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

There are three key reasons that our XCEL CO solar cost and bill savings calculator is far better than any other solar calculator or solar estimate website on the net for XCEL CO 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 XCEL CO solar cost and bill savings calculator actually uses our database of each of the available XCEL CO 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 XCEL CO 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 XCEL CO rate plan. Our software looks for any available XCEL CO rates plan that works our cheaper for your estimated usage pattern. Generally speaking savings from swapping to a cheaper XCEL CO 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 XCEL CO 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 XCEL CO 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

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What are the best ways to cut our energy bill?

We're glad you asked. Let's continue to the article: The Three Best Ways to Cut Your Xcel Electric Bill.

Three best ways to cut your XCEL CO 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 year?

Yes, those are silly questions. Fortunately, you don't need to sacrifice comfort to cut your electric bill by 20% or more. And it could be very easy to do.

This article is specific to the Colorado utility XCEL CO (Xcel). We hope it helps you make a solid game plan to cut your Xcel electric bill. If you haven't already, consider first reading our explanation of how your electric bill works.

Introducing the Jones family

To illustrate ideas, we'll show numbers based on typical energy use for a single-family home in Denver.

Meet our typical family from Denver: the Jones 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.

This article is specific to the Colorado utility XCEL CO (Xcel). We hope it helps you make a solid game plan to cut your Xcel electric bill. If you haven't already, consider first reading our explanation of how your electric bill works.

family savings energy

Let's see how the Jones family make a few simple changes and cut their monthly energy bill by 8% ($9).

Should we switch to the Time-of-Use rate plan?

You can voluntarily switch to Xcel's Time-of-Use (TOU) rate plan. How much money you save (or loose) on the Time-of-Use rate plan depends on when you use energy, and how your energy-use pattern matches up with the rate plan's time windows.

If the utility charges the high-peak rates during the afternoon, the Time-of-Use rate plan isn't a good fit for those who work from an air-conditioned or electric-heated home. If the utility charges the high-peak rate during the evening, it's not a good fit for those who crank up the electric jacuzzi after work. You get the idea.


Why does Xcel offer a Time-of-Use rate plan?

Time-of-Use rate plans encourage Xcel customers to use more of their energy when it's easier (and cheaper) for Xcel to provide it, and when a higher portion of the supplied energy comes from solar systems. Think of it like freeway traffic — it can be smooth sailing or bumper-to-bumper depending on the time of day.

What are the Time-of-Use rates and Windows?

Here are the details for this articles's featured Xcel Time-of-Use rate plan:


Plan Name: Residential - Energy, Time of Use (RE-TOU)
Last Update: December 2, 2017
Fixed Charge: MinimumEnergy Charge: $0.38
Service Charge: $6.18
Summer (June 1 to September 30)
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.092
Mid-Peak: $0.139
Peak: $0.202
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 9am, 9pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: 9am to 2pm, 6pm to 9pm
Peak: 2pm to 6pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Mid-Peak:
Peak:
Winter (October 1 to May 31)
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.092
Mid-Peak: $0.104
Peak: $0.144
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 9am, 9pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: 9am to 2pm, 6pm to 9pm
Peak: 2pm to 6pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Mid-Peak:
Peak:

Let's figure out whether the Jones family would save money on the Time-of-Use rate plan. 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).

Xcel now provides hour-by-hour historical energy data (commonly called interval data or Green Button data) — we'll use hourly data to make a better determination. Let's focus on summer weekdays (to keep this article under control). Here's what their average hourly energy use would be under the Time-of-Use rate plan:

SUMMER WEEKDAYS (June 1 to September 30)

Off Peak ($ cheapest) Mid Peak ($$ expensive) Peak ($$$ most expensive)
Average Energy used per hour: 1.2 kWh 1.8 kWh 2.0 kWh
Hours per day: 12 8 4
Total Energy used per weekdays: 14.8 kWh 14.4 kWh 7.9 kWh

The Jones family uses more energy per hour during the expensive peak hours, but then again there are more off-peak hours in the 24-hour cycle.

It gets even more complicated, because the Time-of-Use windows are different in the winter and on weekends, and the Jones family uses energy differently across the week and year.

Here's how the math works out: The Jones family's average bill on their current rate plan (R) is $115. Their bill on the Time-of-Use plan (RE-TOU) would be $112.

