam.

A Bluetooth speaker is another great gift to keep those on the go entertained. Whether they’re listening to their favorite tunes or watching the latest flick, Bluetooth speakers can clarify and amplify volume to satisfy any media enthusiast. Prices range depending on features, but you can purchase a quality Bluetooth speaker online or at local retailers for as low as $30.

Gifts for the chef: Every foodie knows that temperature matters when mastering the perfect cut of meat. A Bluetooth-connected thermometer can help your chef ensure a delicious (and safe-to-eat) meal. Just download the associated app and keep an eye on the grill right from your smart phone or tablet. Prices vary from $30 to $200, but you can purchase these handy gadgets online or at any big box store, like Wal-Mart or Target.

A digital kitchen scale is a must for any culinary pro. No more guessing––the easy-to-read digital screen ensures the exact weight or amount required for that perfect dish. Prices vary depending on the weight the scale can handle, but you can find a 13-pound max weight scale for about $20 on Amazon.com.

Gifts for the pet owner: Let’s face it––pet owners would be lost without their fur babies. Luckily, pet tracking products continue to advance, so pet owners can always keep a watchful eye on their furry friends. Most trackers simply attach to your pet’s collar. Prices vary depending on the tracker’s capabilities, but some features include water resistance, health monitoring and exceptional battery life. You can purchase pet trackers online or at your local pet store.

Speaking of keeping an eye on pets, you can also purchase surveillance cameras for real-time monitoring––some cameras even allow you to toss treats to your furry friend while you’re away. Additional features include a microphone (so you can talk to your pets), a built-in laser toy (for our feline friends) and the ability to snap a photo or take video from your smart phone. Prices vary depending on the bells and whistles, but you can purchase a pet camera for as low as $40 on Amazon.com.

With so many electronics available today, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for your tech-savvy loved ones. Happy shopping!

Middle Tennessee Electric selects Tesla battery to drive power savings

Murfreesboro – Middle Tennessee Electric (MTEMC) has teamed with Tesla, one of the most innovative technology companies in the energy industry, to test a new program intended to save its members money via a cutting-edge energy management process.

Middle Tennessee Electric has installed the latest Tesla Powerpack at one of their substations in Murfreesboro, TN. The Tesla Powerpack is a battery energy storage system (BESS) designed for a wide range of uses.  In this pilot program, it will be used to reduce MTEMC’s energy demand charges from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and improve demand response time to its members when additional energy is needed. “We’re really excited about what the Tesla Powerpack allows us to do. It’s yet another asset we can use to improve the quality of our system while being financially responsible stewards of our members’ resources,” says Chris Jones, MTEMC President/CEO.

The BESS’s primary purpose will be to help reduce MTEMC’s monthly wholesale electricity purchases during peak demand hours, a change that should result in saving the cooperative tens of thousands of dollars annually. This is done through a process called energy time shift for distributed generation. The process allows the BESS to be charged when TVA rates are lower during low usage hours and is then discharged when energy demand costs are higher.  Middle Tennessee Electric members will benefit significantly because they will be billed based on the lower off-peak rates in effect when the BESS was being charged rather than the higher on-peak rates normally charged when the electricity is used during those peak hours.

In addition to saving the cooperative money, the Tesla Powerpack allows MTEMC to evaluate innovative energy technology and educate members about its Distributed Energy Resources (DER). “Education is another important benefit of the project. As with any new technology, there is a lot to learn as we educate our employees and members,” says Avery Ashby, an MTEMC electrical engineer. “A better understanding comes from owning, operating and maintaining new technology, so we can advise our members to make informed decisions as more distributed energy resources are adopted in our service area.”  MTEMC currently operates a subscription solar power program called Cooperative Solar as another part of its DER offerings to members.

Jones continues, “We exist to serve our members by making their lives better. As one of the largest electric cooperatives in the nation, we are constantly looking for new ways to improve the reliability and affordability of electricity for our members, and the Tesla Powerpack allows us to realize those goals. Members should be focused on living their lives, not on the system powering them.”

The deployment of Tesla technology is one of the latest innovations MTEMC has embraced in its role to be their members’ trusted energy advisor and provider. MTEMC provides electricity and community programs to more than 500,000 Tennessee residents through 230,000 metered accounts. The MTEMC service area covers more than 2,100 square miles and is served by more than 12,000 miles of electric line across parts of 11 Tennessee counties including Cannon, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties.

NASHVILLE – The little vampires who ring your doorbell on Halloween night aren’t the only ones you should be afraid of. Electricity vampires are all over your house—all year long.

