Lewis Diuguid

KCP&L compares neighbors’ energy use and helps cheer people to lower electricity bills

An attic that is well insulated and ventilated will help hold down energy costs at your home.
An attic that is well insulated and ventilated will help hold down energy costs at your home.

At first it looked like a Kansas City Power & Light Co. bill had come early. I grumbled, opened the envelope and prepared to write another check. But the letter wasn’t a pinch from the power company.

Instead, KCP&L was letting my partner Bette and me know how our energy use compared with our neighbors’. We are among more than 150,000 of the utility’s Missouri customers in the Home Energy Report program, a KCP&L spokeswoman said. Our first letter came in May 2014.

It’s part of a KCP&L energy efficiency program, enabling customers to see their energy use compared with about 100 nearby occupied homes with similar characteristics, including square footage and fuel types. The information the electric utility provided says the homes belong to neighbors, but they may not be people who live on the same block.

The comparisons with personalized energy savings tips can help KCP&L customers better understand how they consume energy. Then they might consider ways to save power by using more energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances, and electronics and switching off power strips that feed vampire devices. At night in the summer we air condition the house but never below 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermostat is in the 80s the rest of the time. The ceilings are high so our 89-year-old Northeast area home stays comfortable.

What also helps is the windows stay caulked and the storm windows are sound. I have previous owners to thank for the foot of insulation in the attic and the insulation on the furnace and water pipes in the basement.

The steel outdoor siding helps shield the house from hot and cold air infiltration. Previous owners did as much and possibly more than I had to do to my other two homes to increase their energy efficiency.

I have never been a fan of paying high utility bills. That is one effect of growing up with Depression-era parents. Whether we burned wood, coal, gas or electricity, energy was always considered a precious resource.

So KCP&L’s energy-efficiency information came as a nice surprise. Those through Dec. 24 report our home’s energy efficiency as “Great” compared with others.

The one for May 24 through June 24 says, “You used 37 percent less electricity than your efficient neighbors.” We were ranked No. 8 out of 100 neighbors.

That report said we used 363 kilowatt hours compared with our efficient neighbors (573 kWh) and all of the neighbors (1,081 kWh). The ratings we received during the summer continued to be “great,” but we slipped to using 17 percent less electricity from June 25 through July 24 compared with our most efficient neighbors, and our rank dropped to No. 9.

We have an older heating and cooling system in the house. Newer units are more energy efficient.

From July 25 through Aug. 22 the rating showed we used 26 percent less electricity than our most efficient neighbors, and our rank dropped to No. 13. It bumped up to 27 percent less electricity from Aug. 23 to Sept. 23 than our efficient neighbors, and our rank climbed to No. 8.

In the winter we use an electric heater to raise the second-floor office temperature to a comfortable 72 degrees while we work and let the rest of the house stay in the 50s and 60s. Zone heating is what a lot of people do now to avoid costly energy bills.

KCP&L emails show us using 19 percent less electricity than neighbors from Oct. 23 to Nov. 21 and 14 percent less from Nov. 22 through Dec. 24. Weather forecasters’ promise of a milder winter than last year is welcomed.

Meanwhile, like our neighbors, we’ll do all we can to keep our energy bills low. KCP&L’s reports help cheer us on and take the guesswork out of knowing whether our conservation efforts make a difference.

To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to ldiuguid@kcstar.com.