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VOL. 127 | NO. 165 | Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dana and Ray Brandon

Finding Relief From High Energy Bills

By Ray and Dana Brandon

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Ray’s Take We just got hit with a whopper of a utility bill and I’m sure we’re not alone. With hotter summers to come and rising energy costs, I don’t expect things to improve. Like many, we’re setting our thermostat a bit higher and using its programmable features. However, these are passive measures. We’ve recently taken a step that will eventually let us actively control what we pay for energy.

Like a number of other utility companies, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division has initiated a Smart Grid program. Part of this is a Smart Meter you can have installed at your home to monitor your energy usage. That means you can ultimately take advantage of “Time-of-Use” rates: the time of day that you use energy will become just as important as how much you use.

This leads to a whole new way of thinking about electricity use by providing you with information that gives you more control. Once tiered pricing begins, energy costs will be higher during times of peak usage, so you can consciously choose to run that dishwasher or load of laundry at non-peak times, when electric rates drop.

Making choices on when to use power in order to pay a lower kilowatt price not only gives you more control over your monthly bill, it also lets you monitor energy usage and estimate the expense. You’ll know a big bill could be on the way unless you actively make changes.

The developing Smart Grid is yet another way of taking financial responsibility for your own actions. Once it comes to you, it’s up to you to take advantage of the savings opportunity. Will you? After all, half the people with programmable thermostats don’t use them to lower energy costs. However, literally watching those expensive kilowatt-hours mount up might have a totally different effect.

Dana’s Take Let’s remember some old school, no-tech ways to manage sky-high summer energy use.

One of my favorite childhood summer memories is of sleeping on a cot on my grandmother’s screen porch. Yes, I’m that old. Those are magical memories, sleeping half-outdoors, listening to the sounds of summer. Zero units of electricity required.

Ask your elders about keeping cool before air conditioning. Ceiling and attic fans, screen doors and the oscillating table fan were central air.

To go off the grid they closed the blinds during the heat of the day, sat in a glider under a shade tree and cherished a good breeze. A cool rag or handkerchief on the neck worked wonders when the temperatures rose, as did a cotton sundress or searsucker suit.

Swimming, iced tea and porch swings were unplugged pleasures. Telling jokes after dark on a sweltering night lightened the mood.

See how many retro cooling ideas your family can create. The summer memories you make will be a bonus added to the dollars you save on utilities.

Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (www.brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at raybrandon@brandonplanning.com.

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