Electrical vampires are appliances and electronics that continue to pull electricity, even when they are turned off.

According to the US Department of Energy, vampires account for up to 5 percent of the energy in your house. To save you from a witch hunt, electric co-ops offer a list of the most likely vampires in your house:

  1. Computers, modems, routers, printers and other related equipment.
  2. Your flat-screen TV. The larger it is, the more energy it uses, even when turned off.
  3. Home theater equipment, including surround-sound devices.
  4. Your cable or satellite TV box.
  5. Anything with a digital time display, like your microwave oven or DVD player.

If an electrical device has a continuous display, like a digital clock, if it charges batteries, like your mobile phone charger, or if it has a remote control, like your TV—it’s a vampire.

The best way to stop these vampires is to unplug them when you’re not using them. You may also consider purchasing power strips so you have to pull just one plug to stop a group of electronics from using vampire electricity.

NASHVILLE – With the long, hot days of summer just around the corner, Tennessee’s electric co-ops provide these simple tips to save energy and money.

“There are some small things you can do to have a big impact on your electric bill,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member services for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Taking a little time now can pay off big as temperatures rise.”

Use blinds and shades to keep your cool inside. Close draperies on windows in direct sunlight to keep the heat out.

Make wise choices with the thermostat. The smaller the difference between the outside temperature and the thermostat setting will reduce your cooling bill. Keep your thermostat as high as you can while remaining comfortable. We recommend 75 degrees. Programmable thermostats can automatically adjust the temperature when you are not home or awake.

Keep your HVAC unit in good working condition. Be sure your filters are clean. This is a cheap but essential thing to do every month or so. Schedule regular maintenance to clean and maintain your system.

Use fans to increase comfort. Running a fan will allow you to increase your thermostat setting by 4 degrees without reducing comfort, but remember to turn fans off when you leave the room. You can also use bathroom and kitchen fans to move humidity outside.

Seal the hot air out. A tube of caulk and some weather stripping can go a long way. Seal cracks to keep hot air out and cool air in.

Avoid using appliances and lights that create heat. Replace traditional lighting with LEDs that produce no heat. On hot days, avoid using ovens or stoves and instead use the microwave or grill outside.

Plant some trees. This takes some time to pay off, but it will eventually. Trees can shade your home and have a significant impact on your energy bill. Just be sure to remain mindful of your electric cooperative’s right-of-way. Don’t place trees underneath power lines, and call to have underground utilities located before performing any digging task.

Visit our efficiency resource guide on tnelectric.org or contact your local electric co-op for more tips and suggestions.

The unusually cold weather in December and January has created some unusually high electric bills for members of electric co-ops. Many are asking the question, “Why does my bill go up when it is cold outside?”

The infographic below helps explains the relationship between electric rates and energy consumption.

If you are concerned about your electric bill, contact your local co-op to learn more about programs and services that can help you save energy and money the next time the weather gets cold (or hot).

 

Eating carrots will greatly improve your eyesight, cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis, watching too much TV will harm your vision. We’ve all heard the old wives’ tales, but did you know there are also many misconceptions about home energy use?

Don’t be fooled by these common energy myths.

Myth: The higher the thermostat setting, the faster the home will heat (or cool).

Many people think that walking into a chilly room and raising the thermostat to 85 degrees will heat the room more quickly. This is not true.

Thermostats direct a home’s HVAC system to heat or cool to a certain temperature. Drastically adjusting the thermostat setting will not make a difference in how quickly you feel warmer. The same is true for cooling. The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during summer months, and 68 degrees during winter months.

Myth: Opening the oven door to check on a dish doesn’t really waste energy.

While it can be tempting to check the progress of that dish you’re cooking in the oven, opening the oven door does waste energy. Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, delaying the progress of your dish and, more importantly, costing you additional money. If you need to check the progress of a dish, try using the oven light instead.

Myth: Ceiling fans keep your home cool while you’re away.

Believe it or not, many people think this is true. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. Ceiling fans circulate room air but do not change the temperature. A running ceiling fan in an empty room is only adding to your electricity use. Remember to turn fans off when you’re away and reduce your energy use.

Myth: Reducing my energy use is too expensive.

Many consumers believe that reducing energy use requires expensive up-front costs, like purchasing new, more efficient appliances or construction upgrades to an older home. But the truth is, consumers who make small changes to their energy efficiency habits, such as turning off lights when not in use, sealing air leaks and using a programmable thermostat, can see a reduction in energy consumption.

Remember, energy efficiency doesn’t have to be difficult. Focus on small changes to save big. Learn more about ways to save energy by visiting your local co-op online.