Is it worth switching rate plans to start saving $2.21 per month right away? Sure, it's not a large amount of money, but over the course of a year it adds up. You wouldn't step over a $20 bill lying on your front porch! And as we'll see below, switching to Time-of-Use will put the Jones family in a better position to save even more money going forward.

Is it worth changing when we use energy?

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, or shift some of your existing use from Peak to Off-Peak times of the day. 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 (RE-TOU), the summer weekday peak window (with the most expensive energy) is from 2pm to 6pm. Right now, imagine that the Jones family runs the dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer around 4pm . At the peak rate of 18¢, the combined cost for cleanliness is $15.77 per month (not including water heating).

After reading this article, the Jones family waits until 9pm to start the washing machines. The new charge is $7.54 per month — a $8.22 bill reduction. Is it worth it? It is for the Jones 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 electric bill while also increasing comfort. The dishwasher can turn itself on after the peak window ends, the air conditioner can learn 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 I switch our Xcel rate plan?

You should be able to switch your rate plan through your online Xcel account. If you don't see the option in your online account, go old school and give Xcel a call.

What about just 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 well-being).

The Jones 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 Jones 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 kWh per month — which costs $0.59. 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 electric bill while not reducing comfort or adding day-to-day complexity.

The Jones 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 $9.34 per month to run it on their new Time-of-Use rate plan (or $9.52 per month on the standard non-TOU rate plan).

Should they replace the old garage fridge with a basic $500 Energy Star fridge? They'd save $5.37 per month on their Xcel bill, but the related financing payment would be $9.44 per month ($500 borrowed, 5-year term, 5% interest). Their net loss in the first month would be $4.06. With the financing cost, the new fridge would pay for itself in 8.8 years (followed by years or decades of pure bill savings).

The Jones family decided they don't actually need a second fridge. That's a $5.37 per month bill reduction!

The Jones family's game plan so far?

The Jones family has felt the pain of high electric 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 $115. Here's their game plan:

1. Switch rate plans: Switch to the Time-of-Use rate plan (RE-TOU)
When: Right after reading this article and making their game plan
Bill reduction: $2.21
New monthly bill: $112
2. Adjust energy use: Run the dishwasher and laundry machines during off-peak hours
When: Once they switch rate plans.
Bill reduction: $8.22
New monthly bill: $104
2. Reduce energy waste: Unplug the garage fridge (and schedule a recycling-center pick up time)
When: This week
Bill reduction: $5.38
New monthly bill: $99

One week later...the Jones family's new monthly bill is $99. They cut their bill by 14%!

They're very 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 Jones family wanted to at least consider it, so they got in touch with a few local solar installation companies through Solar-Estimate.org. They were happy to hear that solar energy is affordable — it's only half the cost it was just 8 years ago.

They learned that 16 solar panels would fit nicely on the sunniest part of their roof (that's a 3.4 kW system). That'd bring their net monthly energy use from 1,033 kWh down to 567 kWh, and would get their monthly XCEL CO bill down to only $50.

They also learned, they could finance the solar system through a solar-loan provider. Their $50 electric bill plus a $56 monthly financing payment would put them at a $106 per month energy cost. So, their solar energy system would add $6.81 per month to their net energy cost at first. But their financing payment would be locked in for 20 years, while utility electric rates will keep increasing even faster than the rate of inflation — it's only a matter of time before solar starts saving them money. A local solar professional would be happy to talk you through the math, and for anyone with a timeline of more than a few years, the fact is solar is an excellent investment.

The Jones family totally went solar.

Jones family conclusion

If they took no action, the Jones family would be paying $115 per month for energy. The rate plan switch and energy adjustments got their bill down to $99. With solar energy and the solar financing payment, the Jones family's new net energy cost is $106. All together, they cut their monthly energy cost by 8%, or $9. The Jones family is feeling good! Here they are monitoring their real-time solar production and utility energy use.

Family monitoring energy usage
Energy bill reductions = tax-free income

That $9.00 of extra cash is actually worth $12.85. What? The Jones family has to pay income tax on money used for personal expenses (including their electric bill). Since they no longer need to pay $3.86 in taxes on the $9.00 they're not giving Xcel, the net electric bill reduction is worth an extra $3.86. The big take home here is that electric bill savings is more valuable than a conventional investment's return.

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.

Find more about Xcel Energy Colorado electric rate plans.