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What makes CutMyBill better than other solar cost and savings calculators for Pacific Power customers?

There are three key reasons that our Pacific Power solar cost and bill savings calculator is far better than any other solar calculator or solar estimate website on the net for Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power solar cost and bill savings calculator actually uses our database of each of the available Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power rate plan. Our software looks for any available Pacific Power rates plan that works our cheaper for your estimated usage pattern. Generally speaking savings from swapping to a cheaper Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power 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 Pacific Power energy bill. If you haven't already, we suggest you first read our article on how your energy bill works.

Introducing the Hanson family

To illustrate ideas, we'll show numbers based on typical energy usage for a single-family home in Portland, OR (the most populous city in Pacific Power's territory).

Meet our typical family from Portland: the Hanson 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.

family on couch with devices

Let's see how the Hanson family cut their energy bill by -136%, or -$136 per month.

What's a "time of use" rate plan?

As we wrote in the How Your Energy Bill Works article, you could voluntarily switch to Pacific Power's time-of-use rate plan.

With time of use, the energy rate varies over the course of the day. How much money you save (or lose) on the time-of-use rate plan depends on when you use energy — and how your energy usage pattern matches up with Pacific Power's rate pricing.

Why does Pacific Power offer a time-of-use rate plan?

We could compare the energy grid to the freeway — it can be smooth sailing or bumper-to-bumper depending on the time of day. It's easier and cheaper for Pacific Power to provide energy outside the 4pm to 8pm "rush hour traffic," so time-of-use rate plans signal Pacific Power customers to use more of their energy during other hours.

Pacific Power understands that some customers would respond to time-varying rates while some customers wouldn't — the time-of-use rate plan is optional for the more price sensitive among us (who take control and cut it).

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What are the time-of-use rates and time windows?

Here are the rate details for Pacific Power's time-of-use rate plan (code name: 4 TOU):

Plan Name: Residential Delivery Service - Portfolio Time-Of-Use Supply Service (4 TOU)
Last Update: January 1, 2018
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $12.04
Summer (April 1 to October 31)
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.26
Peak: $0.334
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 4pm, 8pm to midnight
Peak: 4pm to 8pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Peak:
Winter (November 1 to March 31)
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.26
Peak: $0.305
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 6am, 10am to 5pm, 8pm to midnight
Peak: 6am to 10am, 5pm to 8pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Peak:
Summer (April 1 to October 31)
Rate per kWh
Tier1: 00
Tier2: $0.032
Energy in Tier
Tier1: First 1,000 kWh
Tier2: Above 1,000 kWh
Winter (November 1 to March 31)
Rate per kWh
Tier1: 00
Tier2: $0.032
Energy in Tier
Tier1: First 1,000 kWh
Tier2: Above 1,000 kWh

Who's the time-of-use rate plan best for?

Three of the four expensive weekday peak-time hours are in the evening (the peak window is 4pm to 8pm), so it's better for families with evening activities out of the house, and an aversion to cooking. It's not as good for those who prefer relaxing in the electric jacuzzi after work and school, followed by homecooked meals.

Should we switch to the time-of-use rate plan?

Let's figure out whether the Hanson family would save money on the time-of-use rate plan — which should help you determine for your home. This starts with estimating how much of their energy they're likely to use during the expensive peak window (the more they use during peak, the higher their time-of-use bill).

While many utilities now offer their customers hour-by-hour historical energy data (commonly called "interval" data or "Green Button" data), Pacific Power doesn't. If available, we'd use this historical energy data to confidently estimate the Hanson family's energy bill on the time-of-use rate plan. We'll instead base our estimate on the energy profile of a typical family in Portland.

Let's consider the Hanson family's energy usage during summer weekdays, in the context of the time-of-use rate plan.

They use about the same energy during the expensive evening hours and discounted off-peak hours. So they aren't an ideal candidate for time of use.

It gets more complicated, because the time windows are different in the winter and on weekends — and the Hanson family uses energy differently across the week and year.

Here's how the math works out: The Hanson family's average monthly bill on their current rate plan (code name: 4) is $100. Their average bill on the time-of-use plan (4 TOU) would be…drum roll…$264.

