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What makes CutMyBill better than other solar cost and savings calculators for BREC customers?
There are three key reasons that our BREC solar cost and bill savings calculator is far better than any other solar calculator or solar estimate website on the net for BREC customers;
- Firstly, whilst most solar panels calculators are really good at forecasting the electricity production you can get from installing solar panels for your home (because they all rely on the pwatts.nrel.gov solar production data) most of them just use a single generic state wide unit cost for electricity in their calculations. Our BREC solar cost and bill savings calculator actually uses our database of each of the available BREC electric rates plans to use more specific electricity cost data. Therefore we can generate much more accurate solar savings analysis.
- The second reason is that we use DOE (Department of Energy) electricity usage patterns for the BREC service territory, and some very basic questions we ask you about your home to estimate how you use power over the course of a day and the seasons of the year. This allows us to accurately forecast solar savings where time of use electricity plans are available to you. We estimate your electricity usage for each hour of the year and then overlay the known production of solar panels in your area for each hour of the year. Without this level of detail solar panel cost and savings calculators on are inaccurate; and
- Lastly, before we even consider solar savings, we look for any savings that can be achieved simply by swapping to a cheaper available BREC rate plan. Our software looks for any available BREC rates plan that works our cheaper for your estimated usage pattern. Generally speaking savings from swapping to a cheaper BREC rates plan are only available to those who have larger monthly electric bills but given it only takes a phone call to achieve these savings it is by far the quickest and easiest bill cutting option where it is possible.
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Will installing a solar power system or swapping rate plans save me the most on my monthly BREC payment?
There are almost always far greater cost savings to be obtained from installing solar panels than swapping rates plans but this doesn't mean possible savings from swapping rate plans should be ignored. The other reason we search for your cheapest rate plan is that to forecast total possible savings you could get on your bill you need to take into account both savings that may be available from swapping to the cheapest rate plan and also savings that come from swapping your generation source for some of your power usage to your own solar power.
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How accurate is the CutMyBill estimate of my power usage pattern?
The CutMyBill electricity usage profile estimator is a key part of the technology of why CutMyBill can forecast solar and bill swapping savings so accurately without requiring you to enter your kilowatt hour electricity usage for each month of the year or to upload 12 months worth of power bills.
The way we do this is we use electricity use profiles collected by the Department of Energy for each building type at each weather station across the BREC service territory. Some of the characteristics of your home such as your average monthly power spend and the square footage of your home are used to refine this analysis.
This gives a fairly accurate estimate but it is not an exact estimate. The best way to get an exact estimate of your solar savings and whether or not there are possible savings from swapping rate plans is to speak to one of your local solar companies. Whilst solar companies are experts in solar they also become experts in knowing the cheapest rate plans (both before and after solar) from their local utility companies.
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Three Best Ways to Cut Your BREC Bill
Did you know you can cut your home's energy bill by using flashlights instead of overhead lights? Did you know you can cut your energy bill by doing a home energy audit each hour?
Yes, those are silly questions. Fortunately, you don't need to sacrifice comfort to cut your energy bill by 20% or more. And it could be quick and easy to do.
We hope this article helps you make a solid game plan to cut your BREC energy bill. If you haven't already, we suggest you first read our article on how your energy bill works.
Introducing the Richardson family
To illustrate ideas, we'll show numbers based on typical energy usage for a single-family home in Greenville, SC (the most populous city in BREC's territory).
Meet our typical family from Greenville: the Richardson family. If you look closely at their picture, you'll see that the dad is also reading this article. The mom and daughter are saving energy by just pretending their tablets are on.
Let's see how the Richardson family cut their energy bill by 8%, or $16 per month.
Is it worth using less energy?
We won't rally behind former President Jimmy Carter and tell you to put on a sweater and turn down the thermostat. We'd rather not see our breath in the living room. But it's probably worth taking 5 minutes to consider whether energy is wasted in your home (in other words, is energy used that doesn't improve your family's well-being).
The Richardson family children have been politely asked to turn off lights when leaving rooms about 17 trillion times. They're generally respectful, but for whatever reason this one doesn't stick. How much money would the Richardson family save if the children always turned off their lights?
