Top Five Energy Traps Every Customer Should Know About

September 29, 2014 By Swapnil Shah

Swapnil Shah

There’s an interesting shift happening in the energy industry today that’s opening the door for innovative technologies. Utility companies are changing their ways by moving beyond simply sending bills to customers, and instead fostering two-way conversations: engaging customers by providing insight into their energy usage, and building applications that help consumers make more informed choices about how they use energy and spend money. The fact is, many energy consumers and energy managers are simply unaware of the ways in which they are using energy inefficiently (and as a result wasting money). They believe certain “truths” that may not be actualities when it comes to their energy bill. By eliciting a dialogue with energy users and managers, utilities can begin to engage with customers to help them better understand their energy use, and act to change it for the better. What are some of the most common energy traps utilities see?

Heating and cooling simultaneously

One of the most common energy traps for both building managers and homeowners alike is heating and cooling at the same time. Building managers would be alarmed at how common it is to have heating and cooling equipment both running in the same space—leaving the systems fighting it out for temperature dominance, and using extra energy to do so. And homeowners too often leave the AC running on a cool summer night instead of opening the windows and shutting down central air systems. The good news is that this trap is one that can be easily remedied. By implementing technologies that monitor the system to look for these types of inefficiencies, utilities can help educate energy users on what is going on in their homes and buildings.

Believing the myth that a continuously running system saves money

Many customers believe that leaving a central air system on overnight saves more energy than restarting the system just prior to active hours. This is a myth that needs to be busted! To see the most energy savings, customers need to shut down systems during inactive hours and restart systems just in time for systems to reach temperature when occupants arrive. By leveraging technology systems that detect building activity, utilities can engage the consumer, sharing insights into usage.

Trusting automated systems

Oftentimes, people feel that automated systems take the work out of monitoring energy usage, adopting a “set it and forget it” mentality. However, automated systems still need to be tracked for errors or manual overrides that haven’t been reset, such as automated timers that are turned off or an overly-powerful fan setting. While automated systems can be great assets, but they still need to be monitored for manual adjustments in the technology that can cause errors that come at a high cost to consumers.

Forgetting to adjust for seasonal changes

Buildings don’t auto-adjust to weather and seasonal shifts. An automated light timer that is set to have the lights kick on at 5 o’clock in the winter won’t realize that the sun is still out at that hour in the summer, and it doesn’t make sense to have an automated heating system running on an 80 degree day. It is important for utilities to remind customers as seasons and temperatures change to update their energy usage settings.

Thinking the only option is to retrofit

One of the biggest energy traps that consumers fall victim to is thinking that retrofits are the only option for savings—such as buying LED lights or energy-saving appliances. While retrofits can be a good option, operational changes, like turning the lights off an hour earlier, are often the easiest and most cost-effective ways for consumers to save energy, and see a difference on their utility bill. By implementing technologies that provide valuable insights into opportunities for operational changes, utilities will strengthen their consumer relationships by creating an ongoing dialogue around energy usage.

As the market for utilities continues to transform, the ability to provide valuable customer use intelligence is vital in order to foster positive customer relationships. By sharing knowledge, such as de-bunking the myths outlined above, utilities can better engage customers and enable them to improve their energy efficiency and identify traps to avoid.

Swapnil Shah is CEO of FirstFuel.

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