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Huntley resident wins energy-awareness quiz giveaway

Congratulations to George of Huntley for winning CUB’s Energy Awareness Quiz giveaway! He was randomly selected out of hundreds of participants to win $100.

Thanks to George and everyone who took the challenge. For more information about energy efficiency and tips, go to CUB’s Clean Energy page. 

Here are the answers to the quiz:

10 Correct: Energy Genius!
8-9 Correct: Energy Expert!
5-7 Correct: Energy Expert in Training!
0-4 Correct: That’s ok! If you’d like, you can sign up for a free utility bill analysis. Email photos or copies of your bills to [email protected]. A staffer will review your bills and follow up with you via email or phone.

1) True or False: Electricity and gas prices are down from last year. 

True! In October, gas prices are down by a whopping 53-69% from last October. (The prices also are down in November.)

And electricity prices are down about 30-34 percent from last October. Be wary if an alternative supplier claims prices are up, or if they seem to guarantee you savings. Nobody can do that. 

2)  True or False: If I’m getting a bill from my utility company, I’m not with an alternative supplier.

False! Getting a bill from your utility company is no guarantee that you’re not with an alternative supplier. Because the utility owns all the pipes/wires, you will always pay those companies to deliver the gas/electricity to your home. If you are with an alternative supplier, those charges will be included on the supply section of your utility bill. CUB has a fact sheet on where ComEd and Ameren customers should look to see if they’re with an alternative supplier. Check your bills regularly–a lot of consumers tell us they didn’t even know they were with a supplier until their bills went up. Read our tips on avoiding rip-offs.

3) True or False: If you’re having trouble paying your utility bills, you are always protected from getting your service shut off in the summer or winter.

False! It’s a myth that the utility can never disconnect your heat in the winter or your electricity in the summer. There are regulations that prevent disconnections during extreme cold or heat, but they’re not applicable to every account and circumstance. Don’t ever assume you’re protected. Residential accounts deemed to be in compliance with state regulations are safe from disconnection:

  • When the temperature is below 32 degrees or expected to fall below 32 degrees within the next 24-hour period, and disconnection would affect your heat.
  • When the temperature is above 95 degrees or expected to rise above 95 degrees within the next 24-hour period (electricity only). (Note: Thanks to the work of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, this is changing to 90 degrees on Jan. 1, 2024. And people will also be protected when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat watch, heat advisory, or excessive heat warning covering the area of the utility in which their residence is located.)
  • On any day preceding a weekend or holiday when temperatures are expected to meet the above criteria.
  • If it’s between December 1 and March 31 AND if the utility accepted LIHEAP funds on the account after September 1 of that heating season.
  • If it’s between December 1 and March 31 and you have an electric heat account (meaning your primary source of heat is electricity).
  • If it’s between December 1 and March 31 and you are a service member who has just been assigned to duty. 

Watch our video.

4) True or False: Solar incentives can take up to 70 percent off the cost of installing panels 

True! Legislation, such as Illinois’ 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) and the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, offer multiple incentives that can cover up to 70 percent of installation costs. Warning: Some sales pitches advertise “free” solar panels. That’s usually a solar leasing deal. First of all, that doesn’t mean the panels are free. Secondly, while a lease might be a good choice for some consumers, you should know that leasing your panels means you don’t get the solar incentives we mentioned above. Those incentives are only for people who own the panels outright. Order CUB’s Solar Guide.

5) True or False: Heat pumps don’t work in cold weather.

False! Heat pumps are 50-60 percent more efficient than traditional furnaces or boilers–they are a cheaper, cleaner alternative to gas-fired heat. But  one of the most common misconceptions about heat pumps is the notion that they do not adequately work in cold weather, and therefore are not a viable option in regions like the Midwest. Geothermal heat pumps have no issue providing plentiful heating during the winter, because underground remains above 50 degrees year-round. And due to technological upgrades, many leading models of air source heat pumps are now capable of operating at temperatures of -13 degrees F or colder. This is based on ambient temperature–wind chill does not affect heat pumps. (The average winter temperature in Illinois is about 30-40 degrees.) Since the development of variable-speed, inverter-driven indoor coil and other improvements, heat pumps have passed field tests in northern Minnesota and the Arctic Circle. In Norway, which has an average winter temperature of about 20 degrees F, about half the households use heat pumps. Order CUB’s Better Heat guide. 

6) True or false: What I pay for electricity depends on how much I use and when I use it.

True and false (depends on the customer). Sorry folks, we just couldn’t resist at least one trick question. Most electricity customers pay a flat price for electricity that changes only a few times a year. However, customers on ComEd’s Hourly Pricing and Ameren’s Power Smart Pricing programs pay a supply rate that reflects the market and can change every hour. If you are a customer who can avoid heavy electricity usage when prices are high–usually during the day–then these programs could be right for you. Customers participating in these hourly pricing programs have saved an average of 10-15 percent on the supply portion of their bills. These programs are also good for the environment, because reducing peak demand lessens the need for fossil fuel plants.

7) True or False: Fans are a cost-efficient way to cool a room. 

False! Ok, one more trick question. We LOVE fans–and they ARE a cost-efficient way to keep cool. But they don’t actually cool a room. Instead, they simply move air around to create a breeze, making people feel cooler. So turn the fan off when you leave a room. They cool people, not rooms. (And they also are helpful at keeping you warm in the winter. Watch our video.)  

8) True or false: Going with an alternative supplier’s 100% green plan means I’m getting 100% renewable energy pumped into my home.

False! Signing up for a reasonably priced green plan can be a legitimate choice, but it does not mean that the electricity supplier will send energy produced by a solar or wind farm directly to your home. Instead, the company will take some of your money to buy Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, to offset up to 100 percent of the energy that you use. One REC is created for each megawatt-hour (1,000 kilowatt-hours) of electricity produced by a renewable energy generator, like a wind turbine or a solar panel. Consumers almost always pay a premium for these green plans–but the quality of the RECs vary. Shop carefully. Read our fact sheet.

9) True or false: Though it may be tempting to just weatherize my windows, it’s always better to replace them with new, efficient models.

False! It’s not always best to replace your windows—despite what door-to-door sales reps might say. While the best move for some homes might be new, efficient windows, the price tag means it could be a long time before you break even on savings. You might get a bigger bang for your buck by simply sealing cracks and leaks around your windows and taking other efficiency actions around the house, like, for example, adding insulation in the attic.

10) Going with an alternative supplier will NOT protect me from rate hikes

True! Illinois’ utility companies (including Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Nicor, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas) are asking for a combined total of $2.9 billion in delivery rate hikes in 2023, but going with an alternative gas or electric supplier won’t protect you from them. Utility bills are divided into three parts: supply, delivery and taxes. You could choose to pay an alternative company for electricity/gas supply, but even if you do, you’ll still pay the utility to deliver the energy to your home. And in 2023 the utilities are trying to raise those delivery charges by a total of $2.9 billion. Join the fight against these outrageous rate hikes.