…Hmm, the Hanson family would pay an extra $164 for energy on the time-of-use rate plan. We'll still switch them to time of use, because it'll work out better after upcoming energy changes.

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Is it worth adjusting our energy habits?

Time-of-use rate plans give you more control over your energy bill. You can save more money if you're willing to adjust how you use energy. For example, you could set an alarm for 3am to get up and run the dishwasher. Just kidding. Let's consider a reasonable way to adjust energy, and decide if it's worthwhile.

Recall that on the time-of-use rate plan (4 TOU), the summer weekday peak window (with the most expensive energy) is from 4pm to 8pm. The Hanson family runs the dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer around 6pm. At the peak rate of 33¢, the combined cost for cleanliness is $29 per month (not including water heating).

After reading this article, the Hanson family sets the washing machines to start at 8pm. The new charge is $23 per month — a $6 bill reduction. Is it worth it? It is for the Hanson family!

Hello, "Smart Home"

The idea behind a Smart Home is that your internet-connected home appliances can be partially or fully automated to reduce your energy bill while also improving comfort. The dishwasher knows when the off-peak window starts and turns itself on then, the air conditioner learns your preferences and patterns to avoid over-cooling, etc.

While the Smart Home is clearly the future, it isn't quite the present — we're looking forward to Smart Home devices playing better together (in other words, better technical standards).

How do we switch to the time-of-use rate plan?

To change to the time-of-use rate plan or get Pacific Power's take on it, you can.

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 Hanson 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 Hanson 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 $1.54. 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 Hanson 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 $24 per month to run it on their new time-of-use rate plan (or $8.98 per month on the standard rate plan).

Should they replace the old garage fridge with a basic $500 Energy Star fridge? They'd save $13 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 $3.45. With the financing cost, the new fridge would pay for itself in 4 years (followed by years or decades of pure bill savings).

The Hanson family decided they don't even need a second fridge. That's a $24 monthly bill reduction!

The Hanson family's game plan so far

The Hanson 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 $100. Here's their game plan:

  • 1. Switch rate plans
  • Switch to the time-of-use rate plan (code name: 4 TOU).
  • When: Right after reading this article and making their game plan.
  • Bill Increase: $164
  • New Monthly Bill: $264
  • 2. Adjust energy usage
  • Run the dishwasher and laundry machines during off-peak hours.
  • When: Once they switch rate plans.
  • Bill Reduction: $6.13
  • New Monthly Bill: $258
  • 3. Reduce energy waste
  • Unplug the garage fridge (and schedule a recycling-center pick up time).
  • When: This week.
  • Bill Reduction: $22
  • New Monthly Bill: $236

One week later, the Hanson family's new monthly bill is $236. Hmm…they're now spending an extra $136 per month on energy. Solar energy to the rescue (which will be more valuable under the time-of-use rate plan).

Yeah Suzy, what about solar energy?

"Hmm…it's probably too expensive." The Hanson 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 844 kWh down to 427 kWh. And it'd bring their monthly Pacific Power energy bill from $236 down to $122.

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 $122 new energy bill plus a $57 monthly net loan payment would put them at a $180 per month net energy cost (vs. $236 before solar).

With the loan, their solar energy system would save them $56 per month. That's a 24% bill reduction over their energy bill after the other changes! And their savings would increase over time because energy rates go up while the loan payment doesn't.

The Hanson family totally went solar.

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Hanson family conclusion

Overall, the Hanson family will pay an extra $80 per month to experience the joy of powering their home with sunshine…and the satisfaction of paying Pacific Power -$22.45 less per month.

The Hanson family is feeling good. Here they are monitoring their real-time solar production and utility energy usage.

family on lawn with devices

Your game plan

We hope this article helped you decide whether to take action on your home's energy bill and environmental footprint. We wish you the best with your upcoming power moves (pun intended).

Click HERE to see how much you can save by and installing solar panels. The Cut My Bill calculator is free and easy.

Find more about Pacific Power & Light electric rate plans.