Videos help customers manage their electric bills

Customers can learn what affects energy use and cost

Submitted Photo A scene from an Xcel Energy energy saving video explains factors that can affect a monthly bill.

Xcel Energy is offering tailored advice to its customers in Minot and other communities to help them manage energy use and keep electric bills low.

Xcel Energy has begun sharing short, customized videos with customers through email, helping them understand what may be affecting their electricity use and the total amount they pay for electricity. So far, about 469,000 customers in the eight states Xcel Energy serves have received a custom video, including more than 3,600 in North Dakota.

Customers receive these emails when they have experienced at least a $15 swing in their bill from the previous month and have agreed to receive email communications from the company.

The videos detail how weather, price changes, energy-use changes and even a shorter or longer billing cycle can lead to differences in bills from month to month. Understanding the factors that drive how much energy a customer uses can help them save energy and manage their household budgets.

“Our customers tell us they want more information on managing their monthly energy costs, and we have found that these short video explainers are effective ways to help customers understand how their billing amount could have changed noticeably in a month’s time,” said Shawn Bielke, product portfolio manager in Xcel Energy’s customer experience group.

Submitted Photo Turning down the thermostat saves energy, as pointed out in a scene from an Xcel Energy video being sent to many customers.

Often, month-to-month fluctuations are weather related, especially during more extreme weather seasons, because weather affects the amount of electricity that customers use to heat and cool their homes. The upcoming winter heating season is one of those times of the year.

If a bill is lower than the previous month, the explanatory videos provide information estimating how much of that savings was related to actions the homeowner took to use energy more efficiently. Knowing this can encourage customers to keep up their efforts to control costs by better managing thermostats or adding more efficient appliances.

For the upcoming winter heating season, Xcel Energy also offers this advice for its North Dakota customers:

– Open blinds to take advantage of the sun’s warmth during the day, but be sure to close them again at night to insulate against the cold air outside.

– During winter months, set the thermostat between 65-70 degrees while you’re home and 58 degrees when you’re away. A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature based on your routine and could help you save up to 10 percent on heating costs.

– During colder months, run ceiling fans counter-clockwise, so that the warm air that gets trapped near the ceiling is forced down.

– Use your oven light or timer to avoid opening it often while you cook; each time the door is opened, the temperature drops 25 degrees. Put lids on your pots and pans while cooking to speed up cooking time and keep the heat where you need it most.

– The proper temperature for a water heater is 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and by lowering it 10 degrees, you can save up to 3-5 percent on your water heating costs; you can also insulate it to maximize efficiency.

– Dirty furnace filters reduce airflow, requiring your furnace to work harder and use more energy. Change the filter once a month during the winter to reduce your heating costs by 5 percent.

– Affordable window sealing kits can be found in most local home improvement stores and can help you save more than $40. You can also have your home evaluated for leaky ducts, drafts around doors and windows, fireplace dampers and other places where air might escape.

– Improving the insulation of walls, crawl spaces, floors and heating ducts is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy costs, saving upwards of 10 percent.

Xcel Energy customers can go to xcelenergy.com for more details on saving energy.

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