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Breaking: ComEd power price to increase 38% June 1

20140507_ComEdRate_blogComEd’s residential energy rate is set to rise 38 percent from 5.52 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 7.596 cents per kWh on June 1.

(See ways you can soften the rate hike below.)

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the average household bill will increase about 20 percent, to $82 per month because of the June 1  hike.

So why is this happening? The polar vortex winter helped elevate wholesale market prices, but there’s another big reason the rates are skyrocketing: capacity charges.

Capacity charges, set by auctions in the wholesale market, are wrapped into the price we pay for electricity. Capacity, which impacts supply prices for both ComEd and alternative electric suppliers, are designed to ensure that power generators are ready to meet electricity demand at it’s worst (hot summer days). It’s kind of like Walmart building a big, expensive parking lot–that’s only full on the busiest shopping day of the year. (Is it any wonder our power bills are high?)

The new rate affects the supply portion of your bill, which reflects the cost of electricity, itself.  This charge takes up a half to two-thirds of your bill and differs from the delivery charge, which accounts for the price to deliver energy to your household.

The June 1 increase is more proof that you can’t count on volatile energy markets to deliver savings. Energy efficiency is the most reliable way to cut your power bills.

Hot tips for the summer energy savings:

  •  Raising your thermostat by only two degrees and using your ceiling fan to circulate cool air can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent over the course of the cooling season.
  • Replace hot incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs or LEDs.
  • Unplug appliances and use a smart power strip to help power down electronics when not in use.
  • Close the blinds or shades during hot midday hours when the sun is beating onto your home.
  • Give your air conditioner a break. Open windows on opposite sides of your house to create a cross breeze–especially in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler. Run ceiling fans counter-clockwise to create a gentle downdraft (but make sure to turn them off when you leave the room). Use a window fan, blowing toward the outside, to pull cool air in through other windows and to push hot air out. Turn on your stove fan for awhile to also draw the hot air out of the house.
  • Seal the spaces around windows, doors and around the holes where electrical wires and plumbing pipes enter the home. This will minimize the hot air that sneaks into your house.
  • Reduce the space that needs to be cooled. When the AC is on, don’t leave doors open around the house.
  • It’s a myth that if you go out for part of the day, it’s better to keep your AC running because then, when you get home, your AC won’t have to work harder to quickly cool a warm house. Even for short trips, you will save a lot of energy by turning off the AC and then turning it back on when you get home.
  • It’s also a myth that you should crank your air conditioner down to 50 degrees to cool the house more quickly. The air conditioner will deliver cool air at the same rate no matter how you set it.
  • Whenever you can, use a microwave or grill outside instead of oven cooking. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer, therefore requiring your air conditioning system to work harder.
  • Use your bath fan to remove heat and moisture generated by showers.
  • On hot days, delay heat-producing tasks, such as dishwashing, baking, or doing laundry, until the cooler evening hours or early morning.
  • Change your AC filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and decrease efficiency by as much as 30 percent since the system has to work harder.
  •  Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat. If the thermostat senses heat from these appliances, the air conditioner will run longer than necessary.
  • Upgrade your air conditioner. Replacing a 10-year-old AC unit with a newer unit will result in at least a 15 percent gain in efficiency, and up to 50 percent if you choose a model with the Energy Star label, the federal government’s designation for highly efficient products.
  • Size your AC properly for the space to be cooled. It’s a myth that a larger unit will cool better. An oversized AC unit cycles on and off more often and this results in less effective dehumidification of the space. A properly-sized unit will be more efficient and will keep the space at a constant temperature.  Choose the AC with the highest Energy Efficiency Ratio, which you can find on the unit or its packaging. The minimum EER required by federal law is 9.7; the most efficient air conditioners have an EER of 11.7.

For more energy-saving tips, plus a customized plan to lower your power bills, visit www.CUBEnergySaver.com!

SOURCES: CUBenergysaver.com, EnergyStar.gov, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.