While Texas residents are no shrinking violets when it comes to handling high summer temperatures and humidity, even the most rugged homeowners are likely to eventually retreat into the climate-controlled indoors to beat the heat. But running an air conditioner for months at a time can be an expensive prospect; where can budget-conscious (and ecologically-conscious) Texas homeowners turn for assistance?
Fortunately, the establishment of a law requiring utility providers to meet certain efficiency goals has led to a dramatic increase in the number of rebate and incentive programs available to Texas consumers who wish to cut their energy consumption (and reduce their utility bills in the process).
The Energy Efficiency Rule
After the Texas legislature enacted a law to require electric Transmission and Distribution Utilities (TDUs) (or local utility providers) to meet certain efficiency goals, the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) established some procedures to govern the process. TDUs must now offer a variety of energy-efficiency programs to all customers in their service areas.
Despite these mandates, TDUs aren’t permitted to offer their efficiency services to end users (the consumer); therefore, they’ve contracted with third-party service providers who can perform these services on their behalf. Consumers will still be required to pay for equipment upgrades, like more energy-efficient HVAC systems, tank-less water heaters, and other appliances; however, rebates, warranties, and other benefits may be available at no added cost.
Each TDU is largely permitted to set its own standards on the types of incentive programs it will offer; because of this, the available programs can vary by service area. Some of the most popular statewide programs include:
- Low-Income Efficiency Improvements
For households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, high summer energy bills can be a budget killer. Programs targeted toward low-income Texas residents can encompass a variety of efficiency improvements, often beginning with an energy audit–a process through which certified technicians will inspect a home for air leaks, test outlets to identify energy-sucking appliances, and make recommendations to help homeowners reduce their energy usage going forward.
- Residential Incentives
Even those who aren’t low-income can qualify for incentives to reduce energy bills. This can include peak load management programs, which allows the utility provider to cycle off a homeowner’s air conditioner for a few minutes during peak load hours in exchange for a credit on their next electricity bill. Often, this peak cycling will take place during the workday when a house is empty, helping unobtrusively reduce energy costs.
- New Home Construction Incentives
Other incentives can include credits for energy-efficient housing construction, perfect for those who are planning to buy or build new and want to save money in the process. By outfitting a home with energy-efficient appliances or taking advantage of construction techniques that reduce heat absorption (like minimizing window space or adding extra insulation on the east- and west-facing sides of the house), builders can recoup these costs and pass them on to the consumer.
With the wide variety of efficiency benefits available for those at just about every income level and walk of life, Texas residents with an interest in efficiency are sure to find a fitting solution.