Sunday, October 12, 2008

Energy Efficient in Connecticut, Part 1

(NB no knitting or puppy content ahead, and the information contained herein is totally Connecticut-centric.)

About two weeks ago I went from a Ravelry forum to a user's profile to her blog, where she was talking about saving money on her utility bills.
A fellow Nutmeger (ha! Connecticut is the Nutmeg state, and that is a goofy nickname for residents. Don't blame me, I'm not native), she mentioned having a home energy assessment performed, but was unclear on how to sign up. She mentioned calling either your gas or electric utility, but didn't say which company she was with.
In Connecticut, as far as I know, we have two electric distribution companies Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating (UI, which is the one I have). Since she didn't mention who was sponsoring the program in which she participated, I didn't know if the company mattered.
The editor in me twitched. I suppose she was being general in order to appeal to a wider audience, but I have no such compunctions. However, she did achieve her goal, as I ran off to find out more.
(The theme of her blog is budgeting and saving money. I haven't been reading it regularly, but it seems interesting. However I checked it again preparing for this post and her grocery budget is so out of step with my version of reality that I'm not sure how useful her information would be to me.)

My Tax Dollars at Work
Turns out the Home Energy Solutions Program is a partnership between the state, UI, CL&P, Yankee Gas, Southern Connecticut Gas, and Connecticut Natural Gas.
It is free to residents who heat with electric or natural gas. People who heat with oil, propane or kerosene have a $300 co-pay.
It is "free" in the sense that I am not going to have to hand them money. Turns out the program is funded by a charge on my monthly electric and gas bills.

Who They Want
In addition to those with electric or natural gas heat, the program is targeted to high energy users. There are disclaimers on the applications about possible wait lists and subject to available funding.
However, I must be just the kind of people they are looking for because I faxed in my application on a Monday and they called us on Tuesday! Their eagerness to assist me can't be a good sign.
People who rent need to get their landlord's permission.
There are other programs in place for low income residents which you can find off the linked pages. Since I don't qualify, I didn't investigate them.
I'm not sure how long these programs have been running or how well they are being marketed, since I didn't learn about it until I read that blog. Maybe I should look at the bill inserts more carefully.

What It Does
The original blogger says they sealed around her windows, installed low flow shower heads, and replaced traditional bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFL).
When I originally read her post I thought it was unclear who paid for that. I thought it's not worth it having someone come tell me to change my bulbs. Those bulbs are wicked expensive. But rereading her post to prepare for my post I see she does state "all that stuff is free." So I must have read too quickly.
(However, since the majority of my lights are on dimmers, I don't think the bulb thing is going to help me. They have CFLs for use with dimmers, but they are even more expensive than the normal ones.)
In poking around, I found they will also seal ducts, insulate the water heater and pipes, and provide rebates or incentives for appliances and insulation.
I'm really hoping we can qualify for the central air rebate since we only just installed it over the summer.
The applications on the Yankee Gas and UI sites are basically the same, and go to the same person, but the UI program description is more robust, so I used that one. However, I have to imagine the services offered will be the same across the board since it is one contractor for all the companies in the program. (Just to be safe, I printed the descriptions from both companies.)

Getting Ready
They are coming on Monday (Columbus Day). It is expected to take three hours. I've been cleaning the house a little every night after work (well, expect Tuesday with that hour delay on the train) since they will tour the entire house from top to bottom.
I hope whoever they send likes dogs. It's going to be hard to keep the pups confined for that long when they know a new person is in the house.

Electrical Generation
The original blogger ended with a request for other ways to save. I had one, in addition to my questions, but she is on Wordpress and I didn't want to set up an ID just to leave a comment (mean and lazy, I know) and I couldn't remember her Ravelry ID.
But what I would have pointed out is that Connecticut is one of 22 states (based on a document from 2005 I found online) that has deregulated energy.
From what I understand this was done to open our electrical generation to competition, which was expected to lower rates. You can see how well it has worked for us as I recently heard we (i.e., Connecticut) have some of the highest electrical rates in the country.
So CL&P and UI are distributors who deliver our electric to our door, but we can shop around for generators. We can even select a "green" provider (such as wind), although they cost more.
Currently my generator is Dominion. When I switched to them, um, year before last they were cheaper than UI. Since then Dominion's rates have risen above UI's. We're talking cents and tenths of a cents, but it adds up.
However I'm not going to switch again until my contract is set to renew in January.
I'm on UI's budget plan, which averages my usage for the year and charges me one set amount regardless of my actual usage. What people don't always realize is if you are on the budget plan when you switch generation companies any balance accumulated comes due immediately.
Which could provide a bit of a shock on your next bill. I suspected that might be the case and asked before I changed. As the current goal is to be saving money, having to come up with a lump sum would be counterproductive. (The accumulated balance comes due when the budget plan resets, which happens to be when my contract renews so it is sensible to wait.)

It will be interesting to see what happens on Monday. And more interesting to see when the savings start to show.
I'll fill you in.

No comments:

Post a Comment