Three 30-watt lights get left on in empty rooms 2 hours per day on average. That's 5.5 kilowatt-hours per month (3 x 30 x 2 x 30.4) — which costs 76¢. Is it worth continuing the effort (or trying a smart-home solution)? Nope. The parents will let this one go for now.
What about energy efficiency?
There might be one or more basic energy-efficiency investments you can make that'd cut your energy bill while not reducing comfort or adding day-to-day complexity.
The Richardson family got a new refrigerator a decade ago, and plugged in their previous 1990s-era fridge in the garage (for those three sports drinks). Refrigerator efficiency has come a long way since the 1990s. In fact, their garage fridge uses over twice as much energy as their new Energy Star fridge. It'll cost them $12 per month to run it.
Should they replace the old garage fridge with a basic $500 Energy Star fridge? They'd save $12 per month on their energy bill, but the related financing payment would be $9.55 per month ($500 borrowed, 5-year term, 5.5% interest). Their net benefit in the first month would be $2.45. With the financing cost, the new fridge would pay for itself in 4 years (followed by years or decades of pure bill savings).
The Richardson family decided they don't even need a second fridge. That's a $12 monthly bill reduction!
The Richardson family's game plan so far
The Richardson family has felt the pain of high energy bills for years. Thanks to this article (we have no shame), they're now ready to take control and cut it. Sounds like fun!
Their current average monthly bill is $191. After unplugging the garage fridge (and scheduling a recycling-center pick up time), their new monthly bill is $181. They cut their bill by 5%.
They'll happily take the $10 of extra cash, but they were hoping to save more than that. That's when little Suzy got a bright idea. "Hey Mom and Dad, what about solar energy?"
Yeah Suzy, what about solar energy?
"Hmm…it's probably too expensive." The Richardson family wanted to at least consider it, so they connected with a few local solar installation companies through Cut My Bill. They were happy to hear that solar energy is affordable — in fact, it's less than half the cost it was just ten years ago.
They learned that 18 solar panels would fit nicely on the sunniest part of their roof (at 250 watts per panel, that's a 4.5 kW system). Their solar system would bring their average monthly energy usage from 1,266 kWh down to 746 kWh. And it'd bring their monthly BREC energy bill from $181 down to $117.
A federal tax credit would cover 30% of the solar system's cost.
They were pleasantly surprised to hear that their energy bill savings from solar would be higher than the net payment on a home-equity loan used to purchase the solar system ("net" because the loan interest is deductible). In other words, solar would start saving them money immediately. Their $117 new energy bill plus a $57 monthly net loan payment would put them at a $175 per month net energy cost (vs. $181 before solar).
With the loan, their solar energy system would save them $5.98 per month. That's a 3.3% bill reduction over their energy bill after the other changes. That isn't much savings, but it would increase over time because energy rates go up while the loan payment doesn't.
The Richardson family totally went solar.
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Richardson family conclusion
If they took no action, the Richardson family would be paying $191 per month for energy. The rate plan change and energy adjustments got their bill down to $181 per month. With solar energy and the loan payment, the Richardson family's new net energy cost is $175 per month. All together, they cut their monthly energy cost by 8%, or $16.
The Richardson family is feeling good! Here they are monitoring their real-time solar production and utility energy usage.
That $16 of extra cash is actually worth $22. What? The Richardson family has to pay income tax on money used for personal expenses (including their energy bill). Since they no longer need to pay $29 in taxes on the $73 they're not giving BREC, that $73 is essentially worth $102 (an extra $29). After the solar loan payment, their net tax savings is $6.27. You're a champion for getting through this paragraph.
The simple take home is that, dollar for dollar, energy bill savings (money not spent) is more valuable than the return on conventional investments such as stocks and treasury bonds (taxable income).
Your game plan
We hope this article convinced you that you can have your cake and eat it too — you can save money, improve your family's well-being, and help out the planet. We wish you the best with your upcoming power moves (pun intended).
Find more about Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative electric rate plans.