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Is solar the best option to reduce your PEC electricity bill?

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

There are three key reasons that our PEC solar cost and bill savings calculator is far better than any other solar calculator or solar estimate website on the net for PEC 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 solar production data) most of them just use a single generic state wide unit cost for electricity in their calculations. Our PEC solar cost and bill savings calculator actually uses our database of each of the available PEC 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 PEC 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 PEC rate plan. Our software looks for any available PEC rates plan that works our cheaper for your estimated usage pattern. Generally speaking savings from swapping to a cheaper PEC 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 PEC 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.

Compare savings from swapping rate plans to solar savings


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 PEC 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.

Estimate my power usage pattern over a day and over the seasons of the year


Three best ways to cut your PEC electric 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 PEC energy bill. If you haven't already, we suggest you first read our article on how your energy bill works.

Introducing the James family

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

Meet our typical family from Austin: the James 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 James family cut their energy bill by 14%, or $14 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 PEC'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 PEC's rate pricing.

Why does PEC 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 PEC to provide energy outside the 2pm to 6pm "rush hour traffic," so time-of-use rate plans signal PEC customers to use more of their energy during other hours.

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

Find out how much you could save with time-of-use. Get personalized results with the Cut My Bill calculator. It's Free and Easy!


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

Here are the rate details for PEC's time-of-use rate plan (code name: R TOU):

Plan Name: Residential and Farm Time of Use (R TOU)
Last Update: March 1, 2018
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $22.5
Summer (June 1 to September 30)
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.162
Mid-Peak: $0.096
Peak: $0.036
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to noon, 8pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: Noon to 2pm, 6pm to 8pm
Peak: 2pm to 6pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to noon, 6pm to 6pm, 8pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: 12pm to 2pm, 6pm to 8pm
Peak: 2pm to 6pm
Winter (October 1 to May 31)
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.106
Mid-Peak: $0.085
Peak: $0.094
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 5am, 11pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: 8am to 4pm, 7pm to 11pm
Peak: 5am to 8am, 4pm to 7pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 5am, 4pm to 7pm, 11pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: 8am to 4pm, 7pm to 11pm
Peak: 5am to 8am

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

Three of the four expensive weekday peak-time hours are in the afternoon (the peak window is 2pm to 6pm), so it's better for families that are typically at work and school in the afternoons. It's not as good for those who work from home, or stop by for a leisurely lunch and siesta.

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

Let's figure out whether the James 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), PEC doesn't. If available, we'd use this historical energy data to confidently estimate the James 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 Austin. (Consider asking PEC to step up their game and make your historical hour-by-hour data available to you: 888-554-4732.

Let's consider the James 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 afternoon 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 James family uses energy differently across the week and year.

Here's how the math works out: The James family's average monthly bill on their current rate plan (code name: R) is $98. Their average bill on the time-of-use plan (R TOU) would be…drum roll…$91.

Is it worth switching rate plans to start saving $7.05 per month immediately? Sure, why not. And as we'll see below, switching to time of use will put the James family in a better position to save even more money going forward.

Find out how much you could save with time-of-use. Get personalized results with the Cut My Bill calculator. It's Free and Easy!


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 (R TOU), the summer weekday peak window (with the most expensive energy) is from 2pm to 6pm. The James family runs the dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer around 4pm. At the peak rate of 3.6¢, the combined cost for cleanliness is $3.19 per month (not including water heating).

After reading this article, the James family sets the washing machines to start at 8pm. The new charge is $14 per month — a -$10.81 bill reduction. Is it worth it? Not really, but it's easy enough to do…so sure.

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 PEC's take on it, you can call them or write to them: 888-554-4732.

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 James 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 James 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 57¢. 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 James 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 $8.69 per month to run it on their new time-of-use rate plan (or $9.36 per month on the standard rate plan).

Should they replace the old garage fridge with a basic $500 Energy Star fridge? They'd save $4.78 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 loss in the first month would be $4.77. With the financing cost, the new fridge would pay for itself in 10 years.

The James family decided they don't need even a second fridge. That's a $8.69 monthly bill reduction!

The James family's game plan so far

The James 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 $98. Here's their game plan:

  • 1. Switch rate plans
  • Switch to the time-of-use rate plan (code name: R TOU).
  • When: Right after reading this article and making their game plan.
  • Bill Reduction: $7.05
  • New Monthly Bill: $91
  • 2. Adjust energy usage
  • Run the dishwasher and laundry machines during off-peak hours.
  • When: Once they switch rate plans.
  • Bill Reduction: 43¢
  • New Monthly Bill: $91
  • 3. Reduce energy waste
  • Unplug the garage fridge (and schedule a recycling-center pick up time).
  • When: This week.
  • Bill Reduction: $6.50
  • New Monthly Bill: $84

One week later, the James family's new monthly bill is $84. They cut their bill by 14%!

They're excited, and in their enthusiasm they're wondering if they can cut their bill even more. 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 James 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 790 kWh down to 213 kWh. And it'd bring their monthly PEC energy bill from $84 down to $44.

A federal tax credit would cover 26% of the solar system's cost.

Alas, solar energy isn't a slam-dunk investment under PEC (at least not for the James family). Unlike most other utilities, PEC doesn't give full retail credit for solar energy sent out to the grid (they only give 0¢ per kWh). Including the payment on a home-equity loan used to purchase the solar system, the James family would be paying an extra $18 for energy in the first month. In other words, their post-solar utility bill + the solar loan payment would be 21% higher than their utility bill with just the other changes.

The solar system would save them more as energy rates go up. Meanwhile, their loan payment would stay the same over the 20-year loan term. The solar investment wouldn't become cash positive until its 21st year.

In the interest of helping out the planet, increasing their property's value, and paying PEC less, the James family still went solar. (They're also joining an upcoming Austin rally in support of fair solar compensation for PEC customers.)

How much can you save by swapping your PEC rate plan


James family conclusion

Overall, the James family will pay an extra $3.58 per month to experience the joy of powering their home with sunshine…and the satisfaction of paying PEC $54 less per month.

The James 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 Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) electric rate plans.