Tips to lower electricity costs with the help of your utility company

If you are still reeling from high electric bills driven by summer cooling costs, you may finally be of the mind-set to do something about it.

Many local utility companies actually want to help you spend less on electricity, and are introducing new ways help lower electricity costs.

With consumer incentives and smart technologies, consumers can be rewarded for conservation efforts in tangible ways for efforts to live green and protect the planet:

  • Smart grids and smart meters: Around the country, power grids are becoming smarter with technological advances that prevent outages and other issues through the informed participation of consumers. Smart home meters, which are now beginning to replace the traditional, lower-tech models, incorporate sophisticated communication capabilities to help homeowners make an immediate connection between the power they're using and the price they're paying. Some utilities offer other helpful real-time communications with customers, such as phone or e-mail messaging in advance of peak use or pricing periods and in-home monitors that help track rate changes and oncoming grid overloads.
  • Pricing incentives: Many electrical utilities help homeowners power down throughout the grid's busiest times of day with pricing plans that reward use during off-peak hours.
  • Rebates for energy-saving appliances and home upgrades: Your local utility likely has an extensive menu of rebates for purchases that help trim your power and green up your home. The EPA's Energy Star Web site also offers a rebate finder tool that can deliver the hidden gold in your area. Offers apply to everything from individual appliances to bigger home improvements like roofing and insulation installations that can compound the value of choices you make for your home.

The first step in lowering costs is to get informed about programs and offers like these. Contact your utility company today and find out how you might take advantage of programs and get ideas to lower electricity costs and make you a smarter consumer of electricity.

Tom Kraeutler is the AOL'S Home Improvement Editor and co-author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure." He delivers home makeover ideas each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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