How You Might Be Wasting Money on Your Energy Bills

Though they often fall on opposite sides of any issue, ComEd and the Citizens Utility Board stood together Tuesday to issue a unique warning to consumers who could be wasting money on their energy bills.

The utility company and consumer advocacy group joined forces to warn energy customers that without a smart thermostat, you’re likely spending far more on energy than necessary.

The two groups, plus the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, announced Tuesday the expansion of a program that will give customers an instant rebate if they invest in a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats can be programmed to automatically adjust – for example, increasing the temperature a few degrees while you’re at work, and reducing it before you return home.

"On hot, muggy, summer days like this, far too many people are cooling empty homes when they leave for work, either because they forgot to set the thermostat before they go to work or they don’t know how to program it because it's not easy and it's not made intuitive," CUB executive director David Kolata said at a news conference Tuesday.

You can change the temperature remotely through your smartphone or Amazon Alexa as well. Smart thermostats can also learn and adapt to users’ behavior to identify patterns and automatically manage your heating and cooling system to reduce energy use and costs.

On average, ComEd said customers using smart thermostats save an average of 12 percent on their annual energy bills.

The company launched a program in October 2015 to encourage the use of smart thermostats, giving a rebate of up to $150 to customers who buy one through the ComEd marketplace.

But so far, only about 82,000 people in the Chicago area are using smart thermostats like the Ecobee or the Nest, and they’ve now set one of the most aggressive goals in the country to increase that number in the next year.

This year, the coalition wants 100,000 people to enroll in the program and install this technology in their homes. So far, 34,000 people have signed up, as they look for 66,000 more.

Some users offered testimonials on their energy bills dropping, like Stephen Pepper. He said he isn’t worried about his air conditioning costs, even on days where temperatures skyrocket, because his Ecobee is keeping an eye on it.

"My home is sitting at 73 because it’s a basement unit, so it stays pretty cool through the summer," Pepper said. "Since I installed it I actually saw a 32 percent savings, not the 12 percent. So I paid for my thermostat about six and a half months after I installed it."

The technology also carries a benefit for the environment.

“When people are reducing their energy consumption to that level, they are really having an impact on the pollution that pollutes our air and water,” Environmental Law and Policy Center spokesman David Jakubiak said.

Eventually, ComEd says they plan to reach 1 million smart thermostats across northern Illinois.

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